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Hello all. I just graduated from undergrad and am taking a gap year to work in the field before applying to grad programs for 2020. I have a question I have been curious about for a while though. I had a rough few years in my early twenties which involved fairly extensive drug abuse and ultimately lead to my arrest in 2012. Luckily I was able to avoid any time in jail, and thankfully was able to clean up my act and turn my life around. Through family support, rehab, and perserverance I was able to turn things around and just graduated with my B.A. in psychology and landed a job in community mental health. 

My question: How much of this should I disclose in my personal statements? I know that programs like to see personal experience and the ability to overcome adversity but I fear that discolsing too much to some schools could hurt my chances. I also would love to avoid  being labeled as 'the guy who used to be a drug addict' within my cohort, as I keep that part of my life very private in my professional role. I feel like I could write a pretty compelling personal statement with my experiences but fear it may backfire and programs will shy away from me for understandable reasons. Let me know what you all think I should do and if you have any similar stories or advice. 

Edited by MarkPatJoeBillDinosaur
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On 1/6/2019 at 10:33 PM, MarkPatJoeBillDinosaur said:

Hello all. I just graduated from undergrad and am taking a gap year to work in the field before applying to grad programs for 2020. I have a question I have been curious about for a while though. I had a rough few years in my early twenties which involved fairly extensive drug abuse and ultimately lead to my arrest in 2012. Luckily I was able to avoid any time in jail, and thankfully was able to clean up my act and turn my life around. Through family support, rehab, and perserverance I was able to turn things around and just graduated with my B.A. in psychology and landed a job in community mental health. 

My question: How much of this should I disclose in my personal statements? I know that programs like to see personal experience and the ability to overcome adversity but I fear that discolsing too much to some schools could hurt my chances. I also would love to avoid  being labeled as 'the guy who used to be a drug addict' within my cohort, as I keep that part of my life very private in my professional role. I feel like I could write a pretty compelling personal statement with my experiences but fear it may backfire and programs will shy away from me for understandable reasons. Let me know what you all think I should do and if you have any similar stories or advice. 

Congrats on your recovery!

I helped a now-graduated social worker with this same issue a few years ago. He had a felony related to his substance/ MH issues and was accepted and successfully completed a MSW program.

I recommend you DO NOT go into great detail about your personal struggles. Allude to having challenges and overcoming them, but no one needs to know you had extensive drug and legal challenges. You definitely don't want to get that label.
 

Sending you a PM

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I found that in the prompts for the schools I applied to, there wasn't really much space to go into personal experience to begin with. The prompts were much more focused on educational and career experience, social issues you are passionate about, and why you are pursuing an MSW. That might allow a comment here or there about how your experience motivated you to pursue social work, or how you have demonstrated self discipline, but I would not go into detail. Beyond it being quite personal, it also doesn't convey why they should accept you into their program. Your personal statement is your chance to sell yourself as an outstanding student and future social worker, not a time to tell your life story. I would use up the limited word count  you have focusing on your accomplishments that are more directly and appropriately tied to your educational and career goals. Good luck and congratulations on your recovery!

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On 1/6/2019 at 11:33 PM, MarkPatJoeBillDinosaur said:

Hello all. I just graduated from undergrad and am taking a gap year to work in the field before applying to grad programs for 2020. I have a question I have been curious about for a while though. I had a rough few years in my early twenties which involved fairly extensive drug abuse and ultimately lead to my arrest in 2012. Luckily I was able to avoid any time in jail, and thankfully was able to clean up my act and turn my life around. Through family support, rehab, and perserverance I was able to turn things around and just graduated with my B.A. in psychology and landed a job in community mental health. 

My question: How much of this should I disclose in my personal statements? I know that programs like to see personal experience and the ability to overcome adversity but I fear that discolsing too much to some schools could hurt my chances. I also would love to avoid  being labeled as 'the guy who used to be a drug addict' within my cohort, as I keep that part of my life very private in my professional role. I feel like I could write a pretty compelling personal statement with my experiences but fear it may backfire and programs will shy away from me for understandable reasons. Let me know what you all think I should do and if you have any similar stories or advice. 

hello! I am also in recovery. I went all out and told them that I have been in recovery and how this plays a role in my life. I linked this through my work experience as an LCDCI. How we walk out recovery and the NASW code of ethics are a beautiful comparison which I also pointed to. For the social problems, I talked about what I know. addiction and recovery... I shared how my recovery and self-care regimen I have makes me an effective applicant to handle the stress of the social work field effectively. 

this is me though. I say if i don't get in for being me... i don't belong at that school!

best of luck. if you have more q's lmk :]

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Hi,

I have not been on this in quite some time but I saw this thread in my inbox. I am post-MSW, licensed, and worked in SUD for several years. I am not in recovery but I wanted to share some professional insights.

 In all of my jobs, I have worked with clinicians in recovery. Many of them had some kind of legal history related to their substance use. I also went to graduate school with someone with a felony from their involvement in a really serious crime that I could see some taking issue with. Some talked about it in their personal statements, some did not.  At the end of the day, no matter what one's history is, I think it's about how the story is shared, one's understanding of personal growth, insight into boundaries (this one is huge) and knowing our audience.

 

Best of Luck!

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While speaking to an admissions rep at one of the schools I applied to, she mentioned that personal experiences are a great way to enhance an application, but to be sure that you don't get too much into it.  Basically you are trying to balance 1) how the situation impacted your life to be taking this course of action now and 2) making sure that you don't disclose a lot of unnecessary and private information.  It's going to be up to you to decide just how much you need to say to get the point across that you were at a really low point in life and turned it around.  It helps to have friends that are familiar with the situation read it over and comment on whether they think you said too much or not.  So that's what admissions for at least one school out of hundreds told me about personal information.

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