Tips on How to Use Your Winter Break/Month of December to Finish Grad School Applications

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.

4) GRE

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:

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.

About MitzyG

I'm a 2nd year Full-Time graduate student at the UNC School of Social Work. I'm on the direct practice track and am interested in pursuing a career in healthcare social work. My favorite kind of self-care is staying in and having a 'pamper night' with a Netflix show playing on the side. My current Netflix addiction is the show New Girl (hilarious--how great is Schmidt?!)
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