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Just out of college--questions about applying for PhD


OverTheBridge

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Hello All -- I'm new here!

Just this past May I graduated from UC Berkeley w/ a B.A in sociology and I am now considering applying to Phd programs in sociology. I'm a year away from beginning my applications, so I have the current time in which to research programs, obtain Letters of Rec, polish up a personal statement (etc.). My GPA is 3.33 and while I have not yet taken the GRE, I am enrolled in a prep class and plan to take it in November or January at the latest. I expect to do well.

As an undergrad, I always gravitated towards topics in soc of marriage/family and culture, most of my coursework is in classes like these. I was also very interested in urban studies and medical soc...however, I have practically no coursework in medical soc, as my school didn't have faculty that specialized in it, and therefor, no undergrad classes in the subject. As a graduate student i would like to have my research focused on health/medicine through the framework of race/class/gender/marriage or family, so I'm looking to apply to programs that emphasize medical sociology. However, given the fact that I only have this B.A degree under my belt (and am currently working at an office job which has no connection to my sociological interests) i'm worried that I'm not qualified to be applying to PhD programs in my stated field of interest. Is this a valid concern?

Also, I figure that in applying to a Phd program, one must have a narrowed and purposeful research concentration. If at this point, coming straight out of college, I don't have this narrowly focused concentration in the field of sociology, then should I reconsider applying to a Phd program? Should instead opt for a masters program to help me flesh out my interests a bit more? Also, do you think that with my low undergrad GPA I could benefit from the boost of potentially better performance in a masters program? How much specificity are PhD programs looking for from applicants?

Is applying for a PhD program next fall even a realistic option for me given my background, current employment as an office drone and lack of undergrad coursework in my stated field of interest? If, perhaps, my research interest changed from medical soc to just marriage and family and health would I stand a better chance?

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Hi OverTheBridge,

Congrats on graduating. I think it's okay not to have a defined topic defined when you apply to a PhD program though you will have to fudge your personal statement a bit in this regard when you apply, particularly because personal statements should identify some key faculty you want to work with given their narrow topic area. If you're going to be applying to several different schools it can be a bit tiring creating these narratives, specifying this or that topice, when you are yourself so unsure what exactly you want to study. A masters might be a good choice just because it would give you a sense of what areas might spark your interests enough to commit to a dis project.

If I were you I would consider looking at UCSF as well as the medical anthropology, and Public Health programs at your old school UC Berkeley (if you're still in the Bay area they are nearby and you could probably meet with some faculty there) UCSF has several prominent sociologists working at that medical center and they have this hybrid program there with nursing I believe. Even though it's in the nursing school it has a formal PhD sociology program and the crowd that works there (A. Clarke, for example) tend to be very critically orientated (see articles about biomedicalization). It's a lot of re-examing the positivistic positions of medicine and stuff like that. It might not be your cup of tea depending on you what think may be your orientation, but they probably do some interesting things there. The medical anthropology program at Berkeley is world renowned and I think they have a joint program with UCSF as well, so I would say that medical center in general might be good place to start. Both of these programs would be great I would say (though for anthropology keep in mind it has a much worse job market than sociology-i think-so it might be difficult to get into that program as well as difficult to get a job afterward--though I would check with people there)

Now med soc. can also be very positivistic itself and there are people who are a little more quantitative in their orientation and thus view medicine and health a bit differently. Programs in Indiana, UCLA, Rutgers in NJ and some others have more formal med soc. programs that you might want to look at. There are also critical work done in those schools but it's not really the "de-constructing the bodies" kind of an approach. It may be more looking at health disparities, health-seeking behaviors, ideas of medicalization (how things become labeled a disease) as well as how the profession operates and so forth. I guess one thing to think about is what kind of research do see yourself interested broadly (trying to understand health and well being of families, and social groups OR examining the institution of medicine itself). People in the field discuss this distinction in terms of: the sociology for medicine (health disparities) VS the sociology of medicine (studying the institution). If you think it's more the former for you, another option is to think about getting an MPH at the school of public health first before moving onto to a PhD. I'm not a super fan of berkeley but they also have a pretty well-known PH program as well. Public health tends to be very lite on theory so it's not exactly like sociology but in some ways the overall orientation of PH can be very similar to what many medical soc people are doing (in fact many medical sociologists work in public health settings) . If I were you, I would see if there are some sociologists working in the UCB PH school and check out their work, and possibly try and connect with them. Having an MPH would probably make you a better candidate to soc program in the future, so it might be a good way to go.

Anyway, I hope I gave you some info to think about. Before looking at far away places I would first do some research on what's around and what you may have access to. While the soc faculty you know may not be familiar with this area, you're actually pretty close by to some impressive resources.

Good luck!

oh, one more thing, two soc/anthro blog sites I would recommend to check out occasionally (a good way to get a taste of research):

http://thesocietypages.org/

http://www.somatosphere.net/

the society pages does a nice job presenting ongoing research in sociology in a very easy format, (search in their tags for health related topics and see what comes up)

they also have a nice podcast called "Office Hours" which occasionally has some interesting medical sociologists talking about their research (listen to the episode with Peter Conrad or Debra Carr).

Somasphere is more of a medical anthro blog, which has some pretty interesting stuff as well, but there you'll get the more cultural/critical approaches to medicine

out that make "research"

Hello All -- I'm new here!

Just this past May I graduated from UC Berkeley w/ a B.A in sociology and I am now considering applying to Phd programs in sociology. I'm a year away from beginning my applications, so I have the current time in which to research programs, obtain Letters of Rec, polish up a personal statement (etc.). My GPA is 3.33 and while I have not yet taken the GRE, I am enrolled in a prep class and plan to take it in November or January at the latest. I expect to do well.

As an undergrad, I always gravitated towards topics in soc of marriage/family and culture, most of my coursework is in classes like these. I was also very interested in urban studies and medical soc...however, I have practically no coursework in medical soc, as my school didn't have faculty that specialized in it, and therefor, no undergrad classes in the subject. As a graduate student i would like to have my research focused on health/medicine through the framework of race/class/gender/marriage or family, so I'm looking to apply to programs that emphasize medical sociology. However, given the fact that I only have this B.A degree under my belt (and am currently working at an office job which has no connection to my sociological interests) i'm worried that I'm not qualified to be applying to PhD programs in my stated field of interest. Is this a valid concern?

Also, I figure that in applying to a Phd program, one must have a narrowed and purposeful research concentration. If at this point, coming straight out of college, I don't have this narrowly focused concentration in the field of sociology, then should I reconsider applying to a Phd program? Should instead opt for a masters program to help me flesh out my interests a bit more? Also, do you think that with my low undergrad GPA I could benefit from the boost of potentially better performance in a masters program? How much specificity are PhD programs looking for from applicants?

Is applying for a PhD program next fall even a realistic option for me given my background, current employment as an office drone and lack of undergrad coursework in my stated field of interest? If, perhaps, my research interest changed from medical soc to just marriage and family and health would I stand a better chance?

Edited by soc_gradGuy
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