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Application Process for MA Sociology Students

Are you thinking of pursuing graduate studies in Sociology or Criminology?

You may find this information helpful . . .

Undergraduates often find the graduate school application process to be a mysterious and/or confusing process. The information on this page may help you in learning more about the timeline of the application process and the components of a typical application.

While most of the information on this website pertains to the MA Program in Sociology and the MA Program in Criminology at WKU, the information below also provides a general overview of the graduate school application process. Each university and graduate program has different guidelines and criteria - so please be sure to do your homework on each graduate program that you are considering.

Information specifically pertaining to the Application Process for MA Program in Sociology and the MA Program in Criminology at WKU has been highlighted in bold text.

The Sociology Department at Western Kentucky University has several copies of the American Sociological Association's Guide to Graduate Programs. This book is a great resource containing information on nearly all of the Sociology Departments offering Master of Arts (MA) and/or Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) programs in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Please see Karen Hume in the main office of the Sociology Department (Grise Hall - Room 101) to view and/or borrow this excellent resource. This publication also highlights Sociology Departments that provide concentrations in Criminology.

Since most graduate programs only admit new graduate students in the fall semester, the time-line below reflects an application process that would allow a student to begin graduate school in the fall semester.

If a graduate program allows spring semester admissions (like our MA in Sociology and MA in Criminology programs), the items on the timeline would have to be moved up by at least 5-6 months.

Timeline of the Graduate School Application Process:

1) In the summer before you complete your undergraduate degree, you should begin your research on graduate programs. Some resources include:

a) ASA: American Sociological Association
b) ASC: American Society of Criminology
c) Consider borrowing the ASA Guide to Graduate Programs in Sociology (mentioned above)
d) Attend a regional Sociology or Criminology conference
e) Talk with your professors

2) Early in the fall semester of your senior year, take the GRE: the Graduate Record Exam. This is the exam most graduate schools require as part of your admissions packet. Taking the exam in late September or early October will provide you with the opportunity to take the GRE again if you feel it is necessary to take it again.

3) In the middle of the fall semester of your senior year (around late October), speak with your professors regarding letters of recommendation. Most graduate programs require at least three letters of recommendation.

4) At the end of the fall semester of your senior year, submit your application materials to the graduate programs that you have selected. Please keep in mind:

a) Application deadlines vary by university
b) More prestigious universities have deadlines around mid December to late January
c) Many universities have application deadlines between February 1 and April 1.
d) The application deadline for the MA program in Sociology and the MA Program in Criminology at WKU is June 15 for fall semester admissions and November 15 for spring semester admissions.
e) Make sure you submit your application before the deadline, especially if you are requesting funding (for example: teaching assistantship or research assistantship funds). If a student wishes to be considered for one of the department's very limited graduate assistantship positions, he/she must submit their application materials coupled with a graduate assistantship application and three letters of recommendation before March 15 for fall semester admission and before October 15 for spring semester admission. For the MA in Sociology program, we begin reviewing graduate assistantship application in mid-April for Fall semester admissions and in mid-November for Spring semester admissions.
f) Remind your professors about your letters of recommendation shortly before you submit your applications. Many universities want the recommendation letters mailed directly to them from your letter writers, while others want you to include the letters with your application materials. Make sure you follow the appropriate guidelines of each university's application process - and let your letter writers know which letters need to be mailed directly to the university and which letters you will need to pick up in a sealed envelope. Also, please do not worry if a letter of recommendation from a professor arrives before your application materials. When graduate schools receive any part of your application, they will create a file for you and simply add materials to the file as items arrive.

5) Most Ph.D. programs and many M.A. programs provide some form of funding to some of their graduate students in the form of teaching assistantships, fellowships, or graduate assistantships. When you submit your graduate school applications, you can request to be considered for one of their funding sources. For example, if you receive a "teaching assistantship" from a graduate program, you may receive some form of a stipend (which varies by university, but can range from $7,000 to $14,000 per year) and/or some form of tuition remission, which also varies by universities, but can range from partial tuition remission to full tuition remission (meaning that you pay nothing to go to school). If you have a strong application (great undergraduate GPA, very strong GRE scores, and good letters of recommendation), you can maximize your chances of receiving funding by applying to a half dozen or more universities for graduate school.

We have a small and limited number of Graduate Assistantships available for graduate students admitted to our MA in Sociology program which pay a stipend and provide some tuition remission. Students must formally apply for a Graduate Assistantship in addition to their submitting their application materials.

In exchange for this funding, you would assist a professor or several professors with their classes (for example, grading papers and exams, or supervising discussion groups with his/her students). More information on applying for an assistantship is available in the Funding section of the website.

We do not have Graduate Assistantships for the MA in Criminology program.

The overall level of funding for graduate students (stipend and full tuition remission) is highest in more prestigious universities and/or specific academic departments. Needless to say, getting into more prestigious programs can be difficult because of the higher level of competition.

You should speak with your current professors about which graduate programs would be best for you given (1) your interests, (2) your level of geographic mobility, and (3) your GPA and your GRE scores. We can try to help you in selecting several schools that will maximize your chances for getting into one or several graduate programs with (hopefully) some form of funding.

Components of the Graduate School Application Process:

1. Formal application.

Most graduate programs allow you to submit an application on-line and/or using the old fashioned paper-pen method. At Western Kentucky University, you can submit a printed application, called Form A, or you may apply on-line through the Office of Graduate Studies website.

For admission into the MA Program in Sociology or the MA in Criminology at Western Kentucky University, you must have a minimum GAP score of 600. A minimum of 3.5 on the analytical writing is also required. Contact the graduate advisor for information on assistantships.

2. Letter of Intent

Many graduate programs will specify exactly what they would like you to discuss in this letter. The MA Program in Sociology program at WKU requires that applicants submit a letter of intent but the MA Program in Criminology does not. Applicants for the MA Program in Sociology at WKU are expected to discuss the following in their letter of intent:

- prior background and life experiences that could contribute to graduate coursework and research in sociology
- personal reasons for pursuing graduate studies in sociology at Western Kentucky University
- areas of interest in the discipline of sociology
- one's viewpoint on the importance of sociology for the study of the social world
- future career plans

If you are applying to other graduate programs that require a letter of intent, but these programs do not provide specific guidelines, you can consider writing a statement that touches on some or all of the items listed above in addition to some or all of the following:

- what you love about Sociology and/or Criminology
- highlight some of the courses you have taken and what you have learned
- highlight your research and/or internship experiences (if applicable)
- mention topics and/or areas of concentration that you would like to explore in graduate school.

3. Letters of Recommendation

You have to know that we are happy to write letters of recommendation for our best students. Our professors wrote letters for us, and now it is our turn to write letters for you. For the MA Program in Sociology and the MA Program in Criminology, you do not need to submit letters of recommendation unless you are applying for a Graduate Assistantship.

You must ask for letters from professors who know you and who are familiar with your work and accomplishments. These professors must know you as a student and can evaluate your academic performance. It is also helpful if your professors know you in some additional capacity (as an advisee, through some research collaboration, or through an internship experience).

Please give us plenty of time to write your letter(s) - at least 3-4 weeks. If you do not hear from your professor after three weeks, send a quick (and polite) e-mail asking if he/she has had the opportunity to write and send your letter(s) of recommendation you ask for a letter(s), please provide us with a summary of:

- Your current majors/minors
- Date of graduation
- List the classes you have taken specifically with us
- GPA (if possible, include a copy of your unofficial transcript)
- Career plans
- Listing of your extracurricular activities (including internships)
- Additional information that you think can help us write a stronger letter for you
- Names & addresses of recipients

Finally, please do not be offended if a professor does not agree to write a letter of recommendation for you. A professor should decline to write a letters of recommendation for students if they believe they cannot write students strong letters. It is very important to have individuals who know you very well writing your letters of recommendation.

4. GRE: Graduate Record Exam

Today, the exam is primarily administered via computer at testing centers across the country. The exam has three sections: 1) Verbal Section (ranges from 200 to 800 points); 2) Quantitative Section (ranges from 200 to 800 points); 3) Analytical Writing Section (6.0 is the highest score)

My recommendation (and this is only my recommendation - please seek out as much advice as you can): Do not spend a lot of money taking "courses" to help you "ace" the GRE. Instead, purchase a study book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon for $15-$20 so you can become familiar with the types of questions asked on the test. A test preparation book will also help you brush-up on your algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, which are the heart of the Quantitative Section of the test. You can also download a free copy of the exam from the GRE website. Just try to do the best you can.

5. Writing Sample

Some graduate programs want evaluate your writing ability, so they will ask for a writing sample as part of your application. It would be best to include a theoretical or research paper from one of your Sociology or Criminology courses. The MA Program in Sociology and the MA Program in Criminology at WKU does not require a writing sample.

6. Funding Requests

As noted above, many students receive funding in graduate school, and you request this funding at the time of your application. Funding can include teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or fellowships. Also, as noted above, the amount of funding varies by department and university. You should research the amount of funding available at each university before submitting your application.

We have very few Graduate Assistantships in the Sociology Department at WKU, and the competition for these is significant. Additional information on Graduate Assistantships at WKU is available under the Funding link.

Non-Degree Seeking Students:

Applicants for the MA in Sociology Program or the MA in Criminology Program may decide to submit a "non-degree" seeking application. This option is available to prospective students who would like to complete up to 12 credit hours of coursework (4 classes) before formally applying to our graduate program. Non-degree seeking applicants must complete the online application and pay the application fee, but they do NOT need to submit official transcript or GRE scores until they apply as a "degree seeking" student. Please remember - only 12 credit hours (4 classes) can be taken as a non-degree seeking student before students must formally apply to our graduate program.

We hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, especially about our graduate program in Sociology or Criminology at WKU, please look over closely at the information published on this website. And of course, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.

Good luck with your application!

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 Last Modified 4/14/15