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How to know if I'm a "desirable candidate" for MSW programs


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Hi everyone,

I've just started using Grad Cafe, so thanks in advance for any advice you all can give!

I have very recently (as in three months ago) decided to investigate MSW programs, as well as Masters in Counseling Psychology programs. This is something I've always been interested in, but have just assumed that my undergrad (BA English) and work experience have sort of limited me from starting a new career without certain early steps taken first.

But ultimately I've decided that it's worth it to try and start out on this new career path. I've worked at a nonprofit in a large urban setting for the past five years, and done some volunteer work with low literacy populations, so my interest in this area is at least founded on a little bit of concrete experience.

But my worry is that with my undergrad degree (again, BA English), my lack of related course work, and lack of experience won't make me a desirable candidate for most programs. I've looked around at quite a few programs, and some are really specific about prerequisites/the type of student they want to see, and others aren't. I have a good verbal GRE score, but a terrible math score. I can write the heck out of a personal statement, and I'm confident I can get some good recommendations.

I guess I'm curious if whether I should apply with my current credentials and aim low? If so, what types of schools are "aim low" schools? Right now I'm assuming that private grad schools would be more likely to admit students without much experience due to the economy, but that could just be wishful thinking on my part (I've seen some private programs I like).

I've thought about waiting another year and getting in some course pre-reqs and some different volunteer work, but I'd REALLY rather not do that...I need a change!

Again, thanks for any advice on this topic...

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Ask yourself these five questions: Did you excel in your coursework? Did you pursue student leadership roles while in college? Did you participate in volunteer or community service activities? Have you interned or worked in pubic and/or nonprofit settings? Finally, do you share a passion for social justice?

MSW programs are looking for well-rounded students who demonstrate the above attributes. You don't have to major in the behavioral and social sciences to be considered a "desirable" candidate. All incoming MSW students (except those with advanced standing) take the same foundation courses in the first year. Not all MSW programs require the GRE score (the exception is California).

Edited by michigan girl
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  • 3 weeks later...

I honestly recommend taking a year off to work in the field. It would help your application and also help assure you that this is the right choice (it is really hard to know without having the experiences first. You might seem certain right now but once you actually end up getting accepted to places (which you will!) you might begin to seriously question yourself.

I say this 'cause I've been going through it, haha. Also, working in the field for a year will help you get into the school you desire most :)

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