Claire Crawford PhotoBy Claire

I spent two years trying to decide where to get my MSW.

The first year, I applied and got into a good school but became too ill the month before school started, so I was too sick to attend. I spent all of this last year researching the best MSW programs, spending absurd amounts of money on transcripts, applications, the GRE, etc., visited my favorite programs face-to-face, and making one of the biggest decisions of my life. And that’s how I got to the GCSW.

Honestly, UH wasn’t on my list the first year and hadn’t really crossed my mind as an option until late in the game; I’m from a town of 20,000 people, and Houston is HUGE, far from home, and way out of my comfort zone. However, I figured that since I had another year to apply, I might as well broaden my options and look into schools outside the Southeast. I still wasn’t sure if it was really a viable option until I visited the school in February 2014; but as soon as I walked off the campus, I knew exactly where I would be getting my graduate education. Everyone takes their education seriously—I mean, we’re paying for this—so we’ve all put in plenty of time to decide exactly where we belong. Here are a few of the things that factored in to my final decision:

1.The faculty. I highly suggest requesting to meet with a faculty member who shares your interests when you go on a school visit. I met with two professors during my visit, and they were passionate about their research, listened closely to my goals and what I hoped to accomplish in both graduate school and in a career, and one eventually offered me a graduate research assistantship with her—one of the things I most hoped to accomplish. The faculty in my classes have been fantastic, and I feel that my assistantship has allowed me to form a tighter connection with professors.

2.The Medical Center. U of H is about 4 miles away from the largest medical center in the world. How cool is that?? The Med Center offers opportunities not just for people like me who are interested in a very specific type of medical care, but also to any students interested in health, medical social work, research, and really anyone who wants a job (the medical field desperately needs good social workers). I made an appointment with a social worker at Texas Children’s Hospital when I visited U of H in February, and she was so excited to have a social worker interested in her topic of healthcare. I ended up doing my first field placement in the Med Center, and I’m hoping my next placement will be there too.

3.The students. When I visited campus, I talked to a really helpful GCSW Ambassador who gave me honest opinions about what it’s like to be a student here. She told me about life in Houston, graduate classes, her field placement, and her overall experience. She, along with two extremely knowledgeable and passionate alumni I spoke with, helped guide my decision. Just as I had hoped, the students in my cohort now are inspiring individuals with unique goals and interests who have been with me every step of the way as we’ve begun this program together. I can’t wait to see the difference they will make in a couple years after graduation.

A year ago, I would never have guessed I’d be living in Houston, TX.  Somehow, through a series of unexpected events, I have ended up exactly where I believe I am supposed to be—and I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

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