Thank you for your interest in the UNC MSW program! My name is Regina D’Auria and I am an Advanced Standing MSW student here at UNC. All this means is that my undergraduate degree is also in Social Work, and I elected to start the MSW program the week after I graduated. But have no fear if this same similar situation applies to you, UNC really helps to make this transition smooth and easy adjust!
You are definitely ahead of the game by looking at schools and asking questions early. I know the world of application deadlines, letters of recommendation, and the ever-pleasant GRE can seem daunting right now, but I promise you, you are in good company! You have a lot of great opportunities to choose from, so I can definitely understand feeling overwhelmed. I was in a very similar situation as you last year, looking at this same UNC Ambassador website thinking, “I don’t even know where to begin.” Much like you, I had to decide what graduate school would best fit what I wanted to get out of my MSW education.
First semester of my senior year was a very stressful time for me, as I was battling a heavy year of college papers, GRE studying, and exams. Trust me, you are NOT alone! Even with all that, I am here to say be encouraged! You CAN do it. At the end of the day, I chose UNC Chapel Hill for several reasons (faculty, affordability, ranking, sports, location, ETC!) and I have absolutely loved it here so far.
To help assist you in this process: making a plan is always key! I was somewhat overly ambitious and I applied to 9 MSW programs this exact time last year. I definitely would not recommend applying to that many because it only made my decision harder (And let’s face it, it was super expensive and time consuming!). I was faced with the daunting task of talking with programs and visiting AFTER I was accepted in order to narrow my choices down. Case in point, do the opposite of what I did: do your research on the front end of applying so you already have a narrow focus on what it is you are looking for! This will help to make your decision way easier in the end.
I also suggest making a pros and cons list of every school because that really helped me decide. Also, as you look at schools, do not forget to remember how you are treated while as an applicant. That made all the difference to me in choosing UNC (not to mention we are ranked #5 in the nation for our MSW program!). I felt like I was a Tarheel even before I sent my application in because the school really made me feel wanted and appreciated. That is what set UNC apart for me verses other schools. Students are the priority here.
I stress the importance of a visit. It is a much better indicator and representation of what you are going to get as a student. UNC’s passion for service is what led me to want to apply and be apart of the program, and that was evident through my visit. This value attracted me to social work initially, so I also wanted that in a graduate program.
Ask yourself what is important to you in a graduate education. For me, location was important because I wanted an area that had a lot of diverse opportunities for social workers to experience while in my field placement, but also to propel me professionally. But like I said, that was just me. Your criteria might be different. There is no right or wrong. It’s all about what works for YOU!
How welcomed do I feel? Do I feel comfortable asking questions? How well are my questions answered and in what timely manner? There is professionalism on the phone when I call, or do I feel quick to hang up, feeling rushed? Is this school located in a area of the country where I can picture myself working an internship that caters to my professional goals? How affordable is it in comparison to other programs I am looking at? Do they offer scholarships? These are all some of the important questions I asked myself while applying.
I came to select UNC for the many different reasons that I briefly stated in my opening, however, there is one in particular that I want to point out. Our faculty is truly what sets this university apart from the rest–they are ABOVE and BEYOND my expectations. Professors truly care about you as a whole being, not just as a student. They understand you serve many different roles. They challenge in ways I have never been pushed, and that has refined me as a social worker in ways I cannot express. I am truly grateful for their leadership! They have 100% completely exceeded my expectations. They go out of their way to make themselves available to you. That has been a game changer for me as I navigate my MSW degree.
Also, lastly, our STUDENTS. There are so many people coming from such diverse backgrounds, which really help to create many different viewpoints in the classroom that benefit lectures/class activities. This allows students to see things from a new perspective that they never considered. This has seriously impacted my learning and contributed to my competency as a social worker in a positive way. (And of course, can’t forget UNC has GREAT sports, of which I am a huge fan!).
I hope this “grad school app starter kit” was helpful to you as you navigate this process. I wish you the best of luck in applying this year and go Tarheels!