My cohort is full of amazing supportive people. I really cannot say enough good things about the people sitting beside me in class. I can't speak to other years, but our cohort seems to get along really well, and I have learned just as much from my classmates as my profs (and classes are set up in a way that makes this possible).
I LOVE that we have our own campus. Only social work, and only Master/PhD level students in our building. I do occasionally go to the main campus to use the library in the evenings/ on weekends though. There are around 75 people in my cohort and we are typically split into 3 sections for each class (25 per class), sometimes there are 4 sections. We occasionally have some of the part time students in our classes and we also have music therapy students who join us for the Individuals class. There will always be some profs who are better than others but I can honestly say for the most part I have loved my profs, we have some pretty incredible people teaching our classes. We are referred to as colleagues by our profs and my experience has been that they are open to learning from us. Our profs know who we are by name and we are on a first name basis with them. They are very open to the needs of their students, and seem to truly care about our wellbeing. I will say that it is not as clinically focused as I would like, but I do feel that I am getting the clinical component at placement, and although my end goal is clinical social work I feel like the social justice class and community development class were essential. They were actually my two favourite classes so far (mostly because the profs were brilliant). Having the indigenous stream of study in the building enriches our experience as well (guest lectures, faculty members who are indigenous elders, indigenous faculty teach the indigenous knowledge in social work course, and invitations to events put on by the indigenous stream students). Another opportunity is a program called Walls to Bridges, started by one of our profs, and which is now being run through other universities as well, but it provides students the opportunity to take one of their classes alongside inmates in a prison setting. Super cool opportunity! I haven’t been able to work it into my schedule this year, but fingers crossed for next year! You can check out this link, part of it was filmed in my class when Tina came to do a guest lecture (side note, if you choose Laurier- take a class with Shoshona, she is amazing!):
The placement process is a bit of a shit show but from what I've heard from friends at other schools this seems to be the case with a lot of the programs. I would say this is my largest complaint about the program.
Also, just an FYI- next year they are extending our lunch period to make more time for lunch time workshops, which means you will be stuck in class until 5:30pm on class days. This will definitely make it more difficult to find part time work, just something to keep in mind when planning how you are going to survive financially! Especially now that our lovely premier has taken away free tuition #notbitterattall. First semester you have Monday and Friday off so that makes it easier to have a part time job, second semester is more difficult, especially if your placement is not in the city you live in. I had to stop working this semester because I couldn’t make it work with the placement/ class schedule. There are people in the program who have been able to make it work though, especially those who got placements close to where they live, or have jobs that are cool with only weekend availability.
My GPA was not initially high enough, and my undergrad was completely unrelated (biology). I took social science courses through Athabasca and got high 80s-90s but that didn't really seem to have an impact. Then I found the online pre-req courses for the Waterloo post grad BSW and took 7 of those, again grades in high 80s-90s, this seemed to make the difference because I was accepted after doing them. I think this is for a couple of reasons:
a) They were social work courses directly related to the program and I could demonstrate I was competent in the area through high grades
b) It meant I had an academic reference from a prof who was also a social worker (also happened to be a graduate of Laurier so that may have worked to my advantage)
c) Because I was taking social work courses, I knew the language they would be looking for in the application and the types of things I said in my personal statement changed.
So, if you need to boost your GPA I would definitely recommend the Waterloo BSW pre-req courses over other online courses such as those at Athabasca. It would also open the option of applying to the 1 year BSW as a backup if you don't get into an MSW.
I also focused heavily on gaining experience in the field from the first time I applied to when I finally got in. I believe I had about 4000 hours (volunteer and paid combined) when I applied last year. As I gained more experience I also began to talk about those experiences differently in my personal statement and my CV. Volunteering at a distress centre was a valuable experience for anyone looking for something that looks good on the application. This is also an easy way to break into the field if you do not have a related education because that can be really difficult. It also helped prepare me for the individuals class and as I moved into field placement because I was already familiar with some counselling skills and very comfortable talking about suicide with clients. Additionally, the distress centre where I volunteered (and I would think this is the case at many) was very familiar with writing references for students applying to grad school, and wrote fabulous social work related references.
For Laurier (this is the only school I applied to so I can only speak to it) - I would make sure there is an emphasis on social justice issues in your personal statement. Ensure you have socially located yourself, and make it clear you are able to engage in reflexivity. There has been a huge focus on these things in all classes and this will be attractive to the faculty on the committee who chooses successful applicants.My successful personal statement had a larger emphasis on these things than previous years when I was not successful. Include lived experience. As much as it is no ones business what your struggles have been, it seems that those who include it in their personal statement are more likely to get in.
If you were looking for more specific details feel free to send me a private message