low status graduate students
Over the last year, I have been asked this question at least three times:
What advice do you have for graduate students at low status programs? I’m publishing, I’m working with faculty who are publishing, but I feel like I’m at a disadvantage. What should I do?
A few responses:
1. You have to come to grips with the fact that academia is status oriented. People from more prestigious schools will get breaks that you won’t get. Once you have accepted that fact, move on with your life and stop thinking about it.
2. Overcompensate. Fortunately, there are a lot of good journals. In soc, we have 2 (or 4) lead journals, a number of specialty journals, and good journals in related fields that will be acceptable within sociology. Submit enough times and you will succeed.
3. Choose your mentors wisely. Lower ranked schools have heterogeneous faculty. Some professors are just as accomplished as those at elite schools, while others have not kept up. Choose advisers who remain active. Hang out with the winners.
4. Think long term. In a low information environment, people rely in status. In a high information environment, people rely less on status. As you progress in you career, you will find that people who are quality researchers and teachers are rare. And if you can bring in grant money, even better. Thus, there are chances to rise to the top if you are consistently good. Check the directories of leading programs and you’ll always see some graduates of non-elite programs.
5. Don’t do anything to reinforce negative impressions. Don’t settle for book chapters or publications in obscure journals until you have at least one or two publications in more highly regarded places.
Overall, there is an uphill battle to be fought, but there is a plausible long-term strategy that you can execute and it has a reasonable chance of success. Now get back to work – and buy the grad skool rulz book!