I had my English professor review it, and want to get opinions from all of you as well. My main concern is my first paragraph. How can I make it more interesting?
These are the questions:
1. What are your reasons for applying to the Rutgers University School of Social Work?
2. Discuss your personal values, philosophy, knowledge of social issues,
and the professional and community experiences that have influenced your
decision to enter the profession.
3. Comment on your skills, strengths, and weaknesses.
4. Describe your reasons for choosing a particular focus in the field of social work.
5. Discuss your plans for a career in social work.
Here's the essay after making a few quick changes based on peoples' comments:
I’ve known that I wanted to go into the field of social work and psychotherapy since my first year of my undergraduate studies. It was then that I knew I wanted to help people, not only by providing them with psychotherapy, but also by finding resources that they would have trouble finding on their own. My first choice for a graduate school of social work was Rutgers University, for a few reasons. Rutgers University’s Social Work program prepares its students to be Licensed Clinical Social Workers, which I am planning on becoming. Also, I already know the university’s teaching curriculum and am very pleased with the education I’ve received at the university. I’ve learned many things at RU, and I have no doubt that I will learn a great deal more by continuing my education at the university. Finally, I like the different positive aspects about the sizes of the campuses. Though I attended Rutgers-Newark, I have visited the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus a few times, and enjoyed both the Newark and New Brunswick campuses.
During my freshman year as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University–Newark, I decided to take a Principles of Psychology 101 course as an elective. I realized I wanted to go into a career of psychotherapy during my time in that class. My professor spoke with such passion about the subject of psychology and psychotherapy, and soon, I found myself sharing his passion for the subjects. I wanted to help people that needed the help, especially after hearing people say that they personally wouldn’t want to help those seen as “crazy.”
I began thinking about how difficult it must be to try to function in the world with a mental disorder. In addition to the fact that I would ideally be helping people in the field of therapy, I found the human mind interesting. Specifically, I found it interesting that the human mind is so powerful as to be able to completely control mental disorders in people. I also found it interesting that the mind is powerful enough to rid humans of some mental disorders, usually with help from a professional. Once I had made up my mind about wanting to major in Psychology, I began speaking to one of my psychology professors about the steps to take to become a psychotherapist. My professor informed me that if I got my Master’s Degree in Social Work, I would be able to become a psychotherapist, as well as help people who needed assistance with finding resources in their lives, such as a place to live. I also began thinking about teaching psychology at a university level.
Since I initially wanted to take up psychotherapy to help people, I knew an MSW would be the ideal choice to simultaneously help people with their disorders and help those that needed to find resources. I know the professors at Rutgers University will help guide me in my profession. I am specifically looking forward to working with Mr. Doug Behan and Dr. Kristen Gilmore Powell, Mr. Behan works with mental health and domestic violence, and Dr. Powell works with mental health and substance abuse prevention. They have both integrated social issues with mental health, and in addition to the benefits of studying at Rutgers, working with them would be an amazing opportunity.
I consider my genuine love of learning and the drive I have to continue studying the connections between social issues and mental health as one of my greatest strengths. I am internally motivated and very organized, as I believe these are very important attributes to reach goals. I also have a natural way of approaching people that I have been told makes them feel comfortable and willing to open up to me. I will work on making my strengths even stronger to excel in the field of social work and psychotherapy. At the moment, a weakness I want to work on is that I do not know as much about the area of social work as I'd like to, and I know going into a Master's program in Social Work will of course help with this weakness. Another weakness is that at times, I expect too much of others, and expect them to have the same level of dedication I do, especially when working in a group. However, my expectations of people help me to push them to their full potential.
The more I study psychology and the issues connected to the field, the more I see how much mental health is linked with social issues. Though some might say that people that are in bad social situations deserve it, I believe that a person does not deserve to be in a poor social situation, such as those in which the person cannot find a safe or functional place to live or work. I also believe that people with a mental disorder do not choose to have a disorder. The connection between social work and psychology works both ways. A mental disorder can lead a person to be unable to function in their everyday environments – such as school, work, or their homes – and vice versa. An unfortunate social situation or negative environment can lead to a mental disorder in a person. For example, financial problems in a family can lead to depression, or a person who constantly abuses cocaine can develop bipolar disorder.
I have seen the connection between social issues and psychotherapy in a few personal experiences. These experiences have inspired me to pursue a career that deals with social work and psychotherapy simultaneously. As I had mentioned before, certain situations at home may lead to mental disorders. I have a few close friends who have eating disorders, problems with substance abuse, and a friend who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. All of these people struggle with their disorders on a day-to-day basis, mainly because their lives at home have played a role in the development of their disorder, and they still live in those homes. However, they have all seen a psychotherapist for help, and have learned coping skills to learn to function with their disorders. Seeing my friends use what they’ve learned also pushes me to get my MSW, while focusing on the clinical aspect of social work and becoming an LCSW. This has played an immense role in motivating me to enter the field of social work and help people that may need help but do not know where to find it.
After initially looking into psychotherapy, I wondered if I would be interested in the research aspect of psychology. I became a Research Assistant (RA) in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University during the summer of my junior year. In that laboratory, I assisted in a study that was conducted to research hoarding in rats to see which conditions (internal and external) increased and decreased hoarding. It was interesting to see the behavioral changes in rats, and how those behaviors could be generalized to humans. I enjoyed it and stayed an RA until I graduated, but decided that I definitely wanted to go into the clinical field of psychotherapy.
During my senior year at RU, I was a Teaching Assistant (TA). Being involved as a TA gave me even more incentive to get an MSW, become an LCSW, and additionally, teach psychology at a university level. Since the Principles of Psychology course I took during my freshman year influenced me so greatly, I decided to become a TA for that class, for the same professor I had when I was a freshman. As a TA, I taught a recitation class once a week and proctored students during their exams. While teaching the students, I began to delve into social work and psychotherapy once again, especially when the students would ask me how psychology was relevant to everyone’s lives.
In addition to the familial and friendship experiences and my experiences at Rutgers University, my time spent as an intern and volunteer at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) has also greatly influenced me to go into the profession of social work. During my internship at HUMC’s in-patient Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, I worked alongside two social workers that were licensed as Clinical Social Workers. I attended the department’s team treatment meetings, helped the social workers conduct group therapy sessions, fill out paperwork for and discharge patients, and find out-patient rehabilitation centers or homes for the patients. After my internship, I began volunteering at HUMC’s geriatrics unit for a program called Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). I am currently volunteering with the program, where I work on a one-on-one basis with patients regularly. I speak to the patients and work with them to make sure their minds and bodies stay stimulated, make sure they don’t get confused and they stay in the right state of mind. I enjoy dealing with patients very much, because I get to speak to them and help them with what they need.
In the field of social work and psychotherapy, I specifically want to work with people whose ages range from children to middle-aged adults. I want to work with children because quite a few mental disorders begin at childhood. I also know a few friends who were diagnosed with mental disorders as teenagers. Treating a disorder as early as possible will increase the chances of recovery significantly. I knew I wanted to focus on middle-aged adults when I saw the problems my family was, and still is, facing, and while I was an intern at HUMC. There were quite a few adults at HUMC’s psychiatric department, and seeing them struggle gave me a greater drive to help them find jobs, homes, and teach them how to cope with their disorders. I want to focus on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). While I was an intern, I chose the type of therapy for our group therapy sessions with the patients, and I found myself choosing CBT more than other methods. Cognition and physical and mental behavior are very strongly connected, and I believe that a person with a disorder will benefit by working to develop both his/her cognition and behavior. Specifically, in the field of CBT, I want to focus on substance use/abuse, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders.
After getting a Master’s Degree in Social Work, I plan on becoming licensed as a Clinical Social Worker. After becoming an LCSW, I plan on teaching a psychology course, working at a psychiatric ward in a hospital to gain experience as a social worker and a psychotherapist, and then opening up a private practice for psychotherapy. Ultimately, I want to obtain a Doctorate Degree in Psychology (Psy. D.). During my studies at Rutgers University and in my career, I want to focus on the research of anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse. By focusing on these fields, I can utilize psychotherapy and social work into my career, because as I've stated before, mental disorders may lead to social problems, and vice versa.