Whom should I talk to about admission and your program?
Our graduate director welcomes contacts from prospective applicants, tries to help them present the best application they can and determine whether our program would fit their interests.
Who decides about admission?
The graduate committee in sociology, which includes the graduate director, examines applicants’ materials, and forwards its recommendations to the graduate school and the university’s admission office.
What kind of things does the graduate committee consider in choosing applicants to admit?
The graduate committee considers applicants’ academic background, grades, GRE scores, personal statement, and reference letters. Here are some suggestions regarding each:
- Academic Background: Other things being equal, the committee prefers applicants with a substantial background in sociology or a related social science. However, this preference is not absolute, and applicants without such a background can gain admission. (See “What if I don’t have a sociology background?” below).
- Grades: Typical successful applicants have undergraduate GPAs in the range of 3.3 and above. We’re interested in grades in all courses, not just in sociology. Because virtually all applicants present a good GPA in course work, that achievement alone will help but not distinguish your application.
- GRE Scores: We do not have a fixed GRE Score cutoff for admission. Nevertheless, GRE Scores do matter to us: They are more comparable across applicants than are grades or reference letters. Furthermore, most applicants will have relatively high grades and complimentary reference letters, so GRE Scores are one thing that can distinguish one applicant from another, either positively or negatively. We are interested in all three GRE Scores, not just any one of them.
- Statement of Professional Interests and Objectives: A good personal statement tells us clearly what parts of sociology most interest you, which helps us understand something of how you think about sociology, as well as giving us an idea of how your interests fit with what our program can offer. We also want to know what you think you would like to do professionally with a sociology degree. Of course, we fully understand that both of these things can change, but it helps us to know where your thinking is now. Discussions of your personal biography and social values are helpful to us only insofar as they clearly link to your academic work and your future professional interests in sociology.
- Reference Letters: If possible, obtain reference letters from former professors, research supervisors, or other persons well-qualified to comment on your academic potential. Letters from your employer or manager are unlikely to help you, since they typically don’t know much about you as a student.
I don’t have a background in sociology or a related social science. Could I still be admitted?
Yes, you certainly could be, although if admitted, you would need to take courses to make up the gaps in your background. (M.A. background courses – Ph.D. background courses). Also, please understand that we usually don’t offer teaching assistantships to applicants with little past education in sociology. One thing that can help your application, if you are in this circumstance, is a personal statement in which you articulate academic interests that fall within the purview of sociology, or otherwise show that you understand something of the field you are trying to enter. Also, starting to take courses to fill in your background course gaps prior to admission, while not required, can certainly help your candidacy. Generally, if you are in this kind of thinner background situation, contact the director of graduate studies for advice.
How do you choose who will get graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs)?
Generally speaking, we presume that all students with good oral and written English competence, and who have a reasonable sociology background, will be capable to serve as GTAs. We choose GTAs primarily based on our judgment of their achievement and potential as graduate students in sociology. Prior teaching experience is not a requirement, especially because most GTAs assist faculty, rather than teaching on their own. We do try to choose people who are capable, dependable, cooperative, and hardworking.
I only have a bachelor’s degree, but I want to get a Ph.D. in sociology. Do I apply for the M.A. or Ph.D. program?
Although letting us know that you are interested in a Ph.D. is certainly appropriate, you would apply for the M.A. program. While you are completing the M.A. program, you would apply for the Ph.D. program. Completion of the M.A. does not guarantee admission to the Ph.D. program, which is a separate decision, but students who perform well in the M.A. program ordinarily successfully gain admission when they apply to the Ph.D. program.
I am an international student. Can you support me with a fellowship or assistantship?
International student applicants are eligible on the same basis as other students for teaching and research assistantships. Excellent English fluency is necessary to be competitive for a teaching assistant position. We do not have any university-based fellowships or scholarships specially designed for international students, but we certainly do collaborate with those provided by outside foundations and agencies.