I am very new to this grad school process and currently overwhelmed to the point of tears.

I graduated from Stony Brook with a degree in Sociology in 2010. I was also admitted to Alpha Kappa Delta that year. I was a teaching assistant for 2 classes and had a 3.28 gpa overall but a higher gpa in just sociology.

I took time off to earn money and just give myself a break. I work as a babysitter, make pretty decent money, and I enjoy what I do but I want to go back to grad school now. I have no research experience, I am currently studying for the GRE, reading up on some information and I honestly don't know where to start or if I have a snowball's chance in a furnace of getting in anywhere.

I would like to go back Fall 2014 (giving myself time) and I am looking at programs like Cornell, Rutgers, and Syracuse (probably more as time goes on) and thinking the only way I am getting into any of those is if the faculty has pity on me. I feel I am intelligent and could do grad work, I just don't know how I can prove to admissions I can so they will let me in. I'd really like a Ph.D but if I have to start off with a masters to get into the school, I will. Although my fear of asking this question is currently taking over since I fear someone will squish my dream of grad school like a slow moving spider, if I don't ask, I won't be able to go forward since I don't know where to begin...

Honest advice or information would be much appreciated. I want to go to grad school and I am willing to find ways to make that happen, just no idea where to begin.

Thank you so very much ahead of time...^^


3 Answers 3


The first advice I have to give you is perhaps the most important: in the immortal words of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, DON'T PANIC.

First, identify the schools to which you'd be interested in applying. You should find a reasonable number (6 plus or minus 2 is typical), and plan on some "long shots," some "typical" schools for you, and one or two schools which you would have as a "fall back" option—in case none of the "long shots" and "typicals" work out for you.

You should also find people who can write letters of support for you. This is perhaps the hardest part for you. Luckily, you've finished relatively recently, so you should be able to find people in academia who can write some letters of support for you. If you have a few people such as employers who can vouch for your work ethic, that could also work.

Doing well on the GRE will also help, but it isn't likely to make a huge difference except in "borderline" cases.

One thing that might help your case is to get directly into contact with people at the various schools you'd be interested in attending. If you can organize a meeting with some of the faculty there and present your case in person, that can leave a more positive impression than just submitting an application "cold."

The other thing you can do to help your case is to have a clear and compelling explanation for what you want to do, and why you feel a master's or a PhD is the right way to accomplish those goals. I see far too many applications from candidates who otherwise might be viable who can't elucidate a single reason to go to graduate school beyond. Having a compelling plan can go some ways toward convincing skeptical faculty members that you are serious about graduate studies.

In addition, you can consider all of the advice about getting a bad transcript past admissions as additional suggestions for how to proceed.

  • Thanks! I really appreciate the help! I guess all the hype about grad school is making me think to quit while I am ahead yet it is one of my dreams. Another fear of mine is that my GPA is terrible. Started as a Philosophy major which annihilated my GPA yet my last two years and in sociology, my grades were very strong. Would a good GRE and application save that?
    – Brina388
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 17:35
  • 1
    Absolute GPA doesn't matter nearly so much as GPA in the major. You can also write this as a note in your application. But yes, a good GRE and application always helps!
    – aeismail
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 21:52

Let me recommend to you Phil Agre's Advice for Undergraduates Considering Graduate School. This essay is about 12 pages, with sections such as "What is Graduate School?", "Do I want to go to Graduate School?", "Research", "Applying to Graduate School", "Letters of Recommendation", and "Getting Accepted to Graduate School".


Check this site, which is supported by the Andrew Ng (of Coursera and machine learning class fame) : http://graddecision.org/ this will walk you through entire process and has lot of good information and advice.

Basically figure out where you want study and why that school, prepare a kickass Statement of Purpose(SOP) and contact your professors for letter of recommendations(LOR). And yes, give GRE soon as deadlines mostly in December.

All the best :D

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