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Seeking Advice for Application for 2015


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I realize that this is a bit early and there are people waiting on admissions decisions (and good luck to those who are), but I'm in the midst of preparing to apply in the next cycle and I wanted to get some advice early on.  I've lurked quite a bit, but have yet to post.


 Here's the deal: Like many applicants, I did not major in sociology.  In fact my major was Political Theory and my related area (equivalent to a minor) was economics.  Still, I took a number of courses that were cross-listed with sociology and/or social policy, including my senior seminar, and I'm familiar with the field. 


 The bad news: undergraduate cumulative GPA is not good, a 3.37.  The last two years is 3.4, major and minor combined is 3.7.  This includes an Econ GPA of 3.58 and a Public Affairs/Policy/Political Theory GPA of something a little higher, 3.7-3.8.  I also took a statistics course designed for social and biological science majors and did OK.  And I have an intermediate reading level in a scholarly modern language.  So there's that.


 That said, I am not really counting much on the undergrad GPA, because a) I'll have been out of undergrad for about a decade by the time I start any program and  I went to Tier II law school and did much better (the GPA is low by non-law standards but my class rank is top 15%), I served as a research assistant for a relatively high profile professor, I was on a competitive law journal and completed a "publishable quality" article, and I've been a practicing attorney for a number of years.  And it just so happens that what I want to study and research dovetails nicely with my practice and my past academic experience in the social sciences. In this area I have considerable experience and can point to fairly high profile impact litigation experience (i.e., social justice oriented).  I also am pretty involved with social justice organizations and sit on two nonprofit boards, one of which is dedicated to providing legal services to the poor and is heavily engaged in social welfare policy reform. 


 I have not taken the GRE but I will be taking it in May (already scheduled), and I did purchase an online preparation course. I did OK on the LSAT, scoring in the low 80 percentile range. 


 I have researched programs and the ideal setting would be urban and/or have plenty of economic sociologists and urbanists, particularly people with interest and training in political economy and/or law.  My partner would prefer that I not drag him to the ends of the earth so I'm probably going to need to rule out some locations (i.e., the South and probably the Southwest).  I am more concerned about fit than anything else, although I also want to study at a department that has a good chance at placement.  I am not as concerned about academic placement versus research or applied, particularly since I would like to use my law degree and license in the future.  The "praxis" option is one of the reasons that I find sociology so appealing. 


For reasons personal and professional (namely, the urban financial crisis), Michigan is the ideal location so my top choice is University of Michigan, which I know will be next to impossible. That being said, there is a faculty member there I am reading right now and I think that we would be a good fit.   I also considering Michigan State University as a safety in-state choice because they have a number of urban studies resources, although I am concerned about their ability to provide funding and their placement rate.  Beyond that, I am looking at (in no particular order) Temple University (urban specialization is a major consideration here but similar concerns to MSU and they have no placement data), University of Pennsylvania (same plus faculty interests), UC-Irvine (law), UC-Davis (law particularly Fred Block), U-Wisc (law and economic sociology), Northwestern (law and economic sociology), Columbia, NYU and UChicago (primarily for urban settings and crossover with law on all three of those), Yale, Brown and Cornell.  The latter three all have individuals and research centers that I think would fit well.


 Am I out of my mind and need to scale back? Any advice on what I should do to improve my chances? Advice on who to reach out to, when and how to reach out to them?


 All advice appreciated.  Thanks!

Edited by jdsoc28
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Based on your social justice and political economy interests, and urban setting - I would also look through the Faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center and see if you might want to apply there. I suspect you'd be much happier there than at any of the Ivy's you listed.

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Thanks.  I have looked at CUNY, too; I'm a big fan of Frances Fox Piven's work on social welfare policy and collective action.  And I have also read David Harvey, although he's in the history department and not sociology.  Do you know if there is any collaboration with the law school over there? I see that there is a lot of interdisciplinary work with some of the other departments, including Social Work, but sociology is not listed.  Of course it also looks like the graduate center draws on a number of other campuses. 


 My primary concern with NY, Chicago and anything on the coasts generally is high COL. That being said, New York experienced a fiscal crisis that I would like to use in my research and the resources are handy, and Bridgeport isn't too far away, either. 

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Living in New York is very challenging. Indeed. I don't know about any collaboration with law schools. But I can tell you that people like David are very interdisciplinary - he works in anthropology, environmental psychology, geography, many fiends. His appointment is in several fields. And departmental affiliation is not especially strict with many of the faculty who are associated with these multiple departments. There are also many centers and collaborations going on there.


It would be worth reaching out to the faculty there and expressing your interest and describing your project. They will be receptive and point you in the right directions. CUNY is the largest public urban university in the country - so there are a lot of resources and it's an activist/marxist/political economy haven for students and faculty (administration is another thing, but that's all schools these days). Feel free to PM me if you have other questions about the school or the faculty you mentioned.

Edited by Canis
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello everyone,


This seems like an appropriate place to tack on my questions, seeing as I will also be applying for sociology PhD programs for entry in fall of 2015.  Any answers are appreciated.


I share many of the same concerns as others who have posted.  Specifically because my background is not in sociology.  I hold a B.S in Business Administration with a Finance Major with a 3.83 cumulative GPA and 4.0 in major.  I also hold a M.S. with Distinction, in Finance and Investment from a top UK university.  I will have three years of work experience prior to the program, including a year in wealth management and two years in investment banking.  I also completed a research dissertation for my Master's program, and earned a mark of Distinction.  


My concern is the seemingly one track direction of my prior study and work experience, that on first glance does not seem aligned with that of sociology.  I am hoping that my SOP will allow me to explain my research interests and make a compelling case regarding my background.  My research interests lie in the field of economic sociology, with an emphasis on herd behavior, and collective decision making as it pertains to markets and economic systems.  This should tie in with my dissertation research, considering that I examined explanations for the value premium and posited evidence for systematic behavior and cognitive errors in decision making across whole groups of market participants.


With this in mind, are there any suggestions for certain programs I should consider?  How I can make myself stand out in the SOP? And how many programs I should apply to in order to almost guarantee acceptance?


As a note, I have yet to take the GRE but let's assume I earn average scores for PhD candidates.


Thanks for all the comments, and best of luck to others. 

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Hi, All,


This article is a little outdated, but I found it very helpful when preparing my application for submission. It is written by a professor, thus showcasing the perspective of adcomms. While geared primarily toward recent college graduates, the author also touches on application suggestions for prospective graduate students who have been out of school for some time.




Hope it helps!

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