Writing a compelling personal statement brings you one step closer to your dream of a Master of Social Work degree. Instead of GRE scores, many MSW admissions committees require a personal statement to help them evaluate an applicant’s potential contribution to the field of social work. Use your personal statement to show that you embrace the values of the social work profession. Articulate how an MSW will help you become a skilled practitioner, social activist, policy expert or social agency director.
Explain Interest in MSW Degree
Begin your personal statement by describing your beliefs, values and life experiences. Explain any challenging circumstances you’ve overcome that show why you want to pursue an MSW. For example, if you lived in several foster homes during your mother’s incarceration for drugs, discuss how social workers, counselors and teachers helped you maintain a positive attitude and build resiliency. When writing this narrative, be completely honest, because social workers must be genuine and self-aware. Connect your life experience with a desire to empower clients and advocate for their rights.
Describe Interest in MSW Program
Your personal statement must demonstrate familiarity with the MSW program’s mission. Schools of social work differ in their focus and purpose. Include an explanation of why you believe you’re a good fit for the program. For example, if you’re applying to a school like Morgan State University that prepares MSW students to tackle social problems of urban areas, your personal statement might note that you’re applying to the program to study urban issues, such as poverty, social justice, community violence and discrimination. Admissions officers examine personal statements looking for applicants whose interests align with the program's area of focus.
Personal statements typically include attributes, skills, training and paid or volunteer experience directly related to social work. Because personal statements may be limited to five pages or fewer, focus on examples of how you fit the program’s admissions criteria. For instance, schools such as the University of Southern California desire MSW applicants who are culturally sensitive and concerned for others. Instead of simply saying you enjoy helping people and took ethnic studies classes, discuss extracurricular activities, bilingual skills, volunteer experience and jobs that involved being of service to culturally diverse populations.
Conclude your personal statement by identifying how an MSW will help you make a difference in society. Be specific when sharing your plans. For instance, applicants to Howard University must indicate whether they wish to work directly with clients or lead a social services agency. The university asks applicants to identify an area of concentration, such as corrections, mental health, public policy and administration, child welfare or gerontology. Explain how classes you’ve taken demonstrate that you’re prepared for graduate school. Mention statistics and research courses, because MSW students engage in research and need an understanding of quantitative and qualitative methods. Admit your deficiencies, and indicate how you’ll rectify weaknesses, such as limited research experience.
- The New Social Worker: Graduate School Admissions: Writing an Effective Personal Statement; David C. Prichard, Ph.D.
- Morgan State University: Goals, Mission & Objectives of the School of Social Work
- University of Southern California Social Work: Criteria
- Howard University School of Social Work: Supplemental Admission Application Materials for the Master of Social Work Degree Program
- Durham University: Example Personal Statement for Social Work
- The Short Guide to Social Work; Robert Adams
- Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
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