Q&A with Admissions Counselor Erin Hanssen

The MSW@USC sat down with Erin Hanssen, an admissions counselor for our online MSW program. Erin holds her MSW and has worked for the MSW@USC for three years. Read on to learn more about Erin and what she likes most about the program.

Tell us about yourself. What is your background and how did you become an admissions counselor for the MSW@USC?

When I was younger, I planned to go to college for journalism, but I became interested in the “helping” field after taking a psychology class in high school. I ultimately earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology. After spending time as an undergrad volunteering for the University of Maryland’s Help Center, a peer counseling and crisis intervention hotline, I decided to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW). My passion in the field became mental health and addictions, but I worked with a number of different populations and agencies, including a pregnancy clinic for teenage girls, the Army’s ASAP program, an alternative middle and high school in Baltimore, and a community clinic. After working in the field for about seven years, I decided to take a break to become an admissions counselor and help others enter the field that I love. 

From your perspective, what makes the MSW@USC unique?

Having worked for the MSW@USC for three years now, I have had the privilege to see it grow and become one of the top online MSW programs in the country. With Dean Marilyn Flynn at the lead, the MSW@USC is uniquely focused on creating leaders within the field. Also, the Virtual Field Practicum that students participate in while enrolled in the traditional program is amazing. As a former MSW student, I wish I had the VFP because it helps so much in preparing students for their field placement. Finally, the assistance that we provide students through our Student Support team is top-notch. We really want our students to feel included in the Trojan Family, we want them to feel supported, and, above all, we want them to succeed.

How do you typically help prospective students through the application process?

When a student requests information about the program, I call them and see what questions I can address about the application process itself and the details of the program. I try to give them a good, thorough view of what to expect from me and from the program as a whole. Once a student starts an application, I typically check in with them weekly so that they know exactly where they stand with their application. I’m also available to answer any questions and address any concerns that arise. I really enjoy working with students who are excited and passionate about the field, so it’s nice to get to check in with them frequently. I get excited and invested in their success!

On average, how long does it take for prospective students to complete the application process? How far out from the deadline should students start their application?

We typically encourage our students to complete their application within two weeks of starting it so that they stay motivated and lessen the stress of a looming unfinished application. Students can start their application up to one year from the start date for which they are applying. For students who are completing their undergraduate degree, I suggest that they complete their application at the beginning of their last semester if they are planning to start the MSW program immediately after completion of their undergraduate degree.

Tell us more about the Statement of Purpose aspect of the application. What information or resources have you used in the past that prospective students have found most helpful?

The Statement of Purpose is the piece of the application that usually scares students the most. The most helpful piece of advice I can give about the Statement of Purpose is to speak from the heart. Many people entering the helping field have had a personal experience that has led them to this line of work. Use that story or passion. I also always suggest that students have somebody they trust read over their Statement of Purpose to make sure their grammar, sentence structure, and message are all clear. The guidelines for the Statement of Purpose are straightforward — they just need to be followed and elaborated upon as best as possible. 

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking about applying to the program?

My advice for any potential applicant is to make sure that you’re passionate about the field before entering the program. If you are, that will drive you. Use your resources — your admissions counselor, your undergraduate professors, and your support system at home. These people are in those positions for a reason and they want you to succeed. Finally, ask questions. I love talking to students who are excited and motivated.