Guidelines for Researching Ph.D. Programs
Questions to Consider
- What is my goal?
- What are my priorities during graduate school? After graduate school?
- Do I have particular substantive interests within sociology?
- How will I pay for grad school? You might not have to!—read on to find out how funding opportunities work in Ph.D. programs
Steps to Take
- Initial Research
- Write to departments to request additional information
- Read articles in Sociology: who writes the stuff you think is best?
- Take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
- There are lots of study guides and courses that help!
- Scores reported at up to 4 institutions (then $15 each)
- Do your best to get good grades
- Talk with current professors
- When to apply?
- The majority of Ph.D. students take time off between undergrad and graduate schooling
- But, there is no right answer
Applying to Graduate Schools
- Apply to as many schools as you can (4-10)
- These should be schools you would consider attending, but do not have to be. In some cases, they can also work as bargaining chips for better funding packages.
- Application packets might require the following, by mid-December for Fall admission:
- Money: $45.00 at University of Wisconsin
- 2 copies of Transcripts
- Signed and dated department pages of the application form
- The Sociology Graduate Program Checklist
- Coursework Worksheet
- GRE Scores: verbal, quantitative, and analytical tests
- Three letters of recommendation: evaluating past academic performance
- Statement of Purpose: describing applicants' relevant background, past work, proposed areas of study, plans for graduate work and overall career objectives.
- Because this statement is used to evaluate applicants' scholarly potential, it should be well written, cogently argued, and well conceived.
- You should offer specific ideas for potential research topics in the statement
- Sample of written work that provides evidence of creative and critical thinking, quality of writing, and potential for engaging in independent research
- If you have a specific research interest, consider contacting individual professors However, our recommendation is to be very respectful of the many competing demands that researchers at this kind of institution face
- Don’t be afraid to contact the department administrator to insure your application is complete, or to find out about where the admissions committee is in the process.
- Remember it is a crapshoot. You will never know why you are accepted at University A and rejected at University B (and C, and D . . .)
- However, if you are rejected you can request a formal review of your application, which may help you for the next round
When You Are Accepted
- Talk to professors at the school—now you are being recruited!
- Prepare a list of specific questions (you don’t want to sound like you haven’t thought about things
- Potential questions: quality of graduate program, system for student training/mentoring, T.A. requirements/workload/pay/benefits, availability of research assistant positions, current research, strengths in your area of interest
- Have some ideas about where your sociological interests lie, even if you aren’t completely sure
- If there are professors with whom you would like to work, definitely talk to them at this stage. Find out if they have positions for research assistants
- Visit the school (arrange this with department administrator—this person will schedule appointments, and possibly give you travel money)
- Meet with/stay with students and ask them everything you can about life as a graduate student at U of X
- Talk with professors
- Collect information about housing costs, community life, etc.
When You Are NOT Accepted
- Consider taking graduate courses as a non-enrolled student
- Request application review
- Consider re-taking GRE
- Get involved in research through employment or volunteer work
- Try again!
How Will I Pay For Graduate School?
- For Ph.D. programs, you will usually be offered some form of financial support
- Most often, this is a T.A. position, but could also be a fellowship or research assistant position
- May need another job
- One reason to apply to many places is so that you can judge the best financial offer
- For professional programs, usually you will pay through savings, loans, and employment
What Is Graduate School Like (other than really hard work)?
- Read this handbook:
- Talk to students where you applied, after you are accepted
- Seek advice from your undergraduate professors
- Though difficult, graduate school can be remarkably stimulating, motivating, rewarding, and opportunity-producing