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MAPSS Chicago and where to go from here?


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Hello Forum, First time posting here...


I applied to five PhD Soc programs this year and was rejected from 3, waitlisted at 1 and at Univ of Chicago rejected but offered admission into their MAPSS program. I graduated three years ago from a large reputable public research university with a strong soc background, 3.5 UG GPA overall and 3.93 in the last two years, 70th percentile GRE scores and have since been working in DC at a government agency doing research into labor trafficking. I felt like I was reasonably competitve this year but maybe not so much given the awesome applicant pool out there. :(


Anyways, has anyone here done the MAPSS graduate studies program? If you have, would love to hear about your experiences and if you felt as if it assisted you in applying to PhD programs the following year. My hesitation about accepting is 1.) Money - I would have to take out loans and grants to cover tuition and would blow through my entire savings for cost of living. It is an extremely expensive program. I'm simply not sure if this would be a wise investment 2.) I'm worried that obtaining the MAPSS degree would not be significant in producing a stronger PhD application for the next cycle since I would really only have 3-4 months to get to know a professor and develop a thesis and a project to discuss in my applications. Their site goes on and on about the success rates and placement into PhD programs (of those they endorsed) but I want the scoop from those in the program and whether they felt like it was helpful in providing skills and training for PhD hopefuls.


If you chose not to go into MAPSS, I think that information is just as useful for helping me to make a decision. I'm really torn on this one all. Part of me also wants to re-take the GRE, be more proactive when it comes to contacting professors over the summer and maybe even doing some additional research this year at a think tank to make my second try at applying to PhD programs more successful. Let me know your thoughts on all of this! Thanks for reading!!!

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I've read about MAPSS here on other boards. These are some of the themes I've spotted. 1. MAPSS, like many Masters programs, will likely place you into a top 20 PhD program. 2. It's hard to build relationships with faculty at the program because it flies by so quickly. Some people on the board did MAPSS and reapplied the year after graduating from MAPSS because their relationship wasn't strong enough to get a recommendation. 3. It is expensive. Apply for outside scholarships if you can to alleviate the amount of debt you're going to incur doing the program. 4. I **hear** they have workshops for building a strong PhD application. Ask the DGS if this is true.

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I did my MSW at UChicago, where i took classes with and got to know several MAPSS students.  There's a ton of variance in how useful they perceive the program to be, and how happy they were overall with their decision.  I think it depends largely on faculty you take classes with and work with, as some profs seem to be much more helpful with LORs and thesis mentoring than others.  It has a reputation for being a huge cash cow for the U of C, and I know that there are consistently several students every year who still fail to get PhD offers.  Personally, I would weigh very carefully the financial aid offer they gave you, how much debt you would need to incur, and how good you've been, generally speaking, building relationships with profs in the past.


I need to also add that, from what I've heard, no one in the program reapplies during the first quarter-- they all wait until they've graduated. At this point, you'll already have a thesis in hand, and (hopefully) professors who know you pretty well and can vouch for you in LORs.

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I did MAPSS last year, and I have talked to several prospectives/admits about this. Here is my personal take on the questions.

1. Money--as far as i know, many students get partial tuition waivers. Yes, it is still very expensive. Whether it is worth it depends on what one does during the degree. Everyone is offered the same resources that are "out there" in the program and the university, but people turn out to be able to tap on very little or a lot of the resources, mostly depending on how persistent they are.

2. Most MAPSS students apply not in the first year, but after they finish the program. I did this. By then one will have had over a year to interact with faculty members and written an MA thesis and developed more sense of sociological research, which will help you decide if PhD is the right choice and, if probably yes, how to persuade adcomms to send the offer letters. Btw, UChicago is a tough intellectual environment, and after MAPSS, a lot of students I know did find other routes of career make more sense to them--which I personally think is a good thing.

3. What one gets out of MAPSS highly varies by the person. MAPSS is not a highly structured program--the student gets to choose 8 of the 9 required courses, and write a thesis of her own choice. You can imagine that one can choose the more advanced courses or easier ones, do extremely well or so so in these courses, find an awesome thesis adviser or an okay one, produces a great publishable thesis or pull up whatever to get the degree. Some people go to a number of workshops after the courses, while some do not go at all. Some work as research assistants during or after the program, while some do not.

One person repeatedly told me: what is important is not the decision, but the work after the decision. Because MAPSS is such a flexible program, I think this idea is especially true in this case. If one just wants to get a degree and think this will help with the application, then I think this person is almost set to fall short of the expectation, because a degree per se is not going to help much. If you see a lot of things you want to do during MAPSS, then perhaps to go is a wise choice.

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