The Freshman Social Work Experience

An all-too-common misconception is that there isn’t much for a freshman to do that relates to and builds on the career the student is pursuing.

The reality is that there are plenty of ways for first-year students to involve themselves in activities that look great on a resume and build valuable skills! After completing my first semester as a freshman social work student, I’m going to share some of the many different ways to involve yourself in activities that correlate with social work.

While there are so many different classes I could recommend, an excellent class to take that not only allows you to take a social work class in your first year but also allows you to knock out a Gen Ed is SOCW 225: Social Work Statistics. The class is an introductory level statistics class, so if you’ve never taken stats before, do not fret! Dr. Rachel Garth is an excellent professor who does an incredible job at providing ample resources to help you learn and build your skills. 

Since the BSW at Illinois is a generalist degree, I suggest taking Gen Eds in many different areas of study to narrow down your interests within the broad field of social work. For example, I have a particular interest in substance abuse social work, so I took CHLH 243, or Drug Use and Abuse. 

When it comes to RSOs, there are seemingly endless amounts to choose from; it’s almost guaranteed that you can find a club that suites your interests in social work or beyond. The first RSO I suggest looking into is BSWA, or Bachelor of Social Work Association. For obvious reasons, this RSO is perfect for freshman to join! Not only do you get to meet social work students in every stage of the BSW program, but you get to participate in fundraisers and activities rooted in the values of social work. 

One of the several advocacy RSOs I would recommend to first year social work students is Active Minds. One of the core values of social work is advocacy, which Active Minds is all about! Active Minds advocates for mental health and spreads education to students on campus through various programs, which is excellent preparation for a future social worker. 

Another super valuable program for first year social work students to involve themselves with is Best Buddies International. Another two core values of social work are the importance of human relationships and dignity and worth of a person. The work of the program meets both of these values, as each person in the program is matched up with someone in the C-U area that has an intellectual or developmental disability. The Best Buddies program allows the people within the program to foster a successful and independent life by promoting acceptance and inter-abled friendships. 

While there are so many more classes and RSOs I could recommend, it really comes down to the individual interests of the student. Until one figures out what those interests are, there are so many different ways for a freshman to involve themselves in programs that give them a taste into the values and practices of social work. 



Class of 2024
I’m a social work major with a passion for people and the betterment of society. Listening to my friends share their experiences sparked my love for the University of Illinois, so I can’t wait to share my own with prospective and incoming students!

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