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About RefurbedScientist

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  • Application Season 2013 Spring
  1. Qualitative or Quantitative?

      This is a fair point, but especially if you're a more independent worker then it really may not matter too much. You can compose a committee (even informally in earlier years) of folks using various methods. So if you're top advisor is a star in culture but not quant methods, you can try to find someone in the dept who knows the method that interests you. So diversity counts for a lot.   Also, Princeton I believe would qualify for your criteria. Good luck
  2. New to Sociology - What do I do?

      Don't worry about undergrad background. Just nail the GREs and write a convincing statement of purpose. If you really can't get some of your best writing up to ~15 pages for the writing sample, then it would be appropriate to contact the DGS or chair of admissions and explain your situation (you were a neuro major; didn't have to write long papers; can you submit 2 shorter papers).    Do not do a masters before at least trying to get into PhD programs. Identify the 5-10 PhD programs you would definitely attend if you were accepted (and no more), plus one or two top terminal MAs if you're worried (check out MAPSS at U Chicago, which is apparently pretty decent and offers some financial aid). If you get rejected from all the PhD programs, see no way to improve your application significantly in the next 6 months (and it's easy to improve seeing as how learnable the GRE and SoP are), and are committed to starting grad school in the immediate future, then consider an MA. Otherwise it is a huge expense for little added value.    As for social movements research, sounds like you have some interests very relevant to sociology. The "outcomes" question is particularly relevant these days. I wouldn't narrow yourself too much to strong social movements departments though. If you have a really strong application, then it makes sense to reach for at least a couple of the top programs (Berkeley, Harvard, etc). Regardless of whether those are "known" for social movements in the same way as, say, UNC or UCI, they have large enough and excellent enough faculty to make any project succeed. In other words, there are definitely places that are obviously strong in social movement research (I'll list some below), but there's nowhere in the top 20 programs where you can't study social movements, at least in conjunction with other areas like political economy, culture, race, environment, etc.    In any case, places (and sample people) you should check out for strong social movement research and quant methods would be UNC Chapel Hill (Neal Caren), UC Irvine (David Meyer, Ed Amenta), and Stanford (Sarah Soule). But as I said, practically every top department is equipped to advise on social movement research, if not offer a specific class. 
  3. New here!

    Yup good scores. They definitely won't disqualify you from any program. The quant score is perhaps on the left side of the distribution for top 10 programs, but not so much so that you can't compensate with other strong areas in your application. That said, no GRE score alone is good enough to get a spot in a top 20 program. Expect that most everyone will have scores like yours. Those scores will qualify you for a second read by the ad-comm. 
  4. Can/should an Economic major apply for a PhD program in Sociology?

    Well, the ASA section on economic sociology is a good place to start: http://www.asanet.org/sectionecon/econ.cfm   Check out the recent book and paper award winners to get a sense of what's seen as high quality work by economic sociologists.    Then you could read some stuff by Granovetter, Zelizer, Fligstein, and other big names (I hesitate to mention Gary Becker, but it's worth reading him as well). Maybe start with some reviews of their books, then read some stuff that cites them heavily.    And poke around the Annual Review of Sociology: http://www.annualreviews.org/journal/soc   Can you tell us a little more about what interests you? It doesn't have to be a research question per se, but what kinds of topics would you like to research? Just identifying what set of things piques your interest is step one toward having a target SOP. 
  5. Transferring into a new program

    Just out of curiosity, what year are you in your current program? 
  6.   So if a person of color feels uncomfortable in a predominantly white environment, it's because the minority individual doesn't value diversity? How about the historical legacy of violence, the contemporary material inequality or discriminatory policing/sentencing, and the cultural abuse to the image of people of color in 'mainstream' American culture, to name just a few suspects for why people of color may not feel so comfortable in a predominantly white environment? I don't mean to impute the OP's feelings here. I just mean that there are completely valid (and rational) reasons for POC to feel a little uncomfortable in a predominantly white community in America.    And since when is white and Christian (as in Ames or Salt Lake) "diversity"? Diversity does not equal "whatever is different from you".   To the OP, I second everything @faculty said. Most programs are sensitive to the concerns you raise and will be happy to put you in touch with students of color who can speak to your questions.    I think it's almost always worth it to visit a school if you can afford it. You could also ask the departments about a little travel reimbursement. It's not an unheard of practice. As a general rule of thumb, I'd usually say that ~20k in debt is substantial enough to incline one toward's the more affordable program. So if you do the math, the ~$300 (x2) it will cost you to fly out to these schools is worth every penny if it gives you the information you need to make an informed decision about whether or not you should go into debt to stay local. If you can't swing the plane fair, then definitely invest the time in reaching out to as many people as you can at these schools to get all the info you can. Or ask your friends who faced similar decisions and went from So-Cal to Wyoming or something. 
  7. Can/should an Economic major apply for a PhD program in Sociology?

    I have a background in economics and so for a long time I assumed I "came in knowing" a lot about economic sociology. Boy was I wrong. It's a quite unique field. It's also a sub-field that seems to be on the up-and-up in terms of prestige, publish-ability, and hire-ability.    @gilbertrollins is partly right, I think, about the split between Marxist political economy and economic sociology. The former is tackling traditional economic questions (e.g. growth, underdevelopment, etc.) with a (usually historical) political economic approach (i.e. throwing class power and politics into the mix with ideas of trade imbalance, productivity growth, and other "traditional" economic foci). I wouldn't say the Marxists are explicitly trying to prove neo-classical economists wrong, per se. They've got a long historical tradition (longer even than the neo-classicals) of questions and methods that still interest them. In fact, I'd prefer it if the Marxists did more proving neo-classical economists wrong, rather than insulating themselves so much. But a lot of the starting assumptions are the same in Marxist economics and neo-classical economics (i.e. rational choice), and some Marxists continue to use formal models a la econ. But this is definitely a marginal sub-field in sociology.   The latter ("enrich and amend economic thinking with sociology" as gilbertrollins said) is what I think we call "economic sociology". People like Viviana Zelizer (Princeton) and Neil Fligstein (Berkeley) come to mind (even though those two do very different things). These folks generally try to bring sociology to bear on economics (e.g. the social construction of markets or value). The students of these types of folks have been doing very well on the job market recently. A Fligstein student doing work on finance, Adam Goldstein, got hired at Princeton this year I think.    But I think @gilbertrollins overlooked that huge swaths of sociology are interested in economics without calling it "economic sociology". The study of inequality is absolutely central to sociology. Sociologists study inequality in earnings, in job opportunities, in educational outcomes, in health, in political participation, in neighborhoods, in prison recidivism, etc. Almost all of these imply economic inequality one way or another (poor people vote less; black ex-cons are less likely to get a job out of prison than white ex-cons; kids in poor neighborhoods more likely to be obese; immigrants have more intergenerational social mobility than blacks; so on). Sociology is obsessed with economics (the ontological thing, not the discipline). And since the econometric turn in the economics discipline (and sociology a few years after), I think more and more folks with econometrics training can do solid work relevant to sociology. So, right, don't bother selling your mathematical wizardry with formal models. That's gobbly gook to 9/10 sociologists. But most sociologists can get behind using nice, clean econometric techniques on our traditional areas of interest.   And finally, I would strongly disagree with the strategy of selling yourself as a statistical generalist for a few reasons. For one, the admissions committee isn't going to be all quants. There might be a couple quants on there, but you'll also need to impress ethnographers, interviewers, etc. Two, the program will have to match you with one or more faculty who you could work with. Most programs don't have a "statistical generalist" on staff. Maybe Kenneth Bollen at UNC and Chris Winship at Harvard, for example, but they're exceptions and they still do substantive work on top of their stats development. And the students they advise do substantive work. You're more likely to get matched with a faculty on substantive interests than methodological interests (unless maybe you're a pure ethnographer). Three, you'll need to publish in sociology journals. ASA/AJS will not publish something that isn't substantively and theoretically important-- no matter how fancy the stats (and ad-comms will anticipate this). And finally, pure force of habit (call it habitus and you'll fit right in). At every step of the say from admissions, to open house, to pro-seminar, to job talks, you'll have to introduce yourself as "Hi, my name is gradientvector and I work on ......". If you say "Developing a new test for overfitting in factor analysis" or some pure stats thing, no one will  identify you as a sociologist. You can't just be in the program; you have to perform the role of a sociologist.    So @gradientvector, to answer your question, "Is a background in Economics and Statistics as well as an interest in Sociology enough...?" My short answer is "No", only because that interest in sociology needs to be articulated as a (quite general) sociological question you want to answer and a justification for why sociology is the right place to answer it. If you can do that, then you'll do fine in sociology. There are several folks in my program who came over from econ.    And for urban soc friendly toward economics, I would look at Harvard (Wilson, Sampson), Princeton (Pager, Massey), and NYU (Sharkey, Molotch, Conley) as a start. 
  8. What to do before the school year starts?

      This is great advice. It's easier to start the habit now than when you're in school. If you can make it a habit, maybe you'll keep up with it in the semester. And it's not just for climbing stairs. Mental health, concentration, confidence, etc. These are things you will be in short supply of in grad school, and exercise is good for all of it. There's new research on the mental health status of grad students, and it's not a rosy picture. Plus, everyone is different, but I've noticed that the people who can get into a routine are the most productive workers. A daily workout can be an anchor around which to build a routine.    Other than that, I would say relax. Read for pleasure. Maybe brush up on your basic Excel skills (I believe this is a good scaffold for learning data management and statistical software later on), learn a bit of the basic stats terminology (what is a distribution? what is variance? what is standard deviation?). Even if you plan on being an qual down the line, that will make your first couple of weeks of intro stats less stressful. Just watch some Youtube tutorials on it. Don't bother reading sociology; you'll be doing plenty of that real soon. If you're hankering for academic stuff, read things that interest you outside of sociology (economics, psychology, business, philosophy, whatever). Then once you get a grounding in sociology, you can make thought projects out of "how would I improve this or that book with sociology?"    If you have hobbies or interests, pursue them. It will make you more interesting at the inevitable awkward moments at department social functions or happy hours when you're sick of talking about work.
  9. What makes a top program?

    I was responding to this point for the most part.    On the first sentence, it's clear that publications in top journals decrease more or less linearly as we move down the ranks. Berkeley faculty and students appear more in the top journals than CUNY students, and CUNY students more than FSU students (just to pick schools randomly from the distribution-- no disrespect to any of them). So you're right, all students and faculty at R1s (almost by definition) publish more than students and faculty as non-R1, but even with that category the variation is systematically associated with rank.  And then I'm trying to understand the second half of what you say there. Do you mean, because not all people at lower ranked programs aim for an academic job, that we shouldn't count them toward the "job outcomes" calculation? For one, as I said earlier, I'm operationalizing job outcomes as TT academic jobs, because that's how PhD granting sociology programs are oriented and what the training is for (not because I believe it's the only worthwhile career choice). So by that measure, folks who get the PhD but don't go on to TT academic jobs are not seeing a good job outcome.* Or are you suggesting a Simpson's paradox? In either case, your hypothetical question doesn't strike me as realistic (i.e. You created a hypothetical where 100% of the lower ranked PhDs who want a TT job get one, but only 50% of the higher ranked program PhDs who want a TT job get one. If you ask me which looks better in the hypothetical you imagined, then you're leading me to only one possible answer. But who can say if that hypothetical fits reality? Show me the unranked or ~50 ranked program that places a higher percentage of its PhDs in TT jobs than Berkeley and Penn).    But right, on the whole, we agree totally. Mentorship, relationships, training, etc. all make a student more likely to publish. And publishing brings the job offers. But based on the incredibly strong correlation between program rank and publishing, we have to take rank seriously. What does it proxy? Does it proxy better training, better mentorship, better networks? That's the OP's question. As a matter of indisputable fact, the top ranked programs place students better, on average.  So what are the causal factors underlying the correlation?    And I couldn't agree more with you on "Rather than focusing on metrics like ranking actually do the work and talk to the programs and the people. Every program director I've talked to has been open about placement, about publishing, and about what they will do to prepare you for the job you want." But if the job you want is a TT R1 job in a sociology department, it would irresponsible to advise prospectives to ignore rank altogether. Great fit at FSU won't compensate for the je ne sais quoi at Princeton, unfortunately.    *And if you don't want a TT R1 job in a sociology department, then rank (and publishing) may matter much less. But then it's worthwhile considering whether a PhD is the most useful way of achieving that goal. It may be, but it's unlikely. 
  10. What makes a top program?

      From the ASA webpage I linked: "Using the traditional ASA indicator for the acceptance rate (that is, the number of accepted manuscripts divided by the number of overall decisions), ASR’s acceptance rate for the year was 6 percent. (Using the method of calculating the acceptance rate proposed by England [in Footnotes, March 2009], in which acceptances are divided only by final decisions, the ASR acceptance rate was 9 percent.)"   The range I gave accounted for both ways of calculating acceptance rates. No matter how you slice it, any percentage <50 means you have better odds of not getting published, and we're way below 50%. Obviously there are things you can do that make your work more publishable than the average submission, but the "Not exactly difficult if you stick with it" argument doesn't have a leg to stand on. The vast majority of papers submitted to ASR (for example of a highly selective journal) never make it into its pages.    On your other counterarguments, we risk reaching an impasse if neither goes out and gets the data. Let me take the first crack. First, there's plenty of research in economics that the top journals are dominated by faculty at top ranked departments. Economics is definitely more stratified than sociology, but take it as a strong case. Second, look at the recent hires in sociology this year (scroll down to this list). I can't take the time to randomly sample from this group, but just going from top to bottom I looked up their CVs. The obvious trend is that students who went to higher ranked programs have more publications at better journals and get jobs at higher ranked program.  1. PhD from top 25 program, hired at elite SLAC, has an AJS, a book, and two other pubs 2. PhD from ~90 program, couldn't find info on pubs 3. PhD from top 50, hired at ~80 public, 5 or so pubs in mid-tier journals 4. PhD from top 5 program, hired at top 25, lots of pubs in ASR, SF, etc. (not a fresh PhD) 5. PhD from top 25, hired at unranked public, 3 pubs in low tier journals 6a. PhD from top 5 program, hired at top 25 program, 7 pubs in top-mid tier journals 6b. PhD from top 5 program, hired at top 25 program, 5 pubs in mid tier journals and some books (an ethnographer) 7. PhD from top 50 program, hired at decent SLAC, 2 pubs in mid tier journals   I'll stop there, but the pattern stays the same. Now we can quibble about how to categorize the Journal of Health and Family (mid tier, low tier?) but the trend would be the same. And finally, and I think this should settle it, let's look at the most recent issues of some top general and specialty journals. What are the author affiliations?: 1. ASR April 2014: UC Berkeley, University of Memphis, UC Davis/Penn State, NYU/Penn, ESSEC Business School (france), UNC-CH, Stanford/Chicago 2. AJS January 2014: UCLA, Texas/Iowa, Michigan/Indiana, Columbia/Iowa 3 Social Forces March 2014: Cologne, Oregon State, Trinity College Dublin, Univ Toronto/Northwestern, Utrecht, Indiana, UMASS-Boston, Purdue, Penn state, Stanford/Princeton, , Chinese university of Honk Kong, UW Madison, UC-Riverside, UWashington/Uconn, Arizona 4. Gender & Society June 2014: Marquette, USC, CSU Northridge/UCLA, Penn, Ohio State/ Southwestern, CUNY  5. Soc of Ed April 2014: EUI (Italy), NYU, UW Madison/Iowa, NYU/Penn   So how to interpret these? For one, it's obvious that not every paper is by a top 25 program. But the top programs are definitely overrepresented here (a "/" indicates multiple authors from different programs. Many of the co-authorships are between advisers and former students who landed jobs at lower ranked school, as is the norm). Also, as you move down a tier from, say, ASR to Social Forces, the field opens up a bit.    So in response to your "I'd like to see a source for this idea that faculty at lower ranked programs aren't publishing as much in top journals": I don't know of any systematic study in sociology to match those down in economics, but a glance at the data support my (uncontroversial) claim that faculty at lower ranked programs appear less frequently in top journals. Of course, that's not news to anyone who regularly reads the top journals. The more interesting question is whether faculty publishing patterns affords any advantages to students in those programs.    As for GRE/GPA. You say "GRE/GPA doesn't show student quality and most programs know this. Ask them and you will see." You will recall that I said that students with GRE/GPA aren't somehow inherently "better" students. Just that they select into (and are admitted to) higher ranked programs, and then PhDs from higher ranked programs have more job market success (see above list of recent soc hires). Thus, the correlation between GRE/GPA and job market outcomes > 0. And why ask professors what they think about GRE/GPA when I could see what they do (we are sociologists after all; better to observe in situ than take a post-hoc account)? Look at the results board here on Grad Cafe (admittedly not a random sample), and you will note that higher GRE/GPA candidates get accepted at higher ranked programs (and usually choose those over lower ranked programs). To argue otherwise is to defy the data. I also strong recommend you to this conversation on Orgtheory.net: http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/an-inconvenient-truth-about-gre-scores/   As for the more general point: "You also failed to miss my overall point because you were so focused on your statistical argument. It's not the program ranking that matters but the networks and people you become enmeshed with during the process. "   I apologize if I missed your overall point. I was responding to the specific arguments you made to the OP, which were factually incorrect. But it looks like I missed the wood for the trees. On your overall point that "networks matter", I wholeheartedly agree. That networks matter regardless of rank is of course ridiculous. The most high-value (for getting a job anyway) networks accrue at the higher ranked programs. Of course, you show plenty of anecdotal evidence that high value networks can exist outside of the top ranks. I can't dispute that, and it sounds like your program does a great job attracting top candidates and students. But a few negative cases do not disprove an overwhelming trend.   Now let me be quite clear. I don't think rank carries some inherent value. Especially as it's measured by USNEWS, it's a purely reflexive proxy for prestige. There's all kind of status bias there. But the problem is that the status bias in rankings has material consequences on the lives of job candidates. That's nothing to sneeze at. So it's irresponsible to advise people to "ignore rank, focus on all the other stuff" when going to a program with a low rank affects your material wellbeing later on. This is not to say "ignore all the other stuff, just go for the highest rank". Nobody promotes that; me least of all.    And then, following Bourdieu, we know that the symbolic capital of rank can buy other forms of capital: the networks, the talent, and the funding. So rather than X --> Y, where X is the meat-n-potatoes of a program and Y is the rank. We have Z-->Y--> X, where Z is some historical unknown that locked us into path dependency. And finally, none of what I am saying is new or surprising; this conversation has been had many times. e.g. http://asr.sagepub.com/content/69/2/239.short   Finally a disclaimer: for the sake of argument, it is easiest to operationalize "job market outcomes" as a function of the rank of the hiring program. I don't believe these are the only careers people should aspire for or pursue. The more we diversify, the better the outcomes for all of us. And if a TT job at an R1 (never mind in the top 25 soc programs) is not your career of choice, then it's probably not necessary to go to a top ranked program. But because the PhD granting programs are almost exclusively oriented toward placing PhDs in academic jobs, it makes the most sense to use that benchmark in argument. Again, that doesn't mean I think everyone needs to go that road.    Edit: spelling corrections
  11. What makes a top program?

    And this is a good topic for a thread, by the way. Well thought out, @avatarmomo. Thanks for posting.   We often discuss what makes a program highly ranked, but there is so much reflexivity there that it's hard to get at the underlying factors. This is more about what program characteristics will help you get a job; something we all care about to some extent. 
  12. What makes a top program?

      @jmu: Huh. I think the acceptance rates at the top generalist journals (btw 6 and 9% at ASR) and top specialty journals (btw 5 and 7% at SPQ for example*) disproves the claim that it's "not that difficult or rare to get published". It is rare by definition. Difficult is a bit more subjective, but I wouldn't underestimate how hard it is to conduct original research that is both methodologically sound, theoretically important, and interesting to a wide enough audience to make it into a top journal. Not to mention the process from submission to publication can take many months (or longer).    You are right to point out that many programs across the ranks do strongly encourage publication. However, the OP's point is that faculty in the higher ranked programs are more likely to have publications in the top journals and are more likely to review for top journals than those in lower ranked programs. This follows directly from the status hierarchy of the profession. It takes publishing in a top journal to get a job (and tenure) at top ranked program, thus the distribution of top journal publications tends to match up with the rankings. So long as these faculty are committed enough to their students to help them publish, then these students have a distinct advantage in getting an "inside look" at the top tier publishing circuit.  I'll refrain from nitpicking all of your points, but I will say something on selection bias. It is obvious that more competitive students on average select into the top ranked programs. The GRE/GPA distributions will show as much. Does this make them "better" students in some inherent way? No. But if GRE/GPA correlate with publication and job placements, then we can at least say there is some predictive strength to the self selection story. Of course, all programs are able to one way or another attract students away from higher ranked programs. Sometimes it's funding, sometimes it's location, sometime it's fit, etc. But (being sociologists) we're talking averages here. Comparing to zero, there is significant positive relationship between competitive PhD applicants and program rank.    So my question to you, jmu, is if none of the advantages that avatarmomo lists accrue systematically to higher ranked programs, then why do higher ranked programs place more students in more and "better" jobs?    And @avatarmomo: I'd guess that the two big factors are your points 6 and 7. On point 7, higher ranked departments do seem more oriented toward placing their students at similarly ranked programs. Therefore, even if only 1 student out of every cohort gets a job in the top 10, the other students fall somewhere into the top 20, top 50, etc. It's a shoot for the moon, land among the stars strategy. You're right to point to Princeton, where the program requirements are quite explicitly meant to accumulate publications fast. And the number 6, prestige always matters. Famous advisors go a long way on the job market (but don't count for more than publications). However, prestige is a function of something else (even path dependency has to start somewhere), though exactly what we can't be certain. Prestigious PhDs accrue to the top ranked programs, but why? Higher salary, better research:teaching ratio, more prestige, better environment, it's hard to say.    *EDIT: Here's the source for journal acceptance rates: http://www.asanet.org/journals/editors_report_2011.cfm#SOE
  13. Marxism & Sociology Graduate Programs

    And as a more general point, the pendulum has swung toward "crass empiricism" in sociology for the time being. A great many sociologists don't look back into their theoretical heritage any farther than DiMaggio and Powell or Bourdieu. And outside the latter, European theorists are rarely mentioned. Don't get me wrong; there is good work that does plumb the theoretical wells, and such work can garner esteem. But, an admissions committee at any program is composed of quants who study the correlation between X and Y, ethnographers suspicious of any heavy handed theoretical motives, policy-wonks, etc. You need wide appeal, so you would be ill advised to portray yourself too narrowly. As I said, once you get in, there is more room for intellectual exploration and identity-building. 
  14. Marxism & Sociology Graduate Programs

    Marxism in US sociology is not so friendly toward the cultural studies topics (media theory, literature, post-Marxism, etc.) you mention. It could be a result of the lasting influence of Erik Olin Wright and Michael Burawoy. That is, concerned with the material conditions of society, class power, etc. (rather than, e.g. cultural products). If you're interested in political economic sociology of this type, then Berkeley, Wisconsin, and NYU make sense (though those are all pretty difficult to get into).    Cultural/media studies departments can be the home of that kind of work in the US. Brown's MCM and NYU's MCC are such places, for example. "Media" is in the title, but you don't necessarily have to study media. That's just the US's version of British cultural studies.   And that brings up the UK, which I understand has a more open mind toward the work you mention. Goldsmiths, as you've noted, is a great place to dig into that work.    With all that said, sociology has lots of dark corners to hide in. Once you're in a program, you have some flexibility to develop your own research agenda. If done well, you can do Marxist sociology without needing to label it as such. Most sociologists are mature enough to know Marxism when they see it and not make a big fuss. The trick is selling yourself as a sociologist, with interests suited to a sociology program, in your application. If your statement of purpose announces "I want to use post-Marxist theory to understand 1970s French film", then a sociology admissions committee will direct you to the nearest cultural studies program. If you instead write "I want to understand the political economic organization and class dynamics of cultural consumption and production", then you have a home in sociology. 
  15. Computational Sociology

    I'll try to give a little feedback to your bigger question about phd programs.    As you probably already know, there isn't a lot of infrastructure in place to support computational sociology, yet. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go into it, but you'll be hard pressed to find a program that bills itself as "strong in computational sociology". Rather, you'll find individual faculty here and there who have those skills. Even more likely, you'll find clusters of grad students working interdepartmentally with comp. sci. or other fields.    The point is, you would be ill advised to market yourself as a budding computational sociologist and nothing else. You'd want to bill yourself as a sociologist of stratification/race/media/politics/urban/whatever with an interest in computational methods. If you want to go into a traditional sociology department, then that's the language you're going to have to speak.   Now, if you don't want to go into a traditional sociology department, then that's another issue altogether. Maybe you want to be the next Duncan Watts. Maybe you want to do big data analysis for some urban planning. Maybe you want to make sweet info-graphics. For all of these things and more, you probably don't need to get a PhD in sociology. If you can pick up a MA for cheap at a public university and get a job in industry or government that pays well, then skip the PhD. If you really want to be a professor but don't have any substantive sociological interests, then maybe that other social science field is for you.    And if you're not sure about all of this, it never hurts to wait a year. In the meantime, pick up R and sharpen your Python. Certain departments (and not others) will really appreciate these skills. If you're committed to sociology, then I would say skip the masters and forgo the other PhD program. Spend the year sharpening your statement of purpose (with Grad Cafe's help) and targeting your applications better. If I were to guess (knowing nothing else about you ) , I would assume your GRE's were fine but maybe, being a math major, your SoP wasn't "sociological" enough. The problem with being on the cutting edge is that you're always doing extra work to clear the path for others to follow, so keep it up!