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Torn between two masters programs- Portland State or SDSU?

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I live in Portland, OR, have worked at a community mental health agency for about two years now, and love it. I want to return to get my MSW and eventually become a LCSW. I grew up in Portland but my parents just moved to Oceanside, CA. I am 25. As I see it, I have two options:

1. Stay in Portland, work full time (at least attempt to) at my current job while doing the PSU program.


  • Already have built some connections in hospitals from current job, will make it easier for my internship
  • I can work at my job after my MSW with guaranteed supervision to get to my LCSW 
  • Have a couple local friends


  • Paying for rent while going to school and working...sounds like a lot of debt :( uncertainty around field placement too. PSU would require me to work in a different area of the agency for my field placement and that could mean less pay while I still need to make same $$ for rent. 
  • distance from family and commitment to at least 3 years of stay (until licensed)
  • weather is bad typically

2. Move to Oceanside, live with parents, go to SDSU


  • Free rent and food
  • Beach 
  • Opportunity to get out of my niche


  • unfamiliar area- meeting new people can be hard at first 
  • California cost of living
  • Unsure how difficult it would be to get internship at a clinic with high # of client hours in Southern California 
  • cost- out of state tuition is $372 per unit, SDSU site says its $6,696 for 2 semesters. I'm confused as to if there's 9 units or more per term because there's 5 classes the first term. 

While I must make the decision, I am hoping to get some feedback from others- have you heard good/bad things about either school? Cities? Cost of living? 

Has anyone done PSU program while working full time? Can you be paid for your field placement?

For SDSU, how many units are in a term? 


Accoeding  to  to my math, PSU and SDSU are adding up to be about to same cost- PSU is about 6k less for the 2 years but favoring in paying for my rent and bills, it evens out. I'm not sure if I'm doing the math correctly because it's surprising that in state tuition is close to out of state for SDSU. 

Any input is appreciated, thank you!


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Make sure you get the math right before you make a final decision.  I know I overestimated the cost of Michigan by about $25,000 until I really, really broke it down.  And there are so many other factors to consider.  Ultimately, only you can decide what's best.  For me, there's no way I could juggle working near full-time, school, and field work because I have a debilitating sleep disorder that steals several extra hours from me each day.  I've known others without disabilities to go this route successfully, but a frequent complaint is that it compromises their social life.  PSU is supposed to have an excellent program though so if you can pull it off, it may be worth it.  Not too sure about SDSU, but I know it doesn't rank as highly as PSU if that's something that matters to you.  Both sound like great opportunities to me; whether you're staying with your parents or working you're going to end up saving a lot of money off the sticker price.  I don't think you can really go wrong here.  You're not leaning one way or the other?

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Thank you for the response.

I am torn... on one hand, I love Portland and my  friends up here/ boyfriend but working while going to school sounds daunting. It's a commitment, i would hate to end up needing to only work part time due to school workload, while having the same amount of bills and struggle to make ends meet. 

With my parents, I would have the safety of no rent and food expense would be minimal. Only expenses would be gas and a few bills. Could work part time without having that stress of needing to keep a job to pay my rent etc.

But the cons with California are that I don't know anyone down there and I'm more of an introvert so I'm worried I would have a hard time making friends. I know it takes time, I could join a yoga class or meet people at school, but it sounds potentially lonely.

So I'm not sure, I am applying to both and just seeing where I get in. But if I get into both, it would come down to this tough decision...

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To be honest, they BOTH sound like great schools with something to offer you. I would ultimately go with what your gut says, that has usually been the best indicator for me, but more honestly speaking the more I mull over it the less I "hear" it.

Here are some questions to consider:

- Where do you plan to work afterwards? School can help you network; keep in touch with your colleagues, field placement, and seek out a few professors who can mentor you in some way. So I would not necessarily make that THE deciding factor to stay in Portland. HOWEVER, if you have connections for a good field placement then that may be a different story. I have no experience in either schools for field placements but I have heard these are the hardest thing to secure when it comes to a **quality** placement. 

- Is there a friend you can room with? That may save on rent, maybe you could work part time in that case or use your loans to subsidize your rent in that way. I would avoid living with your boyfriend if at all possible. In my experience, this living situation is a major distraction from your goal as a student.

- Do you get stressed out easily? What do you feel would be more helpful: the financial support of not having to worry about bills or maybe the emotional support you feel being connected to your friends? 

- Has it been a goal of yours to live out of Portland? Maybe take a tour of both campuses and see where you can SEE yourself.

- How would your inner social worker help someone who came to you with the same question? Sometimes when I think of this it helps with seeing the big picture.


The way I see you have an exciting adventure ahead of you to either stay and really stretch your independence wings in Portland, building a life off of the foundation you've built there already, (Portland sounds like an awesome place to be btw, for those of us who don't have any connections there) OR to experience a new city, new way of living in Southern CA with the support of your family (San Diego is also a pretty cool place to be, there is the beach, amusement parks, brewery's). Good luck and I hope I was helpful in some way! :D


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