Welcome to the UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work Student Ambassador Blog! This blog was created by current student Ambassadors 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!
Earlier this semester, one of my colleagues wrote a post outlining the licensure process. If you haven’t checked it out already, I highly recommend doing so! You can find it here.
If you’ve read it already and are starting to wonder about the next step in the licensure process–registering for and taking the LCSW exam–then you’ve come to the right place! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first began the process, and it would’ve been a lot easier for me if I’d known exactly what it would entail ahead of time. For any of you who may be thinking about getting licensed in the future and want to learn more about how to navigate taking the LCSW exam in NC, I outlined the steps I needed to follow to register for the exam below.
Keep in mind that these steps only apply for taking the exam in NC, as different jurisdictions have different exam (and overall licensure) processes.
- Apply for your LCSWA. Before you’ll be able to register for the exam, you’ll have to apply for your LCSWA. You can do so by filling out this application, having it notarized, and mailing it to the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board (NCSWCLB), along with 3 sealed letters of reference, your official (final) graduate school transcript, and a money order for $115. You can actually temporarily forgo the transcript and apply for your LCSWA in your final semester of graduate school. Although you won’t receive your official LCSWA until after you submit your final transcript in May, you will receive a letter back in the mail from NCSWCLB allowing you to register and sit for the LCSW exam. I highly recommend doing this, so you can get a head start on the rest of this long process.
- Receive a letter from NCSWCLB. Regardless of whether you applied for the LCSWA early or waited until May, you will receive a letter from NCSWCLB notifying you of your “Examination Candidacy Approval” for the Clinical Exam. You will usually receive this back from NCSWCLB within 2 weeks of mailing in your LCSWA application.
- Mail in the short form and processing fee for the exam. From the letter mentioned in Step 2, you’ll detach the bottom portion of the sheet, indicate which exam you’re registering for (Clinical), verify your information (name, address, ssn), and mail in another money order* for $40, which is the processing fee to be able to register for the exam.
*You can submit a money order or a certified check. You can get either of them at your local bank, and I believe you can get money orders from Walmart or some places like that. Both money orders and certified checks have additional fees in order to purchase them from the vendor, but money orders have a much smaller fee (I believe $5).
- Receive yet another letter from NCSWCLB. After the board has received and processed your fee, they’ll mail you back approval to register for the exam. This also begins the timer: your approval to register for the exam will expire after 1 year. They include the expiration date in this letter.
- Begin the exam registration process online. Go to the ASWB website (included in the letter from Step 4) and begin the formal registration process. You’ll need to input your name, address, ssn, etc. once more, select which exam you will be taking (Clinical), and pay the rest of the exam fee ($260, for a total of $300 just to take the exam). At least this time, you can pay via credit card. I recommend reviewing the Candidate Handbook included on the website for some general information about registering for and taking the exam.
- Receive an email from ASWB. After beginning the registration process online, ASWB will email you within 2 business days. This email includes your Authorization to Test.
- Finally register for the exam! After you have received your authorization to test, you will finally be able to select a date, time, and location to sit for the LCSW exam.
- Study! With that taken care of, it’s time to start preparing for the exam if you haven’t already. You can buy exam prep materials directly from ASWB (during Step 5, when you make the $260 payment), but they’re pretty expensive. I recommend either getting a prep book online (used if possible, or borrowed from a friend), or downloading an app. I personally use Pocket Prep.
- Take and pass the exam! UNC Chapel Hill grads have about a 94-96% pass rate of the LCSW exam, so if you eventually want to get licensed, consider coming to UNC!
As you can see, just registering for the LCSW exam is a lengthy process with a lot of back and forth, a lot of waiting around, and a lot of financial commitment. I recommend getting an early start on this process so that you can register for the exam as soon as possible, ensuring that 1) you get your pick of testing locations and dates/times, and 2) you still remember everything you learned in grad school (and remember how to study for exams!). While you’re waiting to hear back from NCSWCLB or ASWB at various points in this process, you can also get a head start on studying for the exam.
My final advice to you is: the sooner you can take and pass the LCSW exam, the better for your career. Some agencies that hire LCSWAs actually require that they pass the exam prior to being eligible for a job. Even if the agency you’re interested in doesn’t have that same requirement, passing the exam will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position.
How in the world do you pick the right concentration for the rest of your career? What are you giving up when you pick, what are the field placement opportunities, what about licensure?! Breathe, friends. It’s not an all or nothing decision! Picking a concentration guides your coursework toward a particular lens (macro or micro), but by no means limits you! Let me debunk a few myths and share a few tips to help you pick a concentration.
- First, you concentration does not mean you cannot take courses from the other concentration. In fact, you totally should! Social workers should never put on our blinders to other areas of our practice because your clients don’t live in one lane. You do have to take some classes for your concentration, but you have lots of wiggle room to take other courses from the opposite concentration. So you can pick the one you lean more toward, but still customize your schedule to get the skills and information you’re looking for.
- A common misconception is that you can’t get licensed if you’re CMPP (or macro). Not true! It may be a little harder because your filed placement may not so easily lend itself to licensure requirements (think supervision and clinical hours), BUT it can be done! If you want to go CMPP and still get licensure, be sure to mention that to your field supervisor ASAP.
- Think about your ideal job. What kind of work would you be doing? This can help you decide your concentration AND if you should seek licensure. Check out folks who are doing that job, and maybe even shoot them an email to see what they would recommend!
- Look at the coursework. I pretty much knew I wanted to do CMPP, and when I looked at the required courses and electives, that sealed the deal. Again, look at how many hours you’ll need for your concentration, then look at the classes you want to take. Are you heavier toward one concentration, even if just by a little bit? That’s probably a good one to go for!
- Think about the acronyms. DP or Direct Practice is one-on-one with clients. School social work, DHS, counseling and therapy, as well as the medical settings or other social services. CMPP stands for Community, Management, and Policy Practice. Want to work with communities, organizing, advocating with, and empowering? This is it! Want to manage a nonprofit or government department? Here ya go. Into policies and making them more empowering and equitable? Ta-da! CMPP. (Can you tell I love CMPP?)
Whatever you go with, you shouldn’t be miserable! Find the classes and direction that really lights up your soul. I went entirely CMPP except for one class because I am all about the macro picture. Don’t worry so much about the opportunities one might give you over the other. Remember, social work is a broad field, and you can totally learn new skills at any point in time. I hope this helps ease some worries and points folks in the right direction. If you’re still struggling, chat with a faculty member, especially one with similar interests, and get their feedback. Good luck!!!
With the school year and my academia era ending, a lot of nostalgic feelings have arose. That said, here are some of my favorite books/ authors that remind me that everything happens for a reason and that it is only the beginning of a new chapter:
- bell hooks – It’s All About Love
- OSHO – Love, freedom, aloneness
- Toni Morrison – Beloved
- Junot Díaz – This is How You Lose Her
- Nayyirah Waheed – Salt
- Yrsa Daley-Ward – Bone
- Michal Faudet – Dirty Pretty Things
- Nawal El Saadawi – Women at Point Zero
I know that when I was deciding what MSW program to attend, finances were key once I had determined what programs I was interested in: What school would give me the most financial aid? What school had the lowest tuition? What school was in a location with the lowest cost of living? What school had a curriculum with a schedule that might let me work part-time, or that was known for funded internships?
My in-state school was the University of Washington – Seattle, because I’d been living there for the last three years. But the cost of living in Seattle is so high, I was seriously stressed wondering how I’d afford to live there while I was studying, even if tuition was relatively low. When I lucked out with some great funding for my first year here at UNC, I decided to go for the move – with the comparative affordability of housing, groceries, and transportation here in the Chapel Hill area, combined with aid that amounted to the in-state tuition rate, I could see how I could make it work to study here. It was a great choice.
Fast forward to one year later, preparing to start my second year of school. My great financial aid package from the first year didn’t carry over to the second year, and I was at the mercy of the residency application process: would I be granted in-state residency for my second year of school, or would I have to take out extra loans to cover the near-double rate of out of state tuition? Spoiler alert, I got in-state residency!
It was 100% a nail-biter. The deadline for applying for in-state isn’t until a couple of weeks until after classes had already started in the fall (now I think it’s on a rolling basis, so, a little different), so I was sitting in classes and not really sure how I would pay for them if I ended up being denied in-state status. And, my initial application got denied – I won in-state residency only after appealing the first decision. These are some of the things I did that I think helped my case for residency, and things I wish had done that would have helped:
- Don’t move here at the last minute! If you can move earlier in the summer, then you’ll have more time to get your documentation in order showing that you’ve been here for at least one calendar year when the next fall semester rolls around.
- Get your license (and car tags if you have them) changed over ASAP. You want to have your NC license dated at least one year before the first day of the semester you’re trying to apply for in state status.
- Pay NC state income taxes. If you worked part-time, being able to show a W2 showing your withholding amount for NC state taxes and a copy of your NC state tax returns can be useful documentation.
- Exercise your right to vote! The residency application asks for dates when you’ve voted in NC. As if you needed another reason to participate in local elections! Don’t miss them; this is a great way to show you’re an active NC community member.
- Buy something really big! The residency application process privileges people who can make large purchases, like a house, because it shows local financial investment and a commitment to staying in the community. Not an option for most graduate students.
- Enroll your children in NC schools! Yeas, so, again, didn’t apply to me, but surely a useful demonstration of residency for some.
- Don’t spend too much time visiting the state you moved from. The residency application asks for the destination and duration of every trip you made out of NC the last few years. If you are traveling back to the place you moved from a lot, odds are you’re going to paint a picture that that’s still your “home”. I think younger students who are traveling back to a home state to visit family a lot can have trouble with this one.
- Join a community organization. If you join the grocery co-op, a local church/temple/mosque/other worship group, become a regular volunteer, serve on the board of a local organization, participate in a cultural group – all of these are things that you can use to demonstrate your investment in living here in NC.
- If you get denied, don’t lose hope! Many students get awarded in-state residency on appeal like I did.
I hope this helps! If you have questions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
If you are anything like me, my undergraduate experience was not a common one. I was a transfer student, a non-traditional student, and to summarize I did not have that on-campus college experience. One of the things I wanted to be intentional about doing during my graduate program was building community.
Despite it being hard to navigate at times, it was something I was able to do. I met great friends, mentors, and people who I could depend on.
Likewise, I was able to learn about on-campus initiatives and events happening on campus through listservs and welcome weekend.
If you are a student of color, specifically someone who identifies as a woman I would recommend you connecting to the Womxn of Worth collective on campus! I most recently attended their conference, where I connected with on-campus staff, fellow students in other departments and was reinspired for the last leg of the race.
You are also able to present at this conference, and this year I have been working on my growth mindset and trying to do things that I wouldn’t necessarily go for-and I presented on the topic of yoga sensitive yoga and sexual trauma.
If you want to read more about the event so that you can put it on your to do for this upcoming year please visit http://womxnofworth.web.unc.edu
This year’s keynote speaker was Saba Taj, a Southern Queer Muslim mixed-medium artist
To learn more about Saba Taj please visit:
If you are interested in learning why this collective is called “Womxn of Worth”
For many of you, like it was for me, the decision about which graduate school to attend is a hard one. It’s hard to really know about life the course work, your cohort, and what the day-to-day life of an MSW student is like at each school until you are in the thick of things. So, let me tell you how you can get the inside scoop about UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work…
You have to come to Welcome Weekend! I remember being a prospective student two years ago and struggling with how to make a decision between two top-ranked MSW programs, but Welcome Weekend helped provide me with the clarity that I needed.
Rewind to Courtney from two years ago. She was confused and conflicted but quite honestly really wanted to make a final decision. She had two options – attend a great school in NC because she had just moved here a year prior OR attend another great school that was farther away that really aligned with her future goals. Honestly, Courtney from two years ago knew very little about Chapel Hill MSW life…so to get a better understanding of what UNC Chapel Hill had to offer, she decided to come to Welcome Weekend.
It was my experience at Welcome Weekend that sold me on all that UNC-Chapel Hill had to offer. Throughout the weekend we went over coursework, schedules, funding, and got to know the incoming cohort. It was a lot of information, but it was worth it! I met some of the most amazing people that were going to be in my cohort, two MSW student ambassadors who made a huge impression on me, and our ever so supportive Assistant Dean of Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid (Sharon Thomas). One of my closest friends turned out to be one of the people from my cohort that I met that day. We have shared so many memories since then and will continue doing so. The student ambassadors that I met were two amazing Black and Brown women who were able to give me the real, honest feedback about an experience I could be living if I chose UNC. Lastly, Sharon was able to help me through all of the trials of residency, funding, and coursework confusion. I am so thankful to have found them on this very weekend, two years ago.
Moral of the story: #GDBATH!
I hope to see you at Welcome Weekend and maybe we can help your decision too!
When I first learned about the connection between perfectionism and procrastination, I was blown away. So much of my academic life instantly made sense. For anyone who may not have heard this before, perfectionism can often lead to procrastination. When you have perfectionistic tendencies, it can be difficult to start or finish tasks due to a fear of not doing it well enough or failing entirely. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s better to put something off—or even not do it at all—if you can’t be sure that you’ll do a perfect job. When I realized that this was true for myself, I found that committing to practices that reduce my anxiety also reduces my perfectionistic tendencies—and my tendency to procrastinate.
For me, reducing my procrastination happens on two fronts: committing to a regular self-care practice, and mixing self-care with my work. I know that once I cross the threshold and start an assignment, I’ll get through it and turn in something most likely good, and at least decent. However, getting myself in the right headspace to even take that first step can feel impossible. Personally, I have a regular yoga practice that I know will help me clear my head and get me energized. Even if I can only commit to ten minutes some days, consistent yoga practice helps me feel capable and reduces some of the stress in my life. Yoga, in addition to daily walks with my dog, help reduce my general stress and anxiety levels enough to take the plunge and open up my laptop and agenda.
However, when it comes time to actually work, there’s nothing worse than the feeling of dread and incompetence that comes when I’m stuck at a tiny desk staring at a screen for hours, waiting for inspiration to strike (or waiting for my paper to magically write itself!). I found that adding little elements of self-care to my work is beyond helpful. Having a cup of tea or coffee while I work helps me feel like I’m taking a mini-break with every sip. Lighting a candle can also help me take a minute and practice some mindfulness, focusing on the smell of the candle whenever I get writer’s block or too stuck in my own head. I also enjoy playing music (mainly instrumental scores from movies and video games), since the songs can briefly pull me back into a story I really enjoyed if I get too bogged down in my work. Last, sitting outside (weather- and bug-permitting) with my laptop while I write papers or do research is my go-to option when I need to engage in some mindful homework-doing! I’m actually fighting the pollen and sitting on my back porch with my dog as I write these very words. Listening to the birds, feeling the breeze, and petting my dog while I work help keep me grounded and focused on the task at hand. For anyone who may be applying to or getting ready to start graduate school, start thinking about your own academic tendencies early—that way you can brainstorm some strategies for combating them that will work well for you!
Also, if anyone wants some suggestions of great music to listen to while you study or write, here’s my go-to playlist to get you started!