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Thread: applying to grad school after being out of college

  1. #1
    Junior Member Array FaithBW's Avatar
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    Oct 2009

    Default applying to grad school after being out of college

    I've been out of college since August 2008. I graduated from Case Western with a degree in Religious Studies. My husband moved to Toledo right after I received my degree and I had a hard time finding a job. I didn't want to do grad school in Toledo plus I just felt that I needed a break from school. I finally did manage to find a job as a secretary at an Islamic School. I do like my job for the most part. I love the children and the staff that I encounter but honestly, I am ready to finally move on grad school. However, I am afraid that I will be seen as a horrible underachiever for only working as a secretary.

    I was thinking that perhaps getting an MSW would be good for me since I did take a lot of sociology courses in college (I was one class short of having a sociology minor) and since I do blog frequently about social issues, especially among Muslims. I guess the main issue I am worried about is 1) perhaps I am not really meant to be a social worker 2) graduate social work programs might perceive this in my application and wonder if I am simply applying so that I can go back to grad school.

    I have a lot of interests but I just don't think that most of them will allow me take care of myself. With an MSW, I will probably always have a job. Yes, I know that I won't make huge amounts of money but I'm sure it will be much more than what I currently make. Plus, it's not as if I don't care about making the world a better place.

    I would love to get a graduate degree in religion but honestly, I don't know if I will be able to get a job after I graduate and additionally, I will have to take the GRE probably and frankly, at this point, I don't have time to take them.

    I've talked to my mother and my husband and I still feel confused. I figured getting honest, unbiased feedback from strangers might be more helpful. All I know for certain is 1) I do not want to be at my current job come August and 2) I want to be back in school by that time. Help!

    ETA: I know some of you might suggest teaching. Please don't. I have substituted as a teacher and I do not like it.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Array avolkiteshvara's Avatar
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    Apr 2009


    I don't see the problem. If you want to go back to school, go back to school.

  3. #3
    movin melodies Array kiddykat's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
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    If I could give advice to anyone: "Follow Your Heart.." Pragmatism can only get a person so far.. Be really honest with yourself.

    If you're truly passionate about what you study, it doesn't matter where you go, faculty, teachers, people that you work with? Will see your dedication + performance as something stellar and outstanding. So if you're going to do something- do it with heart, because it will truly show..

    Also, when you apply to grad school, you will be interviewed by a panel of instructors, so you will have to really show them that you're willing to go above and beyond, no matter what.

    Have you attended orientation sessions for the MSW? I would highly suggest that so that you can talk to the faculty members, get really acquainted with the program, ask specifics on letters of rec, your personal statement, etc. Get to know what each program is about. Also, I think they keep record of who attends, so when you do apply, they may make reference to your attendance, and you may get points for showing up as part of their selection criteria. I know some schools do that.

    If you truly feel as though MSW is something that will really help you to relate to your values, I say go for it! Follow your passions.

    Another thing about social work is that you may be required to do part-time field work while you're a full-time (or part time) student. So as a full-time student, most schools will say that you're better off pulling out a loan, not work, and wrapping school up in 2 years, but going to school part-time for 3 years is possible as well. If you do work as a full time student- working beyond 16 hrs+ is almost overkill.

    MSW programs tend to look at how many hours of work you've put in/how it relates to the field. You can always incorporate your secretarial work in it too- "working with the minority community compels me to want to ___________" (fill in the blank- be creative). They also look for volunteer work experience- so find ways to get yourself in the door.

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask, because I'm in the process of applying.. Best of luck to you!

    P.S.- Some MSW programs do not require GRE's, as long as you meet the minimum GPA requirements. State schools tend to be very competitive, but much more affordable compared to private. Some private schools are somewhat easier to get into. Look at the pros/cons of each, and decide what's best for you. Grants/scholarships help tons too!

  4. #4


    The best way I can address your question is by giving you an example with my own situation.

    I am also going back to school after graduating in May 2007 with a BA in English Lit. It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do (I knew I absolutely did not want to study literature anymore), but looking back, I saw that an interest in psychology was a common theme since high school.

    Once I decided to go to school for either school counseling or school/educational psychology, I started researching programs. You can still research programs even if you are unsure, in fact, that would probably be helpful in deciding! After researching programs, I starred my favorites and made a spreadsheet of all the requirements.

    I signed up for the GRE months and months in advance so I would have more time to study. For awhile I was studying vocab about an hour a night, sometimes missing some though, but it's ok. I also went back to my university and looked into what the psychology undergrads were doing, sat in on a senior grad panel and learned that lab experience is a good idea, so I searched out the labs and finally found one that would have on as a volunteer research assistant. I started volunteering at my local high school, coaching students on writing assignments.

    Through all of this I have been able to see what I am comfortable with and have discovered that school guidance counseling really is my passion, rather than studying school psychology (similar but different fields). There have been times I don't feel entirely confident that it is, but in those times I start thinking what sorts of alternatives in the psychology field, like maybe instead doing educational psych or research. It sounds like social work is pretty clearly what you enjoy thinking and talking about, but if you would love to study religions instead, then think about it in ways other than financial. Or perhaps, once you complete an MSW you might continue to study religions. I would advise getting involved in volunteer activities that relate to both these fields and see how they work for you. Viv has some great comments as well.

    Hope this is helpful and good luck! This is potentially a very exciting time of transition for you!

  5. #5
    Artisan Conquerer Array Halla74's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
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    I graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in MIS.

    After working every possible jon in the IT industry between 1996 and 2005 I decided to make a career change into public service.

    I got a job with a state agency in 2005 and have been working in the public sector health care industry since.

    I didn't go to graduate school until September 2007. I'm now completing a Master's in Public Administration. The reason I chose the MPA degree is that it is a degree that prepares you for management in the public sector (program administrator, bureau chief, city manager, etc.) but that is not limited in scope of applicability (MSW = specializatio9n in social work, MPH specializes in health care, MPA can be applied to any discipline).

    My experience has been wonderful. The pay is not too far off from what I made in the private sector, and I actually take home more because my benefits are so low in cost. At my software job I paid $650 per month pre-tax for basic HMO coverage for me, my wife and 2 kids. For $250 per month I now get great HMO coverage, dental, vision, and free life insurance up to the limit of my salary, and additional coverage with no prequalification for a nominal amount. Plus, I get sick days, annual leave, and if I work overtime can apply it to a future pay period.

    Many I have worked with in the public sector have either an MPA, MSW, or EdD. Some have Master's in mathematics or statistics. Others a law degree or CPA. It all depends on what they are doing.

    Your graduate degree will not limit you, it will only open doors, whatever it is. Getting a degree in religion is not necessarily the best major to choose if you wish to be considered employable in the private business sector. But if you enjoyed your studies and it has benefitted you in other ways you did not waste your time. I know people that only have a high school diploma and that are amazing computer programmers/database administrators. It's not all about educational credentials, it's that plus your work experience, any military experience, your interview, and who you know.

    Who you know can make you or break you in a very small amount of time. Your education and experience are yours to wield for your benefit regardless of who favors you, and who might not.

    Study hard for the GRE, and pick a program that can serve as a bridge to the future you wish to create for yourself. I assure you, no one in your graduate program is going to look down on you for doing the work you have since you finished your bachelor's. In graduate school people's backgrounds are very diverse, and there is a mutual respect between classmates that does not exist in most undergraduate programs. People are usually in graduate programs to learn, not party.
    Type Stats:
    MBTI -> (E) 77.14% | (i) 22.86% ; (S) 60% | (n) 40% ; (T) 72.22% | (f) 27.78% ; (P) 51.43% | (j) 48.57%
    BIG 5 -> Extroversion 77% ; Accommodation 60% ; Orderliness 62% ; Emotional Stability 64% ; Open Mindedness 74%

    "If somebody asks your MBTI type on a first date, run". -Donna Cecilia
    "Enneagram is psychological underpinnings. Cognitive Functions are mental reasoning and perceptional processes. -Sanjuro

  6. #6
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    Feb 2009


    I agree wholeheartedly with Viv. In fact, Viv kind of took the words right out of my mouth. Follow your heart and what you think is the right move for you, where you'll be the HAPPIEST! The happier you are, the more successful you have the opportunity to be. I remind myself of that every day.

    Choosing a career path solely for the money is a mistake I've seen some of my friends make, and trust me, you don't want to go down that path. It looks like the best decision from a distance, but it can lead to real trouble. Also, keep in mind the job world changes some too. A certain field might become more lucrative later on. What if you chose to do something you weren't interested in for the financial benefits and then it becomes much less profitable over the years? If you follow your dream, you can make opportunities for yourself you'd be surprised by.

    Also, you've only taken one year off from school, so don't feel ashamed. That's not very much time to take off of school. I've known plenty of people who took four or more years off from school before going back.
    A hero is someone who does the right thing without expectation of reward, just because it's the right thing to do.

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