First Year Students

Program Requirements

The first year is dedicated to coursework. Students typically take three courses per semester, according to the following schedule: 

Fall semester of first year

  1. Sociological Theory (SOC 500)
  2. Social Statistics I (SOC 570a)
  3. Introduction to Graduate Study (SOC 570a, 1 credit)
  4. One elective course

Spring semester of first year

  1. Advanced Research Design (SOC 575)
  2. Social Statistics II (SOC 570b)
  3. One elective course

Spring is also the time to start thinking about your MA paper, due in the spring of your second year. Although not required, it is advantageous to settle on a topic and an MA committee chair in the spring, so that you can use the summer to begin developing your thesis.


“GradPath” is the Graduate College’s paperless degree audit processing system.  Students are required to complete and submit forms required for their program online using their UAccess Student account.  To learn how to navigate to the forms please review http/ If you have any questions or need assistance, please see the the Program Coordinator Sr. First year students must complete the following forms:

  • Complete the Responsible Conduct Research Statement (RCRS) form.You will not be able to access any further forms until you have done this.

Credit for Prior Graduate-Level Work

Students may request credit for up to nine hours (three courses) of prior graduate-level coursework. For details, see the graduate program handbook.

Provide a copy of your transcript for confirmation. Once the DGS reviews  and indicates approval of your transfer credits, you must submit a Transfer Credit form through “GradPath” before the end of the spring semester of your first year.  The form will be routed to the DGS, who officially approves the coursework and then it must be routed to the Graduate College for final review and approval.  Normally transfered credit is applied toward reducing the  number of elective courses you would have to take to complete the PhD program.  It is rare that students are exempted from one of our required courses on the basis of prior coursework.

If you are entering the program with a prior M.A., you may also be able to substitute the M.A. thesis you wrote in lieu of our required M.A. paper. Check with the DGS early in the fall semester of your first year about this.  Please do not delay.

Students who enter with MAs sometimes elect to take the first written comprehensive exam, normally taken in the third year, during the second year instead. Students planning on doing so should consult with the DGS in the spring of their first years as to their intended field(s) and semester in which they plan to take it.

General Advice

First-year students receive regular advising on adapting to the graduate program and suceeding in discipline in the weekly pro-seminar in the first year. Below are some general suggestions for making the most of your first year and beyond.

  • Take the required methods and theory courses seriously. For most grad stu­dents, these courses aren't the primary thing you came to graduate school to do, so it is tempting to focus your attention elsewhere. Try to resist this temptation. These courses are critical to helping you become a good social scientist. They provide you with tools to better answer the substantive questions you're inter­ested in.
  • Take as many classes as you can, including some outside your area. For most students, three classes each semester is plenty. But if you've got the time and interest, consider auditing an additional class.  And consider taking courses outside what you think are your main area(s) of interest. Now is the best time to explore.
  • Think about every course paper as a potential publication. There's no need to feel pressure to get something published right away, but it is important to get started early because moving things from the initial idea to a completed paper to send out for journal review takes time.
  • Seek out external fellowships and grants. Consider applying for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a three-year predoctoral fellowship. To identify other funding opportunities, take advantage of the resources at SBSRI.
  • Get to know faculty and other grad students. This is a friendly unit. Take advantage of those opportunities.
  • Seek out "hands on" research opportunities to get a sense of the requirements and rhythms of sociological research. There are two routes to "hands on" research experience under faculty guidance: work as a research assistant on someone's external grant, or volunteering your time. Approach faculty whose research interests you and ask them to keep you in mind should they need research assistance. If they cannot offer a paid assistantship, ask them to consider doing a "research apprenticeship," for which you can receive course credit (SOC 900 -- research unconnected to your MA or PhD thesis). This usually will not happen in the the first year, when students are busy with core courses. But now is the time to but gather information about potential opportunities.
  • Take professionalization seriously. Being a professional social scientist in­volves more than just doing research. It also includes assessing others' research, presenting your research, teaching, and serving on various types of committees. We try to help prepare you to do these things. But it's good to be proactive. Ask questions of faculty, your graduate student mentor, and older grad students. Consider serving on a sociology committee (such as Graduate Studies or Undergraduate Studies).