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Level of difficulty in MSW programs compared to undergrad programs

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5 replies to this topic

#1 bounce



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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:11 AM

This might be a stupid question to ask but I do not know anyone going for their Master's in Social Work. (I know several in psych programs)

How hard is grad school compared to undergrad? Should I expect to spend significantly more time on classes compared to undergrad? Is the stress level much greater?

My general question is: What is it like?

School has always come easy to me, and I am an A student, but I am concerned that grad school will put me in way over my head. I can't be the only one who feels like this, right?
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#2 socialworkphd



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Posted 31 January 2012 - 03:31 AM

Writing is more intense. Reading load is heavier. But generally MSW is easier than undergrad. You are expected to have a higher level of introspection and critical thinking. You are expected to to write well. You may be assigned several books for one class and be able to digest at least pieces of all of them. There is a lot of group work typically, which some people find frustrating. You will have to learn APA style citations and how to read a research article. But if you got through your stats and human biology you can do this. People who don't make it through an MSW program usually fail due to personal problems, poor boundaries, poor insight, or serious writing problems. Good luck.
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Posted 31 January 2012 - 03:43 AM


You are not alone. I feel the same way. But after earning my BSW and getting a lot of awesome exp in the mental health field, plus my volunteer work, I feel more than ready for this challenge.

I have several friends in MSW programs and they all say it’s a very intense program. They go to USC. My friends are doing really well because they are organized and balance their responsibilities. If you are this type of person, I am sure you will do well. I know several people who have said that the most challenging aspect of the program is their internship. Its emotionally and mentally draining. I did and internship working with foster youth during my last year at undergrad. While my internship was emotionally draining, I felt that I had truly made a difference in the lives of some of the youth that I worked with. That feeling will never leave me. But my professors and supervisors taught me the importance of self care, and believe me, I took time for myself, even if it was for just 15 minutes. I also vented to my supervisors. My friends have noticed that the people who struggle more in internship are the ones that lack an open mind. In an MSW program it is very important to keep and open mind and not only listen to your client but be able to see their point of view.

I don’t know what schools you have applied to, but a lot of the schools give you the option to speak or email with a current student so you could learn about their point of view. I think this would be very helpful to you. Maybe after speaking to a student you could get a better picture of the program and might answer a lot of your questions. I went to an info session at UCLA and it was a great experience.

I hope this helps.
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#4 michigan girl

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 05:00 AM

"You are expected to have a higher level of introspection and critical thinking."

I also want to add that in graduate school you will find yourself doing a lot of group assignments and large-scale single projects that may require lots of critical and introspective thinking. The workload is also heavier (more reading, writing, and learning jargon). It doesn't matter if you have no experience in X area. The professors will evaluate you based on how creative and innovative you can work under unfamiliar (and sometimes stressed!) situations. Looking back at my own MSW experience, I thought some of my assignments were exhaustive and nearly impossible (I graduated from a Top-5 MSW program). Since I have completed my fieldwork and degree requirements, I have the confidence to take on difficult tasks and situations. Unlike undergrad (where the focus is a gaining a liberal arts foundation), the MSW professors will help you become a competent and effective social work professional.

Edited by michigan girl, 31 January 2012 - 05:08 AM.

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Current Status: Master's Student; Next Step: Waiting on PhD Programs

#5 bounce



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Posted 01 February 2012 - 02:42 AM

Thanks for the help!!

I don't want to feel completely overwhelmed and stressed and lose all of my free time for the next two years. :(

I am just concerned because I am in my final semester of undergrad and my research methods class (i'm a psych major) has turned me into a nervous wreck. I am TERRIBLE at research methods and I'm wondering how this will translate into graduate work.

I did, however, apply to SDSU, which apparently has an option where you take an exam at the end of grad school instead of writing a thesis so here's hoping I won't be responsible for much research.

I'm just so miserable now as a senior undergrad student that contemplating the magnitiude of grad school makes me sick to my stomach, despite the fact that I have a 3.8 gpa.

Maybe it's just the senioritis? Hopefully it isn't burnout!
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#6 roxyshoe


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Posted 03 February 2012 - 05:09 AM

I wouldn't worry about the research stuff too much. From what I hear, MSW's will mostly only have you read research papers, and maybe one or two classes will have you design a small project of your own. But one of the major reasons why I chose MSW over a PhD in Clinical Psych is because I was really not into the idea of spending grad school doing research. Don't worry - you're entering the right program! I'd be worried if you were applying for a PhD ;)
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