avatarmomo Posted May 1, 2014 Share Posted May 1, 2014 I think the "holy shit" thread has not been very productive in providing future grad students with a clear guideline to assess graduate programs. It came to the point where people say "there is no real research going on in non-top 20 departments", which is completely nonsense. Those of us who are going to start graduate school in non-top 20 programs should better be hopeful towards the future, without being completely unrealistic. I guess, being disappointed and unhappy about the future program you will attend, only because of its position in the rankings, is the worst way to start graduate school. I admit that people should know the facts about academic hierarchy as often reminded by people already enrolled in top programs. But, one should also believe that she/he can be the most successful person in his/her cohort, or even in the whole history of that program. Even if one cannot reach such high goals, she can still be a very very strong sociologist at the end. People need motivation in the beginning of their graduate studies, so they should not be discouraged. As a sidenote, I agree that it is almost impossible to get a job at Michigan if you have a PhD from a program outside the top-20. But, considering today's job market, it is also very unlikely that you will immediately land a job at top-20 schools with a Michigan PhD. There are also huge variations within the top 10-20 programs. Check out Stanford's placement record for the last 7 years: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/soc/doctoral/recgrads.html. Except 2011, which has been a great year for Stanford, I do not think it is better than UC Irvine's placement: http://www.sociology.uci.edu/soc_grad_placement. I would like to know how much individual factors can make an impact on the game. Below, I listed some of the answers I encountered to the question "why are top programs better than lower ranked ones?". To what extent do they ring true? To what extent can individual factors supersede the particular shortcomings in lower-ranked programs? 1. Simply quality of training is better in top programs. By the time you get your PhD, you will have an excellent background in research methods/design, theory, and the particular sub-field you are interested in. Scholars in top programs are both the leading figures in their particular fields and excellent teachers. As you go below the rankings, quality of education deteriorates. 2. Quality of graduate students is better. Top programs are more selective. They recruit people who are better at asking sociologically relevant questions, thinking analytically, and organizing their arguments in a clear and persuasive style. In top programs, collaborating with really smart graduate students provides you with better opportunities to cultivate your research interests and get published. 3. There are more opportunities. Resources that supplement graduate student research are more abundant in top programs, such as funding, research centers, academic writing centers etc. You can participate in numerous conferences, research projects, workshops where you get the chance to work with or get inspired by leading sociologists. And, you will have money to do those things. 4. Getting published in top sociology journals is easier. Publishing is the key to academic progress, including landing a job at top institutions. In top departments, there are more people who often publish papers in top journals (AJS, ASR, SF, T&S, SP etc.). Publishing in such journals requires a certain set of skills, and these people can help you learn the craft of academic writing. You can not learn these skills in low ranked programs, simply because there are not as many people who publish in top journals. 5. Departmental culture is more collaborative or competitive. Either in a collaborative or a competitive way, you feel the peer pressure and the faculty's high expectations of you, and that pushes you forward. You start to have ever higher expectations of yourself, and this reflects on your work. 6. Prestige matters. You are invited into an elite social network. Your professors often collaborate with other professors of other top departments. And their letters of recommendation will weigh more when it comes to the job market. The frequency of contacts between top programs is greater than that between a top program and a low ranked program. By the time you start to look for a job, the faculty at other top programs and potential recruiters will be familiar with you and your work, thanks to the frequent relations among elite departments. Also, if two candidates with the same credentials compete for the same job, the one who will be hired is going to be from the more prestigious school. 7. Organization of departments are better adjusted to rising trends in sociology and to the job market (I think this is the case at Princeton). There is a low rate of attrition. If you follow the guideline provided for you throughout your graduate studies, you will get a highly demanded job at the end. Your adviser knows what is and will be expected by the recruiter departments. You will be guided appropriately. If something becomes lacking in the program, the department will remedy it as soon as possible though hiring new faculty or providing new resources for grad students. They can do this in no time because they have lots of money. gellert 1 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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