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Best Undergrad Preparation for MSW?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by usdenick, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. usdenick

    usdenick 5+ Year Member

    Jun 19, 2008
    I am currently entering my sophomore year of undergrad and have already decided that I will want to get my MSW after undergrad (I know, I'm early in this decision!). I will want to focus on Mental Health/Counseling.

    Since I know this already, how do you think I can make the most of my undergrad years to best prepare myself for Graduate Study and my future Vocation? What are the best majors? I'm thinking about majoring in psych, I'm guessing this is the best route?

    Also: How competitive is MSW admission? Besides getting good grades, is there anything else I should do to make myself a competitive application for grad school?

    Thanks much!
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  3. thepsychgeek

    thepsychgeek 2+ Year Member

    Apr 28, 2008
    Admission competition varies, you should look at the different programs- their acceptance rates will give you a good idea. I recommend majoring in psych or soc, and take at least one human biology class (many programs require that, though not all). Keep your grades up (3.5 should be just fine), and do some volunteer work in your area to show you're interested (and know what you're getting into).
  4. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    A psych route would be fine, as would any social science. Another option is to do a BSSW (if your school has one) which could give you the option of doing an Advanced Standing MSW. If you have any interest in languages, it would certainly be to your advantage to know Spanish or any other predominant non-English language in your area. (In my area, Bosnian would be really helpful and there are very few providers.)

    Regarding competition, yes- it will vary by program and desirability of location. Working in people-oriented jobs, or getting volunteer experience with people, will be important. At my undergrad- and this was the better part of 15 years ago so things may have changed- psych undergrads were able to take an elective internship which was about 90 hours field experience per semester. SW undergrads are required at all accredited programs to do a minimum of 400 hours (and individual schools may require more).
  5. usdenick

    usdenick 5+ Year Member

    Jun 19, 2008
    Thanks so much for your replies! That really helped. I am trying to decide between a more sociologically-oriented path and a psychological concentration.

    Since I want to go into counseling, I think background in psychology could really help me. However: I am finding that most of the undergrad psych. courses do not focus on applying the material, which might make it hard to take anything away to translate to a clinical setting.

    Does anyone have any perspective on sociology vs. psychology as an undergrad major for a counselor-to-be? Will I be at a disadvantage as a counselor or therapist without the psychological background?

    By the way, Pingouin, I have thought about doing the BSW. However, I am concerned that if I am not able to maintain the high GPA necessary to transfer into MSW as advanced standing that it would all have been moot. Thanks for the tip, though!
  6. WannaBeDrMe

    WannaBeDrMe 2+ Year Member

    Apr 14, 2008
    I have a little experience with soc versus psych. I loved sociology... after intro. Intro was a beast with a boring statistician who you could barely hear touting family systems and who knows what else... However, I eventually took several other sociology classes, loved them, and aced them...

    How did they apply to my MSW?

    Well, it helped w/systems theory... but otherwise, that's about it. I went to a clinical MSW program which is heavily applied and teaching us to work within the system of pathology laid out in the DSM. You will not ever learn about the DSM in sociology unless it's in a crim just forensic class.

    I wouldn't say you would be at a disadvantage without the psych background but I will say that students in my program from other fields (and we only had 4 total I think, English, BSW, film, and vocal music) did end up putting in a lot more time/effort to understand the material.

    No offense to the BSW, but I would think you'd have a higher GPA coming out of a BSW than a psych. Then again, my psych program was one of the top so maybe that explains its rigor. Compared to my MSW classes, it was a trillion times harder. My social work classes were 85% fluff and busy work. The real meat of my degree came in the field placement.

    Classes: genograms, autobiographies, and diversity articles
    Field placement: real world clinical stuff

    I don't really see there would be more application of theory in the socio major. Mostly, in my soc classes, we did analysis of studies and presented them in class. There wasn't even any real undergrad research available in the sociology department at my school. At my first undergrad, they actually ended up doing away with the sociology degree/department completely.

    In my psych program, I completed 2 semesters of clinical counseling practicums. Also, there were research opportunities galore. Most classes had some practice or lab element built in.

    I guess, in the end, however, it will all depend on your undergrad institution and the actual programs you are deciding between.

    For the record, I also have a degree in elem edu... by choice, I went way over and have 162 undergrad credit hours. I loaded up every semester b/c I was concerned that I wouldn't know my psych if I didn't take 30 different psych classes. Truth, in the real world, no one else took that many... and I probably would have been ok without taking that many.

    For me, the only time I really learned at a level where competency started to kick in was when I was in the field everyday... so, I guess my class choice didn't matter too much at all other than opening the door to being in the field.

    Confused? Me too. I'm exhausted. PM me if you have any other questions. I don't check here often anymore so the only way I know if someone wants to talk is via a pm. Be well.

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