Melissa: Social Work Graduate Student

Choosing a social work graduate program
By Stephanie Small
Updated June 2017

How did you decide to attend this particular school?

It was a combination of things. For one, the financial aid package was a huge factor for me. In addition, this particular program offered me the ability to leave my home setting for a small amount of time, which for me was ideal. I think I would have preferred to attend a graduate program outside of my state but due to both finances and family situation that would not be possible. The social work program that I chose allowed me to leave for a small amount of time, approximately ten weeks for three summers, and experience something outside of my normal life. Also, the reputation of the program as an institution that focused on anti-racism work really appealed to me as a person of color.

Did how you identify (race/sex/sexual identity/ability/etc.) factor into your decision? How?
Yes. As a person of color, I wanted to go somewhere where racism and other isms were actively addressed. Having focused largely on social injustice and social change in my undergraduate work, I wanted to attend MSW programs where these issues were a part of the everyday dialogue, and this was something that drew me to the program. To be honest, I did feel unsure about attending a predominantly white program. As a Chicana this felt familiar to me, given that my undergraduate and high school were the same; however I was not sure how this was feel to me in this particular setting, I also was unsure about attending another institution that was predominantly white and facing overt and covert racism. In the end, being a woman of color pushed me to attend, as I strongly felt that more people of color need to take space in predominantly white spaces.

How did you handle finances - loans, working, gifts, etc.?
 I had a financial aid package that was very generous. In addition, one of my internships had a stipend. I took out loans to help with living expenses and expenses not covered by the financial aid package since I decided not to work during that time. I feel that the loan payment plan has been manageable.

What were the professors like?
I felt very connected to my professors. Many of them were great advocates for me and sources of support. I felt that for the most part, professors were very approachable. For me, this was especially important because I felt at times isolated from the campus community, and having the support of my professors assisted me in getting through the program.

Looking back, would you have attended this school again? Why or why not?
At graduation I would have said no, but honestly now I would say yes. The social work program offered great clinical and professional preparation for the field. Now that I have provided clinical supervision to students from other schools and worked with colleagues from other schools, I have been able to see that first-hand. Personally, I believe that while my experience was difficult as a person of color, I would not want other people of color to not consider a place that can prepare you in the manner that this school can. I think that while the experience I had was hard, it is not one that would have been different at any other school- most graduate programs are predominantly white, and at the very least this school has made a consistent effort to bring the issues of racism into dialogue in a very intentional manner.

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