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neuroscience student possibly switching fields. what are my chances?


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Hi all,


So I'm a somewhat regular poster here and am a 3rd year cognitive neuroscience PhD student. Basically, I'm starting to realize fast the cognitive neuroscience is NOT the field for me. I'm much more interested in studying how people work together on a larger scale than one's indivudual neurons. I might try to switch into social neuroscience, but I feel like I'd have the same issues. I love volunteering at my local sexual trauma center and I write for a feminism magazine and I'm interested in studying how to overcome social inequality. I tend to always think big picture which is problematic in a field which is all about minor details of brain imaging techniques.

So I would be super appreciative of any feedback on whether or not swtiching is even possible. I would be applying NEXT application cycle so it would hopefully give me enough time to figure out what (and if) I'd like to apply.


here are my stats:


psychology BA with sociology minor


3.72 undergrad GPA from good liberal arts school

tons of undergrad research experience and published my honors thesis

tons of extracurriculars

glowing LOR's for undergrad

GRE in the low 1200's (old GRE, can retake if needed)


grad school GPA around 3.8

probably two cog neuro publications (co author)

I might finish my masters by the time I apply as well

I probably wont have stronger letters from my professors here


I'd be aiming for mid-range, fully funded phd programs. my interests are broad, but I would like to study social inequality of some sort. race, gender, ect. anything like that would be awesome.



So on paper, I think I look okay, but I'm really concered how awful it might look to leave one grad program to go to another. If I finish my masters, that might look better, but I'm not sure. I do know I want to study sociology or community psychology or something like that. I'm hoping I can write my personal statement along the lines of "I studied psychology and neuroscience but I realized I was missing studying people on a larger level and that's why I want to do sociology." Should I even try to bring psychology and cog neuro to sociology?

Do I even have a chance of switching into sociology? Or am I too much of a 'risk student' for switching programs?

Thanks for any feedback!






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Just a suggestion, to be taken with a grain of salt...


What is the sociology department at your CURRENT school like? It might be "easier" (read: feasible/smoother) to switch departments within your school than to apply anew to programs. You might want to talk to a grad administrator that you trust to see if (s)he is aware of such movements having taken place in the past.


I mention this route as I know a colleague who recently switched into sociology, at the end of her third year, from criminology. She had a pretty solid justification: sociology was where she had to be to address her project as she had come to envision it. From what I understand, this move required some finessing (POI egos and all that), but she was able to arrive at a nice compromise with the School of Graduate Studies (she was able to "count" one qualifying exam and some methods training courses from crim, but had to commit to another 2nd-year methods course and a fresh ethics submission). While she switched departments, staying within the same School of Grad Studies helped to make the transition easier.


You strike me more as a thoughtful student than an "at risk" one (I know a few people in sociology of health and illness with psych backrounds and I personally have worked at intersections of health-policy, sociologists are a very interdisciplinary gorup). However, it is also possible that you've just got some cold feet. I don't want to patronize, but you need to look at some of the reasons that you are hesitating and honestly ascertain whether or not a major switch will help; like I said, my colleague framed the switch as something that HAD to be done to do justice to her research project (this has more focus and teeth than "just" wanting to change because your interests are shifting). A similar, focused, argument might be that you want to switch given that you recognize the difference between where Soc PhDs end up versus Psych-esque PhDs and you want to align your fate with the former. I'd look into a talk with a grad admin or someone at your SGS, to get a feel for how others have worked through such impasses.


Good luck!

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