Laura DiMarcantonio joined Rutgers School of Social Work in 2015 as the director of admissions, overseeing application review and recruitment for all M.S.W. programs at the School. She has worked in admissions for most of her professional career and has the following advice for students considering applying to undergrad or graduate school.
What are the three main things you are looking for in a candidate when reviewing an application?
1. A strong undergraduate record. The graduate programs at the School of Social Work include a rigorous curriculum and we want to ensure that admitted students will be successful academically. For the M.S.W. program, we typically look for a 3.0 GPA or better at the undergraduate level. We also consider grades achieved in completed graduate and nondegree courses.
2. Demonstrated commitment to social justice and the enhancement of human well- being. Strong applicants have typically spent time engaged in volunteer work or have held a position working in an area related to human services. The personal statement is critical in helping us determine how well- suited an applicant is for a career in professional social work.
3. Good fit. The school offers several different program choices to complete the M.S.W. (traditional/on-campus, 100% online, blended online, and intensive weekend for human services professionals). We closely review each application to ensure they have selected a program that meets their described needs and professional and personal goals.
What are a few common mistakes applicants make and how can they be avoided?
Not following up on an application. Although you may have been diligent in submitting all of the application requirements, it is important to follow up with each school you apply to, ensuring all items have been received. Transcripts and letters of recommendation can get lost or delayed and prevent your application from being considered. Plus, a quick, courteous call to the admissions office will often get your application quicker consideration.
For the personal statement portion of an application, what helps to make a piece stand out?
I always like to see an appropriate personal story that demonstrates an applicant’s passion for the selected program or career and also how they plan to contribute as a student and as a graduate. Follow any guidelines for the personal statement and be sure to address specific questions as requested. We want to select a thoughtful candidate who will bring talent to the class and who will also be a successful alumni and ambassador for the school.
Are there any parts of the application that matter more than others, or that the applicant should focus on more carefully?
All areas of the application are important. We employ a holistic admissions review process, which means that we consider all aspects of the application to determine your potential for success and contribution to the program. Be thoughtful and concise in crafting your personal statement, select professional sources (supervisors, faculty) who know you well to write your letters of recommendation, and make sure your resume is accurate and up-to-date.
What assistance is available to pay for my graduate degree?
Rutgers offers many need-based and merit-based types of financial assistance. Submit the FAFSA in a timely manner to ensure you will be awarded the maximum amount of aid for which you are eligible. Also, don’t be shy about following up with the Office of Financial Aid to determine if there is other non–need-based assistance for which you may qualify—these include private loans and loan-forgiveness programs. Rutgers School of Social Work also awards significant scholarship funds to graduate students. For students admitted to the M.S.W. program, these can range from $6,000 to $10,000. Finally, research assistantships and graduate assistantships offered through the school help with tuition costs and can be completed in a variety of settings including research centers, student services, and academic program support.