Planning for Graduate School
Thinking about graduate school
The SU Student Guide to Preparing for Graduate School
suggests a number of questions to ask yourself before deciding
to continue your education:
What do I want to accomplish in my lifetime?
What are my long-range and short-range career goals?
Is graduate study necessary for me to achieve these goals?
Do I have the interest and abilities to be successful in a graduate program?
What type of value if any do I place on attaining a graduate degree?
Am I mentally and physically prepared to undertake such a long-term academic
At the present time do I have other needs that conflict with pursuing a graduate
Do I have enough information about this career field to determine if I want to
make a long term commitment of pursuing a graduate degree?
Can I realistically invest the time and money required to pursue another
If you think you may be interested in graduate school start
gathering information about graduate programs and their
admissions requirements. Ideally you should decide by the end of
your junior year to seek admission so that you will have ample
time during senior year to complete the application process.
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Selecting a program
Some things to consider when selecting a graduate program:
The ASA's Guide to Graduate Departments
available in the Sociology Department office (FH 266) has
information on over 200 graduate programs. One of the appendices
is an "Index of Special Programs which lists the schools
specializing in particular areas of sociology.
In general, the better programs are more competitive. You will probably want
to apply to several schools, including at least one or two that are less
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The Master's degree requires one to two years of full-time
graduate coursework. It may also require passing a comprehensive
exam and/or writing a major paper.
The Doctoral degree requires about two more years of full-time coursework
beyond the Master's. It usually requires an oral or written comprehensive exam
after which the student is eligible to complete the degree by writing a doctoral
dissertation. The dissertation is based on an original research project
conducted under the direction of a faculty committee. The entire process usually
takes four to six years after graduating from college.
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GPA: Graduate schools usually expect an overall grade point average of at least
3.0. They may also consider your GPA in sociology courses specifically.
Tests: Many schools require one or both parts of the Graduate Record Exam. There
is an "aptitude test" measuring general academic ability and an "advanced test"
in sociology. Information and applications are available at the Center for
Personal and Professional Development.
Transcripts: Contact the Registrar's office to arrange to have your transcript
Letters of reference: Request these from faculty or from others who are in a
position to evaluate your work. It is most helpful if your referees know
something about you in addition to your grade in a course something that makes
your qualifications stand out from those of other students.
Personal statement: This is your opportunity to call attention to any personal
qualities or accomplishments that might otherwise go unnoticed. The graduate
faculty will be looking for signs of maturity thoughtfulness and dedication to
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Graduate students are not normally eligible for assistance based
on financial need. They may continue to rely on student loans
although doing so for many years is to be avoided if possible.
The best way to finance graduate school is to receive support
from the university itself which takes several forms:
Fellowships from federal agencies and foundations: These are often channeled
through the university which selects the recipients from among their most
Teaching assistantships: Teaching assistants receive a stipend and usually a
tuition waiver or reduction as well. They are normally responsible for
moderating discussions when large lecture classes are divided into smaller
discussion classes. Advanced graduate students may teach their own classes.
Research assistantships: The financial arrangements are similar to teaching
assistantships but the work involves assisting faculty with research projects.
Tuition waivers: Graduate students without other forms of assistance are
sometimes granted tuition waivers.
Some universities have far more financial aid to distribute than
others especially because they have large research grants. It is
helpful to know what percentage of graduate students are
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The Center for Personal and Professional Development has a
number of useful resources:
200 graduate catalogs
How to Prepare for the GRE
How to Write a Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School
SU Student Guide to Preparing for Graduate School
Financing Graduate School
Computer software: "Graduate School Selector"
The Guide to Graduate Programs in Sociology is available
in the department office FH 266.
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