Monday, September 10, 2012

Have you researched the schools of social work you are considering?

I read an article the other day on the U.S. News education site that says that the biggest mistake prospective graduate students make is not researching schools thoroughly enough before making a decision. According to Don Martin, the article's writer, people too often decide on a graduate school for reasons such as:
  • my parents went there
  • it's a top ranked school
  • someone said it was a good place to go
And then, sometimes, they are disappointed when the school  isn't everything they had hoped for.

I have seen online discussions on Facebook and other places that go something like this:
  • Student 1:  I hate my school.  I go to _____ U. and it is the worst school ever.
  • Student 2:  Oh, thanks for posting that, because I was thinking of going there myself.

And conversely:
  • Student 1:  I LOVVVVVE University of ______.  If you are thinking of going there, GO! It's the greatest.
  • Student 2:  I'm applying there right now!!! Can't wait!

Problem is, one student's dream school may not meet another's needs at all.  And one person's nightmare might be another's dream.

Jesus Reyes, a former school of social work director of admissions and author of The Social Work Graduate School Applicant's Handbook, suggests that prospective social work students visit their prospective schools, talk with current faculty and staff, and contact current and former students, as well. Prior to the visit, you need to have done some self-reflection to determine what you want to get out of grad school, what you are looking for, and what your career goals are.  Then make a list of questions that relate to what is important to you in a school of social work.

In the book, Reyes provides an extensive checklist for the school visit, Making Your Visit Count: Questions to Ask and Things to Look For. This checklist serves as a starting point for you to develop your own questions about what the school of social work offers academically, socially, and otherwise.  What areas of specialization are offered?  Are there opportunities to work directly with the well-known professor that you so admire? How are field placements set up?  Is there a student association?  How good is the library?  (Don't just ask...visit the library yourself and take a look around.)  Is the campus safe at night? These are some examples of questions you might ask.

Going to grad school to become a social worker is a big decision and a big commitment. It's worthwhile to take the time to dig a little deeper, check things out for yourself, and find the one that is the best fit for YOU!


  1. I have just completed my social work degree at teh University of Birmigham. The staff are very supportive & are excellent at what they do. The course is very challenging & there is a huge amount of pressure & work involved....ideal preperation for a career in social work I think!

  2. Thank you for sharing this post, it's timely. I ordered a copy of Jesus Reyes' “The Social Work Graduate School Applicant's Handbook” and it will arrive this week. I look forward to reading it and applying tips offered as I make campus visits, write my essays, and complete my applications for MSW programs in California.

    Susan Paul, BSW