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Sociology prof who will answer any question about grad school applications

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Jujubea,

 

Because in many PhD programs there are students in their 40s-50s who want the degree for personal as much as for professional reasons. Plus they're already established in their fields, often have kids in college, and can afford to pay tuition out of pocket. You see this in education PhDs, but in sociology, psychology and other fields too.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Gabe

Edited by fuzzylogician
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Akashpatel,

 

I think your research experience will offset your GRE scores, which are pretty decent anyway. For an English or history PhDs you'd expect top GREv scores, and for math-related fields you'd expect top GREq scores. But for bio I think the scores probably aren't quite as critical. I'd be surprised if you don't get into a couple of top places.

 

Best of luck!

 

Gabe

Edited by fuzzylogician
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Thanks Gabe. This is very helpful.

I am just concerned that these top universities might have cut-offs that my application won't be considered for further review, if the admissions sort according to GRE scores. Would that be a case in Ivy-schools or other top institutions?

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They might do that at the committee level, but the cutoffs would be soft. But at the university level if they have cutoffs at all I would expect them to be very low. You should be safe from those.

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Hi, this is a bit more unconventional situation but I was wondering if you could still help.

 

I am an undergrad who transferred out senior year, but now I don't think that was a good decision to transfer image-wise, bc i am contemplating grad school in the field (not sociology but another humanities). Supposing you were on the admissions committee, does this record affect my chances (supposing i still have rec letters, good writing samples and all other things considered equal)? Also I was wondering how it would look to transfer back to my old school?

 

if i continue at my school now, my record looks like this:

 

old school

freshman to sophomore year fall - old major

sophomore year spring - withdrawals (personal issues)

junior year fall - old major + new major

junior year spring - old major + new major

 

new school

senior year fall - new major

senior year spring - new major + electives

5th year fall - new major (technically could graduate but need in-res credits) + electives

5th year spring - new major

 

if I go back, my transcript will look like this:

 

old school

freshman to sophomore year fall - old major

sophomore year spring - withdrawals (personal issues)

junior year fall - old major + new major

junior year spring - old major + new major

 

new school

senior year fall - new major

 

senior year spring - withdraw/work

 

old school

5th year fall - new major

5th year spring - one course or two courses in new major

 

I suppose transferring out in the first place may hurt my application but if i frame it terms of an immature decision will that help? How much should I elaborate on my personal issues with social anxiety/feelings of incompetence in life? More importantly, i'm considering transferring back so would like to know if that just looks worse or if looks any better than staying here... Sorry for the long, awkward post! I really do appreciate any opinion on this.

Edited by fruitbat

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Fruitbat,

 

If I were on an admissions committee reviewing your app I'd look at your GREs, GPA(s), research experience, recommendation letters and personal statement, and wouldn't pay much attention to your transfer history. Admissions committee members shouldn't play amateur psychologist. And arguably your transfers are a good thing that gave you valuable experience, wisdom and arete. But I'd consider applying to a relatively large number of programs, since there's a chance committee members in some programs might take a negative view of the transfers. But you wouldn't want to enter such programs anyway.

 

Best of luck!

 

Gabe

Edited by TakeruK
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Thank you Gabe. I was feeling guilty about my transferring and was seriously doubting the possibility of grad school. I hope most admissions committee members are like you and will not be so concerned about my transcript record. I will take time after undergrad to do a teaching program too.

 

Also, can I get your opinion on another question? Supposing you mentored an undergrad student and then that undergrad disappeared without contact and went to another university, and then five years later or so resurfaces as a grad student in your exact field/subfield. The relationship wasn't very close or anything but just a one-sidedly helpful one--offering helpful direction and encouragement in the field. Do you think you would feel any desire to collaborate with the student again if the student reached out, or has the bridge burned, so to speak? How about an 'average' professor that you know? I'm referencing my old undergrad, and this is another thing that is making me feel guilty about transferring out and that maybe I should go back. Again, I'm sorry about the unconventional question. I have not really found anyone else in a position to help me answer.

Edited by fruitbat

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Fruitbat,

Hard to say as it's a very personal situation, and depends on the prof's time commitments. But it's possible that the professor has more advises now than five years ago, especially if his/her department has a grad program.

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Thanks for creating a thread like this! Even though I am in a different field, I was wondering if you could tell me how graduate committees look at professional work experience when comparing candidates. I have a generally lower overall GPA of a 3.3 (major GPA higher), but I went into the work force in my major of Mechanical Engineering to gain experience after college. I now have 2.5 years of engineering experience on top of other research/internship experiences, and I was wondering how the committee compares me to higher GPA candidates coming directly out of school.

 

Also I was wondering how master (w/ thesis) candidates are judged. I have strong understanding on what concentration I want to pursue but I don't have a good idea on what I would pick my thesis on. So I found it difficult to target POI because there are a couple of them that would be great to work with. 

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This is a tough one, coming as it does from a different field. I'll guess that engineering profs will value work experience more for a masters applicant who is likely to finish and reenter the workforce, and GPA more for a PhD who is more likely to stay in academia. 

 

If you know what concentration you want, you're in good shape. You can figure out the thesis topic during the first 1-2 semesters of coursework.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Gabe

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Hi Gabe, 

 

Thanks so much again for doing this.

 

I just finished my first semester in a doctoral program in an interdisciplinary humanities field.  However, because of multiple reasons I'm looking to "transfer" (or technically just start over): fewer resources/faculty at the university related to my topic, location, and desire to be trained in a specific methodology, rather than a "theme" or "topic."  I wasn't aware of any of these issues when I started the program and they have only slowly emerged over the course of the past couple months.  I realize that graduate students change programs for various reasons, including just having a bad fit with their school.

 

In my applications, I do mention that I am at Z University now and think that X University would enable me to better reach my academic goals, but I don't spend more than 1-2 sentences talking about the "transfer" and try to focus on the positives of X University.  I want to acknowledge it, but not make it a big deal.  

 

All that said, two questions: Is it unrealistic to expect to be admitted to another program after having started this one?  And am I pitching it "correctly"?

 

Thanks!

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Mi.sun,

Yes, you're pitching it correctly. 1-2 sentences is just right, and the tone should not be negative toward your current program.

 

What you're doing is normal and good for everyone involved: you have a right and responsibility to find the program that is the best possible fit for you, and the faculty and administrators at your current program will eventually have to be responsive to their graduate students 'voting with their feet,' which is pretty much the only power graduate students have in academia.

 

Best of luck!

 

Gabe

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Gabe, thanks for the help!  I like the "voting with our feet" idea.  Can I ask two more questions?

 

First, I'm assuming that I'm at a slight disadvantage to applicants who are not currently enrolled in a doctoral program.  Is there any way to offset this disadvantage through my application materials?  

 

Second, I haven't informed my advisor that I'm submitting applications, as I don't want to generate any bad feeling in the department in the off-chance that I do stay (i.e., no guarantee that I'll get into another program).  Two of my letters come from professors in my undergrad department and another from my current university who is in the field in which I'm looking to transfer (took a class with him).  Will it look a bit odd that I don't have anyone from my doctoral program writing on my behalf?  The problem is that I simply don't know anyone well enough after just one semester, although I don't mention this in my application.

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I think if you explain your situation clearly in your personal statement, you should be fine. In reality your situation is not that unique, and I'd expect most of the admissions committee members to be pretty understanding. and I don't think you're necessarily at a disadvantage relative to applicants who are not already enrolled in graduate programs. The truth might be the opposite. It's just hard to say.

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Lifelong Player,

Sorry for the delay, but I didn't realize this discussion had flipped over to a second page.

 

It sounds like you're in a position to be a competitive applicant for many good programs right now, but would be more competitive for top-flight ed school PhDs with some teaching experience. Are the interdisciplinary programs you're thinking about housed in Arts and Sciences, or in colleges of education?

 

Gabe

Dear Gabe,

 

Thanks for your reply.  I would get some experience and try to increase my GRE scores to 90th percentile.  Some of the programs I am thinking about are run jointly by School of Education and Sch. of Arts and Sciences, while some are run by just the Ed School.

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Dear Gabe,

 

I hold an undergraduate degree and two masters. Which GPA will be taken into account by the Admissions Office (uGPA or masters' GPA)? If the combined GPA is considered, how it will be calculate (as an average between three different GPAs or rather as the average between all my marks together)?

 

Thank you very much,

 

Robes

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I think most admissions offices will recognize the GPAs as separate, but might apply a minimum cutoff to the lowest one. If your application makes it from the admissions office to the department, the dept admissions committee will certainly look at all 3 GPAs and will look closely at your transcripts as well.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Happy holidays!

 

Gabe

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Hi Professor,

Is that the normal circuit, the apps go to the admissions office and then to the specific department? What would cause an app to die in the admissions office, something simple like incomplete transcripts or low GPA or do they get scrutinized for content? And if I may ask one more question, how much of a factor is age? 40s, 50s, 60s? Is that much of a factor? OK, I'm editing in one other question if I may. Does it do any good to contact the departments in January to offer a transcript with the grades for the just completed semester which wasn't available at the time of submitting the application?

Edited by eyepod

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Thanks a lot! So, for instance, if my lowest GPA is below a given cutoff (and the remaining two above it), what would happen at the admissions office stage? They would only consider the GPAs that make for admission?

Edited by Robes

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Robes,

That's how it works at my institution, but A) I'm sure things are done differently elsewhere, and B) universities change their policies and procedures regularly, particularly when new deans, provosts, presidents etc. are appointed. For example where I work we had a university-wide GRE cutoff that ended this year, and now departments receive all applications regardless of GRE scores. I'm not sure what the latest policy is with regard to GPA.

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Espresso Shot,

 

See my response to Robes above. Regarding age, I'm not in a position to generalize, and committee members will never want to be accused of agism. But on the other hand, PhD programs are usually money losers for universities, but can be seen as a long-term investment if program X's PhD alumni say nice things about program X and encourage their own undergraduate and masters students to apply to program X. But for an older student, the window for doing this is obviously much smaller. It's just hard to make a case that committing scarce resources training a student in her/his 50s-60s makes sense for the department or university, although I'm sure there are exceptions.

 

Regarding your last question, yes, you should definitely contact the dept with your updated grades, scores, or whatever. It shows commitment and energy, both of which are a plus IMHO.

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