Tips to potential sociology PhD graduate students

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When I was thinking about post-college plans in my sophomore year of college, I did not know that I would be applying to a sociology graduate program. All I knew was my topic and that I wanted to be in a program where I would be able to study it while at the same time gaining marketable data analysis skills. It took me the summer before my senior year before I finally decided on sociology.  Due to many circumstances, I could not curtail my application specifically towards sociology graduate programs.

Here are some things I wish I had done after I had decided to apply to sociology PhD programs.

  1. Take more sociology courses. Even though I am a sociology PhD student, I actually don’t know much about sociology. I only took 1 sociology course, Introduction to Sociology, in college. Most of the people in my program have sociology backgrounds. Coming in with a politics background, I have learned that I unintentionally had learned many sociological concepts and read many sociologists. So I was lucky in that respect. But say, if you are currently a biology major, it definitely helps to take a few courses to see if you like sociology or not. Luckily it worked out for me but that may not have been the case.
  2. Do sociology summer research opportunities. I am trying to have a publishable paper by the end of this year. The only problem is that I’m not quite sure how to go about doing “sociology research.”  I understand the main concepts, lit reviews and whatnot but having more experience in research would currently help me and I wouldn’t feel as lost. I looked last night and there were many programs for undergraduates where you actually get paid to do research with faculty and other graduate students. I thought that was pretty neat since most of my summers’ consisted of doing unpaid internships. I would usually get funding from school but I think the opportunity to do research and to get a head start in your application (research exp looks great on your grad school apps) is priceless.
  3. Talk with sociology graduate students before applying. I wish I had spoken with sociology graduate students when I was first thinking of applying into graduate programs. Not that their misery and wornout faces would have deterred me from applying but I would have had a better sense of what I was getting myself into. My friends who were applying to graduate schools were applying to the natural sciences or math. I believe I was the only person who was applying into a sociology program. It would have been really nice to talk to someone who had gone through the application process. I *did* have one person from my high school who was in a sociology PhD program but she was in the other US coast and I would have wanted to speak to someone who was in a program on my side of the coast AND was in a program I was applying to.
  4. Talk with other potential sociology grad students. I mentioned in the previous bullet that I was the only one applying to my program. So I was very stressed since I had no idea where I stood in terms of getting accepted and whatnot. I wish I had had someone who was applying to the same field–at the very least, we could stress out together. I did have friends who were applying too but they were in economics, statistics, physics, which has its own way of doing things.
  5. Present research at sociology conferences.  If I had done the summer research, I would have been able to do this.  This would have bolstered my application, I would have gotten to know people in the field and I would have a better sense of what sociology was. Oh well, I’ll have plenty of opportunities in graduate school 🙂
Thats all I can think of for now but these were definitely the first things that came to mind when I thought of things I wish I had done before applying.
What are some things YOU can contribute to this list? 
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