Today, I have an MS in sociology from a state school. Four years from now, I'd like to be starting at a high-quality social science PhD program. How do I get there?
I am living in Denver for the duration of my girlfriend's Master's program - which is going to take about four years, courtesy of Colorado's crazy requirements for school counselors. At the end of those four years, I would really like to get into a great grad program - right now, the Brain, Mind and Society
program at Caltech, the Human Complex Systems
program-to-be at UCLA, the new Economic Sociology Program
at MIT-Sloan, or the CASOS program
at Carnegie Mellon are the ones that make me starry-eyed. If you poke through my profile, you might find a question from me from earlier this year saying that I didn't want to do research. I do, now - I really do - in large part because I have discovered programs like these that combine disciplines and skills. To me, a social science that draws on neuroscience and complexity, backed with some strong computational skills, would have the ability to do amazing things.
Granted, all of those programs are far out of my reach right now. Maybe they always will be. But I have four years in which to make some kind of a play for interdisciplinary social science glory. The best route to this, I suspect, is by proving that I am both interested and capable of research. No problem there: I've got a couple of publications out for review right now, many ideas in the works. The problem is, I need time to work on these things. And I also need to eat.
I basically see four options here, aside from giving up:
1. A grant/lottery/free money. "Matt, you're a genius/lucky/dead sexy! Here's money to research!"
2. A job that lets me work on research while I'm there, like working in a security kiosk or at a slow hotel.
3. A freelance job. I have yet to see any evidence that people do social research on a contract basis, which seems weird to me.
4. Another grad program. As I mentioned, I'm very interested in neuroscience and computer science - I definitely wouldn't mind learning more about either. Some obvious problems there (e.g. it has to be at a Denver university), but not a terrible choice.
Mini-résumé: many kinds of regression, multilevel, spatial stats, path analysis, qualitative research. Familiar with economics, organizations, criminology, and have BS in political science. Program in R, SPSS, and Visual Basic .NET.
The questions, then: Is this possible? Can somebody with a 700V/750Q GRE, a middling undergrad and MS background, and a fistful of publications break into a program like these? If so, which of the above routes would you recommend?
Of course, I am open to suggestions on both programs and tactics to get into them, and basically anything else you might want to add. I will be watching this question closely and will try to answer questions as quickly as possible.
Crazy bonus points if you have gone through something similar, have been on an admissions committee, have Denver-specific advice, or otherwise know the score.
I know this might not result in much - but I would really appreciate whatever advice you have to offer. Thanks in advance.