FAQs for Prospective Graduate Students

To assist as you learn more about our Graduate Program in Sociology and consider applying, we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Please review the responses below prior to reaching out to our Director of Graduate Studies and/or Academic Coordinator.

Program and Funding Questions

What are your research areas and subfields of inquiry?

Our faculty are all interested in social inequality, broadly construed. Our main areas of research and methodological approaches are listed on our website here, and we encourage you to peruse individual faculty websites to learn more about our research. Our faculty use various methods in our research, and we support and train students interested in both qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches.

How long does it take to get a PhD in Sociology at Washington University?

Our doctoral program takes about six years to complete.  Even if you enter with a Master’s degree (most of our students come in with only a bachelor’s degree), it is very likely that your course of study will still follow this timeframe.

If I have taken graduate-level coursework at another institution, can I transfer these credits and count them toward program requirements?

We will accept transfer credits from other institutions only rarely, and on a case-by-case basis.  If you are admitted to our program and wish to petition for transfer credit, please discuss with our Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Sociology Academic Coordinator.

What are the requirements of the WashU Sociology PhD program?

A detailed list of coursework and other program requirements can be found here.

How do people afford full-time graduate study?

WashU Sociology supports all of our graduate students through generous year-round stipends (currently $35,000 for the 2023-24 academic year), tuition remission, and subsidized healthcare. Financial support is not dependent upon students undertaking teaching- or research assistantships.  Instead, we integrate the experiences that students would glean from these work-driven assignments into elements of our broader program of study.  In this, students are not seen as sources of subsidized University labor, but investments into whom we enthusiastically allocate our resources.

For additional information regarding funding, please see the Office of Graduate Studies' page here: https://gradstudies.artsci.wustl.edu/funding-support 

Does the program admit students without funding?

No.  All admitted students will receive funding offers that include a monthly stipend, tuition remission, and healthcare subsidies. 

Can I work while pursuing the PhD?

We offer generous stipends to admitted students that should cover living expenses while enrolled in the program.  Because of this, we strongly discourage students to take on work outside of the department or the institution.  One of the unique aspects of the Sociology Graduate Program at Washington University is that we do not tie funding to teaching assistantships or research assistantships.  While you will certainly receive ample research and teaching experience through fulfilling our program requirements, it is important to us that our students’ main focus is on our program and their career preparations.  Some graduate students may be able to supplement their funding packages through special grant-supported research assistantships or independent teaching during later stages of the program.  All program-related employment must be cleared with one’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, and must comply with University regulations.

Will accepted students receive health insurance? What kind of up-front fees do I need to know about if I accept your program invitation?

All admitted students will receive a healthcare subsidy that covers most required Health and Wellness fees, university-sponsored health insurance, and optional supplemental insurance upgrades.  Students may waive participation in the University’s health insurance plan if they have alternative plan coverage.  These costs have tended to average around $300 a year, paid in part each semester.  Students may also opt into coverage for dependents at an additional cost.  Fees are deducted from student’s monthly stipend payments after program entry and do not require additional up-front out-of-pocket costs.

Do students have other opportunities for program/tuition funding? If I bring in my own external fellowship funding, how will that impact my funding offer from WashU Sociology?

While all of our admitted students will be offered funding through institutional fellowships sponsored by the department (Arts & Sciences Fellowships), we encourage applicants and current graduate students to apply for external fellowships as well.  WashU Sociology offers additional “top off” funding to incentivize students’ fellowship applications so that students supported even partially by external funding always receive a stipend that is higher than our standard Arts & Sciences Fellowship.  External fellowships are often very prestigious and present their awardees with many supplemental benefits in addition to financial support

Do students receive summer support – funding or tuition-wise?

Yes!  Students within our program receive year-round monthly stipends.  This diverges with many graduate programs where summertime financial support is separate and/or not guaranteed. However, WashU Sociology’s funding package does not cover summer coursework. 

Is there any funding support for student research and conference travel/expenses?

Yes! Students within our program may apply for supplemental funding - as available - to support their research and/or conference expenses.  Additionally, research and conference support is available for those who have won institutional awards (Olin-Chancellors and Dean's Distinguished Fellows) or have been accepted to department- or center-based programs (American Culture Studies’ Harvey Fellows, Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Equity Graduate Fellows) beyond their Arts & Sciences Fellowships.

Does the WashU Sociology program offer any dual-degree programs?

Unfortunately, WashU Sociology does not offer any dual-degree programs with any other departments or schools at this time.  We do, however, offer opportunities for students in our graduate program to earn up to one Graduate Certificate based in another department or related field of study (see below).

What interdisciplinary opportunities does your program offer? Can Sociology PhD students take coursework in other departments?

Certainly!  We recognize that sociological scholarship often benefits from interdisciplinary substantive and methodological training.  While a good amount of your coursework will be taken within the Sociology Department, we encourage students (in consultation with their advisors) to take courses outside of the discipline when the class appropriately relates to the student’s research interests.  Some students elect to earn Graduate Certificates in addition to their Sociology PhD.  To do so, students to complete additional requirements specific to their selected Certificate program, on top of those required of their graduate studies in Sociology.  Students may only earn one Graduate Certificate, per the Office of Graduate Studies' policies.  Examples of Graduate Certificate programs in which you may be interested include:

Furthermore, our students have opportunities to affiliate with interdisciplinary Centers on campus, such as the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity.

Application Questions

When can I apply? Can you accept late applications?

We will begin accepting applications on September 1st. Detailed information about this process and application links are available on the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences Admissions pageWe do not accept late applications.

Do you accept applications for Spring admissions?

No.  Graduate cohorts are admitted annually to begin their graduate studies each fall. 

Can I apply just for an MA?

While many of our students opt to receive a Master’s degree as a part of our larger doctoral program, we do not admit students who wish to pursue a terminal Master’s degree.

Do I need a Sociology background to apply?

No. However, you should demonstrate some familiarity with the research areas our faculty study and social science research.  If you do not come from a sociological background, you will want to address why you are applying to a Sociology program in your personal statement and how your previous training will aid you in your research ambitions as they relate to Sociology.

Can I just take a few classes within the program as a post-baccalaureate or non-degree-seeking student?

No. We do not admit part-time students or students who are not seeking to earn their PhD.

Do you accept application materials sent directly to the department (via post, e-mail)?

No.  All application materials must be submitted through the Slate portal.  Please do not send any e-mailed files or paper copies to the department.  If you experience technical issues or have questions about your application files, please contact our Academic Coordinator or the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences.

Who would be the best recommenders? How important are recommendation letters?

Letters of recommendation are an important component of your application.  The best letters of recommendation are detailed and evaluate your prior work and potential as a graduate student in our program.  Ideally, these letters should come from professors with whom you have had classes or undertaken independent projects with; internship or professional supervisors; faculty advisors; and, generally anyone who can speak to your scholarly qualifications.  Character references from friends, family, or other more-casual associations should not be used for application purposes.  Regardless of whom you choose to solicit letters, do make sure that you give them as early notice as possible so that they will have enough time to create and send in their recommendations. WashU’s letter of recommendation system is fully online.  Your selected letter-writers will get an e-mail requesting them to complete two steps: 1) submitting the letter, then 2) quantitatively evaluating your promise as a graduate student through a brief battery of questions.  If the letter is prepared in advance, this process should only take a few minutes.

Can my letters of recommendation arrive after the application deadline?

We strongly encourage you to work with your letter-writers to submit your recommendations well in advance of the application deadline.  At the same time, we recognize that our application deadline falls within many institutions’ winter breaks – when many faculty and academic staff take holidays away from the office.  Students with complete application packages (including the three required letters of recommendation) will often fare better in application considerations.  Please communicate your graduate school intentions and deadlines to your letter-writers as early as possible.  If one of your letter-writers lags in their submission, it may be wise to reach out and secure a recommendation from an alternate person.

Do I need to pick an advisor beforehand?

While we encourage you to familiarize yourself with our faculty’s research and to indicate  specific faculty with whom you would like to work with at the time of application, you will not choose a specific advisor, nor is it necessary to contact a potential advisor, prior to applying.  Upon entering our program, all students are assigned a faculty advisor with aligning areas of expertise, and a research mentor who will supervise a required year-and-a-half collaborative research project.  Sometimes, one faculty member may serve in both of these capacities. These initial assignments are made by members of the Sociology Program’s Graduate Committee. However, initial assignments may certainly change as students move through the program and their research interests solidify.

Do I need to provide official transcripts when applying?

You do not need to provide official transcripts when applying, only unofficial transcripts.  Students who accept our invitation to join the program will need to provide the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences official transcripts from all previous graduate and undergraduate institutions.

Can I submit my unofficial transcripts after I submit my application?

No.  You will not be able to submit your application without uploading copies of your unofficial transcripts to the Slate portal – rendering your application incomplete.  We do not consider incomplete applications.

Are there strict GPA or GRE cut-offs for admission?

No. There are no strict cut-offs, and the GRE is not required. Although we certainly encourage prospective students with strong academic and examination scores to apply, we recognize that these measures may not always be the strongest indicators of a student’s past performance – or promise for success.  We evaluate our applicants holistically, looking for those who have clear research interests that align with our faculty members’ areas of expertise, a strong vision for their post-doctoral career ambitions, and general fit with the program.  A student’s GPA or GRE scores may augment an applicant’s candidacy for admission, but will not be the sole determinant.

Why is the GRE recommended, not required?

The GRE is required for some graduate programs’ applications, but is only a recommended submission for ours. While this test can sometimes communicate an applicant’s quantitative, reading, writing, and other skills needed to be a successful graduate student, we are also aware that the predictive validity of GRE scores for success in graduate school is widely debated.  Moreover, we are aware that the base costs of taking the GRE can be cost-prohibitive to some applicants and sending official GRE scores to numerous schools can be quite costly for others. If you have taken the exam and would like to submit your scores, please feel free to do so by using Washington University’s reporting code: 6929.  If you have not taken the GRE, we welcome your application without this component.

Do I need to take any of the GRE Subject tests?

No.  You may opt to submit GRE Subject test scores in your application if you have taken them, but neither GRE nor GRE Subject testing is required for applicants.

Can I waive out of the TOEFL requirement?

From the Washington University Office for International Students and Scholars:

“The English proficiency test requirement is waived for citizens of Australia, Cameroon, Commonwealth Caribbean nations, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It may also be waived for students who have completed three or more years of study in an English-medium academic program in any of the above countries, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, or the United States.

If a student has completed three or more years of study in an English-medium university-level academic program in a country other than the ones listed above, the admitting department may request a waiver. In this case, the department is responsible for providing documentation to support this request (e.g., proof of appropriate minimum English proficiency standards at that university). Alternatively, departments may choose to require the TOEFL iBT or IELTS Academic for all applicants whose first language is not English.”

If you feel that you might be eligible for a TOEFL waiver, please contact the Sociology Academic Coordinator.  Only submit TOEFL score reports that are within two years of the time of application. TOEFL submissions older than this will not be accepted; you may need to take the test again.  For more information about TOEFL scores, temporary policies regarding types of score submissions, other tests that can be used in place of the TOEFL, and testing waivers, please refer to the Office of International Students and Scholars' page on English profiency requirements

How can I apply for an application fee waiver?

Please contact the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences to request application fee waivers at artscigradadmissions@wustl.edu. We do not waive application fees at the program level.

Do I need to apply separately for funding opportunities through the University?

We only admit students with full funding, so there is no separation application for funding. However, you may be eligible to apply for one or two competitive – but very prestigious – fellowship programs through Washington University.  These programs provide additional funding support, professional development workshops, and networking opportunities exclusive to awardees. To be considered for these programs, you must submit separate application materials from the ones you submit to the Sociology Department through Slate. 

More information about these mentioned institutional fellowships can be found here.

What is the committee looking for (statement, writing sample, etc.)? What would be a good writing sample? How can I make my application more competitive?

Our Graduate Admissions Committee evaluates applicants on several factors. Here are some suggestions for preparing a strong application.

Within your Personal Statement, we recommend you address the following questions clearly and concisely:

    • What are your research interests (specific questions or areas of inquiry)?  Why do you want to pursue these projects or interests, and how will admission to our program permit or enhance your ability to do so?
    • Why do you want to pursue a PhD?  What do you want to do with this degree, and why is a PhD necessary (or encouraged) for these personal and/or career ambitions?
    • If you do not come from a Sociology degree program – or your primary training lies in a different discipline – why are you pursuing a PhD in Sociology versus other fields?
    • What draws you to the Sociology Graduate Program at WashU, specifically?  Are there any particular faculty members with whom you would like to work, and why?  NOTE: If you have had any direct communications with WashU Sociology faculty, please do mention this!
    • If there are any “weak spots” in your application materials (GPA, GRE scores, less-than-stellar performance in your coursework), why are these not the best indicators for your promise as a graduate student and scholar-in-training? What should we consider instead?  If applicable, how do you plan to address these “weaknesses” through your graduate work at WashU? 
    • What previous research experience do you have (senior theses, industry analyses and reports, research assistantships, conference presentations)?  While previous research experience is not required for acceptance into our program, it certainly makes your application stand out.

Writing samples should demonstrate clear and well-organized writing and strong analytical and critical writing and thinking skills. Writing samples can be derived from course papers, research reports, publications, honors theses, research-driven journalism, or other similar sources.  Writing samples based on original social science research often stand out, but are not required. It may be helpful to submit a paper that you have written previously that relates to the topic you wish to study during your time at WashU Sociology; however, doing so is not required.  Please keep all samples under 30 pages, double-spaced.  You may need to edit and revise existing papers to fit within this requirement.

Can I request feedback from the Graduate Admissions Committee or the Director of Graduate Studies - either before or after I submit my application?

No, we do not provide feedback on application files due to the large volume of applications we receive each year. However, we encourage you to consult with your letter-writers and review broader application resources such as this as you construct or revise your materials. 

It doesn’t seem that anyone within the WashU Sociology faculty is studying what I want to study. Should I still apply?

Yes and no.  We certainly encourage prospective students to apply if your research areas combine, build upon, or are related to our primary areas of inquiry.  Sociology would be very boring if we all studied the very same thing, and many innovations and benefits can come from research that pushes the boundaries of what is currently being examined!  At the same time, we want to ensure that you will be able to receive the highest quality of faculty mentorship within the substantive and methodological areas you wish to study.  If your areas of interest strongly diverge with our department’s, you may be better suited to another program – one that specializes more immediately in the topics you wish to study and the tools you want to use to investigate them. You will be much happier and better supported in your personal and professional ambitions in the long run, we promise.

Uh oh. I’m nervous that my letter-writer won’t get my recommendation in before the application deadline. What do I do?

Sometimes, no matter how far in advance you request your letter-writers’ support, there may be a chance that they will send in their recommendation at – or even after – the very last minute.  If you anticipate this to be a problem, please notify our Academic Coordinator as soon as possible.  Depending upon the timeframe, we may be able to assist you with coordinating an alternate letter-writer within the Slate system.  Alternatively, you may opt to have four letters of recommendation sent rather than the required three from the very start of your application process.  This measure may work to circumvent any issues caused by errant letter-writers.  That said, please closely monitor your Slate application completion status and communicate upcoming deadlines with your letter-writers very clearly!

Can I submit any missing materials after the application deadline? What about Fall term final grades – can I send these in to add to my file before review?

No.  All materials should be submitted to the Slate portal prior to the application deadline.  Please do not send updated transcripts or other application documents after this deadline; we will contact applicants directly if we would like to solicit supplemental materials.

Oh no! I’m having technical issues with my application! To whom should I go for help?

If you experience technical issues with the Slate application portal, please contact the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences at artscigradadmissions@wustl.edu.


Are applications reviewed as they come in, or all at once after the application deadline? Will it help my chances of admission if I submit my application early?

Our Graduate Admissions Committee will review applications all at once.  For many reasons, we encourage you to apply as early as you feel prepared to do so, but submitting your application early will not solely improve the likelihood of your acceptance into our program. 

When are admissions decisions made?

Admissions decisions usually occur in mid- to late-December of each year; however, this window may vary widely depending upon institutional, departmental, and administrative factors.

How competitive is it? How big are the cohorts?

Even as a newer graduate program, we are able to accept only a small percentage of applicants each year. Given our commitments to fostering intensive mentoring relationships between our faculty and our students – as well as to providing all our students with generous financial support – we aim for graduate cohort sizes of only 4-6 students each year. 

Is there a waitlist?

We extend initial invitations for admission to a very small group of applicants. We also usually maintain an even smaller pool of applicants on a waitlist, to be invited to join the cohort if an open “spot” becomes available.  Students who have been waitlisted will be directly notified of their status by the Director of Graduate Studies.  We unfortunately cannot guarantee admission to waitlisted students.

Drat! I wasn’t accepted. Can I reapply to your program? Will this negatively impact my chances of getting in next year?

We receive numerous applications from very talented prospective students each year who we are not able to admit.  If you are not admitted in one particular admissions cycle, we encourage you to apply in the next – especially if you were placed upon our waitlist.  Take the coming year to build your research skills and portfolio and your familiarity with published sociological research, and – if you are still interested in our program – we would be happy to review your application again. Please note that we do not provide individual feedback on application materials due to the large volume of submissions we receive. 

Have a question that isn't answered here?  

Contact our Academic Coordinator