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The MSW Thang

Yesterday I took a day off (thank goodness I could) and visited Baltimore. The University of Maryland - Baltimore's School of Social Work, specifically. They had an open house, and I finally wised up that I should attend one and really get a feel for the goal I'm considering. I am glad I did, because I know now I'm completely right. This is what I want to do.

I have no idea how to pay for it. We spent two hours talking about the program, but financial aid was touched on in only the most perfucntory "please fill out your FAFSA by this date" way. I remember the FAFSA from back in the day. It gives me shivers. I learned that the program where you get the Department of Social Services to pay for your Master's is mainly for school/children related social work. Meh. I want to do Aging and Mental Health concentration. The good news is that if I apply for the four year program, I can probably hold down a full time job, at least in the first year. I do sort of think wistfully on going to the 2 year program, but simultaneous to me getting a burr up my butt about doing this soon, we find that shit is probably hitting various fans at Jack's job. Bluh. Oh debt... how I haven't missed you for a second because I still have you from my undergraduate degree.

One nice thing was to over and over be taken for a sweet young thing fresh out of college. A woman on the elevator started talking to me about the program and I identified with her immediately, thinking she was a peer. We chatted about applications and choices and I revealed I graduated in '97, and asked her where she graduated from. At which point she stepped aside and said, "oh, no, I'm here for my daughter." Ohhh, yeah! I forgot some people just move right along to their graduate degree form their bachelors.

So the group (maybe 50 people) was about half giggly blond co-eds with hearts of gold, about 4 men, several middle aged women who probably resemble me in 20 years, a smattering of obvious hippie-hipster types (one of whom sat down next to me with her chocolatey-brown cable knit sweater and canvas bag with crude self-applied embroidery and stripey scarf and uber-nerd glasses and really, really distracted me for most of the seminar) and some unlabelables, a category I'd have put myself in.

Guys (and by guys I mean dudes (and by dudes I mean penis-bearing humans, XY chromosomed individuals)), I have news for you: if you want a guaranteed job, it would seem social work is one way to go. There is a high demand for male LCSWs and diversity scholarships available. If I ever had penis envy it was in the part of the admission lady's speech where she laid this out.

Another surprise was this: Last year they had about 800 applicants for 400 spots. Up til now everything I'd been hearing was that they have an 80% acceptance rate, or something similarly ludicrous. So getting in which I previous thought would be not a hurdle at all, might be one. My academic references are distant misty ghosts. My current references are largely technical, not that they would not be good to have, but maybe one out of three. The admissions dean gamely put forth that perhaps their increase in applicants over the last few years is the ersult of the fact that as people become more anxious about the way things are going in this country, the more they want to do their part to help their fellow man. Word, Admissions Dean Lady. One bit of good news: No GRE. They don't want to know how you did on a standardized test, they want to accept you for who you are. Awww.

One tactic the admissions dean kept using was to explain examples from her own career as a social worker to illuminate what we might expect. This was extremely helpful in cementing my feeling of strong desire to do this. She talked about how she thought she knew what she wanted to do, and was surprised at which parts of the job she found easy and which parts she found draining. She talked about how her goals changed as she took field placements and sat for her 2000 hours of clinical supervision. (She did this at the Patuxent high security facility in Jessup, for three years, as one of two female group counselors where she counseled rapists. I immediately felt this lady was a saint.) She talked of the bureaucratic nightmare and hierarchy of trying to work for the VA hospital. I am confident I could have listened to this lady talk for another 2 hours, and then another 2 hours after that. Which bodes well for my wilingness to sit in 3 hour social work classes, no?

At any rate, I left with a much more concrete sense of purpose. I am very excited to have a better handle on my goal.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 18th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC)
I'm so stupid about it, I don't know where to look.
Nov. 18th, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC)
Start by looking in the couch. From there, move onto the car.
Nov. 18th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC)
oooh, that *is* exciting! yay for info sessions! yay for social work! (and i have to thank you for posting this, too, because it's one of the places i'm applying, though i need to pull a stats class out of my ass sometime between, um, now and next summer. meh.)
Nov. 18th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC)

If you came to school here I would die, and go to heaven. And come back, and hang out with you in MD.

If you want any more info on what they said in the seminar email me, I took a slew o' notes.
Nov. 18th, 2005 08:14 pm (UTC)
And if I apply for fall or spring, I have to get the other pre-req, "Human Growth and Development Through the Life Span". Not as intimidating as stat, I reckon. I mean, that is if they will accept my undergrad stat course, which they did mention has no statute of limitations.
Nov. 18th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)
Yay! The more my friends talk about this sort of thing, the more I keep thinking I need to restart my own Quest For A Degree...
Nov. 18th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
That's fantastic, glad it lived up to your expectations.
Nov. 18th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
out of curiosity, was it UMBC or the downtown campus you visited? i've been given to understand that the city campus social work program is a kind of social-worker factory, whereas the county program is excellent. just eff why eye, as i've known a couple people who went through the various programs.
Nov. 18th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC)
It's UMB. As far as I know UMBC doesn't have a SW program. UMB's program is actually the only accredited SW program in MD, to my knowledge (and that's what she said yesterday).

I have heard that accusation leveled against them before, but a few things make me not care:

1. My other choices are... Catholic? Expensive as hell. Howard and Gallaudet? Not for me.

2. I'm not exactly looking for something fancy. In a way I'm looking for a tradeskill as much as some kind of academic fanciness.

I was worried about the same things you brought up but yesterday helped me figure out that those worries don't quite apply to me.
Nov. 18th, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
I was worried about the same things you brought up but yesterday helped me figure out that those worries don't quite apply to me.

fantastic. yeah, i know one person who HATED their program for that, and one person who was absolutely fine with it being that way.

anyway, i'm glad you're moving on this. >:) exciting stuff!
Nov. 18th, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC)
UMBC has an undergrad SW program, as does Bowie University. I think it would be great to hook you up with my friend Don, who is currently in the Master's program you are applying to to get the straight dope. Additionally, my last boss is an instructer at UM School of Social Work/B'more, so she is a good reference point too. Touch base with me when you can...
Nov. 18th, 2005 10:39 pm (UTC)
Awesome; I hope you find a way to pay for it, and I'm sure you will love it.
Nov. 18th, 2005 11:45 pm (UTC)
FAFSA isn't so bad, really, you're smart enough to get it. What kind of social worker do you want to be? Do you want to work in a hospital or in a community with MR or mental illness? So many possibilities!
Nov. 27th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
I want to do an Aging/Mental Health concentration. (That basically means tossing in a few of the Mental Health electives in third/second year.) Ultimately what I'd love to do is go on to get my PhD and write my dissertation on the similarities between total institutions (mental hospital closed wards, prisons, nursing homes). Specific enough? :)
Nov. 27th, 2005 09:32 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's pretty specific! That would be an interesting paper!
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 27th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC)
You are not the only person on my friends list interested in that profession! I don't think the social work curriculum at UMB has more than possibly one class on that. I would have though that would be more a psych thing, indeed.
Nov. 21st, 2005 12:39 pm (UTC)
Sounds awesome! I say go for it. Every school has financial aid counselors who could surely point you in the direction of good loans or maybe even scholarships. And I think your work experience will set you apart from all the "fresh out of undergrad" clones. You can bring actual life expereince into the mix and hopefully the admissions folk will see that as an asset.
Nov. 24th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
Can you tell me more about the school and children option and getting the MSW paid for?

Nov. 27th, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC)
Hi Julie,

The program I think you're referring to is Title IV-E (four E) program. You'd have to call UMB to find out about it, I kind of stopped paying attention during that part when I realized it wasn't available for the focus I want. :) I will note that I think there's another open house in December.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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