Posts Tagged ‘classes’

We are on the steep descent into the final sessions of our classes. This semester, only 7 weeks long, has been one of the most demanding and most exciting times of my years in school. At times, I did struggle to keep up. I think an additional element that made this time difficult was that it has been the first semester of graduate work I have had. I didn’t know what to expect. What I found were these:

Generally much higher standards for writing.
A very high amount of reading to be done each week, at  multiple chapters and books each week. I ended up with about 11 different books this semester. The new jeans can wait.
Not harder work really, just learning a more focused version of social work as opposed to the generalist setting.

Some advice that I’m still working on:
Prioritize and time-manage meticulously. These are the new magic words.
Have I mentioned balance and self-care? Keep it up, keep sanity intact.
Become great friends with your APA guide. Your grades will thank you.
Cherish this time and the support of family and friends.
Don’t be a loner in class. Network with peers and stay open minded. You’ll grow out and up.
Communicate! Don’t stop.

I will be happy for a break between semesters, but I’m looking forward to the next one. Back to work!

Today in my field orientation, the presenter made a really good point. For a competency in our field education learning plans, one of the practice behaviors was to “reflect upon the meaning of change in [social work students'] lives and the lives of their clients”. She said that we’re all entering this advanced standing MSW program and even though it is a wanted change, we are still going through a lot of processing right now. I appreciated this comment. I’ve been wondering lately if I’m just being forgetful or worrying too much. I may indeed be worrying too much, but it’s not an arbitrary mood swing. I recognize that this semester, seven weeks of very condensed class material, is already challenging and it is going to be even more challenging in the coming weeks. I recognize that life as I know it is changing constantly. I’m learning a large amount of material in a short amount of time. In January, the first month of my final semester in school, I’m supposed to begin looking for an MSW job. This is almost inconceivable to me because I’m just starting. In five months I’ll be presenting myself as an employable MSW? In ten months I’m going to start working full time as an MSW? There are many things to consider, including licensing exams and qualifications. In five months, I need to determine what geographic area I want to live and work in. Right now, I know I want to work with children and families. That’s just about it. The other ideas in my head really aren’t formulated yet.
If the above paragraph sounds overwhelming, hold on. Read a certain way, that paragraph is very overwhelming. However, I know it’s going to be ok. The changes I am making in my routine will become the routine itself before long. I’ll be accustomed to an adjusted social life, sleep patterns that promote the “graduate student” lifestyle, and to spending hours each day reading and writing. Everything really is ok right now, including the feelings of sheer grandness.
The best way I can describe this feeling is comparing myself to a new sailboat. I’m at the edge of the harbor looking out over the horizon, and all I can see is ocean. I can’t turn back now because I have been made to sail this ocean. I’ve been designed to move over the waters. I’m built to win. Everything I need to move forward at this time, I’ve been equipped with, and there will be plenty of places to get what I need along the way. There is always hope for me. There is a beautiful ocean stretched out right in front of me. I can be troubled and ignore all of the provision and hope, or I can be grateful and brave and accept this awesome journey.
This change is good. I’m going sailing!

I decided that a great post for today would be a more detailed description of the MSW program I’ve just started.

Advanced Standing

Because my undergrad degree is a Bachelor of Social Work, I qualify for Advanced Standing. The basic idea behind this is that Bachelor’s level students are prepared for generalist social work (case management and the like) during their senior year. The first year of a two-year MSW program contains the same material. Therefore, I am ready to take the specialization year, which could include organizational social work or clinical social work. I’m doing the clinical track.

Clinical Track

The clinical track prepares social work students for licensure and practice as clinical or interpersonal social workers. These social workers you would find as therapists, counselors, school social workers, medical social workers, court liaisons, welfare workers, and in similar positions. These social workers perform assessments and complete evaluations on individuals, families, and groups. They conduct practice-informed research and use research of theory and case studies and indications to shape their practices.


Because I am on a satellite campus, I have some options for electives. First, several electives will be offered on or near Oakland University’s campus. Second, I am welcome to take an elective in East Lansing, provided I can manage the schedule and the commute. Finally, there are online options for electives. I have opted to take 2 electives in Lansing during the summer semester. Each of these electives are intensive, two-day courses that are worth one credit each. In the Fall semester and Spring semester, I am taking online electives—two at 3 credits each. Each student must have a minimum of 6 elective credits, but I’ve signed up for 8 credits of electives that work well with my situation as a satellite student. One of the summer electives was in the middle of June, and I did very well in it. Doing well in that elective boosted my confidence in my ability to complete this program.

Program Length and Structure

Because I’m in the full-time program, I will complete it in 3 semesters, or just 10 months. The summer semester contains what program directors call “bridge courses”. These are designed to prepare BSW students, prepared by their perspective programs as generalist social workers, for the more track-intensive courses to follow in the next two semesters, Fall (late August to mid-December) and Spring (January to late April). Commencement will follow in the beginning of May.

With full-time coursework, students also complete a field placement for 16 hours per week each week that classes are held. The summer bridge semester is 7 weeks long, so field coordinators require 126 hours of field during this semester. The Fall and Spring semesters each require 238 hours to total just over 600 hours of field.

During the summer semester, including elective credits, I am carrying 10 credits. In the Fall semester and Spring, I carry 15 credits each semester for a total of 40 credits. Keep in mind that the field placement counts as college credit as part of that number.

It all sounds somewhat daunting, especially the condensed summer bridge semester, but it will go much more quickly than I realize. I’m enjoying it so far and I know that I will feel awe and gratitude when I finish just 10 short months from now.

This is the day I’ve been waiting for. This is the day I start an Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program through Michigan State University. The classes, with the exception of some of the electives I’ve signed up for, are on the campus of Oakland University. For me, classes at OU were a natural and really convenient fit. I graduated in April with a Bachelor of Social Work and needed a program that would allow me to be near my family and keep up with my current part-time job. Oakland University and Michigan State created a social work relationship: Michigan State helped Oakland navigate the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) process for their BSW program and Michigan State began hosting an MSW program at OU. I’m still trying to decide if I’m a hybrid between an Oakland Golden Grizzly and a Michigan State Spartan or if I’m fully Spartan. Either way, I find myself drawn to my alma mater. For another year, its beautiful campus is still my home away from home.

So here I am, deciding which books and supplies to pack for the day, what time I should arrive on campus, what I should wear, and some more important questions. How different will my classes be from my senior year of undergrad? Will these bridge classes help to acclimate me to more detailed and intensive social work classes? How much networking and teamwork will I be able to do? My questions are stacking up, but I’m sure it’s going to be alright. I’ve pretty much always loved school, and I love social work. As challenging as this will be, it’ll be fun too.

Today is also the beginning of something else new. Today I begin this blog. I hope to maintain it during my schooling and as I develop as a professional. I hope that by sharing my experience, I can network with other social work students and other social workers. I hope that I can help others and receive some advice myself. Furthermore, I hope to create a place, through this website, that social workers and social work students can connect and grow together. This project is very special for me because it combines the things I love—writing, community, and social work—into a fun, practical website.

So here I go—a brand new MSW student and a brand new blogger. It’s a good day!