Hard time saying no. (grad school.)

Great news! On behalf of the Philly Dopers, welcome – I think you’ll be very happy here.

Hey **Olives **- my bro used to live in Jersey, and his wife both a) attended Rutgers and b) worked in a law office in Philly. They lived in Mount Holly, which seemed to be a good compromise (and a nice area, to boot). Just thought I’d throw it out there for living places.

Congrats on the acceptance and decision, too.

Well done for two excellent reasons:

  • you were offered places at two top schools
  • you made a thoughtful and informed decision

Good luck!

Thanks, we will definitely take that under consideration. In terms of living arrangements, nothing’s set in stone yet. I don’t love the idea of my husband having to drive all that way for so many years, but he seems genuinely okay with it.

We had considered some places at the midway point, but one of his professors said, ‘‘It makes no sense for BOTH of you to have a crappy commute.’’ Our other concern if we live at exactly the halfway point is that neither of us will have access to a reliable social network. He already has one and I am in desperate need of one. but at this stage we are incredibly open-minded on living arrangements.

Moreover, my husband is a very calm person/driver, whereas I get stressed and panicky on the road quite easily, so a longer commute would actually corrode my quality of life more than his, if that makes any sense (he also has a super flexible schedule and can come and go at times with minimal traffic, whereas my schedule will be locked in.) He figures in the long run it will save him time because he won’t have to listen to my nervous breakdowns every night. :wink:

Also, I think he sort of fell in love with Philadelphia, too. (I suckered him by taking him to Penn’s Campus.) I don’t think I’ll have to twist his arm to get him to come downtown with me… or to certain upcoming Dopefests, for that matter!

This is so exciting! Have you gotten all of the financial aid info from Columbia yet?

Nope. It should be coming any day now. They said ‘‘in about two weeks’’ and that was 2 and a half weeks ago.

Yeah, I’m really excited. I think this is the first time in months I’ve actually been joyful rather than stressed about this whole thing. It’s like the sky’s the limit right now… I can’t wait to be a student again!

That’s wonderful, Olives, congratulations!

Congratulations! You have a really great opportunity here.

Just thought I’d update with some even better news.

The final word from Penn on financial aid… they are paying half my tuition! :smiley: In addition to the Dean’s Merit Award I got a named grant and a School of Social Policy and Practice Grant. The awards are both merit-based and need-based. The admissions lady told me it’s the most free money she’s ever seen an MSW student get from the university.

So now I’ll only be, like, $80,000 in debt vs. $120,000 in debt. Every little bit counts!

I have the day off Monday to visit campus again, this time for a tour and to ask a bunch of burning questions I still have. I couldn’t be more excited.

I did my PhD at Penn (not for social work, though), and my friends scattered around the country for various things at other universities. I by far had the best experience in grad school of any of them as far as the supportiveness of the program goes, but humanities may vary. For someone in my field, I couldn’t recommend Penn highly enough, but I don’t know enough about the social work program to tell you much. Of course, they were my first choice because they were in Pennsylvania and because the place just “felt right.”

(I didn’t even apply to Columbia because I thought they seemed obnoxious.)

One thing to remember is that you can’t keep yourself in a holding pattern forever when it comes to advanced degrees; schooling takes long enough that quality of life is something you can’t just put off, so I think you made the right decision.
Of course, I’m biased- my husband and I fell in love with Philly while I was in grad school, so now we’ve bought a house in the 'burbs and I’m postdoccing at Drexel.

That’s so amazing! Congratulations, they can see how special you are.

Broken record - what has Columbia come up with? Even if you have decided on Penn, it would be fun if Columbia was offering a buttload too!

Not like you need more reinforcement that you made the right decision, but I think that a department that is flexible and willing to help students is often more useful than a department that has it all. I’m in an academic program, not professional, but I chose a small school for my MA, and some of my friends who stayed at the same enormous institution where I did my undergrad expressed a lot of doubt. But while that school has a huge edge in faculty members and research centres, they lose a lot in bureaucracy. There may be a professor there who would be fantastic to work with, but he’ll have the maximum number of students, or something, and that’s it. It’s fairly likely in my department that you’d meet him at an informal gathering and he’ll offer to look at your thesis unofficially. You may have run into a bit of that bureaucracy at Columbia.

Congrats on all your successes! They all clearly think you’re going to be a real mover and shaker in the field.

I STILL haven’t gotten word on financial aid at Columbia. They said two weeks, it’s been a month. There’s an admitted students day this Saturday at Columbia… I think I will pass. I know where I want to be. I’m going to drop off my Penn enrollment fee, in person, on Monday. This weekend Sr. Olives and I are going to figure out the financial logistics and possibly decide on an apartment. Setting aside the school for a moment… I am so damned excited to be living just a stone’s throw from Philly, and, presumably, within easy range of actual people I can get to know. I have a good feeling about my chances of making friends with the other students, and actually getting to hang out with them since they won’t live an hour and a half away.

I’ve also decided to go straight for the Ph.D. program at the end of this year… which means this summer I’ll be cracking the books for the GRE. I just read a book which describes in painstaking detail what to expect during grad school. It’ll be hard work, but it’s what I want. I’ve already got a few possible thesis topics in mind.

p.s. thanks for the input, Vihaga and Sonnestrahl. I have a really good feeling about the place. I just do.

V we should get together this Fall!

Unless the social work school is very different from everywhere else, the PhD program is specifically designed to train you to be a professor of social work. Are you sure that that’s what you want to do?

The emphasis is on scholarly research, and yes, I want to do that, absolutely. And according to my cursory investigation there is currently a super high demand for social work faculty at universities. The social work faculty members I’ve looked into live these crazy dream lives where they get to do scholarly research side by side with direct practice, all while maintaining these really interesting, big-picture leadership roles as professors and committee members. It sounds great, honestly. However, Ph.Ds in Social Work are not entirely limited to working in academia. Depending on your area of focus you can do policy analysis, upper-level administration, program development and management, and a bunch of other stuff I haven’t learned about yet.

I don’t, in fact, have everything figured out. I know that I would love to research proliferation and/or dissemination of evidence-based treatments for PTSD. I know that I would also love to research the special mental health needs of immigrants, or where the system is lacking in being able to provide those specialized services. I know that I love to write, I enjoy teaching, and even though I am very shy, I know how to pretend I’m not. I’m also a pretty good public speaker. Those seem as good of reasons as any to suspect I’d do well in academia.

This is where the MSW comes in. I’m getting that degree no matter what, so I am going to do everything in my power to live as academic an existence as possible. I’m going to hook up with faculty who share my research interests (and many of them do), I am going to start forming bonds with said faculty, I am going to start writing papers, and before I even apply for the Ph.D. I’m going to try to have at least one paper submitted for publication. These are not unreasonable goals, and it’s clear to me that the School of Social Policy and Practice will support me in those goals, because I doubt they would spend the money on me unless they thought I had scholarly potential.

Either way I’m not taking further action until I consult with a career adviser first, and I won’t actually apply until at least after my first semester of MSW coursework. I’m hoping to really nail down my specific interests during that time. If I don’t then I will wait a year. Whether I apply at the end of my first semester or at the end of my MSW program, I should take the GRE before I start grad school because it will be hell to try to study for it while I’m a student. The damned thing’s good for 5 years so as long as I apply before the 5 years are up, it won’t be wasted effort. Even if I never end up using my GRE scores, in the very least I will have permanently boosted my vocabulary. The potentially wasted effort seems a lesser risk than realizing I need to take it ASAP in order to apply to the program of my dreams.

So when I say, ‘‘I am going to do X,’’ it’s best to interpret it as, ‘‘I am most likely going to do X, unless my further investigation reveals it’s not what I’m looking for, in which case I’m going to change my mind.’’ :stuck_out_tongue: Sometimes the best way for me to figure out if something is a good fit is to actually try it on and see how it feels.

Might be too late on this one, but why is a recent MSW grad of a top program doing what is essentially recruiting and sales for the program? Did she decide social work was not for her after all, because it seems like a hard left turn to me. And if it happened to her, then why, and how did other recent grads feel coming out of school about their training and prospects? Sounds a bit fishy to me.

My gf not_not_alice recently completed her PhD from a top program in Clinical Psych - I have spent plenty of time around MSWs as well since meeting her 5 years ago. There is an overwhelming need for that work and unlimited future, especially for leaders from top schools. All the more reason to wonder what happened!

This is probably an aside for another thread sometime, but my view of psychologists and social workers is that they go into the work with personal issues to solve. If that rings true for you in the least, the proceed carefully and wonder why this woman is selling you so hard on what they can do for her, when what they did for her career seems very offbeat to say the least. It sounds worth considering carefully to me, something is not quite right, and I have no dog in the race.

I grew up in Central Jersey between Rutgers and Philly, and had close family until recently in Philly itself. I don’t recall all the specifics, but couldn’t you live somewhere along a train line and get to both Philly and New Brunswick without driving at all? Cherry Hill might be such a place, it would drive me nuts to be so close to the city as that but not be there, but the extra train ride from Philly itself to New Brunswick might be minimal, compared to coming from Cherry Hill or Mt. Holly.

Good luck!

I’m really excited for you, Olives! Congratulations!

Congratulations, olivesmarch4th!

I had a fantastic math instructor who told a wonderful story about choosing his graduate school many years ago. He was accepted to do graduate work in mathematics at both Harvard and Yale, and got the word while spending the summer in Sweden or some such place. This was long before the internet, so he was effectively isolated from any sources of information that could help him make a decision. All he had was the two acceptance letters.

The one from Yale began:

"Dear Mr. Smith:

We are so happy to tell you that we can offer you a place in our program…"

The one from Harvard began:

"Dear Mr. Smith:

You will be so happy to know we have granted you a place in our program…"

So he choose Yale and never regretted it.

A valid question. I think most people think immediately of clinical social work or case workers when they hear ‘‘social work,’’ but there is a lot more to the field than that. MSWs do a lot of different things, and one of them is education administration and program management. She’s essentially doing what she studied to do.

As to why she stuck with Penn, she said a lot of people graduate and find they don’t want to leave the community. A lot of faculty members across the entire university are Penn graduates. It’s a very insular place. On the one hand, that can be a negative, because diversity of perspective is important. On the other hand, as a result they’ve got excellent resources in some very specific areas of concentration. Penn is, for example, THE place to go to study evidence-based treatments for mental health. Cognitive psychology was born and raised here. While I’m not currently rubbing elbows with their psych department, if I was in the Ph.D program I would be free to do so, as one of the hallmarks of the Ph.D at Penn is it is deliberately very interdisciplinary. You are widely encouraged to make a ‘‘home away from home’’ in other departments.

So far I have spoken to one other person who is a graduate of the Penn MSW program, who picked it over Columbia, and she says it was absolutely the right choice. She’s an LCSW who chose NOT to do her Ph.D despite departmental encouragement to do so, and I plan to pump her for even more information just to find out what her job is like.

I try to make myself as educated as possible about my options, and yeah, sometimes I lose sleep at night trying to figure it out, but one thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to jump right in or else you’re never going to get started. We can learn only so much by thinking… at some point, we must do.

I think one of the apartments is near the SEPTA (is that the right name?), but NJ Transit from New Brunswick to Philadelphia is over two hours. :frowning:

On preview: CairoCarol that is a really cool story!

What about Amtrak from 30th Street station to New Brunswick? I used to go Baltimore to New Brunswick and that was less then 2 hours. IIRC, there are no stops between Philly and Rutgers. SEPTA and NJT are local trains, right, stopping in eery 2 bit village? :slight_smile: