So you say you want a graduate degree? To get a sense of what graduate school is like (especially a PhD program), look here. You would also be wise to remember that a graduate degree does not guarantee a career after graduation. If you’re aware of the additional time, money, and resources required, and you still want to go, here’s some advice:
- American Psychological Association – Start here by looking at recommendations from the American Psychological Association
- Did you know that the Psychology Department has reference books that are available to students? Here are just a few of the titles of some texts that are located in room 401 Hyde:
- APA Graduate Study in Psychology (2012)
- Allyn and Bacon Guide to Master’s Programs in Psychology and Counseling Psychology (1998)
- Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology (2008/2009 edition)
- See a typical timetable for making decisions and preparing materials.
- Gain some experience by doing undergraduate research. The sooner you begin, the better. Your research experience will be invaluable in preparing you for graduate work. Be sure to go above and beyond all expectations set for you by your advisor because s/he will be instrumental when it’s time for letters of recommendation!
- Study for the GREs. This test is notoriously difficult, and your score is relative to all of the other smart and motivated people who are also applying to graduate school. Seriously, get a good test prep book from Kaplan and study those Latin-based vocabulary words!
- Take the GREs. They are required for virtually every graduate program, but don’t bother with the subject test for psychology unless a school you’re applying to requires it (most don’t). The test can be expensive, but there are fee reduction programs available. Here’s how to interpret your score. If you don’t end up doing as well as you expected, consider taking them again, but look here before you start panicking.
- Write your Statement of Purpose/Personal Essay. This is essentially an essay that explains why you want to attend a particular program. Depending on the school, you may be asked a specific question for your essay, so read each application carefully. Since this is an opportunity for the search committee to assess your writing skills, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD!! Have at least two of your mentors read it and provide feedback, too. More importantly, this is a tool used by the committee to determine whether you have the motivation to complete the long, arduous process of obtaining a graduate degree. So how do you make yourself stand apart? Here are some guidelines. Examples from applicants to clinical psychology PhD programs can be found here and here.
- Ask for letters of recommendation from faculty members that know you well and like you. It’s important to ask several weeks prior to the application deadline, so ask early. Don’t feel bad about asking people to send out multiple letters on your behalf — they can very easily hit “print” more than once. However, do be specific about how many letters to write and where to send them. Look here for some other pointers.
- Application deadlines are typically at this time (and through January). Most students apply to about 10 graduate programs, but there’s no magic number, and the number depends on your situation. Keep in mind that each application requires a fee (could be about $100 per application), though you may be able to obtain fee waivers. Be careful to include all necessary materials in your application and avoid these mistakes. Also, beware of rolling deadlines — the later you’re accepted, the less likely you are to receive financial aid!