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Master's degree or chances of a Ph. D admission?


Wako

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Hello all,

 

I'm finishing up my BA at a small liberal arts college and am currently worried about my chances of admission into a Ph. D program. I know I want to pursue sociology (as a result of many life experiences, I wish to understand the intricacies of poverty, racism, and Capitalism in the United States). My stats aren't that good at this point, however.

 

- about a 3.06GPA (3.3 major GPA) -- like a lot of people, I started off very poorly and slowly got it together. I'm a student of color and found myself at a small, predominantly white school and had a tough time adjusting over the first two years of so at school.

- GRE scores (taking it on Saturday) but my averages of practices so far put me at: 157v/ 153q (73%/ 53%).

- One conference presentation

- Two research papers for classes (one of which I presented on at the conference, neither published)

- Experience as an RA for some research on racism

 

I am pretty certain that my Statement of Purpose will be very focused and my LOR's will be strong. But I know the type of people I'm competing with will be those rockstars with the perfect GPA's and awesome GRE scores. With my stats, is a Ph. D admission feasible? (my TOP top choice is a top 10 that I'm not too hopeful on, many of my other top choices are in the 15-30 range.)

 

I have asked for advice from others, and some people suggested pursuing a terminal Master's degree. I'm almost certain I would not be able to afford it without some sort of funding, and from what I hear, funded Master's programs are few and far in between. With my specified stats, would the terminal Master's degree be the better choice (in terms of getting me into a funded Ph. D program eventually)?

 

Thanks for any and all advice.

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Well I'm not an expert on Sociology or its admissions process, but I do think it wouldn't hurt for you to open your mind to the possibility of a Master's program.  Yes many are unfunded so you do have to review your finances carefully.  It may be possible for you to work your way through which would help a lot.  If  your professors are all nudging you toward a Master's program then that's a big hint that they don't think you're ready or competitive for a PhD program right now.  The application process is very expensive and time consuming so considering their input is a good idea.

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Wako, I agree with bradley610 that a terminal master's seems like a more viable next step than a funded PhD.  It will allow you to address the GPA issue and hone your research interests to something more manageable than poverty, racism and capitalism (that's at least half the field!).  A one year master's need not cost you a fortune, particularly if you have a good state university nearby.

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Well I'm not an expert on Sociology or its admissions process, but I do think it wouldn't hurt for you to open your mind to the possibility of a Master's program.  Yes many are unfunded so you do have to review your finances carefully.  It may be possible for you to work your way through which would help a lot.  If  your professors are all nudging you toward a Master's program then that's a big hint that they don't think you're ready or competitive for a PhD program right now.  The application process is very expensive and time consuming so considering their input is a good idea.

 

I haven't had the chance to discuss with my professors yet, though I plan on it this upcoming school year. Some of the people who've recommended the terminal Master's have been other grad students. Thanks for the response!

 

I'll be honest with you. I don't think pursuing a PhD program at the moment is right for you based on the information that you've given. Certainly, a Master's is doable then application toward a PhD program. Some of my feeling on this is based on your GPA. That just isn't gonna get it done at the moment, though with a strong performance in an MA program, it won't matter. Your GREs are ok, but again probably aren't sufficient for top 30 programs. More importantly though, I didn't see a clear research focus. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, especially at this stage of the game, but you need to have a somewhat clear picture about how research is conducted and what you would like to study to apply to PhD programs. Most people start too big and eventually whittle their ideas down to something manageable. Hell, I'm one of those people.

 

My situation was actually very similar to yours. I graduated with a 3.2  (3.8 in soc courses) and thought about applying to PhD programs but realized it was quite a longshot. So I contacted a professor at my alma mater and he asked me to come back to their program. Tuition was covered and I got a small stipend. Technically it wasn't full funding, but it was pretty damn good relative to most MA programs. Long story short, I finished with a 3.9. Could have gone on to a PhD, but decided it wasn't for me.

 

It can be done, but think hard about how to go about it. There's no shame in starting off with a Master's and moving up to the PhD.

 

Thanks for the advice. I've seen a lot of people talk about getting high GPA's in Master's programs-- is it easier to get high grades in Master's programs?

 

 

Wako, I agree with bradley610 that a terminal master's seems like a more viable next step than a funded PhD.  It will allow you to address the GPA issue and hone your research interests to something more manageable than poverty, racism and capitalism (that's at least half the field!).  A one year master's need not cost you a fortune, particularly if you have a good state university nearby.

 

I do have a bit more focused research ideas than I specifically said in the post. If that'll help at all, I specifically would like to study the experiences of first-generation and students of color in higher education as well as "diversity initiatives" in higher-ed. That's pretty broad still, but I planned on discussing this topic with some people in hopes of narrowing it down even more. It's a pretty deep interest of mine, and I know of some professors at some of the institutions I'm looking at that also look at these types of issues.

 

Thanks for the advice. I wasn't too aware of the one year Master's program until I was looking at MAPSS-- is the one year Master's pretty common amongst Master's degree recipients?

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There are a handful of MA programs that offer funding (on a competitive basis). I think a list has been discussed here before, but I can't easily find the thread. Two schools that do and have a history of strong placements into PhD programs are UW-Milwaukee and UNC-Charlotte. 

 

I would really recommend that you talk to one or two of your professors about this, though. They know you better than any of us. I certainly wouldn't rule out applying to PhD programs. It doesn't hurt to try. There is also often an opportunity for you to address "weaknesses" in your application with a summary statement. I would provide a similar account to what you did here - being a student of color in small, predominantly white school. Given your interests, it's a situation that committees at the schools that you're applying to might be sympathetic to, especially if the other components of your application are strong - and if the liberal arts school you'll graduate from is particularly selective.

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I do have a bit more focused research ideas than I specifically said in the post. If that'll help at all, I specifically would like to study the experiences of first-generation and students of color in higher education as well as "diversity initiatives" in higher-ed. That's pretty broad still, but I planned on discussing this topic with some people in hopes of narrowing it down even more. It's a pretty deep interest of mine, and I know of some professors at some of the institutions I'm looking at that also look at these types of issues.

 

 

Hmmm.  Unless you're looking specifically at Sociology of Education programs (usually housed in grad schools of education or jointly between ed schools and grad schools of arts/sciences) I'm not so sure a general sociology program is going to be the best place for you given these research interests.  Soc of Ed or Higher Ed (my field) is likely to be a better fit.  Higher ed particularly so if you end up going in a more applied direction (e.g., studying diversity initiatives).  

 

This also opens up the possibility of a master's in higher ed rather than a master's in sociology.  Depending on your career goals, you might find the former useful (and frankly, more marketable outside of the context of soc doctoral admissions).  And if you ultimately did decide to pursue a PhD or an EdD in higher ed you would definitely need a master's to be competitive as an applicant to the top programs.

Edited by hesadork
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I'm a tad late to the party but I am struggling with understanding why you are limiting your horizons already? 
Your GPA seems ok (mine was about the same) and your GRE is around the mean for Sociology.  If you are a minority then it would be a plus at some schools.  If you can get solid letters of recommendations from known entities in the field then you should be up there with the rest of them when applying to phd programs. 

 

Also wanting to do social inequality is good - you have a lot of strong schools all over the board so you could apply to high,mid and lower tier programs. Focus on your strengths and you should do equally well as many of us who got into last cycle. 

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