Jump to content
  • 0
Dalts

Tips for an undergrad to prepare for a PhD in Sociology?

Question

First of all, apologies if I'm in the wrong forum! If I am, please direct me to the correct one. 

I'm a Sociology major at a small state school. My goal is to get my PhD in Sociology, and some of the schools I've looked at are Duke, Harvard, UPenn, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Emory, and Rutgers. I haven't taken the GRE yet (I'm only in my second year of undergrad), but my SAT score was a 1430/1600, my GPA is a 3.98 (this includes both lower division courses and a handful of upper division courses), and I'm in the Honors program at my school. 

While my test scores and grades will likely be very good when I complete my Bachelor's, I'm worried that my school isn't "prestigious" enough for the grad schools I mentioned. Like I said, I go to a small, public state university that doesn't even rank of the US News National Universities list (instead, it ranks mid-tier on the Regional Universities list). While I did gain admissions into a top tier public university, I chose to go to this school because it is smaller and offered me enough financial aid to completely fund my schooling AND pay for my living expenses.

Also, while I'm an undergrad, I plan on conducting my own research outside of my research methods classes, completing a senior thesis/Honors thesis, and joining the Honors program at the American Sociological Association. Further, I already have a positive relationship with some professors, so I should have some great LORs. 

So, I guess my question is, should I care about the prestige of my undergraduate school? Are there other things (besides what I've mentioned) that I should be doing as a undergrad to be a competitive candidate for grad school? Should I consider transferring to a higher-tier school? 

Some additional info on my research interests (if it's relevant): I want to study gender/sexualities, power, social interactions, and social class. For my qualitative methods course, I will be researching how trans/nonbinary students navigate dorm life. For a future research project, I would like to investigate how wealthy donors of charities view the underprivileged people they serve. I can't say for sure now what my preferred methodology would be, but I think I'm leaning toward qualitative and mixed methods. 

Thank you for an insights and help!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

3 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 0

I'm applying this fall, so I can't do much other than regurgitate things I've heard from my own advisers/mentors. But based on what they've told me, provided that you accumulate research experience (preferably beyond just a thesis; if any of the professors you're close with need research assistants, that would be ideal), and provided you're able to cogently and persuasively outline your research interests and how a given department would be an amazing place to pursue those interests, you should be competitive at most of those programs. Based on student profiles, Columbia and Harvard seem to care more about undergraduate pedigree (TONS of Ivy League students in their program), but I would think that with a strong record like the one you're predicting for yourself, you'd probably be a strong candidate at any department in the top 20-30. 

However, because of your less prestigious institutional background I wouldn't be surprised if your GRE score is weighed more heavily than it would be for a Harvard undergrad. The admissions committee can trust that the Harvard student is a sharp tester because they got into Harvard, even if their GRE score is mediocre. In your case, thought, it'd be helpful to have as high a score as possible, as an indicator of where you stand relative to your prestigious peers in terms of your powers of reasoning. Basically, they probably get the benefit of the doubt where you wouldn't, but that shouldn't mean you can't get into a great program. 

Edited by sociopolitic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
On 9/3/2018 at 1:06 PM, Dalts said:

So, I guess my question is, should I care about the prestige of my undergraduate school? Are there other things (besides what I've mentioned) that I should be doing as a undergrad to be a competitive candidate for grad school? Should I consider transferring to a higher-tier school? 

I would definitely not recommend transferring schools just to give you a better chance at getting into a PhD program.

Honestly, it sounds like you're doing everything right. I can understand why you have some concerns about prestige--I had similar concerns when I was applying--but where you went to school is hardly one of the most important aspects of your application. What is important is that you have a solid understanding of your research interests, that you're able to articulate what those interests are, and that you apply to places that are a good fit for those interests. 

If you look at current student profiles in the graduate programs you're interested in, they'll often tell you where those students went for undergrad. You will probably see that yes, a lot of those people went to prestigious schools...but not all of them. Keep doing what you're doing--it sounds like you are off to a promising start.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

I'm not in that field but generally working with the population you'd like to do research with in the future is a good sign that you've thought it out. I.e. volunteering w/ a non-profit, working at a charity something along those lines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.