Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

how big of a range to apply to - and what are the consequences?


gilbertrollins
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi all -- thanks again for all the help so far. My list is basically the top ten for economic sociology, plus Duke and Indiana for the economic and mathematical sociology. Recognizing that I'm not Good Will Hunting, I'm thinking about UC Irving and other potentials.

Observation, correct or incorrect? Mathematical and economic sociology have made bigger inroads at middle ranks and lower tiers than Ivy's where methodological inertia may have a stronger hold.

I've been checking placement at lower ranked programs, and it seems . . oof. How bad is the job market in sociology? I hear it's atrocious, but that's from economics peers who all have options to go into private industry and government if not academics.

Another observation, correct or incorrect? There seems to be a lot more lateral and vertical movement in sociology than other disciplines, who might not be as egalitarian minded.

So, what is the probability of ending up in a 4/4 teaching or liberal arts position if one attends a middle ranked program -- approaching 1? And are other departments like Indiana, Duke, and Irving placing students up/laterally who specialize in quant methods, econ soc, etc as these fields grow?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The job market could be worse, but not by much. http://asanet.org/research/current_research_projects.cfm#jobs

Sociologists also always have the option to get a job outside academia. The difference with economists is that they'll get paid a lot.

On your first observation: I wouldn't say mathematical and economic sociology are bigger in lower ranked programs, nor that the Ivy's are subject to "methodological inertia" (nor that the Ivy's are all top programs, for that matter). I'll leave mathematical sociology aside for the moment because of its multiple possible meanings (as per the other thread). Economic sociology is found everywhere, more or less. It is sometimes noted that quantitative methods are more hegemonic in the middle tier. Around here there are a few explanations for that. One is that these programs aspire to the top tier and so hire people who can produce a lot of decent work quickly. It's "easy" to do decent quantitative work quickly, whereas an ethnography is either really great or just run of the mill and it takes years to complete. Another possible reason is on the supply side, where top tier programs overproduce quant methodologists who all end up moving down a tier. The qualitative people either stay on top or get bumped down to the third tier.

In any case, I would definitely not think of the top ranked programs as suffering from some kind of methodological path dependency. These programs have the luxury to diversify their faculty, hiring the best of all methods.

On your second observation. There has been research done on the extent of vertical mobility in professional sociology. The pith is that the vast majority of the vertical movement is downward. That's not inherently a bad thing. There are many wonderful places to work that don't have ranked sociology departments. If it's your goal to be in a top department, then chances are you need to attend a top department. People are very rarely hired into higher tiers. Exceptions happen when your advisor is a big name and your publishing record is exemplary. Both conditions appear to be necessary but, alone, insufficient. That being said, if the lowest ranked program to which you apply is UC IrvinE, then you're not in bad shape. That's still a roughly top-25 program with an extremely active research faculty and top quality students. I've personally known students who have turned down top-5 programs to go to UCI. Last year we had a thread about programs we think might move up the rankings in the next round of USNWR, and UCI was a popular nominee.

This all goes to show that rankings matter less than reputation, for which they are a proxy. If your program is known for economic sociology, your advisor is a top dog in the subfield, you publish, and you network with the right people, then there's little reason why you can't get a job in a higher ranked program (aside from the simply fact of low demand and oversupply).

Now on your final question: Whether schools like Duke or Indiana will place upwards is a tricky question. On the one hand, those two programs are excellent. The quality of training there is equal to any other program in the country, and their reputation reflects that. The thing about placing people higher is that there really isn't much higher to go. The thing about breaking into the top 10 programs is that... there are only 10 of them! (or 13 or whatever it really is). So it's just a game of numbers. So few jobs open up that you might never have the opportunity to even apply for an AP spot at those programs. But I really wouldn't worry about moving up from Duke and Indiana. They both place well. I chose a program ranked in the 15ish range over a top-5 without too much worry about the differences is placement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And for what it's worth, I applied to 7 programs ranked 5 to 28 (the order set, in terms of ranks went something like {5,5,14,14,27,28,28}). I got accepted at a top-5 and wait-listed (eventually withdrew) from a 28. I wouldn't say it's a total crapshoot, because fit has so much to do with outcome, but it's really hard to predict where you'll get in. It's not worth applying to any programs as "back-ups". If you don't want to go there, don't apply. If you don't think you'll like the job you get when you finish, don't apply. It makes more sense to apply two years in a row than to settle for a program you don't like.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is the common consensus on an economics board I'm on as well -- you really need to consider seriously whether you'd actually go spend 5 years somewhere when you put in "safety" applications -- otherwise you're wasting everyone's time and money, especially your own.

Sounds like movement is no different in sociology than anywhere else yet -- you move down in rank for your first job, and then down again for your tenure track. UG --> Grad may be the only part of this process where there's genuine opportunity for upward mobility. If that's the case, I agree that staying a year and reapplying is the optimal strategy to maximize net present-discounted utility. (thought I'd throw some economese in there - zing!)

I'm in Chicago, and was thinking I would try to get an RAship at NU or Chicago over the summer if things don't go well this round. Economists take external-institutional RA's with some frequency. Is that the case in sociology or no? Also, what are the R&R time frames on most sociology journals? Six months? I'd probably start hammering something empirical and publishable the minute I got shut out, to try and get a good line on my CV before reapplying.

The academic job market is crap everywhere, bottom line. As far as the "neoliberal hegemony creates a world such that economists are employable" meme goes - sure, there are people who are happy in economics to go work as applied statisticians for companies, or put mortgage backed security figures into spread sheets for regulators. But there are still tons of "I wanted to be Einstein and ended up in Lichtenstein" economics job market candidates out there.

You've just basically got to have a zany discount factor to want to be an academic -- the academy is a tightly controlled monopoly with enormous barriers to entry and rents sought and captured in terms of prestige and financial patronage. The idea that tenure and public funding of education work together to foster intellectual independence and competitive checks on political and ideological hegemony in scholarship pretty much abuse every statistic one can get about the height of barriers to entering the scholarly conversation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The one thing in sociology--I think our tenure process tends to be a little less brutal than econ's (especially outside of the top 10-15), so that there's more often just "one move down" as you put it.

If you're concerned about placement at schools like UCI or Duke or even Indiana, ask them (and ask your potential adviser about their students' placement)--at most places, though, this is unfortunately a conversation that's easier to have after you're accepted. They'll probably only give you the success stories or fail to mention that certain positions are non-tenure track, but it will give you an idea of "the possible". Once you're in school, "playing the game" becomes important. Most schools, probably especially top schools, place in a wide range of colleges and universities departments. Some schools have place particularly poorly recently because all their applicants apply for only top 25 jobs and then (obviously) not everyone gets them. If getting a top academic position is important to you, know that (for quant people, but it's also common for qual people) an ASR/AJS is the best thing to "move up" or "stay up" depending on where you are. I don't know how it is in another disciplines, but an Indiana PhD with an ASR article will look a lot like a Harvard PhD with an AJS article on paper and in those situations, the individual qualitites of the work (how sexy is the topic, how trendy is the subfield, how cool is the methodology) and candidate (is this a guy a want down the hall from me for 10 years?) matter a lot more than credentialing. However, just publishing a lot anywhere is a good start. At my top ten school, there are a lot of people who will graduate with no publications, or perhaps just one publication which, for schools looking to hire researchers, is not a good sign. A couple of qualitative sociologists (Matt Desmond, Adam Reich, Phil Gorski) who got top jobs published their masters dissertations as a book, for example, or published an early ASR/AJS article based on their work (Alice Goffman). Of course, those examples all got their degrees from top schools, but it would hypothetically possible at least to try to do the same from anywhere. And even if it doesn't become a book, there still should be gaps in the literature you can try to fill with term papers, etc.

Places will hire outside research assistants for big grants (these days, it seems most common with health; apparently in the 90's, it was criminology; in the 80's, education, or so I've been told by my elders) but I have no idea how you get "tapped into" the kind of network where you hear about those opportunities. Since they're hiring locally, there tends not to be a central place where this kind of information is posted. Contacting the department secretary of U Chicago and Northwestern would be the only thing I could think of.

Journals turn around time varies--the best place I know to check is on Soc Job Market Rumors's journal section.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"That said, when you are on the market, if you have top letters from at least one top scholar and you have published good papers, as sole or co-author, and your dissertation draft chapters are really, really good, you will get a good job. Getting pubs is not so straightforward in the U.S. system as in our system because most PhD programs may not look favorably or even disallow a collection of articles as a thesis (something to chat with people about after you are accepted), and (2) have more course requirements so it is difficult to get papers going independent of the thesis. That's why you want to hook up with someone who wants you to work with them and is generous with student co-authors (easy to see from the CV). But all of these details can be handled later, after you know what your options are. "

Yet again - this is the advice I got from my guiding voice (big name). I asked whether it would be a good idea to apply to places like Rice, Albany, NYU.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am applying to a very big range personally, but I am also including MA programs (with a track record of funding). 2 top 10, 2 top 20, 3 top 31, 2 top 60, 2 top 90 (MA programs), + Simon Fraser, Toronto and Victoria (for an MA). I figure I should get 2-4 offers with funding with this wide of a list. If I do get an MA first I will aim higher the next time around with a couple somewhat lower ranked (40's & 50's) thrown in for good measure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do keep in mind that, as much as applicants are eager to be admitted to as many schools as possible, programs are just as keen on admitting students who are likely to accept their offers.

Anyone who studies 'the grad cafe' message boards in some detail is likely to get a pretty good idea of his/her approximate competitiveness in the applicant pool. Yes, the process is stochastic. No, there are never any guarantees. All you can do is put your best foot forward and give it your best shot. If you have a pretty good idea that you're going to be a competitive applicant in a certain range of programs, there's not much reason to apply to schools that are significantly farther down on your list. For one thing, never apply to a school that you wouldn't seriously consider attending (Ask yourself: If this was the only school I got into, would I attend?). These schools are very aware that they tend to be people's second and third choices in graduate education. They've become very adept at sniffing out applicants who seem too good to be true.

Last year, out of irrational paranoia more than anything else, I applied to several schools that I knew to be well below my range of competitiveness. At one of these schools, I was contacted directly by the DGS. We had a very awkward conversation in which he told me that I was their top candidate and asked me directly if my application to his program had been 'sincerely in earnest'. Far from feeling flattered, I was embarrassed. Another school called up one of my recommenders to ask the same question. We both approached the situation honestly- and I was rejected from both programs.

I could have saved a lot of time, money, and general effort on everyones part had I simply applied to the programs which I knew to be a good fit. And by fit, I mean a magic combination of selectivity, academic strengths, and research program. I know that it can be difficult to ascertain 'fit' from a distance, but be assured that all programs have consummate experience sussing out which students are likely to accept their offers if admitted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to make a caveat/clarification to my statement: "Anyone who studies 'the grad cafe' message boards in some detail is likely to get a pretty good idea of his/herapproximate competitiveness in the applicant pool."

I do think that there is a general consensus that immediately quantifiable attributes (GRE, GPA) tend to be vastly overemphasized on 'the grad cafe'. Of course these metrics are important. But, as many have pointed out in the past, it's easy to get caught up obsessing over them since they're such an easy short-hand basis for comparison. Far more important are the many elements of your application that are not easily compared in on online forum. There are many other ways to get a far better picture of the type of student admitted to a certain program. These include: talking to current students, talking to your undergraduate advisor, talking to the DGS at the program of interest, etc. These are going to be your most valuable resources. Take it from a current student who has recently been around the block in the 2012 application cycle!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Chuck.

That is a great advice thanks! I did not apply to any schools that I would not seriously consider attending, including the MA programs I chose to apply to. As you said, I have generally good idea of my competitiveness like many others on here. That said, like many others on here, I have other factors or blips on my application that blur my ability to assess my real competitiveness which caused me to apply wider than I had originally anticipated (including 6! MA programs, hoping for funding). While I feel I am a very strong applicant, 2 years of research experience, 3.94 GPA from my degree granting institution, honors thesis, and extremely enthusiastic letter writers (i.e. telling me that I will get into a very good program), lack of prestige of my undergraduate institution, somewhat lower community college GPA (3.2) and my lackluster quant score give me cause for concern. I am sure I am not the only one on here that feels generally competitive but has concerns about how other parts of their application might be looked at. I would like to go to the best program possible and longterm I hope for the best placement possible, but I don't care if I work in a super prestigious institution, my goal is a tenure-track job, basically anywhere in the US or Canada, and I am hopeful that my program choices will make that possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

question for @econosocio - are all your recommenders economists? I'm studying economic sociology right now and if you want to study economic sociology, it would help to have a broader range of recommenders - as I don't think many economists speak in the same language as sociologists who study economic sociology... you can PM me if its better to have a more detailed conversation about this. (Your comment above that your writers are economists make me wonder why you are choosing to study sociology -- or do you mean some of your writers are sociologists who are doing economic sociology work...)

Link to comment
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
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

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