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Lower ranking MSW program gave me less financial aid, but didn't tell me what my aid package would be until it was too late

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Like most people I have a lot of debt from undergrad, and was interested in doing a MSW program only if I did not have to take out additional loans. I finally applied to two highly-ranked out of state programs and a local public MSW program in the city I live in.

Both the higher ranking programs gave me a lot of merit and need based aid. One of the higher ranked programs is an expensive private school, and was my top choice. I got $80,000 in scholarships, and the package they gave me would mean that for two years, I would need to take out about $5000 in loans for tuition. The local MSW program, on the other hand, took a really long time to release financial aid. I decided to decline the other two out of state programs, because their intent to enroll deadline was 5/1.

I was worried about moving to a new area and doing long distance with my partner during COVID-19. Today I finally got my financial aid package from the local school, and they only gave me about $5000 in need-based scholarships for Fall/Spring and zero aid for the summer. (I didn’t get any merit-based aid.) I am really devastated, because it would have been substantially cheaper for me to go to the higher-ranked private MSW program.

I have read a lot about picking affordability over ranking, but it really back-fired in my case. Now I am not sure if it's worth it to enroll in a program at all. I'm reluctant to apply again next year, because I would feel guilty asking the same people to give letters again. I am also getting married next year and my finances will also look really different once I get married. (My partner has a really high-paying job.) So it's unlikely I would get need-based awards again, which means this local program won't be give me any financial aid options except loans.

My question is, should I let go of my social work dreams? I have a humanities graduate degree (fortunately with a fellowship that paid for it), and have already been working in social services/nonprofits full-time for three years. I don't think my salary will increase that much more with a LMSW, but it could give me a wider range of job possibilities. The other option I am considering is doing a year at this local school and then trying to transfer to a different program. Either way I feel extremely bitter towards this local program...

tl;dr-- Basically I got less financial aid from a less competitive MSW program, after I declined programs that gave me great need and merit based aid. I'm really bummed out about it. My question is whether or not I should even bother doing a MSW, since I already have a mid-level social service job that pays okay. This is the last year I can apply for graduate school as a single person.

Edited by socialwork1990
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  • 4 weeks later...

How much debt are you considering taking out for this degree? I don't know much about medical social work but if you're already working in the field and don't want to do something specific like therapy which absolutely requires another degree and professional licensure, I would question the wisdom of attending, for sure. I'm sorry to hear about the local program screwing you over. 

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  • 1 month later...

It didn't really backfire, though. The higher ranking schools ended up costing less so they were more affordable. For the record, you could have paid the fee to reserve your seat at one of the other schools until you heard from the state school.

Anyways, what do you want to do with an MSW? What kind of job do you have now? In what ways will the MSW give you a wider range of job opportunities?



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