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Scared I Won't Get In Anywhere


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Hi all. I'm new to the forum, so I apologize if my post is out of place.

 

So I'm currently a senior at a university in Texas. I'm a double major in sociology and political science with minors in women's studies and community & urban studies. I'm having that sort of pre-applicaiton anxiety about applying to graduate school for a PhD in sociology. I'm currently working on a senior research project for sociology with a decent overall GPA (3.6 with one more year to get it up; started out as a biology major and nearly failed first year chemistry and stuggled in a few other courses not related to any of my majors or minors). Ultimately, my goal is to get my PhD from Emory. All in all, I guess there are a few main things I'm scared about.

 

1. I'm terrified of the GRE because I'm not even sure how to go about preparing for it. Also, I get super bad testing anxiety, but I know that applicaiton committees don't care about that. I'm scared that my GRE scores won't be high enough to even get me past the first round of applicaiton reviews.

 

2. I'm scared my writing sample will just be seen as another rehash of former research. My project has to do with measuring college students of color and their attitude toward the Confederate flag in modern settings and how that relates to racial identity formation. I plan on using my senior project as my writing sample, but I'm scared people will read it and think, "Great, another piece on racial identity." Is there any way to avoid falling into that sort of niche that comes with researching and wiriting about racial identity?

 

3. I'm really scared that regardless of my GRE scores, writing samples, GPA, SOP, LORs, and everything else that goes with my application that I won't be accepted anywhere simply because of the school I come from. The person directing my senior research project has indicated she thinks I have a great chance of getting into Emory with the completion of my research project, but I really feel like she feels obligated to say that. Plus, I get the feeling that people from the top schools will see the school I come from, think it's some rural school from Texas and instantly discount my applicaiton.

 

If anyone has any way to sort of overcome these feelings or have felt the same way, I'd love to hear about it. It just feels like none of my other friends are experiencing this anxiety so I don't really have anyone to talk to about it. My advisor and senior project director have both been incredibly positive, but again, it somewhat feels like they're obligated to say that.

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Stop fretting about the GRE and go take it. If you do badly the first time you don't have to send your scores, and it will demystify the test for you and help you figure out what to prepare for. And yes, your application might be better off if you were from a more highly ranked institution, but this is probably not a disqualifier, provided that you have good research experience. I had just under a 3.6 in undergrad and got into good programs. It's really hard to say whether or not you'll get into Emory without knowing more about your research experience and without knowing your GRE scores, but I think your undergrad professors would probably just tell you if they thought applying was a waste of your time. 

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Hi all. I'm new to the forum, so I apologize if my post is out of place.

 

So I'm currently a senior at a university in Texas. I'm a double major in sociology and political science with minors in women's studies and community & urban studies. I'm having that sort of pre-applicaiton anxiety about applying to graduate school for a PhD in sociology. I'm currently working on a senior research project for sociology with a decent overall GPA (3.6 with one more year to get it up; started out as a biology major and nearly failed first year chemistry and stuggled in a few other courses not related to any of my majors or minors). Ultimately, my goal is to get my PhD from Emory. All in all, I guess there are a few main things I'm scared about.

 

1. I'm terrified of the GRE because I'm not even sure how to go about preparing for it. Also, I get super bad testing anxiety, but I know that applicaiton committees don't care about that. I'm scared that my GRE scores won't be high enough to even get me past the first round of applicaiton reviews.

 

2. I'm scared my writing sample will just be seen as another rehash of former research. My project has to do with measuring college students of color and their attitude toward the Confederate flag in modern settings and how that relates to racial identity formation. I plan on using my senior project as my writing sample, but I'm scared people will read it and think, "Great, another piece on racial identity." Is there any way to avoid falling into that sort of niche that comes with researching and wiriting about racial identity?

 

3. I'm really scared that regardless of my GRE scores, writing samples, GPA, SOP, LORs, and everything else that goes with my application that I won't be accepted anywhere simply because of the school I come from. The person directing my senior research project has indicated she thinks I have a great chance of getting into Emory with the completion of my research project, but I really feel like she feels obligated to say that. Plus, I get the feeling that people from the top schools will see the school I come from, think it's some rural school from Texas and instantly discount my applicaiton.

 

 

 

In general, GPA+LoR weight more than GRE. The advantage you have is that you can start prepping on the GRE. With adequate time and prep, you can get a decent GRE score without much effort.

 

You research interest is what it is. You can't get to change it(or in any event, it's not advisable). Instead of looking at it that way, think that your research interest has "a grand unifying theme with many instances"... that is the ultimate point you need to show to get your PhD(you just need to show that "theme" through publications and a thesis).

 

I'm almost sure that your college is more reputed than mine(I'm international, my degree was taught in spanish, etc...) and I got in 2 decent programs with a minimum of research experience(more or less 2 years, combined). They won't discard your application just because of your school. It might diminish your chances, but you can compensate that with the rest of your application.

 

PD:My background is engineering, not sociology. extrapolate accordingly.

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I'm gonna be the cynic, b/c that's what I've been reduced to. Because I've applied 2 years in a row and your fear is what's happened to me. I'm not gonna go into how it's screwed up every area of my life. But be prepared, it's so competitive your fears may be realized you may not get in. That's just the reality.  That said, you're on this board and asking early and you're a talented undegrad. It's very common for people in your shoes to fear  that and after a stressful year of doing all the bs that goes into the apps, they end up fine. That'll probably be you as long as you work hard and take the good advice offered on this board and other boards on grad cafe. Good luck. 

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Thinking about my experience on this forum, I'd say there is no one rule or thing that can alleviate your fears. Everyone has different circumstances. I got into a top 20 with terrible GRE scores. I'm just not sure what to tell people anymore. As letstalkshop wrote, take the damn GRE, and take it again if you have to. You might not get a score that will dazzle the adcoms, but you want a score that alleviates any fears about the stats requirement (but I have to say, my math score was low, and I got in, do with that information what you want). 

 

It's an arbitrary clusterfuck in my opinion.

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Simply put, give yourself some faith. There's never a harm in trying, because if you succeed you've proven that your self-doubts were foolish. If luck runs a little bit dry, then you know where to get back up to continue aiming for what you need to do. You still have A LOT of time. Stay positive, and trust in your mentors for guidance! 

 

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Thinking about my experience on this forum, I'd say there is no one rule or thing that can alleviate your fears. Everyone has different circumstances. I got into a top 20 with terrible GRE scores. I'm just not sure what to tell people anymore. As letstalkshop wrote, take the damn GRE, and take it again if you have to. You might not get a score that will dazzle the adcoms, but you want a score that alleviates any fears about the stats requirement (but I have to say, my math score was low, and I got in, do with that information what you want). 

 

It's an arbitrary clusterfuck in my opinion.

 

This is literally how I feel about this whole thing. It sucks that there's no streamlined sort of way to evaluate programs and how to apply to those programs. I've been told by professors in my own department everything from "If you don't get into a top 20 program, don't go." to "You apply to a person, not a program." as well as advice that contradicts all of that. I'm just not really sure what to even think anymore. I'm just sort of trudging along right now and hopefully by the time next April rolls around I'll have a few admits. I'm not even sure at this point. 

Edited by ThePastelCalico
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I'm gonna be the cynic, b/c that's what I've been reduced to. Because I've applied 2 years in a row and your fear is what's happened to me. I'm not gonna go into how it's screwed up every area of my life. But be prepared, it's so competitive your fears may be realized you may not get in. That's just the reality.  That said, you're on this board and asking early and you're a talented undegrad. It's very common for people in your shoes to fear  that and after a stressful year of doing all the bs that goes into the apps, they end up fine. That'll probably be you as long as you work hard and take the good advice offered on this board and other boards on grad cafe. Good luck. 

 

I've certainly prepared myself for this reality. It's not fun, but something that I know is necessary. I think it's sort of made some of my professors upset that none of my top schools are even in the top 20, but I feel like this way I won't be too upset if I don't get in to Emory as opposed to Michigan or Cornell. 

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A quick follow-up question if anyone can answer: would me having functionally taken stats 3 times by the time I graduate help alleviate potential fears about quant stuff in lieu of a low quant GRE score? I've taken the stats class offered by the math & stats department at my college, I've taken social stats for sociology and will be taking political analysis for my polisci degree. I got a A+ in stats, an A in social stats and (according to my polisci advisor who got her MA in sociology from the same insitution I'm at now) should have no problem in political analysis. Anyone have any experience with this? 

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A quick follow-up question if anyone can answer: would me having functionally taken stats 3 times by the time I graduate help alleviate potential fears about quant stuff in lieu of a low quant GRE score? I've taken the stats class offered by the math & stats department at my college, I've taken social stats for sociology and will be taking political analysis for my polisci degree. I got a A+ in stats, an A in social stats and (according to my polisci advisor who got her MA in sociology from the same insitution I'm at now) should have no problem in political analysis. Anyone have any experience with this? 

 

It's difficult to say whether they'd give you a pass, but it certainly sounds like you won't do badly on the quant GRE anyway. It's basically the same math as the SAT. You just have to make sure you remember all that old stuff. You'll be fine. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

1. buy yourself a GRE guide, study for 1-2 hours every day for the next 6-8 weeks, and take the exam. Depending on how you do, decide if you want to take it again or not. 

1.a. if you must, take it again. while GREs aren't everything, they're important. It is probably the first or second thing that a committee looks for in an application. 

 

2. Worry about the things you can improve.

2.a. You can't change where you go to school. So make the best of it. I went to a SLAC that no one outside of Maryland has heard of. But I think my letters made a huge difference. Make connections with three people who are going to be able to write about you, not just as a student, but as a researcher in training. 

2.b. work on that writing sample. I think what you have actually sounds kind of interesting. I don't think the committees look for new ideas... they look for good research, even if the idea isn't exactly new.  Make sure it is excellent... show it to as many people as you can. if you get a chance, present it at a small regional conference. 

2.c. try to get some more research experience before you graduate. 

 

3. dont let the GRE get in the way of doing what you really want to do (if this is really what you want to do).... almost every gets anxiety about taking ... that's what the test is supposed to do. it's not designed to test your math ability, it's designed to test your ability to work under a ridiculous amount of pressure. 

 

Finally, Im curious. why Emory? I would suggest that you look at other schools... If you really want to get a PhD, there are many other places you could apply to. 

 

I recently served on an admissions committee, so feel free to send me a private message if you have any questions.

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