This time last year, I was counting down the days until my undergraduate BSW graduation, and celebrating the fact that I was accepted into UNC’s MSW program and, officially “onto something bigger and better”. Though I was excited, I often questioned whether or not I was making the right decision. Should I have tried to find work and taken a gap year? Had I learned enough to keep me from sinking at UNC? Would Advanced Standing be too fast to truly learn what I need? Will I be able to afford graduate school? Will I be able to get a job after graduation? Ultimately, will this ALL be worth it?
When I began classes at UNC, I realized what an incredibly diverse group of students I was being given the opportunity to work with. People who had families and children and worked full-time jobs, people who had travelled all over the world, people who had started non-profits, and people just like me- students who were coming from academia and were new to the practice side of social work. I soon realized just how incredible my experience at UNC was going to be. Due to the diverse group of students, I was able to gain so much more from my classes and overall learning experience. Discussions were lengthy and dense, and professors were supportive of our conversations.
As the semesters moved along, I felt continuously supported by the School in all of my work and aspirations. I had made contacts and connections, and by the Spring I was networking with recent graduates, not-so-recent graduates, and relevant community members. Though I am a commuter student who isn’t particularly involved on campus, I felt like a “real” member of this School. I was soon feeling more confident in my clinical work at my field placement, as well as confident in my clinical knowledge. Now, with graduation only a few short weeks away, I am able to see a tremendous amount of growth in myself as a professional, a student, and an individual citizen over the past year.
I wrote this blog because I wanted to give newly admitted students, as well as prospective students, a glimpse into the mind of an almost-MSW. This is the time of our MSW education where we are most stressed, and feeling the pressure of not only graduation, but also the next phase in life- starting our careers. However, I need to let you know that IT IS WORTH IT. It is all worth it, every little bit. When I got an email offering me my dream job with a pretty dreamy salary, I first realized that it was worth it. When I was able to go see my parents and tell them about my new job, and let them know that all of their hard work had paid off, it was definitely worth it. When I was able to go home that night and tell my soon-to-be-husband that in only a few months, our hard work spanning over 6 years of education will have finally ended in a career for myself- IT WAS WORTH IT. Last, when I finally got up the nerve to log into my student loan online account and total up the monthly payments- and realized that I can afford them- I took a deep breath and said to myself, “I can do this- it was worth it”.
No matter what stage of your life you are in, and no matter what your worries are…take a deep breath and remind yourself that it will all be worth it. Reach out to people, know when to ask for help, and take care of yourself first. If you are able to do these things, you will reach your goals and find that all of your hard work and determination to succeed will eventually pay off.