Dunn & Halonen
Chapter 12: How Do You Get into
If you are serious about going to graduate school, you better have a fire in your belly.
~ J. William Hepler, former psychology department chair, Butler University
Describe the caliber of undergraduate performance that facilitates favorable grad school admissions decisions.
Suggest effective application strategies.
Share models of application components (e.g., personal statement).
Student Learning Outcomes
By the end of this chapter, students should be able to:
Determine if they should pursue graduate study.
Describe which graduate degree best meets their goals (e.g., MA, PhD, PsyD).
Identify effective activities at the undergraduate level to improve their graduate applications.
Know the components of a typical graduate school application.
Measuring Up: Do You Have the Fire?
What Graduate School Requires
How do your own personal characteristics fit with what graduate school requires?
STRONG Arguments to Go
I would like to become a scientific researcher or a professional in the discipline.
I hope to contribute to the discipline through research, practice, or a combination of both.
I want to educate people about basic and applied psychological science.
I want to dedicate myself to promoting psychological well-being and to ameliorating distress.
I enjoy research, writing, publishing, and giving professional talks.
I am deeply curious about the human condition.
WEAK Arguments to Go
I earned good grades in psychology during college so I probably should become a psychologist.
I dont really want a real job.
I want to be addressed as doctor or professor.
I dont know what else to do now that I have my undergraduate degree.
I dont want a 12-month jobI want to be a college professor and have my summers off.
Ive always been a student and Im pretty good at itwhy stop now?
Initiating the Application
You need a comprehensive strategy.
Start to prepare once you make the decision.
Dedicate time in the junior year to intensive application research.
Apply in the fall of senior year.
Factors to Consider
How selective is the program?
How much does it cost?
Who will you work with?
Where is the program located?
How well do the programs students fare in the job market after graduation?
What Courses Impress?
Core areas: neuroscience, developmental, cognition, and sociocultural
An applied course (e.g., health, I/O, environmental)
An integrating capstone experience
TIP: Take rigorous courses to build skills; avoid filler classes.
Selecting a Specialization
Identify the areas that you find most fascinating.
Conduct an Internet search on the most appealing areas.
Examine APAs Graduate Study in Psychology, which is organized by
Area of study
What Admission Criteria Are Most Important?
Letters of recommendation
Personal goal statement
SLIGHTLY LESS IMPORTANT
Graduate Record Exam scores
The Research Advantage
Traditional graduate programs in psychology produce scientists and scientific research.
Undergraduate research experience
teaches diverse problem-solving methods
provides hands-on experience
enhances teamwork, writing, and speaking skills
contributes to the progress of the science
Visual summary of research findings
Regional psychology conferences
TIP: All conferences have fees for participating or will require membership.
Securing a Research Spot
Apply to be part of a research team as early as you can.
Look for advertised opportunities.
Approach faculty who share your interests.
Ask for referrals if you get turned down.
What Do Research Assistants Do?
Perform library and database searches
Participate in planning and operations meetings
Work as part of a research team
Run data-collection sessions
Enter data into a spreadsheet and perform statistical analyses
Write research summaries
Conducting Your Own Research
Programs differ but may offer independent research activities in different forms:
Summer research fellowships
Strategic Applications (1 of 3)
Compare your qualifications with program thresholds.
Include a reach school if you can assemble a strong rationale regarding why your qualifications fall a little short.
Include a safety school to enhance your best chance to get in somewhere.
Strategic Applications (2 of 3)
Seek a position with a specific faculty member whose work resonates with you and make a personal appeal.
Be conversant in the professors work before you make your pitch.
Strategic Applications (3 of 3)
TIP: Rejection happens.
? Have a Plan B to help you strengthen your application and then reapply.
Masters or PhD
Go the PhD route if your qualifications are strong.
Go the masters route if it qualifies you for the professional work you hope to do.
Apply to masters programs if your qualifications are not as strong so you can earn a masters to prove your fitness for graduate study.
The 10-year completion rate (2008) was only 65%.
Some programs limit time in program to 10 years.
Only apply to programs for which you would honestly go in cities where you can imagine living.
Factor in the reasonable debt load you can sustain.
Applying is expensive. Target the number of applications you can afford.
The Clinical Paths (1 of 2)
The Boulder Model
Traditional science-oriented degree emerging in 1949
Lower debt load at graduation
The Vail Model
Innovative practice-focused degree emerging in 1973
Less likely to be university based
Higher debt load at graduation
The Clinical Paths (2 of 2)
TIP: When choosing from among clinical programs, examine how successful the program is.
Is it maintaining accreditation?
Are its graduates getting internship placements?
A Word on Grades & GRE
Minimum qualifying GPA ? 3.0
GRE tests verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytic writing and may require Psychology Subject Test.
Programs vary in the minimums they specify for both for GPA and GRE.
TIP: Consult specific program requirements to help you decide.
Supply These Data to Your Recommenders
Addresses and due dates of all letters needed
A list of prospective employers
Your curriculum vitae or résumé
Specifics about the course experiences you had with your professor (grades, meaningful interactions)
Personal statement or goals
Unofficial copy of your transcript
A copy of GRE and Psychology Subject Test scores
Any required recommendation forms
Preaddressed envelopes with stamps (if the process hasnt yet gone digital)
Helpful Strategies for Recommendation Letters
Waive your right to see confidential letters to encourage candor from your recommenders (some faculty will voluntarily give you a copy of what they have written).
Follow up with programs to make sure your letters have arrived with sufficient lead time to help you recover if a letter is missing.
Writing a Personal Statement
The Personal Statement = Applicant Statement = Autobiographical Statement = Letter of Intent
Whatever it is called, it is the most personal aspect of the application.
Basics of the Personal Statement
Explain why you are interested in psychology
Share background information
Provide a writing sample
Other Issues You Might Address
Academic interest areas
Your interest in the specific program
Specific research and teaching experiences
Relevant internship and volunteer experiences
Objectives of study
Target faculty with whom you would like to work
Specific competencies (e.g., statistics, foreign language)
Relevant personal material
Tips for Strong Letters of Intent
Dont exceed allotted limits. Avoid discussing items that are listed elsewhere in the application.
Get feedback from multiple allies on your clarity, persuasiveness, grammar.
Revise, revise, revise until the statement communicates exactly what you want to say about your love of and future in psychology.
Be prepared to modify it for each application.
Tips for Clinical Applications
Avoid extended discussions of your own mental health struggles.
? It sends up red flags about your intentions.
If your mental health journey is critical to share,
Emphasize positive outcomes of the struggle
Whats a Curriculum Vitae?
A CV is like an academically oriented résumé containing
Jobs related to psychology
Research interests and current projects
Interests in teaching
Professional publications (listed in APA style)
Putting It Together
Dont fall victim to the planning fallacy.
Provide a cushion that allows last-minute corrections.
Be sure to respond accurately to what each school requires because each may be different.
Make yourself available for a face-to-face interview if at all possible.
If at First You Dont Succeed
Look at your credentials:
Did you apply to schools with standards that were too high?
Look at your GRE scores:
Did they exceed required minimums?
Evaluate your research experience:
Volunteer for more if you can.
Did you apply to both masters and PhD programs?
Try for both next time.
Ask for a trusted professors professional review:
What could be improved for next time?
The path to graduate school requires tenacity (staying power). Persistence can pay off in the end.
What specific reasons do you have for attending graduate school in psychology?
Will you pursue doctoral- or masters-level training? Why?
Is there a specific area of psychology that interests you? Within that area, are there particular topics you might like to study as a graduate student?
Have you had any research experience? If you have, what did you like and not like about doing research? If you havent, do you plan to obtain some research experience? How?
If you were to write a personal statement right now to explain your motivation to study psychology at the graduate level, what would you say? Why?