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What's Your Purpose

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[Oct. 14th, 2011|02:12 pm]
What's Your Purpose


Hi! I am in the process of doing my applications for MSW programs, and I am hardcore freaking out. I haven't written a "please love me" essay since high school, and I'm a little out of practice!

My first-choice school is the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. This is my first draft of my statement of purpose, and I'd really appreciate any feedback you can give me! (Sorry that it's really long!)

When it comes to discovering an academic path, I am what might be considered a “late bloomer.”

            When I began my studies at Brandeis University, I was a Creative Writing major. My goal? To write the next bestselling fiction series for young adults. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I dove into my creative classes in my attempts to become the best writer I could be. But in my sophomore year, I took my first Sociology class: Sociology of Religion. That first class paved the way for my second major in Sociology. I became incredibly interested in the ways in which social factors of sexism, racism, classism, privilege and discrimination shape the decisions individuals make and the choices they are granted.

            In my junior year, I took on a third program: Women’s and Gender Studies. It was here that I began to develop an interest in social work as a field. Working with other students who were equally motivated to bring about social change, especially in the areas of gender and sexuality discrimination, compelled me to begin researching ways that I could become an agent of change. These courses, combined with my Sociology courses, gave me a great deal of insight into the intersectionality of race, gender, class, and culture; as well as the myriad ways in which these categories interact and play off of each other to produce the social constructs and policies we live with today.

At the time that I began seriously studying Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies, social work as a degree did not come up in my searches, but counseling did. As a survivor of an abusive relationship, I know that the difference between referring to oneself as a “victim” versus a “survivor” can be the help of a dedicated, understanding counselor. The ever-increasing statistics of the commonality of gender and sexuality-related violence have made me realize that my background knowledge of social policy, added to my personal experiences of being on both the giving and receiving end of therapeutic conversations (some formal, some not) have put me in a unique position to be able to offer comfort and help to individuals who may someday be placed in difficult emotional situations. Additionally, during my time working as a camp counselor at Eisner Camp, I encountered both campers and staff dealing with a wide range of social and emotional issues, from divorce to ADD, abuse to eating disorders. As a counselor, it was my role to be comforting without being too close, and I believe that gives me a unique advantage in learning how to approach professional counseling.

            My interest in pursuing a Master’s in Social Work, with a concentration in Mental Health, truly began when I was discussing graduate school with a close friend. She suggested that, rather than applying to programs specifically related to counseling, that I instead look into social work degrees, which would open up a field far larger than a counseling degree alone. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine a time when social work did not seem like an obvious course of action for my academic and professional career. The diversity of the social work field—from research and public policy development to human resources and counseling—allows not only for one-on-work with individuals but also the potential to instigate much broader social change. The growing job market for graduates of MSW programs reflects the great social need for motivated individuals committed to picking up the pieces of a country in an emotional place of social unrest.

            As I enter my senior year, I have begun directly applying my background in social issues to both my academic and professional lives. I am currently in the process of writing a Senior Honors Project in Creative Writing, consisting of an anthology of short stories based on interviews with several individuals from different sexual, class, and racial backgrounds. In the spring, I will be volunteering with the Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis, an early-learning program for children in the Waltham area, many of whom come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. I also take part in activities with the Waltham Group, an on-campus community service organization that works with various schools, institutes, and social projects in Waltham.

            My career goals, at this point in my life, are very clear to me. With an MSW concentrating in Mental Health, I hope to work with adolescents and young adults encountering problems with gender, sexuality, and sexual abuse. My background in Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as my four years as a summer camp counselor, has given me a strong connection to the struggles that children and teenagers face when it comes to the deeply personal struggles with gender and sexuality.

            I believe very strongly that the Brown School of Social Work could be an excellent fit for me. My academic history of balancing heavy course loads with extracurricular activities while still maintaining a grade point average of 3.87 throughout all four years of undergraduate study is a testament to my ability to take part in a vigorous graduate school program. I also suspect that my ability to work well with others and learn from my surroundings and peers will benefit me not only in a graduate school setting but also in my career. Personal interaction is a key aspect of the social work profession, and I know that my adaptive personality will help me to form lasting connections and relationships to further my professional goals and social justice projects.

            Another incredibly strong factor that draws me to the Brown School is its location. St. Louis is not only culturally vibrant, but is also a site of racial and economic diversity. There is also a strong LGBT movement and a large Jewish population, as well as Jewish LGBT resources. As I previously mentioned, I hope to work closely with LGBT youth. I also have a strong desire to work with Jewish youth populations, partly due to my background in Jewish camping and education, as well as within the Jewish youth movement NFTY. St. Louis would provide me with excellent opportunities, both volunteer and professional, to work with these groups.

            Most importantly, though, the Brown School’s mission speaks very strongly to me, especially the final point: “to collaborate with organizations to use evidence to improve access to and quality of social services and to address social and economic justice.” While I do believe that individual work is the backbone of social change, without the collaboration of social institutions and organizations, very little can truly be done about the social and economic inequalities that have come to define this country. It is organizations, not individuals, which possess the political and economic power to bring about legitimate, lasting policy changes to increase universal access to resources and decrease discrimination, privilege, and inequality. I believe that an education at the Brown School is a strong gateway to the best techniques, skills, and knowledge necessary to motivate organizations to join the cause of social justice.

            While I admit that I may not have the professional and volunteer experience in the social work field possessed by many other applicants, I believe that I make up for my lack of experience with passion, drive, a strong academic background, and a deep willingness to learn. I may have been a late bloomer in coming to my conclusions about what professional path I wanted to take, but now that I’ve found the right road, I am determined to do all that I can to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work and commit myself to improving the social and personal experience of young adults. I believe that the Brown School of Social Work could be an excellent place to begin my path down that road.