Welcome to the Student Ambassador Blog! This blog was created by current student Ambassadors of the UNC School of Social Work MSW programs for people like you: Prospective students interested in getting a glimpse of our Master of Social Work program from the student angle. Feel free to contact Student Ambassadors if you want to learn more!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re kidding right? I don’t have any free time! I used to say the same exact thing. However, I’ve learned very quickly that scheduling “me” time is actually something you have to make a point to put on your To-do list regularly. Sounds funny, I know, but it needs to be done frequently and repeated often in order to be successful in our profession.
It’s a foreign concept for many of us, and quite frankly in the heap of papers, exams, projects, and presentations it is probably the last thing on your mind. But in fact, it is the most important. In social work, it is essential that just as we give ourselves to our clients that we are filling ourselves back up equally with whatever it is we need to function. The train can only run on the track with the proper fuel and it is so vital for social workers (even MSW students) to realize this fuel can run out if not properly attended to.
As this semester ends and winter break officially begins, take time for yourself and jot down different leisurely activities that work for you. These activities should refresh and restore your inner YOU. It can be something as simple as taking a long hot shower, or reading a fictional book, or even planning a trip for an upcoming spring month. These activities are not meant to be stressful to plan, but rather an exciting time of relaxation that allows you the appropriate self-care needed to be an awesome social worker.
I recently just came back from Denver, Colorado where I visited a friend who is also working on her MSW. Although I was only there for 4 days, this time of “getaway” allowed me to get outside of my own little grad school bubble and experience new culture for a period of time. For once, it wasn’t about APA formatting, or research assistantships, or job applications. It was simply about experiencing life. This time of leisure allowed me a fresh perspective towards my own studies, and the energy break I needed to reboot around the people I love.
I always thought this idea of traveling during the Advanced Standing program would be near impossible, however, if you plan accordingly and manage your time right, I actually find it to be quite imperative. Academics are extremely important, I cannot stress that enough, however there is more to this degree than just paper writing. It’s experiencing. And I don’t mean “experience” as in having an extensive resume, I mean experience as in taking time to FEEL and really observe and encounter life around you. This component has contributed to my degree because I could then apply these outside experiences to my learning. Learning not only of my studies, but of myself and who Regina is.
As I took time to step back this week during my “me time” I realized: “I am so busy planning for the next season of life that I am missing THIS one”. So with that I say to you—take my advice. It’s time to really experience. Don’t be too busy to the point where you are just going through the motions. Take advantage of your “me time” this break.
In May I will graduate with a diploma in my hand that says I am “finished”, however this experiential learning will never graduate. We are life long learners as social workers. Not just in the classroom, but in our experiences. And it all starts with scheduling me time. Take the plunge today…challenge yourself to some well-deserved me time. Ciao!
As we wrap up the semester, I wanted to remind you of the upcoming application deadlines:
December 17, 2014
Full-time applicants wanting to be considered for University Merit Assistantship or Weiss Urban Livability Masters Fellowship
January 13, 2015
Advanced Standing applicants (May enrollment in Chapel Hill)
Two-Year Full-time applicants (August enrollment in Chapel Hill)
February 10, 2015
Triangle Distance Education applicants (August enrollment in Chapel Hill)
Winston-Salem Distance Education applicants (August enrollment in Winston-Salem)
For more information, check out the UNC-CH SSW website: http://ssw.unc.edu/programs/masters/admissions
As always, remember you can email any of the student ambassadors to ask general questions about the program. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer specific help on applications (such as reading over personal narratives). Instead, consider asking the authors of your letters of recommendation to check over your application material.
Until next time, good luck polishing off those applications!
One of the cool things about being an Ambassador for the UNC School of Social Work is the opportunity to meet prospective MSW students and contribute my two cents to their decision-making processes about social work, grad school, and UNC. Recently, I helped with an information session for my program—the Winston-Salem Distance Education program—and one of the attendees mentioned that she was not sure whether she should pursue the full-time on-campus program or the D.E. option. Being a good and faithful Ambassador of the Winston distance program, I, of course, underscored the virtues of D.E. However, I empathized her dilemma, in that I personally had faced the same one as an applicant a couple years ago. I know of other UNC MSW students who have as well. So I thought I would offer some thoughts here, for those of you pondering the question of whether to D.E. or not to D.E.
There are some pretty obvious advantages to choosing the full-time program. It’s faster, for one thing—finished in two years, rather than three—and you get to spend lots of time in Chapel Hill (Woohoo!). Also consider the advantage of being in close proximity to everything that is going on at the School—seminars, research, assistantships, student organizations, and more. There is opportunity aplenty! Furthermore, one of the things that makes our School of Social Work top-notch is the outstanding faculty who are shaping the field with their research and practice. Being able to walk into the office of a Kim Strom-Gottfried or a Gary Bowen to discuss their work is a pretty appealing opportunity—especially if you envision a Ph.D in your future.
On the other hand, not all of us can pick up stakes and move to the Triangle or do without an income for two years. Geography, scheduling, family, and financial factors may make one of the distance education options much more viable. That was the case for me. At the age of thirty-….something… my life is less portable and less pause-able. The part-time format of the Winston-Salem D.E. program—classes all day on Fridays—allowed me to maintain full-time employment during my first year, and even with the addition of field placement in my second year, I am still able to work part time. In Year 3, D.E. students essentially become full-time students, with three days of field placement and one or two days of classes in Chapel Hill each week. Nonetheless, for me and many of my classmates, this three-year distance format is more practical for keeping a foot in our “normal” lives while advancing our social work careers.
Beyond the practical advantages, I have discovered a few other aspects of D.E. that I consider to be selling points:
*The cohort model – Spending two years of Fridays with the same group of 15 to 20 people means building relationships. Your cohort is a built-in support system, a library of diverse experiences from which to learn, and a foundation for professional connections in the future. It’s also a fascinating experiment in group dynamics. :)
*Faculty – Each D.E. program has core faculty who will get to know you and invest themselves in your success. They are extremely accessible and helpful.
*Field placement – D.E. students don’t begin field placement until Year 2. As a result, we enter field slightly more acclimated to being students and with a little more of the social work “ethos” under our belts. Even better, our Field Coordinators have had a year to get to know us, so they are well equipped to help us determine the right placements.
*Age range – D.E. cohorts tend to have a fairly broad age range and are, on average, slightly older than full-time classes. My cohort, for example, has a few students who are recently out of college, a few that have been in the field for decades, and a lot of us who fall somewhere in between. The net effect is a wide spectrum of life experiences and perspectives from which to learn.
*Pace – Particularly for those of us who have been out of school for a while, two classes per semester makes for a much easier transition into graduate school than four classes plus a field placement. For me, the D.E. format has enabled me to adapt to the stress of grad school more effectively, because of the gradual “ramping up” of intensity from year to year.
I will freely admit that I am not an unbiased advisor on the issue of distance education versus full-time. I am a proud D.E.-er, and I will proclaim the virtues of my program! Nonetheless, my bias aside, the UNC School of Social Work offers a fantastic opportunity in the form of its Winston-Salem and Triangle Distance Education programs. Any aspiring social worker for whom the traditional full-time format offers practical obstacles—or with whom the above advantages resonate as particularly appealing—should seriously consider applying to a distance MSW program at UNC.
P.S. If you’re wondering whether you can apply to both the on-campus program and a D.E. program, voila: http://ssw.unc.edu/admissions/masters/faq#Admissions
Winter break is almost here! And, in typical form I have already set up a daunting to-do list. I think to myself, “This is a great opportunity to catch up on all those readings you skipped over during the semester, reply to all those unanswered emails, start your job search, finish RA work….” The list goes on. BUT, it is so important to also REST and RECHARGE. it’s called a break for a reason. So, in the spirit of self-care, I present to you the FUN version of my winter break to-do list. ;)
1. Go ice skating at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, imagining that my blades are slicing through social injustice with each well executed pirouette!
2. Eat lots of uniquely flavored doughnuts at Monuts on 9th St in Durham, whose circular shape symbolize the equity and unity I hope to see come about in our community.
3. Hike around the Eno River, appreciating the beauty of the natural world untainted by social constructs and gender norms.
4. Watch episodes from my favorite TV shows “30 Rock” because laughter is the best medicine and “The Wire” because the social worker’s job is never done.
5. Throw snowballs, God willing.
6. Bask in the goodness that is time spent with family and friends.
7. And also bask in the goodness that is quality alone time perhaps with a novel, cup of tea, and my pups.
I hope you all, in school or out, are able to do the things that bring you joy and peace and that rejuvenate your spirit.
First, I would like to say, “OH MY GOSH, it’s the end of the semester.” You know what that means; the last semester is coming and coming quickly. As you can imagine, there is the end of semester scramble that just so happens to occur right before one of the best holidays ever. So needless to say, when I’m not cooking, eating, or passed out, I will be working on the two papers and studying for the exam that I have the week after Thanksgiving. So as I think about next semester, I think about the load I’ll have of 18 hours, the job hunt, and how to take care of myself while doing all of that. When I figure it out I’ll let you know!
I know last time, I told you I would update you on the CSWE conference and it was awesome. Not only did I get to attend the conference, but I was able to explore Tampa, a place I had never visited and met some awesome social workers in the process. I also had the opportunity to meet Congressman Ron Dellums, who was awesome by the way and has an MSW. I enjoyed attending my first professional conference. I think it was something I needed to experience to understand how our education continues to grow. I’m also considering a Ph.D. which I was adamant about not pursing post-MSW. So as your journey continues especially with the application process coming to the end, remember to take care of yourself and enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Can you believe December is only 9 days away?! I don’t know about you but I feel like this year went by extremely fast. On top of feeling like I don’t have enough days in the year, the hours in a day go by even faster. The days and hours creep up on you..and so do the deadlines. I’ll admit something (just between you and I okay?!)..I need to change my tendency to procrastinate on a variety of things especially assignments. I’ve reaped the negative consequences of not planning ahead and not managing my time wisely–#teamallnighter. But I’ve also seen and experienced the benefits of planning ahead. If you’re like me you know there is no better feeling than crossing something off of your to-do list! This post is going to focus on how to make best use of your winter break and/or the month of December to get your GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATIONS submitted! I hope this post can provide you with some much needed encouragement and motivation.
DISCLAIMER: I’m going to be focusing on 3 components of the UNC-CH SSW application requirements..because come on ideally I want you to come here!
1) Letters of Recommendation (3)
Hopefully you’ve already decided and asked the 3 people who will be writing your letters of recommendation. If not and you are reading this and planning on applying by December 17th…CONTACT THEM. Even if you are choosing to apply for the January or February deadline it is best to give the people writing your letters of recommendation plenty of time. The worst thing that could happen is you’ve worked so hard on your entire application and are ready to press submit and realize one of your references has not come in (talking from personal experience). If you have not contacted them don’t start freaking out..breathe. You can still do it! Just make sure to be honest…“I am in the process of applying to the School of Social Work and their early application deadline is December 17th. Would you be able to complete my reference before this date?” Obviously add more to the email but this is just a very general example. You are letting that person know the deadline date and asking for it BEFORE that date. I don’t want you all to have to write that awkward email..”Hi…where’s my reference?!?!?!!“
2) Personal Narrative
Chances are you’ve been dreading to write the 4-5 page personal narrative. I’ve heard from many people that this is one of the most important parts of your application. In my opinion, I agree. This is your chance to highlight why social work and what you’ve done up to this point has lead you to this choice. This may be awkward for some because we are used to being modest. For the purposes of this..DO NOT HOLD BACK. You are allowing the admissions committee to get to know you in your own words. References matter don’t get me wrong (don’t choose someone who can’t vouch for you POSITIVELY) but there is something about YOU writing about about your journey that leaves a lasting impression. I found it difficult at first but it definitely helped me reflect on my entire life leading up to this moment.
Okay, so now what can you do during the month of December to get your personal narrative completed? Once your finals are over or if you get a break from work sketch out a complete day to just write. Go somewhere with little distractions and where you can have YOU time. Write an outline of your main points you hope to discuss. I know this sounds so elementary but it really does help organize your thoughts. You probably won’t get the perfect draft on your first attempt. That’s okay! I don’t think anyone does! Once you’ve completed your first draft find a friend and/or professor who you trust and don’t mind being vulnerable with and send them your personal narrative. If you have a friend nearby you can also do this: 1) Read it to yourself out loud 2) Read it to a friend out loud 3) Have a friend read it to themselves 4) Ask your friend to edit the narrative.
*Make sure when anyone else is editing your narrative to TRACK changes in the word document. You want to be able to see what changes they made.
The three letters no one wants to see together–the dreaded GRE. I was so nervous about this exam. I felt pressure to study for it but could never find the time to do so. I decided this is a part of the application so I need to do my part and study. I dedicated each Saturday for the month of November and 2 weeks in December to study for the exam. That may not be feasible for you. But at least take some practice tests online during the month of December. If you google ‘free GRE practice tests’ you will find some good ones. If you already took the GRE good for you! If you haven’t don’t let that stop you from applying! I’m not that great of a test taker but here I am as a SSW Ambassador writing to YOU.
I encourage you to not let your self-doubts get in the way of a rewarding career as a social worker. Make the most of your time in December and get that application submitted! I recommend doing it before family members start coming into town or holiday events start popping up. Once you have it submitted you can take some much needed RELAXATION time. YOU GOT THIS!
If you have any questions please feel free to contact any of the ambassadors! Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important Dates for UNC-CH School of Social Work Application
MSW Program Application Deadlines:
- December 17, 2014: Early application due today! It’s always best if you can apply early. Full-time applicants should complete their applications by this date if they would like to be considered for the University Merit Assistantship or the Weiss Urban Livability Masters Fellowship.
- January 13, 2015: Chapel Hill 2-year Full-time Program and the Advanced Standing Program (The Advanced Standing Program will begin the week of May 11, 2015; the 2-year Full-time Program will begin the week of August 10, 2015.)
- February 10, 2015: Triangle and Winston-Salem 3-year Distance Education Programs (The 3-year Distance Education Programs will begin the week of August 3, 2015.)
Doctoral Program Application Deadlines:
- December 16, 2014: If you wish to be considered for a UNC Graduate School fellowship, you should apply by this date. The Admissions Committee will begin screening applicants for these award recommendations at this time
- January 13, 2015: Final applications accepted. Note that the Admissions Committee begins making decisions the first week of January.
When I came to UNC I expected to receive an excellent education, after all the program is ranked number 5 in the country. However, what I didn’t expect was the emphasis the school puts on professional development, and I have been pleasantly pleased. The school has a staff member dedicated to student development and they do this in a number of ways. What I’m going to let you in on is the Professional Development Workshops that are offered.
During the Fall and Spring there are a variety of workshops the school has to help the students develop professionally. I have been able to attend a few of the workshops and I have yet to be let down. They have all been a valuable use of my time! A few of the workshops this semester have been: A Pathway to Effective Communication (all about how to be a good presenter), Resume preparation (career services came to the school and did this one), Job searching (career services again for the win), and a luncheon with Macro and Direct practice faculty for first year students debating on their concentration.
I went to the resume and job searching workshops and they were fantastic. I learned some good tips on resume writing, for example, if you are applying to jobs out of state it’s not necessary to put your address on your resume. I also learned some good tips at the job searching workshop (beef up your LinkedIn profile!). I also made my way to the Career Services building for resume review, and WOW! I am so thankful I ventured out of the social work building, the Career Services has so much to offer and it was pretty cool just seeing a new building.
Next spring they are offering: Before, During, and After the Interview, How to effectively Network and conduct Informational Interviews, Negotiation Social Work Salaries and Benefits (totally pumped for this one), NC Licensure Process, and a Licensure Exam Preparation. I think there has been a wonderful variety of subjects offered during the workshop series.
I am really thankful the School puts emphasis on professional development. These workshops have provided insight for me as well as the conferences I have been able to attend and be reimbursed for through the SOWOSO fund. All of these opportunities have been extremely helpful for me as I am going to be entering the work Social Work work force again, this time seeking a Macro position. Take advantage of as many things as possible during your graduate experience.