Prospective Graduate Students

I am always pleased to hear of prospective students considering graduate training in the Department of Sociology and The Carolina Population Center (CPC). I receive many, many emails from students expressing interest in working with me or learning more about our programs, so I am unable to directly respond to everyone, especially before knowing if you are admitted or not. Therefore, I provide answers to common questions here. I also encourage you to check the websites hyperlinked above for program and funding details, and please direct any general questions about the training programs to either Leah Elms ( in Sociology or Jan Hendrickson-Smith ( at CPC.

Am I accepting or working with new graduate students next year?
I consider new students every year. I very much enjoy mentoring and collaboration, and I am always looking for talented and highly motivated students whose interests overlap with mine. I am sometimes on our department’s admissions committee, but even when I am not, the committee will forward me applications to review from promising students who have indicated an interest in working with me or have similar interests to mine. Our department will assign advisors to incoming students based on interests, but it is not uncommon for one’s advisor to change as students refine their interests and who might be the best fit for their professional goals and working style.

For what reasons might one apply for a predoctoral traineeship at CPC, and how does that work?
Much of my own research takes a population perspective, meaning I am interested in religious and family dynamics in the general population and how they are related. I often use representative, general population survey data analyses in my projects, and employ methods common to a demographic approach (e.g., event history models). I was trained as a demographer, am a member of the Population Association of America, attend their annual meetings, and publish in demographic journals. If you are interested in doing work like mine, it is likely you are interested in population science training, but not necessarily. If you are unfamiliar with a demographic approach (like I was as an incoming graduate student), do some research to see if this perspective appeals to you as a career path. Look at my publications in population journals or using demographic methods. Read up on the Population Association of America and browse a recent program to see the kinds of topics being studied by demographers. Peruse the website of the Population Section of the American Sociological Association. If after all of this, you are interested in the CPC Predoctoral Training Program, make note of the deadline for traineeship applications, and you will need to contact me or another CPC Faculty Fellow to request our support as your preceptor. I will reply to those emails, but do not hesitate to contact me a second time, if you have not heard back from me in a reasonably timely manner. Also, if you are not sure about the alignment of your interests and a population perspective, you can always explore the option in your first year at Carolina and apply to start a traineeship in your second year.

What advice would I give on how to prepare the best possible application?
Our department rarely admits even the most highly qualified candidates who have little perceivable overlap with faculty in interests. In fact, I would not recommend applying somewhere without two to three scholars with whom you would be excited to work. This means you need to be explicit in your application about why our program and my or other faculty expertise is ideal for your training and professional goals. Specifically, give names of two or three faculty with whom you would like to work and explain why. Cite specific faculty projects or research topics when possible.

Best wishes in your academic endeavors!