As context....I am a professor who is currently the graduate coordinator of a program for an MA in Sociological Practice. I have enjoyed mentoring a diverse array of students who have been accepted to doctoral, MA in Sociology, MSW, MFT, teaching credential, EdD, law school, and counseling programs.
Below, I share my talking points for the hour long session.....mci
HOW TO BE A COMPETITIVE APPLICANT
Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, Ph.D.
Professor and Graduate Coordinator
Sociology at CSUSM
Sociology at CSUSM
Identify Ultimate Goal for Graduate School (professional, academic, applied)
o PhD, EdD, MA, MFT, MBA, MS, JD, MD (see next session for specific types of graduate schools)
o Depending on the profession, you need a specific strategy and likely take specific exams (GRE, GMAT, MCAT)
§ Study for these exams like it’s a full or part time job; many programs take the test results very seriously – more than your GPA which are suspicious in general due to “grade inflation” concerns
o Consider an MA/MS program as a pathway to PhD; however, do your homework on funding sources and debt that may come with pursuing an MA degree.
What do graduate programs care about?
o Find out what are their values, what scholarship or internship do they seem to reward or promote, etc. Do your homework on the programs you are thinking about – faculty scholarship, activity, Linked In profiles and even Facebook pages of faculty and graduate students. Keep a document / file with all this information.
o Graduate programs ultimately want to know that you can finish their program successfully.
What can you do while you are an undergraduate student?
o Get experience in your target graduate schools’ areas (e.g., research, hospital, children, labs)
§ Try to present your research or do write up reports
o Tell your professors that you are interested in graduate school and follow up on any suggestions that they offer you
o Maintain near perfect grades or as best as you can – 3.0 to 3.5 minimum for some schools for MA level programs; closer to 4.0 will be the most competitive applicants (see contradiction from above about grades!)
o Make your college papers “count” for exploring aspects of your graduate school interests
o Make meaningful connections with faculty
§ Not all your professors may have (recent or any) experience with doctoral or professional programs
§ Be aware of “mentors” and “tor-mentors”
§ Volunteer to help professor, assist with conferences, literature reviews and even library runs
What can you do if you have already graduated?
o Reconnect with your former professors
o Find (new) faculty in your area of interest and try to connect with them
o Take a class in your target area or sit in on classes – be aware of pricing and policies for this
o If appropriate, go for a certificate as a way to get re-engaged in your target field
o Use “Google scholar” and set up an alert system for your topic
o Volunteer or work in your area of interest
o Participate in national and regional conferences in your field – it will update you on your field and connect you with interesting faculty members and advanced graduate students
o Join associations related to your field(s)
How much should I reveal about my immigration status?
o In your personal statement, if there is a place to describe your personal journey, this is ideal IF you want
o Your research or professional motivation might also be tied to your immigration status (or not!)
o Be ready to “educate” administrative and faculty folks about undocumented issues: websites, policies, etc.
o Depends on your comfort level
§ a mentor can inquire about immigration issues or attitudes on behalf of “a student”
§ a key contact in the various graduate programs can also help
What is the role of letters of recommendation?
o Crucial! This is why your connection to others – faculty, supervisors – is essential to being competitive
o Give your recommenders your statement of purpose, a copy of your transcript (highlight classes you took with her/him), bring any course work you had with her/him, copies of your notes about the programs you are applying to, email reminders for due dates
o Your recommenders do not have page limits – can elaborate more in-depth or explain aspects of your life/work
How can I improve my writing samples?
o Crucial for academic programs – take the BEST analytical / research paper(s) you wrote in college and revise it
§ Most graduate programs do not want to see a marked up version of a paper in an application
o Perfect writing is expected for your sample – find an editor, friend, or professor to help you!
o If you don’t have a college paper, you need to write one; you will truly need help from a professor or an advanced graduate student for this. Form a collective ~ I can help!
o For last desperate measure, do an annotated bibliography on your topic of interested; email me for materials
What do I include about myself, in general, to present a strong application / statement of purpose?
o Clean up your online profile – “manage” your graduate school identity before you get there
o Activist identity – how to manage or present your work in the community
o Undocumented status – see above – it’s your choice. Faculty and administrators must follow FERPA (student privacy and confidentiality law), which protects your personal information.
o Other personal information about your journey through education and personal tragedies can be mentioned. I usually advise students to discuss them in a framework that explains specifically how has it shaped you in term of your current goals and aspirations.
Discussion / More Questions?
 Concurrent sessions are about mentoring, statement of purpose, and funding. I can help answer questions about these issues and will include these topics in my session.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Panel III 1:00-1:50pm
Room A - West Earl Warren Room
UCSD Price Center