Sometime in Your Junior Year
Research graduate schools with areas of concentration that interest you. Be sure that at least two faculty members in your area teach at that school. You might review our department’s copy of the ASA Guide to Graduate Schools.
Read works by the faculty members at your schools of interest. Contact them. Send them an email to see if they are taking students. It doesn’t hurt to comment on their work. Tell them how you have used their work, or ideas that you would like to explore.
Write a one or two page summary highlighting: 1. Your areas of interest, 2. Special projects or papers, 3. Classes you have taken, 4. Potential career goals (i.e. research, non-profit, teaching). If you plan to include faculty references, be sure to ASK faculty if they are able and willing to give you a strong recommendation. Never list a faculty person without asking them.
Beginning of Your Senior Year
Contact undergraduate faculty members who can address your strengths. These probably include Sociology faculty, but might include professors in your minor or in other courses you’ve taken.
*ASK* those professors if they would be willing and able to write strong letters of support for you. If they agree to write letters, provide them with electronic and hard copies of information about you. This might include examples of leadership, courses you’ve taken, research projects you’ve done, presentations you’ve given, jobs you’ve held or clubs in which you’ve been active. NOTE: You should give faculty at least TWO months notice to write your letters.
Find at least two outside readers to edit your writing sample. You want to deliver a cohesive and concise argument.
Take the GRE. This is as important as your writing sample, grades and recommendations. Invest as much time and energy in it as you feel needed. Taking time to study for this will only improve your chances.
During the Application Process (recommended)
Visit the Schools. It is important to judge the climate of the academic environment in the department and the location of the University. You will be spending the next 6-8 years of your life there, it is important that you feel comfortable.
Meet with faculty at these schools.
Meet with graduate schools. Consider asking them “If you had to do it all over again, would you come back to University X. If so, why? If not, why not.” Faculty will (or should) court you. Students may provide valuable insights into student perspectives.
Inquire about funding. Some schools offer 5 years funding, while others offer it on a competitive basis per semester.
How Many Schools Should You Apply to?
There is no right answer to this question. We suggest several schools including “back up” schools. It is ok to aim high, but understand that competition is only part of the equation. Some schools will accept students as a cohort, while others will base it on faculty or funding availability. Don’t assume you will get in. You need to make a strong case.
Resources for Exploring Graduate Programs
U.S. News and World Report Guide to Top Ranked Graduate Schools:
Graduate Programs in Sociology:
American Sociological Association: Guide to Graduate Departments of Sociology, 2007 $30 ASA members; students; $20 ASA student members; $50 non members and institutions. THIS PUBLICATION IS LOCATED IN O'CONNOR 301.