How will this program improve my career chances?

The Social Science Scholars Program provides students with the ideal preparation for high-profile careers in the public or private sectors and for advanced degree programs at the nation's best universities. Social Science Scholars will have many options when they leave MSU, from pursuing careers in business, finance, politics and public policy, to working for a think tank or Non-Governmental Organization, and taking professional degrees in areas like law, government and international relations. This program's goal is to ensure that they stand out from the crowd in whatever field they choose. Accordingly, this program has been modelled on what researchers have consistently found to appeal most to employers. On the graphic below, produced by MSU’s Dr. Phil Gardner, the size of the circle shows the relative importance attached to each kind of experience by prospective employers.


  • Internships. We will help each Scholar to identify at least one internship, domestic or overseas, that matches his or her interests and aspirations. By serving as interns, students will gain in maturity and practical knowledge and be able to demonstrate their readiness for taking on professional responsibilities.

  • Leadership in organizations. When Scholars are sophomores we will strongly encourage them to become involved in campus and community organizations.

  • Faculty-supervised research. Close faculty mentorship is known to help students excel. All Scholars will therefore undertake serious research projects with faculty members and we expect that many will publish at least once during their undergraduate careers. The existing cohort are studying a wide area of topics: how economic deprivation affects physical and mental health, the development of the US healthcare system, the ethics of pharmaceutical research, the benefits and risks of micro-lending as a development strategy, and the factors influencing whether or not gun crimes gain national media coverage.

  • Supervised civic engagement. All Social Scholars will participate in service learning activities and encouraged to continue these efforts.

  • Study Abroad. All Scholars will go on a subsidized study abroad experience after the first year in the program. Topics covered in the seminars will be discussed from an international perspective. Scholars will also have the opportunity to continue their research project during the study abroad program. 

In short, Social Science Scholars will be able to offer highly-desirable research skills and a maturity of understanding that few graduates possess.

What kind of employment opportunities would this program lead to?

Social Science Scholars will have many choices when they leave MSU because they will be (a) highly experienced in conducting original research, (b) well-informed on the most fundamental concepts and skills relevant to business, economics, law, government, and public and environmental policy, (c) and able to draw on contacts made during internships organized through the Social Science Scholars Program.

Here are some of the careers for which Social Science Scholars will be highly competitive: corporate executive, diplomat, foreign service officer, political risk analyst, political aide, officer in government agencies at all levels, intelligence analyst, forensic scientist, journalist, financial analyst, investment analyst, consultant in business or government, ecologist or environmental manager, water resources or land use planner, industrial developer, archivist, geographic information systems specialist, public relations officer, non-profit manager, market researcher, legislative aide, healthcare manager, criminologist, community organizer, market research analyst, statistician, industrial sociologist, demographer, high school teacher, and many more.

If the Social Science Scholar's ambition is to become a university professor or pursue a professional degree such as law, international relations, psychology or public policy, he or she will have an advantage as well. Our students will be well placed to gain acceptance to the nation's very best graduate programs. Few graduates will be as experienced in research or have so many enriching experiences to be able to present to admissions officers and prospective advisors.

What will I study?

Every cohort takes a series of seminars as a group, designed specifically for the Social Science Scholars. Each semester, for the first two years of the program, Scholars enroll in a seminar course that will count towards College of Social Science requirements. The first year will provide a deep understanding of human behaviour and interactions from the perspective of multiple social science disciplines. Second years draw on the concepts learned in year one to understand a diverse series of important historical and contemporary issues: from the Holocaust and Apartheid, to gender inequity, the ‘war on drugs’, and the artificial intelligence revolution. 

Why are so few students admitted?

The Social Science Scholars Program recruits 20-25 Scholars a year because our aim is to invest in individual students of high promise. A low faculty-student ratio is essential for three reasons. First, because we expect all students to participate actively in class discussion. Second, because we need to be able to organize faculty-led research experiences for each student. Third, because our goal is to tailor internship experiences to the individual student’s interests and aspirations. Students who are not admitted into the Social Science Scholars Program should note (a) that they can apply when MSU freshmen for entrance into year two of the program and (b) that several departments in the College of Social Science have their own scholars programs to which they can apply.

Who can apply to the Social Science Scholars Program?

Acceptance to the Social Science Scholars Program is contingent on being admitted to MSU. However, you may apply to the Scholars Program before you have received an official acceptance from MSU Admissions. A limited number of places may also be made available for rising sophomores. 

What kinds of students are you looking for?

Our objective is to recruit a diverse group of Scholars that (a) brings multiple perspectives and experiences to class and (b) reflects the social and ethnic diversity of the nation. Test scores and grades are obviously important (although these are not always an accurate reflection of a student’s ability or potential). We are also looking for candidates who can demonstrate a passion for studying and debating social and political issues. We therefore attach considerable significance to an applicant’s personal statement, references, extracurricular activities, and performance in interview. In short, we are recruiting students who have the enthusiasm and maturity to make the most of the opportunities we will provide. 

Could I apply to medical school having graduated as a Social Science Scholar?

Yes. Social Science Scholars who wish to apply to medical school would be best advised to take majors in Psychology as this department's advisors are accustomed to find spots for students in higher level science classes. More generally, medical schools are increasingly keen to recruit students who have had significant exposure to social science and humanities disciplines. These are seen as enhancing the student's abilities to communicate orally and in writing and to provide the knowledge and skills for them to be able to connect with and respond to patients as individuals.

Having taught the history and sociology of medicine for a decade, program director Dr. John Waller can say with great confidence that the social sciences are also very effective at making medical students think about issues that are critically important both to best clinical practice and to the future of health care: for example, (a) the social, economic and geographical factors that promote health or illness, (b) the high degree of error and overstatement involved in even the best medical journals due to the fallibility of the human mind and the power of funding to influence what is published, (c) the role of prejudice in exacerbating the hardships of illness, and (d) how the current medical system operates, how it developed, and how it contrasts with systems in other parts of the world.

How do I apply?

Details about the application process can be found here.

I am a high school counselor, how can I find out more about the Social Science Scholars program

The program director, Dr. John Waller, is more than happy to speak over the phone, talk with students and counselors via Skype, or visit schools. Please contact him directly at wallerj1(at)msu.edu or 517-353-3898 to set up an appointment.

When is the deadline to apply and when will offers be made to new Social Science Scholars?

We will recruit to the program on a rolling basis and encourage students to begin applying at any time. We strongly encourage early application, perhaps at the same time students are applying for general MSU admission. The deadline for admission to the Social Science Scholars program each fall will, however, will be April 1 of the year in which the student hopes to begin the program. Private interviews will be organized regularly as students apply and offers will follow.

How many credits will I obtain as a Social Science Scholar?

Students will earn at least 23 credits (out of a total of 120) as members of the Social Science Scholars Program. These credits will usuallly be assigned as follows:

  • Freshmen seminars: 7 credits
  • Freshman study abroad: 7 credits
  • Sophomore seminars: 7 credits

As third and fourth year students, Scholars are encouraged to participate in monthly activities, serve as upperclass mentors, and/or serve on the Leadership Council, but these commitments will not earn additional credits. 

What about finances?

The Social Science Scholars program has funds available for two-year scholarships that will be assigned primarily on the basis of financial need. In addition, some College of Social Science departments have provided funds to sponsor individual Scholars.

We strongly encourage Scholars to pursue additional scholarship opportunities, such as the Alumni Distinguished Scholarship, through the Honors College. More details can be found here.

The program director and program assistant are available to work with students in securing adequate funding and identifying appropriate scholarships through the university. In addition, the College of Social Science is able to provide scholarship funds for study abroad.

What majors can I take as a Social Science Scholar?

Any major in the College of Social Science. There are quite a few of these and you can check them out at this page.

What happens if I decide to drop out of the program?

We consider such a decision unlikely (!), but in such an event we will work with our colleagues in the College of Social Science to ensure that credits taken in the program can be assigned where possible to other majors and minors. Any funding you would be awarded if you stayed in the program will be forfeited. 

How can I learn more about the Social Science Scholars program?

Easy. Call Jenn Arbogast on 517-353-3217 or email her at jennarbo(at)msu.edu. She will be pleased to answer any questions.