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In Academics on
January 24, 2018

10 Tips For Aspiring Sociology Majors And Minors

As you all know by now, I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Sociology. For some reason, I have never done a post like this on The Happy Arkansan, and I thought it was time for me to do this. So, here we have it, ten tips for aspiring sociology majors and minors. I hope that you get a lot out of the post that I wish I had as an undergraduate.

10 Tips For Aspiring Sociology Majors And Minors | Do you want to be a sociology major or minor? Well, I have the perfect tips for you! Check out this article for the tips that I wish I had when I started to get my Bachelor's in Sociology.

1. Get Ready To Read & Write (All The Time)

Reading is a huge part of being a sociology major. The more sociology classes you take, the harder and longer the readings get. Especially if you are reading some of the more classic sociological works, they can be hard to understand. Articles can be filled with jargon, statistics, and ickiness. I have written extensively on this blog about the powers of skimming. I used to think that everyone was reading everything and just beating me because I was a slow reader. Then I realized everyone was skimming. I wrote two great articles to teach you the art of skimming articles and academic books that I think will help you tremendously. You don’t have to feel slow or behind. You got this! I am confident of that.

Related Readings: Reading With Purpose: Article Skimming 101How To Effectively Skim An Academic Book

Another thing you will probably do a lot of is write. Writing takes time and practice to learn. I have written about writing a ton on this blog, and I loved the two-part series I am linking below featuring the ten mistakes I saw college students make when I was a graduate assistant in grad school. Writing is something that you get better at the more you practice so keep writing so that you will keep getting better at it.

Related Readings: 10 Mistakes College Students Make When It Comes To Writing Papers (Part One | Part Two)

2. Don’t Think That You Will Escape Math

Sociology isn’t super math heavy, but you will need to know some basic (and not-so-basic) statistics. Your research needs to be statistically significant, even as a social science, so having some knowledge of statistical concepts is critical. Pay attention in your stats and research methods courses because that will help you so much as you get older!

Also, you need to learn to utilize stats software like STATA or SPSS. Your school probably has access to at least one of these on the school computers so I would encourage you to download a random data set and play around in SPSS or STATA. One of my favorite data sets for sociology majors is the General Social Survey (or GSS.) I based my senior thesis in college from General Social Survey data, and I did all the calculations by getting the data in SPSS format and manipulating it so I could focus on the parts I cared about. If you go to the GSS Data Explorer, you can quickly get the datasets in formats that your stats software can understand.

Working on stats is probably the easiest way to get better at it. Look up stats exercises for your preferred software and work through them. This will help you get exponentially better at doing them, even if it’s not the most fun use of a weeknight or weekend.

3. Take Time To Experience All The Paths of Being A Sociology Major

Anything and everything can be studied through the sociological imagination. That is scary to think about: you mean, I can research everything? I have had professors who studied a wide array of things like religion, divorce, sports, race, class, immigration, deviance, gender, protests, hate groups, social movements, etc. Sociology studies the social world, and in that world, we do a lot of things!

I think the best thing a student can do, in my eyes, is take your collegiate years to experience it all. Experience all the courses that you can manage in college and explore different paths of being a sociology major.

As you get older, you will have to focus your attention. You may have to write longer papers in undergrad such as a thesis. In that paper, you can delve deep on a subject that matters to you.

When you get into your Master’s or Ph.D. program, you will have to be even more focused on one or a couple of paths. For me, I found my love in studying race and social movements through the sociological lens.

4. Get To Know Your Professors Research (And Even Join It If You Can)

Each of your professors has a research interest. Getting to know your professors and their research interests are essential because you can easily use that information to get more involved with the work that they are doing. Many professors want to work closely with students, but they can’t work with every single student. If you take some time to showcase that you are interested in what they are doing, you can probably get more involved with a professor’s research.

Getting involved in a professor’s research looks incredible on your resume! You may even be able to become a research assistant or take an independent study with a professor, so you get class credit for working with them!

5. Get Ready To Face The Uncomfortable Topics

Sociology reflects society, and sometimes society isn’t always pretty. You may have to cover some hard topics like criminal justice, race, gender, discrimination, poverty, class, sex, employment, etc.

You may be forced to think of a viewpoint you have never considered or even some views that seem far-fetched or crazy. Sociology shouldn’t be about comfort. It should be about thinking about things using a variety of theories.

Don’t get set in your theory of thinking about things, especially not as an undergraduate. After you have taken some classes and learned some stuff, you may find that you agree with a specific sociological theory or view more (for example, I am a conflict theorist) but you should get to know other perspectives and put yourself in other people’s shoes.

Even though we study so much in sociology, I feel that it’s good practice. I don’t think everyone practices sociology the right way, some people refuse to hear other people’s points of views, and that’s not okay. You don’t have to agree with someone, but listen, and argue with facts.

10 Tips For Aspiring Sociology Majors And Minors | Do you want to be a sociology major or minor? Well, I have the perfect tips for you! Check out this article for the tips that I wish I had when I started to get my Bachelor's in Sociology.

6. Carry A Small Notebook With You All The Time

My best advice as a sociology major is to carry a small notebook with you or to take notes on your phone. When I was a sociology major (especially in graduate school) ideas for things to research, things to write, etc. struck me ALL THE TIME. You don’t want to be forced to write your thoughts down on random pieces of scrap paper because those can get lost easily. I wrote so many article ideas in the margins of articles or on scrap pieces of paper that I can’t get back now. Do yourself a favor and keep a notebook near!

I encourage a notebook over your phone because you can always take out your notebook, even if you get an idea in the middle of a lecture (and I got plenty of mid-lecture ideas!) This is especially great if you plan to pursue a Master’s or Ph.D. in sociology!

7. Keep Up With Current Events (It Will Help You So Much In Class!)

Since sociologists study society, they also keep up to date with what’s going on in the news and the world. If you keep up with the news going on, this will help you out so much, and you will be able to relate the things you learn in class to what is happening in the news.

I encourage you to make a habit of checking the news in the morning whether you use a newsletter like The Skimm or the news app on your iPhone.

You also want to get your news from a variety of sources. I am as liberal as they come, but sometimes I peek over to see what Fox News is reporting to see what they are talking about. I also tend to get a lot of my news from moderate sources as well. You don’t want all your news to come from a single source!

8. Learn How To Utilize The Skills You Learn On Your Resume

If you are stopping at a BA or BS in Sociology, you need to understand the skills of what you are learning from a Sociology major. Being a Sociology major won’t cast you out from getting jobs, but it’s not as cut and dry as a Mathematics major or a Biology major. Humanities are always going to be harder to categorize when it comes to showcasing them in a resume.

Instead of focusing on the major you received, focus on the skills you learned. Also, while you are in college, learn those skills!

Here are some skills you can work hard to build in college:

  • Oral Communication/Public Speaking: I had to do a lot of speaking in my college and graduate school sociology courses. I had to do presentations on papers that I read and wrote multiple times throughout my time in college and graduate school. People love people who can communicate, especially in front of people!
  • Written Communication: If you are a sociology major and you haven’t written like a million papers, I am not sure how! I wrote all the time in college and graduate school. Use that skill to get a job after college.
  • Statistics/Surveying: The art of building a survey,  administering a study, and interpreting the results of that survey is a skill to be reckoned with. Not many people know how to do all of that, and you don’t even have to have a HUGE understanding of the process. Basic knowledge of statistics and surveying is such a great skill to have!
  • Research: People don’t want to have to babysit you and tell you what to do every step of the way. They want you to be able to look things up on your own and solve as many of your problems as possible. Being good at research, vetting research articles, etc. is always a great skill to have as an employee!

These are all great skills that you will get out of being a sociology major (and more, I couldn’t list all the skills!)

In today’s economy, having a college degree is more important than the degree you have. If you know how to work the skills that you have, you can become indispensable in the workplace.

READ  How To Use The Skills You Have Learned As A Liberal Arts Major To Get A Job

9. Focus On Application Not Memorization

One of the main ways many of us are taught to study is through memorization. We are taught to memorize this list of things and regurgitate them on a test or piece of homework. That won’t work well in sociology.

Yes, you need to be able to memorize certain things to a point like some critical figures in sociology, sociological concepts, sociological theories, etc. but more importantly you need to learn how to apply them.

You can’t get through your entire life as a sociologist rattling off fact after fact about sociology. The point of sociology is to study society. We use these pieces of jargon to analyze society. You need to know the lingo to examine society, but you also need to be able to utilize the jargon correctly.

You can’t create a 30-page paper for a class just rattling off definitions. Your grasp of the concepts has to go much further than that!

10. Join Academic Organizations If You Can

Sociology is all about studying people in groups so it’s not surprising that there are a TON of groups that you can join as a sociology student and professional. These academic organizations are extremely valuable in my opinion, and you should try to join at least two if you can. Joining these organizations will help you connect, network, and be a part of the larger picture of sociology. Don’t get so stuck in your head that you forget to make those connections because those connections are essential in sociology (just like any other major!)

Academic Organization Options

  • University Sociology Clubs: At the most basic level, your school probably has a sociology club that you can join to meet more people in your major. I loved being involved in the Sociology club at my school, and I know you will enjoy joining yours too!
  • State Wide Sociological Societies: Your state probably has a sociological society as well that you can be a member of, though it might be a bit harder to find. You can probably ask your professors though as they may be able to help you locate a statewide membership.
  • Regional Sociological Societies: There are various regional sociological societies across the country. I am listing the ones I could find below. These are great for when you want to connect with more sociologist on a regional scale, plus going to these conferences are usually way more laid back than the national meeting at ASA.
  • Alpha Kappa Delta: Alpha Kappa Delta is the Sociological Honor Society. Many of the professors that I have met over my years as a student have been members of AKD. It isn’t the end all be all (I know many professors who weren’t), but it is nice to be involved in an organization that has helped many professors of the years.
  • American Sociological Association: ASA is the main sociological organization. It doesn’t have a GPA requirement, and it’s a pretty cool organization to be a part of, especially if you join the sections. It does cost a bit of cash, though, but students get discounted memberships. ASA has a huge conference every year, and they also put out multiple journals across a wide array of sociological focuses each year. As a member, you get access to one print subscription each year which I always found fascinating. Plus, certain sections also have their own journals that you can get access to as well.

I hope that listing these out helped you find a sociology club, society, or association to join!

Conclusion

I’ll never regret being a sociology major in college or getting my Master’s in it, although it has pushed me a ton. I love studying people in this way and learning about sociology has helped me analyze so much in the world today. I hope that this article has helped any future sociology majors out there.

What are your best tips for sociology majors?

In Academics on
September 27, 2017

9 Awesome Sites For Information Nerds

Never stop learning, y’all. Even once you finish your degree, your goal should be to learn something new every day. I love to learn interesting but some would say “useless” information. I mean, you never know when you are going to need it, and sometimes having that knowledge does change your life. If you are an information nerd like me, I am going to be sharing 9 sites that you can use to learn more interesting facts and figures.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the brands that make The Happy Arkansan possible.

9 Awesome Sites For Information Nerds | Do you LOVE information? Well, have I got 9 sites for you! If you are an information nerd like me who likes to collect random facts, figures, and charts this post will be perfect for you. Become a lifelong learner with these 9 sites.

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
August 19, 2013

College Essentials: Dealing with a Horrible Professor

As I am preparing for my classes to start on Thursday I want to give you some great advice on professors and what to do when they are horrible. I am going to give you some real advice because you need it because the world isn’t always fair and I love you. Obviously you need to really pay attention to your professor. Are they really as horrible as you are pinning them to be…or are you just studying a lot with minimum results.

 College Essentials: Dealing With A Horrible Professor | Navigating college when you have a professor that you don't like can be difficult. This post teaches you how to deal with a horrible professor so that having one doesn't impact your studies in college.

Every single semester I have professors that I gravitate to right away, professors that give me the creeps, and professors that I don’t like. By the end of the second week I usually like all my professors though—even if some of them have weird quirks. When you go to college you will meet a wide range of professors: professors with accents, professors with ticks (of the doing an activity over and over kind), professors who weird you out, professors with strange bathing habits even. College is a place where all sorts of behaviors meet and that includes behaviors in your line up of professors.

Here are my tips for minimizing bad professors:

Use Rate My Professors

It is so important that you use Rate My Professors. Go on the site, check out the teachers. Also be aware of the bad rating conundrum. Those who disliked the class the most are more likely to rate the teacher. If you make a good grade you probably aren’t going to use rate my professors. Since Rate My Professors doesn’t have a “how hard I worked to get my grade meter” take everything with a grain of salt. If you are up for the challenge you can pass the class.

Don’t take a class because your friend is

I made this mistake, I took a class because my friend was going to be in it, she ended up dropping the class for other classes before the semester began, so then I was stuck in this class. Turned out okay in the end though because I made a B, but that was a B I worked hard for. Professors don’t work for everyone, so chose your own professors!

Ask friends for their opinions

If you have a class in a certain major area and you have a friend with that major ask them if they have ever heard of that professor. They may have taken the professor or they may know someone who has. Ask and you will be answered!

There are all kinds of horrible professor stories or “horrible” professor stories. I am going to touch on both of them and what you can do to help yourself:

  1. You can’t understand the professor. Ask if you can record the professor’s lectures. Try to get as much done as humanly possible in class and go back and re-listen to the lecture later—chances are you’ll pick up something you missed before.
  2. Your professor is going too fast: Again, record them. With permission record the lectures and listen back later.
  3. Your professor has a hard time explaining things to you: Check out an on-campus tutoring center. They usually have all sorts of subjects so check it out.  Maybe another person can explain it better.
  4. Your professor “gave you a bad grade”: Your professor didn’t give you a bad grade, you earned it. If it is that important to you go talk to them. Professors love initiative and they love to discuss grades with you outside of class. Go to their office hours and get them to explain the grade to you (in a polite manner!) After all is said and done maybe you can ask them how to improve on future tests or projects. As I have discussed, it is important to fight for your grades if you know that you are right. Professors are human and they do make mistakes.
  5. Your professor gives out too many assignments: Assignments are for your own benefit. The more assignments you get the better your grade will be because you can mess up a bit more. Get a planner and try to schedule everything out. Talk to your professor about time management tips.

These are some generalizations—although professors can really actually be spiteful toward you.

If you honestly think this is happening stand up for yourself—but always go to the professor first before anything. Say if you got a wrong grade as your final grade and you had been tracking your grades all along—talk to the professor before you leave school! It was more than likely just a calculation error—those happen sometimes! If the professor doesn’t fix your grade or refuses to check then go above them to the department chair.

Don’t skip straight to the department chair for no reason though! Part of life is following the chain of command so that things don’t get crazy and you don’t burn bridges with the people that know your collegiate work the most and can offer a wealth of recommendation letters to grad school or any other place you need recommendation letters for.

In Academics on
February 7, 2013

My Test Tips

So the school year is in full swing. Number 2 pencils are starting to be used more often and the Scantrons are flying off the shelves. Today I am going to give you a few test tips on how to ace/pass those college exams of yours. Test taking is one of the most daunting parts of your college experience but it doesn’t have to be.

 My Very Best Tips For Test Taking | Click through for my best tips for taking tests. In this post I cover many tips that will help you before, during, and after your next test.

Before The Test Tips

Before your test there are definitely some rules you should be following for every college test you ever take. Here are some of my go-to tips.

Go To Class

Seriously, go to class. This will help your test score times a million. Even if you don’t think you need to go to class, go to class. I will say that I am an auditory learner, so being taught in a lecture is one of the real true ways for me to actually learn something. I didn’t study a lot outside of class, but just going to class helped me cement so much of the knowledge I learned in undergrad. Also since you usually take your test in the same classroom, it’s good to go to class and associate somethings your professors say with the classroom. So often I’d just remember what my professor said in that classroom while taking the test and that helped me recall more information.

If you don’t go to class though, always always always catch up on what you missed. Sometimes I make the mistake of not going back through and figuring out what I missed when I miss class and I always regret it. Even if you don’t miss a crucial assignment, catch up on the information you lost by not showing up to class.

Fill Out The Study Guide

If your teacher was kind enough to make a study guide, fill it out, or at least skim it. Teachers usually make test, and then make a study guide that reflects what the test says, so study it. Seriously, your professors won’t always be so kind as to give you a study guide, so you gotta use it while you can.

Don’t Pull An All Nighter (Even If You’re A “Night Person”)

Sleep is essential. I know you want to put off studying until the last minute, and then in a heaping panic rush to study all night—but don’t. Even if I don’t study all week like I should, I refuse to pull all-nighters. I would rather just not study than pull them. A suggestion though is to study a couple nights in a row right before you sleep. If you study  before you sleep it is proven that you will remember more. Sleep is crucial for remembering things. Pulling all nighters might put the information in your short term memory, but you will quickly lose all of the information after (or even before) your test. If you give yourself time to sleep on the information, more of it will but put in your long-term memory—where you really want it to be.

Find A Study Buddy

Two heads are always better than one. Get with a partner, making sure this is a partner you trust to try and do the work. Having a partner in the study world will help keep you focused and explain things you don’t understand. You can both work off each others strengths and weaknesses so that you both have a better understanding of the material. As I stated this needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Choose someone who is just as invested as you are in the material, or you may become more anxious (and obviously you may be taken advantage of in an unequal partnership.)

During The Test Tips

I have some things that I always do while I take my tests (particularly multiple choice tests!) Here are my during the test, test taking tips!

Don’t Let The Questions Get To You

Professors hardly ever organize the test questions from “easiest” to “hardest.” If the first few questions only draw blanks in your head move on. There will more than likely be tons of easier questions you can pick up along the way. This can be really daunting when you get a few softball questions and then some really hard ones right after. Breathe, and keep going!

Go Through The Whole Test First

The first thing you should do is go through the whole test, answering the questions you absolutely positively know first. At the end of that round go back to the questions you had problems with. This is always my go to method when taking a test. This also helps because I might see something in a question down the line that will help me analyze the tough questions later.

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Clarification

Professors aren’t perfect. Sometimes the wording of their text is confusing to understand. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification at points during the test. It’s always a good idea to know exactly what you are answering so you can maximize your points possible than to answer a confusing question. Not only will this help you, but it might also help your classmates if the question is truly confusing. That way the professor can clarify the question for the whole classroom if necessary.

Double Check What You Are Marking

When it comes to tests, especially computer graded test—double check your markings. It’s easy to fudge up when filling in circles or clicking on a certain answer. Always double check that you filled in what you wanted to, and that everything is filled in. At the end of any Scantron test I like to go through each line to make sure I have something marked on each line that needs something marked. I never want any blanks of a test.

Guess On Everything

Even if after going through the test multiple times  you are totally stumped on some questions, guess. It’s better to have a 1/4 chance at getting points than a 0/4 chance of getting points. But also do some smart guessing. With most questions you can up your chance of getting it right by cancelling out the obviously wrong answers. Even if you still end up getting it wrong, at least you got to flex your smart guessing muscles a bit.

After The Test Tips

What you do once the test is over can be just as crucial as what you do during a test. Here are my tips for test taking after the test is over:

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

It’s easy to say “I should’ve known that!” or “Why didn’t I study harder?!” But don’t. Appreciate the grade you got and don’t over-analyze the past unless you can re-do the test and change it. This type of behavior will only distract you from your future. You can be a great test taker, but using negative language around your test taking abilities won’t help you become a better test taker. Always be positive, even when you are not happy with your grade.

Learn From The Test

Analyze the layout of the test, how hard the questions were for you, and use it to better your test taking ability. Change around your test-taking strategy for that class. If you have a few questions talk with your professor during their office hours. They are there to help you learn the material and become better and acing tests over the material. Let them know how you studied for the test so they can help you make adjustments, collaborate with them so that your next test grade is sure to be better.

It’s important to begin the year with the same test-taking strategy for each class, unless you know one class will be exponentially harder than the others. As you get your tests back you can easily change how much time you put into studying for each class. I hope these tips were helpful for you.