Graduate School: Tips on a Successful Application

Are you thinking about graduate school? Do you want to apply to a special program? Every year, we receive applications to our Social Work Program (BSW) and Applied Sociology Masters Program and get to see some really good applications and some that need a little more work. Student success is a primary goal of our department – we want you to get into that graduate school or special program or get that job!

We’ll be posting a series of blogs about different aspects of a typical application. If you have any questions about anything in these blogs, feel free to email us at To start you off, here are some general tips on the process.

General Tips

1.  Follow directions! If the application asks for three references and a 1,000 word personal statement, make sure you have three references and that your personal statement is at least 1,000 words. Too often, we receive a 1 page statement (closer to 250 words) and not all references. You may have to follow up with your references to make sure that they send in the reference form or go online to complete an online referral form.

2.  Ask questions! If a direction isn’t quite clear, or you think you might qualify as an exception to a rule, but aren’t sure – ask! Email or call the place you are applying and find out what you need to do to be successful. As a department, we always welcome questions from applicants, and most other institutions are the same. Additionally, this is another opportunity for you to make a good impression on the program as an active, engaged and intelligent applicant.

3.  Research Programs! Make sure that you spend some time really looking at all of the different options out there. Think about what you want to do, and then find the best fit for you. A nationally recognized Sociology graduate program with a strong emphasis on gender issues might not be the best choice for someone who wants to work in medical sociology. Is it a quantitative or qualitative program? Do they emphasize applied or theoretical work? Do you want to finish a Ph.D., or are you only interested in a Masters right now? Do they offer financial support, or will you have to pay for it all out of pocket?
Figure out what you want out of a program and then do the research to find the best ones for you. You’ve just spent years learning how to do research – put those skills to work for you!

4.  Talk to your professors! What are their recommendations? Where did they go to school and why? What programs do they think are good? Do they think you need an advanced degree to do the work you want to do?

Our faculty are a great resource and they enjoy mentoring students. Make an appointment or go to their office hours. If you haven’t talked to professors outside of class, you may be surprised by how easy it is to talk to them.

5.  Keep track of deadlines! These are so important. Make sure you know when each application is due, and then meet those deadlines. If you are applying anywhere that requires a test score, like the GREs, make sure you know what the dates of that test are and how quickly your score will be available. If you want to take a prep class for the GREs or another test, count backwards from the test date to give yourself enough time.

6.  Proof-read everything! It’s important to make a good impression from the outset. Typos and misspelled words makes it look as though the applicant is sloppy and doesn’t really care whether or not they are accepted to the program. If you’re not the best proof-reader of your own work, ask someone else (even multiple someones!) to read through it for you. This includes making sure you haven’t skipped a section. We’ve had students not turn over a double-sided page and miss a whole section of the application – make sure this doesn’t happen to you!

Some of the best programs receive hundreds of applications for a few openings; you don’t want to give them a reason to toss your application into the deny pile.

7.  Every contact counts! Emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, facebook posts, etc. – if they are with the program to which you’re applying, they all count. Be polite and courteous. If you receive an email asking for further clarification or telling you something is missing, respond right away, even if it’s just to say that you have to look into it and will get back to them later. Treat emails like real letters; don’t just respond with a “Yes” or smiley face. Include a greeting and a closing. Remember that you’re not corresponding with a buddy, you’re interacting with people who will be part of deciding whether or not you are accepted into their program.

8.  References are important! The vast majority of programs (including ours) prefer academic or professional references. If you’re applying to a graduate program, the definite preference is for academic references unless there’s an explicitly stated clinical/applied part of the program. If you can’t think of three professors who would give you a good reference, start looking! Speak up in class, talk to faculty outside of class, go to office hours.

9.  Use your Personal Statement wisely! Your Personal Statement (sometimes called Statement of Intent) is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and convince them that you would be a great addition to their program. If there is any part of your application that may be a little weak, address that weakness and explain how you will improve. Tell them why you like their program and why you would be an asset to them. Talk about your aspirations and what you hope to do while in their program and your plans for what you will do with the degree they offer.  This is also your chance to show off that you can write well.

10.  Be sure to follow up! Let’s say you’ve followed all of these suggestions and have been accepted into graduate school. Time to celebrate, right? Of course! However, please do remember that if you are completing your undergraduate degree, most graduate programs require that you submit an official transcript once your degree has been posted. Also, most schools want you to finish setting up your email with them and start checking it regularly. There may be housing questions and financial aid issues that need to be addressed, and you’ll most likely need to sign up for classes and maybe even meet with an advisor. So, follow up on everything to make sure you’re completely prepared once you arrive on campus.

On the other hand, let’s suppose that you didn’t get into the school you really wanted and you want to apply again next year. Follow up, then, too! See if you can talk to anyone at their program about your application. You may find out that they just needed to see coursework in a specific area, or that your personal statement wasn’t as strong as they wanted. Maybe it’s an applied program and they really want their students to have worked in the field for a couple of years before applying to graduate school. Whatever the reason(s), if it’s something you can fix or a weakness you can strengthen over the next year or so, you’ll have something to work on and you may get into the program next year.

That’s it for now. Keep an eye on the blog over the next little while – we’ll be taking deeper dives into the Personal Statement, References, finding Funding, and looking at all of this from a student’s perspective.

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday.

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New Student Intro, Cont’d.

Each year we welcome a new cohort of learners into the department to pursue a Master’s of Arts in Applied Sociology. Following is a brief introduction to two of our newest graduate students, Matthew Muchna and Mackenzie Bower.

Matthew Muchna

Q: What is your hometown?
A: Prescott, AZ

Q: What brought you to Flagstaff/NAU?
A: My best mate ‘Greasy- Pete’ lives here and trail running. Natural fit.

Q: What are your current/potential research interests?
A: Demographics, statistics, sports, health and wellness.

Q: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you want/need with you?
A: 1) A well-trained flying dragon 2) Beats by Dre 3) An endless supply of chocolate milk.

Mackenzie Bower

Q: What is your hometown?
A: Phoenix, AZ

Q: What brought you to Flagstaff/NAU?
A: I did my undergrad here and was originally attracted to the weather and the outdoors!

Q: What are your current/potential research interests?
A: I am currently interested in Gender and Social Justice. However, I am not sure what I would like to research yet!

Q: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you want/need with you?
A: Monopoly, my dog, and an unlimited supply of bagels

Welcome to the department, Matthew and Mackenzie!

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New Grad Students – Welcome!

Each year we welcome a new cohort of learners into the department to pursue a Master’s of Arts in Applied Sociology. Following is a brief introduction to two of our newest graduate students, Teri Kesti and Erin Whitesitt.

Teri Kesti

Q: What is your hometown?
A: Duluth, MN

Q: What brought you to Flagstaff/NAU?
A: When I applied for grad schools, I only applied to places that my family and I would enjoy living… I was definitely attracted to the mountains and forests and awesome nature surrounding the city. 

Q: What are your current/potential research interests?
A: I am very interested in studying the social construction of modern childbirth practices.  I’ve been working as a childbirth/pregnancy advocate and midwifery assistant since 2011, so I am excited to start looking at this aspect of our culture through the “sociological lens”.  I am also interested in topics such as family, religion, and have a background in criminology.

Q: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you want/need with you?
A: I would definitely want my family to be there with me, a good book, and a good, durable pair of Chaco sandals!

Erin Whitesitt

Q: What is your hometown?
A: My current hometown is Cottonwood, AZ but I grew up in Nikiski, Alaska. 

Q: What brought you to Flagstaff/NAU?
A: I came to NAU because I wanted to study sociology and it was the nearest major university that offered a program of interest to me.

Q: What are your current/potential research interests?
A: My research interests include gender-based violence, social stratification, human sexuality, and HIV/AIDS (as a social problem). 

Q: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you want/need with you?
A: If I were stuck on a desert island, I would need my Kindle, a good moisturizer, and a bottle of red wine.  (All of these things in addition to her three children, of course.)

Welcome to the department, Teri and Erin!

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Introducing: Jamie Clem!

The next faculty member we are pleased to introduce is Jamie Clem!  She joined our Social Work faculty.  Here are her answers to our brief questionnaire:

Jamie Clem

Q: Where did you study? 
A: I’m currently in the process of finishing my dissertation from Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL

Q: Why did you choose Social Work?
I originally went into social work as a way to work with clients in a helping capacity. I’ve always been interested in service, and social work afforded the opportunity to work with vulnerable populations in a way that truly spoke to me. 

Q: What are your main areas of research/interest?
My primary area of research is in substance abuse. I’m interested in exploring experiential and expressive interventions for individuals seeking treatment. I’m particularly drawn to the therapeutic use of the outdoors. I believe nature has may inherent healing qualities and can be a source of empowerment, particularly for oppressed individuals.

Q: What classes are you teaching?  What classes would you like to teach in the future?
This semester I’m teaching two sections of Crisis Intervention and two sections of Practice 2. While I enjoy teaching across the curriculum, I’m really looking forward to Crisis again next semester.  

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Flagstaff and/or NAU so far?
The community at NAU and in Flagstaff as a whole is unlike anything I’ve experienced. The people I’m surrounded by are extraordinarily thoughtful and sincerely care about what they do. Their commitment to students is nothing short of inspiring. I feel lucky to be a part of an institution that values student-centered education so highly.

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Introducing: Katherine Everhart

Katherine Everhart is a new Sociology Instructor.  Keep reading to learn more about her!

Katherine Everhart

Q: Where did you study?
A: I earned my B.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 1999, my M.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2006, my M.A. in Sociology  from Vanderbilt University in 2011 and my Ph.D. in Sociology from Vanderbilt University expected in 2015.

Q: Why did you choose Sociology?
A: As an undergraduate, I began as a Social Work major. I was interested in working hands-on with individuals in our society who need the most assistance. In particularly, I was interested in potentially working with survivors of childhood abuse. After a year of taking classes in Social Work, I realized I wanted to explore the roots of social issues and problems. For instance, I wanted to understand more about the structures, such as race, class, and gender, that may or may not affect childhood abuse and the experiences of these individuals. Sociology offered me the opportunity to view social issues more broadly in terms of what causes the likelihood of social problems rather than providing assistance and support to individuals.

Q: What are your main areas of research/interest?
A: My main areas of interest include: sociology of culture, art/music, social movements, political sociology, and new media. My master’s thesis explained the ways in which gender is socially constructed within a skateboarding community within a southeastern city in the United States. My doctoral dissertation explains how art and cultural expressions were utilized within the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation that took place in 2010.

Q: What classes are you teaching?  What would you like to teach in the future?
A: Generally, I teach SOC 204, Sociology of Gender, and SOC 215, Race and Ethnic Relations. In addition to these two courses, this spring, I will also be teaching an independent study with an advanced undergraduate student tentatively entitled, Flawless Feminisms: Race and Feminism of Beyonce and Nicki Minaj. In the future, I would be interested in teaching a course on Art and Protest, Youth and Political Engagement, and Media and Social Movements.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Flagstaff and/or NAU so far?
A: My favorite thing about Flagstaff and NAU, so far, is being surrounded by so much natural beauty. Although I stay busy teaching my courses and finishing my dissertation, I am still amazed at all the beauty the city has to offer each time I walk to campus or look out my apartment window. When I do get a chance to visit downtown, I’m a fan of Firecreek Coffee Company, The McMillan, Criollo, and Pizzicleta.

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Introducing: Dr. Michelle Tellez!

We have four new full-time faculty members this fall, and thought you might like to find out more about them!  We did a short email interview with each of them.  Today, we’re introducing you to Dr. Michelle Tellez, who we are sharing with Ethnic Studies.


Q: Where did you study?
A: I received my B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis in Chicana/o Studies from UCLA, my M.A. in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and my Ph.D. in Educational Studies with an emphasis on Community Studies at Claremont Graduate University.

Q: Why did you choose Sociology?
A: Interestingly when I started my schooling I was a psychology major, after working hard to actually get into the major at UCLA I realized that I was more interested in the study of society rather than in the study of the individual.  There are so many opportunities in this field to explore the structures of our society but, more importantly, it allows us to reimagine new social formations.

Q: What are your main areas of research/interest?
A: I examine the ways in which gender intersects with social movements, migration, and the U.S./Mexico Border; my work also contributes to the field of Chicana Studies in the study of identity, intersectionality and motherhood.

Q: What classes are you teaching?  What classes would you like to teach in the future?
A: For Sociology I teach Soc 215: Race and Ethnic Relations, I also teach for the Ethnic Studies program and there I teach Chican@/Latin@ film and Gender and the Borderlands. 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Flagstaff and/or NAU so far?
A: I have spent much of my academic career both as a student and faculty member at large universities; while NAU is certainly large, there is still a feeling of community here that I deeply appreciate.  Walking around campus and looking up to see the beautiful San Francisco peaks, mountains that are sacred to so many native people in our area, brings me much joy.

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Spring Schedule 2015

Early Enrollment started today.  For anyone looking for a Sociology or Social Work class to take, here is our schedule in its entirety.  Happy hunting/enrolling!

Class Sec Class Description Class Time Days Instructor
SOC 101 001 Introduction To Sociology – Blended 12:45 – 2:00PM MW Luna,Y
SOC 101 002 Introduction To Sociology – Blended 4:00 – 5:15PM MW Luna,Y
SOC 101 003 Introduction To Sociology 12:45 – 2:00PM TTh Lucas,W
SOC 101 004 Introduction To Sociology 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Lucas,W
SOC 101 005 Introduction To Sociology – Blended 12:45 – 2:00PM TTh Garelick,R
SOC 101 006 Introduction To Sociology Online Butcher,R
SOC 201 001 Dvlpmt Of Sociological Thought 9:35 – 10:50AM TTh Degher,D
SOC 201 002 Dvlpmt Of Sociological Thought 12:45 – 2:00PM MW Reed,J
SOC 204/H 001 Sociology Of Gender 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Hackstaff,K
SOC 204 002 Sociology Of Gender 8:00 – 9:15AM TTh Everhart,K
SOC 204 003 Sociology Of Gender 4:00 – 5:15PM TTh Hackstaff,K
SOC 204 004 Sociology Of Gender 2:20 – 3:35PM MW Everhart,K
SOC 204 005 Sociology Of Gender Online Seward,S
SOC 210 001 Social Problems 12:45 – 2:00PM MW Eyraud,T
SOC 210 002 Social Problems 11:10AM-12:25PM TTh Degher,D
SOC 210 003 Social Problems Online Garelick,R
SOC 215 001 Race And Ethnic Relations 11:30AM-12:20PM MWF Eyraud,T
SOC 215 002 Race And Ethnic Relations 4:00 – 5:15PM MW Everhart,K
SOC 215 003 Race And Ethnic Relations 11:10AM-12:25PM TTh Tellez,M
SOC 215 004 Race And Ethnic Relations 12:45 – 2:00PM TTh Tellez,M
SOC 215 005 Race And Ethnic Relations 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Eyraud,T
SOC 215 006 Race And Ethnic Relations 4:00 – 5:15PM TTh Everhart,K
SOC 215 007 Race And Ethnic Relations 4:00 – 6:30PM W Beeman,M
SOC 215 008 Race And Ethnic Relations Online Desmond,D
SOC 216 001 Family Issues & Soc Change 2:20 – 3:35PM MW Mahmoudi,K
SOC 216 002 Family Issues & Soc Change 12:45 – 2:00PM TTh Eyraud,T
SOC 217 001 The Family 11:10AM-12:25PM TTh Garelick,R
SOC 301 001 Topics: Sociology Of Organizations 4:30 – 7:00PM T Bowie,J
SOC 301 002 Topic: Religion And Politics 2:20 – 3:35PM MW Mohamed,M
SOC 301 003 Topic: Faith Based Violence 4:30 – 7:00PM T McKell,D
SOC 301 004 Topic: Sociology Of Food Online Garelick,R
SOC 301 005 Topic: Alcohol, Drugs & Society Online Desmond,D
SOC 301 006 Topic: Alcohol, Drugs & Society – Current cap zero 10/16/14 Online Desmond,D
SOC 301 007 Topic: Global Enviro Sustainability – DD2 – 4/3 to 5/8/15 Online Schipper,J
SOC 315 001 Amer Society & The Amer Indian 11:10AM-12:25PM TTh Willeto,A
SOC 315 002 Amer Society & The Amer Indian Online Willeto,A
SOC 316 001 Sociology Of Sexuality 9:35 – 10:50AM TTh Skeen,R
SOC 316 002 Sociology Of Sexuality 11:10AM-12:25PM TTh Skeen,R
SOC 316 003 Sociology Of Sexuality Online Van Ness,M
SOC 320 001 Social Psychology 4:00 – 6:30PM M Skeen,R
SOC 333 001 Environment And Society – DD1 – 1/12 to 3/1/15 Online Schipper,J
SOC 353 001 Social Stratification 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Willeto,A
SOC 353 002 Social Stratification Online Lemons,G
SOC 355W 001 Research Methods 9:35 – 10:50AM TTh Bowie,J
SOC 355W 002 Research Methods 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Bowie,J
SOC 360 001 Sociocultural Aging 4:00 – 5:15PM MW Mandino,C
SOC 360 002 Sociocultural Aging Online Staskey,D
SOC 365 001 Social Statistics 8:00 – 9:15AM TTh Fernandez,R
SOC 365 002 Social Statistics 5:30 – 6:45PM MW Winters,S
SOC 365 003 Social Statistics Online Winters,S
SOC 408 001 Internship Online Ferraro,K
SOC 415 001 Sociology Of Globalization 12:45 – 2:00PM MW Mohamed,M
SOC 441 001 Deviance 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Degher,D
SOC 465 001 Sociology Of Religion 4:00 – 5:15PM MW Mohamed,M
SOC 498C 001 Senior Seminar 4:00 – 6:30PM W Fernandez,R
SOC 498C 002 Senior Seminar 2:20 – 3:35PM TTh Reed,J
SOC 610 001 Seminar In Sociology: Consciousness & Social Change 9:10 – 11:40AM M Schipper,J
SOC 619 001 Sociological Traditions 4:00 – 6:30PM M Reed,J
SOC 654 001 Qualitative Methods & Analysis 4:30 – 7:00PM W Hackstaff,K
SOC 655 001 Quantitative Analysis 4:30 – 7:00PM T Fernandez,R
SOC 661 001 Demography 4:00 – 6:30PM Th Mahmoudi,K
SOC 696 001 Internship Online Ferraro,K
SOC 698 001 Graduate Seminar: Write A Thesis/internshp Paper 9:10 – 11:10AM F Mahmoudi,K
SW 220 001 People To People 2:20 – 4:50PM M Fritzler,J
SW 220 002 People To People 8:00 – 9:15AM TTh Rhodes,M
SW 220 003 People To People 5:30 – 8:00PM W Randolph,N
SW 320W 001 Social Policy And Legislation 9:35 – 10:50AM TTh Aleman,S
SW 320W 002 Social Policy And Legislation 2:20 – 4:50PM T Aleman,S
SW 321 001 Generalist Practice I 12:45 – 2:00PM TTh Rhodes,M
SW 321 002 Generalist Practice I 2:20 – 4:50PM T Medill,A
SW 321 003 Generalist Practice I 2:20 – 4:50PM M Clem,J
SW 355 001 Social Work Research 2:20 – 4:50PM W Clem,J
SW 370 001 Information Technology In Sw Online Rhodes,M
SW 399 001 Special Topics: Human Biology For Social Work Online Cawood,N
SW 401 001 Crisis Intervention Methods 4:00 – 6:30PM T Clem,J
SW 401 002 Crisis Intervention Methods 4:00 – 6:30PM Th Clem,J
SW 408 001 Field Placement TBD Damskey,M
SW 408 002 Field Placement TBD Damskey,M
SW 420 001 Social Welfare Policy Practice 4:00 – 6:30PM M Rhodes,M
SW 450 001 Topic: Exploring Tribal Social Srvcs – DD2 – 3/9 to 5/8/15 2:20 – 4:50PM W Medill,A
SW 450 002 Topic: Child Welfare 12:45 – 2:00PM TTh Ryan,T
SW 498C 001 Senior Seminar 2:20 – 4:50PM Th Medill,A
SW 498C 002 Senior Seminar 2:20 – 4:50PM Th Aleman,S
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