Advice from a First-Year MSW Student: Beyond the Pandemic

BUSSW MSW Student Ambassador Sam B.

Hello! My name is Sam and I am a part-time Macro major. I just finished my first of three years in the part-time program at BUSSW, which means I began my Master of Social Work (MSW) program in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

I will start by saying that my academic experience at BUSSW has exceeded my high expectations. Obviously, COVID-19 necessitated the switch to virtual learning. On the plus side, virtual learning created an environment where, in a sense, I was closer to my professors than I would have been in an in-person environment. The downside was that I missed the social aspect, which is something I was so excited about when I initially applied to the program. 

Come this fall, fortunately the incoming students and returning students will get to know each other in person. Although incoming students starting this fall will not experience the same virtual social environment that my cohort did, I do have some evergreen advice for you as you begin your BUSSW journey. 

Tip #1: Get Involved

I recommend that incoming students get involved in extracurricular activities on campus. The opportunities available enrich your MSW experience and help you become a contributing member of the BUSSW community.

Here are a few options:

Join Student Union

Do you want to improve the BUSSW experience? The Student Union is an umbrella organization that provides students the opportunity to get involved with the BUSSW community outside of the classroom. Their mission is to provide a space where students can come together to communicate their needs and desires for the overall improvement of BUSSW. 

Student Union has both student-led committees such as the BIPOC Affinity Group and the Community Organizing Group, as well as faculty-led committees such as Equity & Inclusion and Alumni Relations. If you are interested in joining Student Union, keep an eye out for their invitation to meetings this coming fall!

Become a Student Ambassador

Do you want to help incoming students find their way at BUSSW? You can be a student ambassador. There are a range of activities you can take on to help guide prospective students.  Student ambassadors assist with admissions events, email with prospective students, and write blogs like this one. Stay tuned for an announcement coming soon on how you can become a student ambassador!

Conduct Research with Faculty

Some MSW students are interested in pursuing research and further developing their skills in this area. If you are interested in research, I encourage you to check out BUSSW’s areas of expertise. Our faculty are recognized globally for their rigorous research on topics such as gerontology, public health, mental health, and racial justice.

Tip #2: Start Thinking About Your Program Plan Now

See the Big Picture

Start planning for your coursework within the program early. You can do this by going to the Curriculum and Program Plans page on the BUSSW website to see:

  • The order that the school recommends you take courses
  • All of the required courses within the program
  • When to take electives 

As a part-time student, I found the Curriculum and Program Plans page incredibly helpful while  registering for classes each semester. If you follow your program plan, you will be set up for success!

Test Out of the Research I Course

I also recommend taking the placement exam to test out of the Research I course, which is a requirement. It is not prohibitively expensive to take ($25) and it is a multiple choice online exam. If you pass, you can replace Research I with an elective, which I wish I had done. Learn more about the Research I Waiver exam. Do note that the next exam is coming up at the end of August, so register soon!

Choose Your Electives Carefully

During my first year, I only took one elective and it was fabulous: partly because of the professor and partly because of the small class size, which made conversation and engagement with the material and the group easier. However, some of my classmates did not have the same positive experience in other elective courses, so I would recommend asking second year students for advice because they are often a wealth of knowledge and can be a great resource.

Consider Unique Program Requirements Before Making a Final Decision 

If you are looking to pursue a specialization, macro minor, or dual degree it is also important to think about your unique program requirements. It can be helpful to map out which electives and courses you need to take over the course of the program so that you do not overlook anything. The Registrar’s Office and your faculty advisor are great resources if you ever need assistance planning out your classes.

Please feel free to ask me or other returning students for advice about which classes to take and which professors to seek out. You can also email the student ambassadors directly if you have further questions.

Thank you so much for reading. I can’t wait to see you in the fall!

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