Top 10 tips on getting motivated to begin the process!
- Get excited and energized! Getting an MSW degree should first and foremost be EXCITING. At the end of the day, you are going to school to help other people, on behalf of your intended population of interest. How rewarding is that? As a prospective student, no matter what program you decide on, you should be excited towards the possibilities that will come along with an MSW degree. For me, what motivated me to finally begin the application was not only thinking of the people I wanted to impact once I received the degree, but also the populations I had come in contact with ALREADY that led me to the profession to begin with. Their faces and their stories in my head acted as the prime motivation to get GOING. This fire should motivate you to want to begin the application process too. Knowing that you hold the key to unlocking someone else’s potential in the helping professional field should ignite that passion from within you. Your future awaits you! What do you have to lose? Positivity is key.
- Don’t limit yourself. Avoid the negative self-talk that often comes along with starting the application process. This standard talk looks very familiar: “Oh I won’t get in,” or “That school is too competitive for me, so I won’t even apply”. A lot of the times, we know more than we think we do. You will never know until you try! Believing in yourself does not make you cocky! Instead it is the foundation to motivation, the pre-requisite to pressing, “start” if you will. It is important that YOU become your biggest fan first- not your own worst enemy. If you don’t believe in your own personal capabilities first, it will be even harder to convince an admissions team, let alone future clients. Any sort of self-doubt does not get you any closer to the goal, nor any closer to submitting the application! Don’t put yourself in a box on what schools you think would deny or accept you, but rather instead, be open to new possibilities on where you might end up. You never know what you can achieve by just simply believing!
- Self-evaluate: What areas of social work interests you? It is important that you start to ask yourself this and brainstorm what your interests are prior to beginning any program. This simple exercise will propel your coursework and your professional connections (and also hype you up!). I suggest jotting down a quick lists of a couple different social work interests that spark your motivations for wanting to apply for an MSW. There are endless possibilities, and they don’t have to all be related to each other. The sky is the limit in social work. If there is a need you see in a specific population, speak to that! This not only helps you to become more familiar with yourself and reflect, but it gives you options on what you could potentially pursue in the field. You never know who you will end up meeting in graduate school that will change your direction, or which classes will spark another interest you didn’t know you originally had, so I always keep a running lists of these interests on hand. Once again, don’t limit yourself!
- Start early & plan ahead-Applying to grad school is similar to that first encounter with a potential new partner you recently just met…you think about that person all the time and you really want to make a “first move” to let them know you are interested, however you just don’t know where to begin or what to say because you want them to like you. It seems like a daunting task at first, and you’re scared. But after you make that first initial interaction you realize it’s not so bad after all. By starting early and doing your research ahead of schedule on specific MSW programs, you make that initial interaction with schools seem less overwhelming. You begin to know them more as you start the “dating” process. By starting early, you become more familiar with deadlines, requirements, and potential information sessions and the process can seem less intimidating.
- Schedule your GRE test. Notice how I didn’t say “Take the GRE test.” Let’s face it, for me, the biggest first step in beginning the application process was just simply scheduling the GRE. Once I did it, I felt like a huge load was off my chest, almost as if I had just left the actually testing room itself (haha, okay maybe that quite that much excitement, but still!). This simple step acted as the huge catalyst in finally making my transition to begin the application process. On top of that, by setting a non-negotiable date, it motivated me to begin studying and preparing, as well as eliminated anymore time for me to procrastinate. Sometimes just scheduling it makes you feel like it one more baby step closer in the right direction. It’s one thing off your plate and a small victory to MSW success. Do it today!
- Identify your recommenders early. Yep, the good old “recommendation letter” plug paragraph is headed your way. Let’s be real. It’s important to have people that know you WELL so they can brag on you in the most beneficial way! Thinking of those specific people who know you well enough to speak on your behalf can take time, so allow yourself that. But most importantly, nothing will motivate you more to start on an application than knowing that others have already committed to doing their part to brag on you. I became motivated when I knew that many of them had even already started on the process of doing so. I wanted to start on my application because I knew “Hey, if they are doing me this favor, the least I can do is have my application ready in time.” At the end of the day, a recommender cannot upload their letter as submit it as “complete” until you start the application anyways, so it was a good accountability for me to have. Lastly, by identifying recommenders early, it gives them time to get motivated too! (Cause let’s face it, procrastination doesn’t just affect students, teachers, bosses, and professionals need time too!)
- Draft your personal statement. I know Andrew, my fellow ambassador, has already gone through this component to the application pretty in depth within a previous blog post. I will not touch too much on the logistics of drafting it, however, I will say what motivated me to start mine was feeling the impulse inside of me to finally tell my social work story. I saw this as a victory rather than an anxiety-ridden process because it was the first time I was giving myself a voice that pertained to my profession. It was the moment where I finally said out loud what it was that I was interested in, and was able to put it into words for others to read. That was powerful for me. It gave me ownership of my passion and sparked motivation in me. Thinking of the reasons why I was drawn to social work and the people I wanted to impact as I wrote motivated me to want to share experiences throughout my statement. I felt responsible to have the reader feel as though they had shared that same experience alongside with me. The result: the added motivation to begin!
- Ask questions! Getting answers to a lot of my questions in the first couple months really prompted me to want to get going on the application process. I felt by having my questions answered, I was eliminating excuses that originally prevented me from starting the application in the first place. Reaching someone within the school of social work who could answer my questions really helped me feel as though I was getting relevant questions I had towards applying “crossed off my to-do list”, and making strides in the right direction to get motivated.
- Network– Come to events, reach out to professors, and email current students. Nothing will motivate you more to start on the process than by coming to campus here at UNC. By coming and seeing the beautiful school and all it has to offer first hand, it will be contagious! You will have no choice but to fall in love with it and begin the process as soon as you arrive home!
- One step at a time, one day at a time. It might seem overwhelming right now with a lot of moving pieces to the puzzle and loose ends to tie up, but little by little it will all come together. Remember, Rome was not built in one day! It does not happen overnight. Cut yourself some slack and show yourself grace in being able to get it all done. It is a PROCESS—so most importantly, have PATIENCE. Slow and steady will win the race, and I promise it will get done in time. Set a feasible goal for yourself that by the end of each week, you will have something else done towards the completion of your application and hold yourself accountable to that goal. Your motivation will be your strongest weapon as a prospective student!
MSW Motivation Man