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FentonForche

A non-Sociology background in Sociology grad programs?

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Greetings all. I was wondering if people familiar with the academic climate of Sociology might help me out. Here's my situation...

I'm interested in returning to complete my PhD. Generally, I'm interested in politics and religion, so I suppose that would put me in the 'Sociology of Religion' subfield...The last time I took a Sociology class, I was an undergrad. I didn't major or minor in the field. Here's my academic background:

BA, Political Science and Philosophy, 2000

MA, Political Science, 2005

MBA, 2008

Obviously, I've bounced around quite a bit. The more I research programs, the more I am considering Sociology as the best field for me to move into rather than Political Science or Religious Studies. Does anyone know if Political Science is treated as enough of a cognate discipline that I wouldn't be discriminated against too much? Or am I looking at a lot of remedial work before becoming a legitimate candidate?

Also, generally, how competitive are sociology grad programs relative to other disciplines? I don't sport the kind of credentials a lot of people on this forum have...I think my GREs were 630v/770q, with a 6.0 on the analytical writing--but that test is so old I'll surely have to retake it. I think my GPA was a 3.8 as an undergrad, a 3.9 in the MA program, and a 3.7 in the MBA program (hey, they grade harder over there).

I've never published anything, and my recs would probably be decent but not from anybody famous. When I went through the PhD application process with Poli Sci, I was summarily rejected from the top 10 programs: Mich, Berkeley, Princeton, Wisconsin...I think Chapel Hill rejected me too. Then I got in to the mid level schools: Washington, Texas, Maryland, Florida.

I wouldn't be shooting for the moon in sociology either.

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Greetings all. I was wondering if people familiar with the academic climate of Sociology might help me out. Here's my situation...

I'm interested in returning to complete my PhD. Generally, I'm interested in politics and religion, so I suppose that would put me in the 'Sociology of Religion' subfield...The last time I took a Sociology class, I was an undergrad. I didn't major or minor in the field. Here's my academic background:

BA, Political Science and Philosophy, 2000

MA, Political Science, 2005

MBA, 2008

Obviously, I've bounced around quite a bit. The more I research programs, the more I am considering Sociology as the best field for me to move into rather than Political Science or Religious Studies. Does anyone know if Political Science is treated as enough of a cognate discipline that I wouldn't be discriminated against too much? Or am I looking at a lot of remedial work before becoming a legitimate candidate?

Also, generally, how competitive are sociology grad programs relative to other disciplines? I don't sport the kind of credentials a lot of people on this forum have...I think my GREs were 630v/770q, with a 6.0 on the analytical writing--but that test is so old I'll surely have to retake it. I think my GPA was a 3.8 as an undergrad, a 3.9 in the MA program, and a 3.7 in the MBA program (hey, they grade harder over there).

I've never published anything, and my recs would probably be decent but not from anybody famous. When I went through the PhD application process with Poli Sci, I was summarily rejected from the top 10 programs: Mich, Berkeley, Princeton, Wisconsin...I think Chapel Hill rejected me too. Then I got in to the mid level schools: Washington, Texas, Maryland, Florida.

I wouldn't be shooting for the moon in sociology either.

There are more sociology of politics people than there are sociology of religion (I'm applying to sociology of religion and most of the time I am having to emphasize the political aspects of my project to be a good fit: I want to do Secularism in Turkey). If you sell the switch well, it can totally work. You will likely have to repeat your master... I have found almost all programs say explicitly "A non-sociology degree won't hurt you, but we do prefer a strong background in the Social Sciences". You seem fine by that standard. Find good fits, that's the most important thing. This dude at Harvard, without seeing my scores or transcript, told me:

"Sociology will not be able to serve your interests, as there are no sociologists of religion in the department, and as no one studies Turkey. Unlikely that we would admit someone with your interests. We have to look closely at program-applicant fit these days, particularly given that we have very few spots (last year, 8 spots for 260 applicants). I hope this is helpful. Perhaps Princeton or Berkeley sociology? "

This although they do have someone listed online with an interest in religion, they have the best [and one of the only] Ottoman and Turkish Studies departments, and have a history of training Sociology of Religion PhDs. The good schools for sociology of religion seem to be Chicago*, Princeton, and Berkeley, and Yale (which is the least competitive of those four), but yeah, it's a small field in terms of training. Especially if you want to work on something outside of Christianity/America. I'm also applying to Columbia because they have someone good who has worked on Turkey and Politics. But yeah... fit is more important than a sociology background, it seems. I'd really emphasize the politics more than the religion, or at least emphasize them equally, because there are just very few places that do sociology of religion. What's your topic? Where have you been thinking of applying ?

*Chicago Sociology's deadline is today, but I'm applying to the Anthropology/Sociology of Religion program at the Divinity School.

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I am a current grad in politics/religion without a background in soc.

Generally sociology programs are not quite as competitive as poli sci, but still extremely competitive for the top 10 schools.

I don't know anywhere that has someone who does religion and turkey, but check out berkeley, princeton, UNC-chapel hill, Indiana, Notre Dame and Texas-austin.

Religion isn't a huge subfield, but make sure your program as one person who does that, and then maybe someone who does something with the middle-east. You could stretch it to make it sound like it would be a perfect fit.

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Well, my circumstances are a little odd, so the universe of schools/programs that I'm considering are kind of a quirky bunch. It's very important to my wife that we live near some of our family--and that means either the Denver area or the Bay Area out here in California. I might be able to sell her on a few other places, but it would be hard on her and I'm not sure I want to do that. So with that in mind, I'm considering programs that span three disciplines (Political Science, Sociology, Religious Studies) across two metro areas (Denver and San Fran), and I've come up with the following list of options:

1. UC-Davis, Sociology dept

2. UC-Davis, Political Science dept

3. Stanford, Political Science dept

4. Stanford, Sociology dept

5. Stanford, Religious Studies dept

6. University of Colorado, Political Science dept

7. University of Colorado, Sociology dept

8. University of Denver, Religious Studies dept

For reasons I won't bore anyone with, I've opted not to look at Berkeley's options. From here, I've kind of done a process of elimination approach.

1. UC-Davis' Sociology dept doesn't seem to have anyone doing religion, and on their website they give short shrift to the area. So that kind of crosses out #1.

2. I've talked with the Poli Sci dept at Davis, explained my background and interest, and they don't seem to care so much about matching student and faculty research interests. I think I'd have a decent shot of getting in there. They're still on the list.

3. Stanford's poli sci department would be a huge longshot for me, but the Religious Studies dept doesn't have anyone doing contemporary Christianity and politics, and the Sociology dept doesn't seem to have much interdisciplinary work with religion either, so I figure this might be the Hail Mary of my application set.

4. See above, not much in religion

5. See above, nobody seems to do contemporary (modern day) work.

6. Might have a fair shot here. I don't know a lot about the dept yet--the guy who ran my MA committee though is buddies with somebody here, so maybe that would help (it might hinder me too though, I'm not sure how cool he was with me leaving the program).

7. Seems heavily weighted to criminology and deviance, so I'm opting not to look too closely.

8. This little program probably isn't very competitive, but they've got at least one prof doing the sociology of religion and overall, I like the interdisciplinary nature of the department. I'm definitely applying here.

So I guess as I reason my way through this, I don't currently have a sociology department on my list:

Davis, Poli Sci

Stanford, Poli Sci

Colorado, Poli Sci

Denver, Religious Studies

But I'm definitely still examining sociology programs as much as I can, and if there's an angle to all of this that I haven't considered, I'd be delighted to hear anyone's suggestions.

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Hi,

I've been in soc for a while, so here's my spin......

Your background is fine, but instead of framing yourself as a sociologist of religion who has interests in the religious politics of Turkey, you may want to say I'm a political sociologist interested in the intersection of international politics and religion.

Soc of religion folks mostly do work on western religions, so finding someone willing to work with you will be rough. Political sociology's broad enough so you should be fine.

Based on your schools, people may question your commitment to being a top scholar since your choice of schools gives the impression you want to be in a certain area rather than in a discipline. To cover for that, you may want to focus your applications to a specific discipline or two.....and apply to the Cal schools in addition to other programs.

spaulding

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Hi,

I've been in soc for a while, so here's my spin......

Your background is fine, but instead of framing yourself as a sociologist of religion who has interests in the religious politics of Turkey, you may want to say I'm a political sociologist interested in the intersection of international politics and religion.

Soc of religion folks mostly do work on western religions, so finding someone willing to work with you will be rough. Political sociology's broad enough so you should be fine.

Based on your schools, people may question your commitment to being a top scholar since your choice of schools gives the impression you want to be in a certain area rather than in a discipline. To cover for that, you may want to focus your applications to a specific discipline or two.....and apply to the Cal schools in addition to other programs.

spaulding

Hi Spaulding...thanks for the info, I really do appreciate it. You might have melded my post with another one--I have no interest in Turkey, I'm definitely on the American side.

I do understand people are likely to see it that way. My approach to that is probably going to simply be not disclosing to any department that I'm applying to departments outside the field. I would rebut that the interchangeability of the sociology of religion, religion and politics, and religious studies is so high, especially in the context of my research topics, that it's kind of silly to give too much weight to the mottled venn diagram of the humanities and social sciences...but I'm sure that would go over like a lead balloon :)>

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Hi,

I've been in soc for a while, so here's my spin......

Your background is fine, but instead of framing yourself as a sociologist of religion who has interests in the religious politics of Turkey, you may want to say I'm a political sociologist interested in the intersection of international politics and religion.

Soc of religion folks mostly do work on western religions, so finding someone willing to work with you will be rough. Political sociology's broad enough so you should be fine.

Based on your schools, people may question your commitment to being a top scholar since your choice of schools gives the impression you want to be in a certain area rather than in a discipline. To cover for that, you may want to focus your applications to a specific discipline or two.....and apply to the Cal schools in addition to other programs.

spaulding

Actually all the schools I'm applying to worked out for me, eventually. Berkeley has a professor (Cihan Tu─čal) who studies contemporary Turkey (which means politics and religion). Columbia has a woman who works on identity formation in the late Ottoman empire and a woman who works on pluralism (here I have to sell the history angle more... and emphasize the minorities aspect for pluralism as opposed to secularism). Yale, I know has two graduate students already working on Turkey, religion and politics (one of whom I spoke to and seems like a cool guy); also Phil Gorski works there and seems to be headed in a more studying religion, specifically secularism, direction, as evidenced by his recent work and that he's started posting on the Immanent Frame. Princeton is about to graduate someone who seems ridiculously smart and works on religion (and politics) in Turkey. Princeton is basically the Mecca of Sociology of Religion. So all those places work. While there is a really cool guyat UNC-Chapel Hill, I just don't think I'd fit in with the very demography, very many other things that I have no interest in based department. I will definitely read his books, though.

In short, I'm feeling okay and well researched. I'm just glad I'm applying to another discipline so I don't have to find more schools than those four, because that might be difficult. It's the other dude who had the question. Please give the advice to the fellow who asked the question initially. I was merely sympathizing.

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