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					Graduate School
  Workshop

                  Speakers:
   Dr. Cynthia Sifonis, Associate Professor
         Department of Psychology

   Dr. Michele Purdie, Assistant Professor
         Department of Psychology




                 Sponsored by:
                Psi Chi and the
         Department of Psychology at OU

Thanks to Dr. Robby Stewart for initially developing
        the content provided in this packet.

2009 updates provided by Dr. Kozak & Dr. McGinnis
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                                                                              2



                                                                 Table of Contents
   OUTLINE OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL WORKSHOP ....................................................................................................3
      Is graduate school the right choice for me? .........................................................................................................3
      What undergraduate courses and experiences will increase my chances of admission to graduate school and
      help me to succeed after I am admitted? ..............................................................................................................3
      What are my chances of gaining admission to graduate school? ........................................................................3
      What should I consider when I choose the graduate schools to which I am going to apply? ..............................4
      How do I apply? ...................................................................................................................................................4
      What are the particular concerns I must have if I am considering going to graduate school in clinical
      psychology or a related field? ..............................................................................................................................4
   RESOURCES ...............................................................................................................................................................5
   IS GRADUATE SCHOOL THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR ME? ...................................................................................................7
      What career options are associated with different graduate degrees? ................................................................7
      What are the requirements for success in graduate school? ................................................................................7
      The Unvalidated Graduate School Potential Test ................................................................................................8
      Important Factors in Graduate School Admission ...............................................................................................9
   WHAT UNDERGRADUATE COURSES AND EXPERIENCES WILL INCREASE MY CHANCES OF ADMISSION TO GRADUATE
   SCHOOL AND HELP ME TO SUCCEED AFTER I AM ADMITTED? ................................................................................... 10
      What psychology courses should I take? ............................................................................................................ 10
      What courses should I take outside of psychology? ........................................................................................... 10
      Should I get some research experience? ............................................................................................................ 10
      Should I acquire skills related to research? ....................................................................................................... 10
      Do I need outside work experience demonstrating my interest and commitment to the field? .......................... 11
      Will it help if I become a member or Psi Chi? ................................................................................................... 11
      Can you give me a timetable to summarize of all of this? .................................................................................. 11
   WHAT ARE MY CHANCES OF GAINING ADMISSION TO GRADUATE SCHOOL? ............................................................. 13
      Does the reputation of Oakland University play a role in my chances of admission? ....................................... 13
      How will my transcript be evaluated?................................................................................................................ 14
      How important are Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores and when should I that the GRE? .......................... 14
      Will I need letters of recommendation? ............................................................................................................. 15
      How are personal statements evaluated? ........................................................................................................... 16
   WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER WHEN I CHOOSE THE GRADUATE SCHOOLS TO WHICH I AM GOING TO APPLY? .............. 17
      Does the school have a program in my general area of interest? ...................................................................... 17
      Does the school have faculty in my specific area of interest? ............................................................................ 17
      Do I have a reasonable chance of being accepted? ........................................................................................... 17
      How many and which schools should I apply to? .............................................................................................. 17
      How will the graduate school’s reputation, location, etc., affect my ability to get a job after getting my
      graduate degree? ............................................................................................................................................... 17
      Where can I get information to answer these questions? ................................................................................... 17
   HOW DO I APPLY? .................................................................................................................................................... 18
      Make an honest self-appraisal of your credentials. ........................................................................................... 18
      Prior to the start of your senior year, you should: ............................................................................................. 18
      During the fall of your senior year you should: ................................................................................................. 18
      How to Apply to Graduate School...................................................................................................................... 18
   WHAT ARE THE PARTICULAR CONCERNS I MUST HAVE IF I AM CONSIDERING GOING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL IN
   CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY OR A RELATED FIELD? ........................................................................................................ 22
      What are the differences among a PhD, a PsyD, and a MA? ............................................................................ 22
      What is accreditation and do I need to be concerned about it? ......................................................................... 22
      Is social work an option? (e.g. MSW) ................................................................................................................ 23
      Should I consider counseling and other related programs? .............................................................................. 23




R Stewart: C:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\8505a06d-2439-4fb4-9e67-498adfb5e0c9.doc
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                             3



Outline of the Graduate School Workshop
Is graduate school the right choice for me?
A.    What career options are associated with different graduate degrees?
      1. What are the career options available with just a B.A.?
      2. What can I do with a Masters or Doctoral degree?
B.    What are the requirements for success in graduate school?
      1. Do I have the credentials to be accepted?
      2. What sort of commitment does graduate school require in terms of time, money, lifestyle, etc.?
      3. Do I have the interests, self-motivation, etc. to succeed in graduate school?

What undergraduate courses and experiences will increase my chances of
admission to graduate school and help me to succeed after I am admitted?
A.    What psychology courses should I take?
      1. How do I decide which courses are the best to take? (e.g. research courses, ―core‖ courses, etc.)
      2. Should I take many courses in my main area of interest or should I diversify my choices among a
         variety of areas?
B.    What courses should I take outside of psychology?
      1. Should I get a ―well rounded liberal arts education‖ or should I primarily seek courses that clearly are
         related to my chosen career?
      2. Do I have an advantage if I have a minor or concentration?
C.    Should I get some research experience?
      1. Do I have an advantage if I get research experience in terms of admissions or success after admission?
      2. How important is it to get a publication or to make a presentation at a conference?
      3. Is it preferable to work with just one faculty member over an extended time or is it better to work
         more briefly with several different faculty members?
D.    Should I acquire skills related to research?
      1. Should I know how to use computers?
      2. What should I know about statistics?
      3. What writing skills do I need?
E.    Do I need outside work experience demonstrating my interest and commitment to the field?
      1. How helpful will outside work experience be in gaining admission?
      2. What type of outside work experience would be most helpful?
F.    Will it help if I become a member or Psi Chi?
      1. What is this organization and what does it do?
      2. What benefits do I get from membership?
G.    Can you give me a simple summary of all of this?
      1. Is there a timetable I should be using?
      2. Do you have a simple summary?

What are my chances of gaining admission to graduate school?
A.    Does the reputation of Oakland University play a role in my chances of admission?
      1. How does the reputation of Oakland University and the Department of Psychology influence my
         chances of gaining admission?
      2. What is the reputation of Oakland and the department?
B.    How will my transcript be evaluated?
      1. Is there a minimum GPA that I must have in order to be considered by the graduate school?
      2. Do all grades have the same weight or is more weight given to psychology courses or to courses in the
         last two years?
      3. Is the difficulty and selection of courses taken into account along with my grades?
      4. Do these criteria differ dramatically among different graduate school programs?
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                4

C.    How important are Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores and when should I that the GRE?
      1. How important are the GRE subscales in Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing?
      2. How important is the GRE psychology subject test score?
      3. How useful are ―coaching‖ courses for the GRE?
D.    Will I need letters of recommendation?
      1. How important are letters of recommendation?
      2. How will do I need to know a faculty member before I can ask for a letter?
      3. What can I do to get the best letters of recommendation?
      4. Do letters of recommendation from employers help?
E.    How are personal statements evaluated?
      1. Is there a ―match‖ between your interests with those of the institution and department to which you
         are applying?
      2. Are there special skills or activities in your background that are interesting or valuable?

What should I consider when I choose the graduate schools to which I am going
to apply?
A.    Does the school have a program in my general area of interest?
B.    Does the school have faculty in my specific area of interest?
C.    Do I have a reasonable chance of being accepted?
D.    How many and which schools should I apply to?
E.    How will the graduate school‘s reputation, location, etc. affect my ability to get a job after getting my
         graduate degree?
F.    Where can I get information to answer these questions?

How do I apply?
A.    Make an honest self-appraisal of your credentials.
B.    Prior to the start of your senior year, you should:
      1. Decide where your own interests lie.
      2. Find out what schools match your interests and send for information, etc.
      3. Decide to which schools you intend to apply.
      4. Discuss any question with a faculty member.
C.    During the fall of your senior year you should:
      1. Fill out your applications
      2. Arrange to get letters of recommendation
      3. Arrange to take the GREs.
      4. Organize and write your personal statements
      5. Discuss any questions with a faculty member
      6. Expect this process to take about as much time as a 4-credit class

What are the particular concerns I must have if I am considering going to
graduate school in clinical psychology or a related field?
A.    What are the differences among a PhD, a PsyD, and a MA?
      1. Is it easier to get into one than another?
      2. How do these programs differ?
      3. What kind of career can I expect with these degrees?
B.    What is accreditation and do I need to be concerned about it?
C.    Is social work an option? (e.g. MSW)
D.    Should I consider counseling and other related programs?
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                5



Resources
APA Online for Students [http://www.apa.org/students/]
        The American Psychological Association maintains a website full of the most current information
        necessary in planning a career in psychology.

APA Books [http://www.apa.org/books/]
        You may order a number of excellent books here. Without a doubt, the most useful will be the
        following:
             Graduate Study in Psychology (2009) offers complete practical information about approximately
               600 psychology programs in the United States and Canada. This edition provides current facts
               about programs and degrees offered, admission requirements, application information, financial
               aid, tuition, and housing. Graduate Study in Psychology is a reference that is suitable for
               students, counselors, libraries, and department offices in psychology, education, and other
               related fields.
             Getting In: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in
                Psychology, Second Edition (2007) provides useful information to help navigate the
                process of applying to graduate school. Topics include a description of the necessary
                requirements for applying, suggestions on how to determine the best programs to apply
                to, and tips to increase one‘s chance of acceptance.
               Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You, Second Edition (2006) Robert
                J. Sternberg. In this book, several psychologists who have achieved great success in a variety of
                areas discuss their work: what got them into it, what they like and don't like about it, and what a
                typical work week is like in their chosen specialty. These psychologists offer advice,
                information, and the inspiration of their own career paths. They speak frankly about salaries and
                job opportunities, and about what it takes to make it in their field.

PsychWeb [http://www.psywww.com/]
        Russ Dewey maintains an outstanding site that is full of information for psychology teachers and
        students. Be sure to see the ―Careers‖ page [http://www.psywww.com/careers/index.htm] where you
        will find a great deal of information and a very useful link to a page of selected web sites
        [http://www.psywww.com/careers/websites.htm] containing information on careers in psychology.

Petersons Graduate Channel [http://www.petersons.com/GradChannel/]
        This site contains a great deal of general-purpose information about graduate education.

Frequently Asked Questions of the APA [http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/faqs.html]
        This link takes you to the APA site of frequently asked questions pertaining to graduate programs in
        psychology. Here you will find answers to the following questions:
        ▪ Which is the ―best‖ program in psychology?
        ▪ How do I determine which program is best suited for me?
        ▪ What types of employment opportunities are available to me with a degree in psychology?
        ▪ Should I apply to a master‘s or doctoral degree program?
        ▪ What is the difference between a PhD and a PsyD?
        ▪ What is accreditation?
        ▪ What is the length of time required to complete a degree?
        ▪ What level of financial indebtedness can I expect to incur?
        ▪ What type of financial assistance is available?
        ▪ Do I need a license to practice psychology?
        ▪ Want to learn more about Graduate Study in Psychology?
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                               6

Divisions of the APA [http://www.apa.org/about/division.html]
        There are 56 different divisions within the American Psychological Association…far more diversity
        than most people realize. This link will take you to an index page that can connect you to each division
        by name or to the division or divisions that are most associated with specific key words.

More on the Graduate Record Examination [http://www.psywww.com/careers/gre.htm]
        This link takes you to a page within the Careers section of PsychWeb. This page summarizes a great
        deal of information about the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Salary information:
        http://research.apa.org/salaries07.html
        Some people like to have data about potential salaries when they consider career options. This link
        above will provide you with the most current data about salaries for doctoral-level positions in the field
        of psychology.

        http://www.allpsychologyschools.com/faqs/salaries.php
        In addition, here you can obtain even more salary information.

        http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar00/facts.html
        Finally, one more article about salaries.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                               7



Is graduate school the right choice for me?
What career options are associated with different graduate degrees?
What are the career options available with just a B.A.?
What can I do with a Masters or Doctoral degree?

These two questions were the focus of the workshop entitled ―Careers in Psychology‖ that was held in October.
We will not be repeating that discussion today, but you may download a document containing the presentation
given by Professor Lewis and Professor Sifonis by going to the following link:
[http://oaklandpsichi.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=51].

What are the requirements for success in graduate school?
Do I have the credentials to be accepted?
What sort of commitment does graduate school require in terms of time, money, lifestyle, etc.?
Do I have the interests, self-motivation, etc. to succeed in graduate school?

First, recognize that this is a very complex issue. The credentials include grades, course work selected, GRE
scores, letters of recommendation, personal statements, publications and presentations. Moreover, within the
recommendation letters and personal statement there must be something that demonstrates the applicant is truly
committed to being successful in graduate school.

Next, go to the APA Student Website and select the ―Getting into Graduate School‖ link
[http://www.apa.org/students/student3.html]. This page provides many useful links.

The Kaplan Test Preparation website also has a detailed set of pages devoted to the process of getting into
graduate school to study psychology. Start at their Psychology web page
[http://www.kaptest.com/Psychology/Graduate-School/PS_home.html?cid=312057] and look for the ―Apply to
School‖ link. This will start you on a series of interconnected pages outlining the steps necessary to apply to
graduate school. The first step is deciding if graduate school is right for you. While at the Kaplan site look for
information on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). You will need to prepare for and take this test.

Graduate school is hard work. Most of us who finished it feel that these were the best years of our lives and we
often feel jealous of the fact that our students are getting to go to the begin the experiences that we enjoyed so
much. However, make no mistake about it – graduate school is very hard work, especially if you select to attend
one of the good schools instead of one of the handy, convenient institutions that might permit you to be a part-
time student. The graduate program you choose to enter will forever influence your reputation as a
professional…choose wisely.

Just saying that graduate school is hard work does not convey the reality of the situation. The informal quiz
found on the next two pages does get closer to accomplishing this. Take a few minutes to take the quiz…be
honest.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                        8



                         The Unvalidated Graduate School Potential Test
                                            Developed by Patricia Keith-Spiegel

This exercise was developed to assist you in exploring whether graduate school is for you. Although this 'test' has not
undergone any validation evaluations (i.e., checking to see if the answers one gives are indeed reliable predictors of
graduate school success or failure) the items are based on knowledge of the graduate school experience and have 'face
validity.' The items are so transparent that anyone could 'fake' a 'successful' profile. However, unless you answer each
question in a completely honest fashion, the results will be of no use whatsoever. Remember, no one will see the results
except you, so you are not trying to perform for or impress anyone!

Answer each question according to how it applies to you using the following scale:
  1                  2                3                  4                 5               6                    7
Strongly        Disagree          Slightly           Neutral           Slightly           Agree             Strongly
Disagree                           Disagree                            Agree                                Agree

_____    1. Living on a strict budget for 4 to 7 years while studying most of the time does not bother me at all.
_____    2. I enjoy writing term papers.
_____    3. I hate giving verbal presentations in front of class.
_____    4. I enjoy reading books about psychology even if they are not assigned reading. .
_____    5. I put off studying for a test as long as possible.
_____    6. On many occasions, I have given up desirable social opportunities to study instead.
_____    7. I expect to earn a very good salary (i.e., $50,000 per year or more) soon after I get my graduate degree.
_____    8 I hate to study.
_____    9. I have trouble concentrating on my studies for hours at a time.
_____   10. I read over recent issues of professional journals on a regular basis.
_____   11 I dislike spending lots of time in the library.
_____   12. I have a tremendous drive to enter a profession in psychology.
_____   13. There are other careers besides one in psychology that are also of great interest to me.
_____   14. I intend to work full-time at my career for most of my lifetime.
_____   15. I am sick of school right now.
_____   16. I get good grades.
_____   17. My grades are far below the capacity I actually have.
_____   18. I have a flair for statistics.
_____   19 I think a PhD would be valuable primarily because of the social status it provides (being addressed as ‗Doctor').
_____   20. I like doing research projects.
_____   21. I dislike being in competition with other students.
_____   22. I can carry out academic projects without direction and assistance.
_____   23. I will have to work at a job during the graduate school years in order to support myself.
_____   24. I am already comfortably competent (or well on my way) with computer skills and word-processing technology.
_____   25. I get along very well with professors.

Answer only one of the following questions:

(For those primarily interested in clinical programs)
_____ 26a. I enjoy working with people (such as a volunteer job at a hospital) and have already had such experiences .

(For those primarily interested in experimental programs)
_____ 26b. I feel comfortable with the possibility of working long and hard hours on a professor's research program even
             though I may not be all that interested in the project and would not get much pay or recognition.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                        9

Scoring
REVERSE your scoring (i.e., give yourself 7 points for a I answer, 6 points for a 2 answer, etc.) for items 3, 5, 7,
8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, and 23. Then add up your total score of points from the scale.

KEITH-SPIEGEL'S INTERPRETATION OF TOTAL SCORE
156 +     Good graduate school material. Your goals, attitudes, accomplishments, and habits appear to
          coincide with what is usually necessary to succeed in graduate school.
130 – 155 You can probably make it if you also make some changes before you start.
 78 – 129 Cause for concern. You may be bright enough, but there are other problems.
 26 – 77 Carefully reconsider going to graduate school at this time. The picture of a satisfied & successful
          student just is not there.

Keith-Spiegel adds that she gives the above breakdown because that is what tests like this usually offer, but that
your total score gives only very general guidance. She goes on to say that an analysis of your response to each
item individually is far more useful than any overall generalizations based on a total score.

Important Factors in Graduate School Admission

Keith-Spiegel conducted a survey of 158 faculty who are active in the graduate student selection process at their
schools. They were told that it was assumed that grades, test scores, and letters of recommendation were
important and were asked to rate 138 more subtle factors on the scale below:

+3 = Very impressive/significantly Fences applicant's candidacy
 0 = Neutral/doesn't affect candidacy one way or the other
-3 = Very negative/detracts significantly from applicant=s candidacy

1. Applicant is listed as a senior author of a research article published in a refereed scholarly journal. (M = 2.89)
2. Applicant is sole author on a paper at APA, APS or a major regional association convention. (2.49)
3. Applicant has a letter from a mentor with whom applicant has done considerable work. (2.45)
4. Applicant has a letter from applicant's professor who is a well-known and respected psychologist. (2.45)
5. Applicant's personal statement reveals a sustained and focused interest in an area appropriate to your program. (2.39)
6. Applicant has earned an authorship on a research article published in a refereed scholarly Journal. (2.3)
7. Applicant is in the top 5 % of the graduating class (overall GPA standing). (2.28)
8. Applicant writes very well. (2.28)
9. Applicant includes a research paper (independent study project) in submitted application package that is relevant to your
        program focus. (2.19)
10. Application materials indicate that applicant paid considerable attention to assessing a 'match' (i.e., that applicant's
        interests and your program seem right for each other). (2.09)
11. Applicant is the sole author of a paper presented at an undergraduate research conference. (2.05)
12. Applicant was a research assistant as an undergraduate. (2.04)
13. Applicant is a 'self-starter' (according to recommenders). (1.96)
14. Applicant was a junior author of paper at APA, APS or a large regional association convention. (1.96)
15. Applicant won a departmental award in a research paper competition. (1.92)
16. Applicant is highly motivated to achieve (according to recommenders). (1.86)
17. Applicant participated in invited honors program in senior year. (1.85-)
18. Applicant earned an A in required upper division statistics class. (1.82)
19. Applicant is responsible and dependable (according to recommenders). (1.72)
20. Applicant is a member in Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, or other prestigious scholarship group. (1.68)
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                        10



What undergraduate courses and experiences will increase my chances of
admission to graduate school and help me to succeed after I am
admitted?
What psychology courses should I take?
How do I decide which courses are the best to take? (e.g., research courses, ―core‖ courses, etc.)
Should I take many courses in my main area of interest or should I diversify my choices among a variety of areas?

The people who are reading your applications know the difference between tough and ―push over‖ courses. You
must get at least a middle to high B in research methods and statistics, and you really should get experience in
upper-level research seminars. In graduate school, you will read primary literature (directly in the journals) and
you will write term papers and essay examinations. The basic advice now is to take the courses that will prepare
you for this. Other than that, the psychology major at Oakland is already designed to insure that you get the
basic courses you need…so long as you do not play the silly game of avoiding challenging courses simply to
protect a grade point average.

What courses should I take outside of psychology?
Should I get a ―well rounded liberal arts education‖ or should I primarily seek courses that clearly are related to my chosen
      career?
Do I have an advantage if I have a minor or concentration?

Take courses in the sciences, applied statistics, and look for courses in the social sciences to complement those
that you are taking in psychology. Minors/concentrations are nice, but not critical. If they exist in an area that is
of interest to you, then go ahead and complete one, but do not feel that you must have one.

Should I get some research experience?
Do I have an advantage if I get research experience in terms of admissions or success after admission?
How important is it to get a publication or to make a presentation at a conference?
Is it preferable to work with just one faculty member over an extended time or is it better to work more briefly with several
             different faculty members?

Yes, research experience is critical…more so than GPA or any grade in any course. Research experience opens
more doors than anything else you could possibly do during your undergraduate years. Research assistants get
better letters of recommendation because the faculty who are writing the letters know something about the
person who requested the letter. Research experience can lead to papers or posters that can be listed on a vita
(academic résumé) as evidence of one‘s ability to do the work that will be required in graduate school. Many
students start graduate school with presentations or even publications; imagine if you were on the admission
committee and had to choose between candidates—how much value would you give to having presentations
and/or publications? Finally, as for working with one or several faculty members, understand faculty talk to one
another and brag about our good research assistants. Staying with one faculty member for an extended time
provides opportunities that cannot be obtained in a single semester or even a single year.

Should I acquire skills related to research?
Should I know how to use computers?
What should I know about statistics?
What writing skills do I need?

Computers and statistical analysis are tools of the trade. You should not graduate from OU without having
strong skills in word processing, spreadsheets, database management, and statistical analysis. These skills are
one of the by-products of working as a research assistant—you will use them daily in the better experiences that
are available. Most of the professors who teach PSY 251 describe this as ―your first statistics‖ course. You
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                11

should expect to take at least two others before finishing a quality graduate program. As for writing, expect to
do much more of it. Whether you are writing essay examinations, term papers, case studies, or research reports,
you will be writing increasingly as you go through graduate school. If writing does not come natural to you,
then you should correct this problem now.

Do I need outside work experience demonstrating my interest and commitment
to the field?
How helpful will outside work experience be in gaining admission?
What type of outside work experience would be most helpful?

It depends. Sorry about that, but that really is the best answer. Some outside experience can be very good if it
exposes you to the types of clients or experiences you want to focus on in graduate school. On the other hand,
most students cannot gain access to such experiences and those making decisions about admission understand
this lack of access. Do not be deluded into believing that working as a receptionist at a mental health clinic is
going to help you a great deal. You will get more out of research experience and strong letters of
recommendation.

Will it help if I become a member of Psi Chi?
What is this organization and what does it do?
What benefits do I get from membership?

Being a member or even an officer of Psi Chi will count for very little in and of itself, so avoid the delusion that
adding such a line to your vita will benefit you. On the other hand, Psi Chi offers the opportunity for you to
demonstrate leadership, commitment, and productivity if you assume responsibility for tasks or programs and
successfully deliver them. Obviously, programs sponsored by Psi Chi (workshops such as this one, speakers,
etc.) have value and such should be attended regularly. The point is this: the benefit from Psi Chi comes from
being an actively involved member, not simply being a member. Imagine being one of those folks who assume
that all is well once the Psi Chi line pads their vita and then being asked during your interview to get into a
graduate program to describe what you did with your Psi Chi chapter.

Can you give me a timetable to summarize of all of this?
Is there a timetable I should be using?
Do you have a simple summary?

What follows is an ideal timetable for undergraduate students. The information presented below was abstracted
from the following sources (you should read each of them in their entirety):
        The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission: Psychology and related fields by Patricia Keith-
                Spiegel
        Getting In: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology, Second
                Edition, by the American Psychological Association (2007).
        Preparing for Graduate Study in Psychology: NOT for Seniors Only! by Bruce Fretz and David Stang
                (1980).

Freshman Year through First Term of Sophomore Year
    ▪ Concentrate on taking required GE courses. (Do not shy away from math and science courses).
    ▪ Be sure to take General Psychology and Psychological Statistics. (Do not resell your psychology
      textbooks. They will be useful later.)
    ▪ Work for good grades in all classes. It is hard to pull up your GPA after a bad start!
    ▪ Be thoroughly aware of the required courses for a psychology major and map out a tentative plan for the
      next three years.
    ▪ Start a habit of attending events sponsored by the Psychology Department.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                             12

Second Term of Sophomore Year
    ▪ Find out about the Psi Chi National Honor Society and plan to join as soon as you meet the
      requirements.
    ▪ Begin to learn as much as you can about the faculty and their interests/research.
    ▪ Learn about Psychology conventions that you might be able to attend. Try to attend several of these
      meetings over the next couple of years. Deliver your own paper at one of them if possible.
    ▪ Begin to do outside reading about professions in psychology that interest you.

Summer between Sophomore and Junior Years
    ▪ If you need to work, try to find a job that relates in some way to your area(s) of interest in psychology.
    ▪ If you are considering a career in clinical or counseling psychology, consider volunteering for a few
      hours each week in a community agency.
    ▪ If you learn of an opportunity to do any research-related work, pursue it!

First Term of Junior Year
    ▪ Begin to take required upper-division psychology courses. (Do not save the ―hard courses‖ for your
      senior year).
    ▪ Start getting to know one or more psychology professors more personally (thinking in terms of those
      who might provide good letters of recommendation next fall).
    ▪ Continue to look for opportunities for research experience. Consider taking the Independent Readings /
      Independent Research sequence of courses under the advisement of a faculty member.
    ▪ Check into the requirements for graduating with Honors in the Psychology Department.

Second Term of Junior Year
    ▪   Begin to focus your interests to one or two fields of psychology. Also, learn about different program
        options (MA, MS, PsyD, PhD, EdD).
    ▪   Consider joining one or two professional organizations in psychology as a student affiliate.
    ▪   Continue to look for opportunities for research experience. Try to get involved in or design a research
        project that could lead to authorship credit on a paper presentation or publication.
    ▪   Talk with seniors who have just gone through the process of applying to graduate school.
    ▪   Decide when you will take the Graduate Record Examination and start preparing for the test.

Summer between Junior and Senior Years
    ▪ Take the GRE or prepare for a fall test date.
    ▪ Decide what type of graduate program that you will apply to and research the schools that have that
      program.
    ▪ Obtain information online or send off for information from graduate programs that seem to fit your
      interests. Do not limit yourself to programs in this region!
    ▪ If possible, visit some of these graduate schools.
    ▪ If possible, be involved in research.

First Term of Senior Year
    ▪ Be sure to take the GRE in October if you have not done so already.
    ▪ Continue researching graduate programs and obtaining application materials from the schools that most
      interest you. (Be sure to also investigate financial aid at each school and request the necessary forms.)
    ▪ Decide which three individuals could write good (preferably excellent) letters of recommendation for
      you. Take time to talk with these individuals when you request a letter from them.
    ▪ Write a one to two-page personal essay and then tailor it to fit each application (work with a faculty
      member on this).
    ▪ Order transcripts and test score reports at least six weeks before each application deadline.
    ▪ Be sure to send in applications before their deadline.
    ▪ Check to make sure that your referees send their letters before the deadline dates.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                13

Early Winter Term of Senior Year
    ▪ Complete and send in any remaining applications.
    ▪ Follow up to assure that each application has arrived and is complete.
    ▪ Relax and wait.

Another thing that might help you get a better understanding of the admission process is to know the criteria that
will be used to evaluation your application. The major criteria that will be considered by any graduate
admissions committee are described below:

Grades. Your GPA is an important factor in the selection criteria. Nearly all graduate programs have a minimum
GPA that is required before your application will even be considered. Many evaluators will also focus on your
GPA for your last 60 hours and the type of courses taken. Graduate programs like to see a good background in
math and science.

GRE Scores. Scores on the Graduate Record Exam are important and some schools will have minimum
requirements. The GRE provides up to four scores: GRE-Verbal, GRE-Quantitative, GRE-Analytical Writing,
GRE-Psychology (a separate subject test). Selection committees will focus on the Verbal and Quantitative
scores. You can and should prepare for the GRE by using a study guide and by reading a General Psychology
textbook (for the Psychology subtest).

Letters of Recommendation. While grades and GRE scores reflect academic ability, selection committees are
often just as interested in your personality, work ethic, and goals. Letters of recommendation from professionals
(not relatives or friends) who know you provide an important source of this information. One or two outstanding
letters can get you accepted even if your other qualifications are mediocre. I hope that by the time you apply you
will have become acquainted with several faculty members on a more personal level (through research,
organizations, social events, conversations, etc.) than simply as a student who did well in his/her class.

Personal Statement/Essay. The personal statement/essay is your chance to present yourself as a serious student
and as a unique person. In your essay, be sure to provide the information that was requested in the application.
The selection committee will note how well you are able to express yourself in writing, what you see as an
appropriate self-presentation, what your priorities are as revealed by what you include in your essay, and how
well your needs and goals can be met by the program.

Do NOT write one all-purpose essay for all of your applications. Pay attention to the type of information
requested and tailor the essay to each particular program. Some commonly asked content areas are: career plans,
general interest areas, research experiences, academic objectives, clinical or other field/practicum experiences
(if applied program), academic background and achievements, what do you see in us, motivation, and special
skills. Most applications will specify a desired length for the essay (do not exceed this!). For those that do not, a
good limit is 1000 words. Always type the essay (unless otherwise specified) and have at least one person
(preferably a faculty member) look it over and provide feedback.

What are my chances of gaining admission to graduate school?
Does the reputation of Oakland University play a role in my chances of
admission?
How does the reputation of Oakland University and the Department of Psychology influence my chances of gaining
           admission?
What is the reputation of Oakland and the department?

The percentage of Psychology majors at OU who gain admission to graduate schools is equal to the percentages
reported by other universities in the region. It is not the reputation of the school that gets you into graduate
school. Instead, it is the quality of your educational experience as evidenced through the contents of your
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                     14

application materials that matter most. The members of the Department of Psychology are known
professionally around the entire country, each in their own areas of expertise.

How will my transcript be evaluated?
Is there a minimum GPA that I must have in order to be considered by the graduate school?
Do all grades have the same weight or is more weight given to psychology courses or to courses in the last two years?
Is the difficulty and selection of courses taken into account along with my grades?
Do these criteria differ dramatically among different graduate school programs?

These are difficult questions to answer definitively because each graduate program is free to adopt its own
selection criteria. As a ―rule of thumb,‖ your overall GPA should be in the 3.4 or above range. Some
departments request your overall GPA, your GPA in psychology courses, and your GPA in the last two
semesters. Some may ask for or consider grades earned in specific courses that are known to be important,
difficult, and not wildly popular. Some departments will consider your entire transcript because the faculty will
want to know as much about a person before granting admission to an applicant.

How important are Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores and when should I take
the GRE?
How important are the GRE subscales in Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing?
How important is the GRE psychology subject test score?
How useful are ―coaching‖ courses for the GRE?

The GRE is a standardized test taken by virtually every applicant to graduate school. This provides a means of
assessing a student‘s general intellectual ability and likelihood for success in graduate school that is independent
of factors such as grade inflation, course selection, undergraduate institution attended, etc. It is possible to study
or prepare for these tests, especially if you have avoided math classes during your undergraduate years. It may
not be necessary to enroll in the multi-week preparation classes that are offered, but purchasing and completing
any of the preparation books available at bookstores is highly recommended.

You can find far more information about preparation for the GRE at the Kaplan web site
[http://www.kaptest.com/repository/templates/Lev3InitDroplet.jhtml?_lev3Parent=/www/KapTest/docs/reposito
ry/content/Graduate/GRE]. Kaplan courses are rather expensive, but if you need the discipline to ensure that
you will prepare, then be prepared to pay the cost. More information can be obtained by visiting the GRE
website at [http://www.gre.org]. The current GRE test assesses the following domains:

Analytical Writing
    articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively
    examine claims and accompanying evidence
    support ideas with relevant reasons and examples
    sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
    control the elements of standard written English (this factor plays a role only to the extent that poor
       writing skills impede readers‘ understanding of the argument)

Verbal
        analyze and evaluate written materials and synthesize information obtained from it
        analyze relationships among component parts of sentences
        recognize relationships between words and concepts

Quantatitative
    understand basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis
    reason quantitatively
    solve problems in a quantitative setting
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                15

Will I need letters of recommendation?
How important are letters of recommendation?
How well do I need to know a faculty member before I can ask for a letter?
What can I do to get the best letters of recommendation?
Do letters of recommendation from employers help?

Although grade point averages and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores play a central role in graduate
admissions and job opportunities, most graduate programs and employers do not base their decisions on numeric
scores alone. In fact, highly competitive programs may simply use these scores as a screening device to reduce
the size of their applicant pool. In such a situation, letters of recommendation can be extremely important.

In general, the best letters of recommendation are from people who:

    ▪   Have worked with you closely (e.g., a research supervisor)
    ▪   Have known you long enough to write with authority (e.g., academic advisor)
    ▪   Have relevant expertise (e.g., professors in the case of academic applications)
    ▪   Are senior and well known (e.g., a departmental chair)
    ▪   Have a positive opinion of you and your abilities
    ▪   Have a warm and supportive personal style

Because the choice of letter writers is important, it is best to begin cultivating personal relationships with
potential writers early on. In addition, if you are not sure whether prospective letter writers have enough
experience with you or have a positive enough impression to write a good letter, there is nothing wrong with
asking them whether they would be able to write a strong letter. After all, if you are going to compete with
people who have uniformly glowing letters of recommendation, a mildly positive letter from someone who does
not really know you can actually do more harm than good.

Another issue is whether letter writers should attempt to address weaknesses in your application. For example, if
you received a low Quantitative GRE score due to a family crisis immediately before the test date, your letter
writer might mention this and argue that the ―A‖ you received in Statistics is a better measure of your
quantitative skill. This strategy can be very helpful in some situations, but it is also a double-edged sword that
can draw attention to weaknesses in your application. Thus, you should discuss the pros and cons of this
approach with your letter writer before adopting such a strategy—each situation is unique, and there is no single
best way to proceed.

Letters of recommendation and your personal statement are the most important parts of your application.
Whether you are applying to graduate programs in psychology or some other area, or in search of a vocational
position, you will undoubtedly be asked to furnish letters of recommendation from your major professors.
Perhaps you will be given forms to have filled out, or perhaps the letter can be more individually formatted. In
any event, there is a protocol to be followed when requesting someone to serve as a referee. This protocol is
summarized below:

    1. Ask for a letter well before the date it is due. Nothing is more irritating to the referee than to be asked to
       write a letter of recommendation under pressure (such as the last day before Christmas break).
    2. Ask the referee cordially and formally. A handwritten note slipped under the door with ―I need these 10
       letters out by Friday.‖ will not evoke the kindest recommendation. You are requesting a significant
       favor; do it politely and sensitively.
    3. Be sure to supply the following information as a minimum: full name, major classes taken (when and
       grade earned) from the referee, other classes taken in the department, relevant classes taken in other
       departments, special skills or talents, statement of career interests and goals, list of professionally
       relevant extracurricular and summer activities, honors, professional associations, formal research
       experience (papers written, read, submitted for publication). Provide anything else that would serve to
       identify you and your strengths. Many professors will want to read a copy of your personal statements,
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                      16

         so prepare this in advance. Look at a standard recommendation form to get an idea of the information
         asked for.
    4.   Provide the full name, title, and complete mailing address of the person to whom a letter should be
         written.
    5.   Check with the referee to see if he/she prefers pre-stamped and/or addressed envelopes.
    6.   Prepare a self-addressed (to you), stamped postcard with the message on the back: ―To (whomever the
         letter of recommendation is to be sent): Please mail this card if a letter of recommendation concerning
         me has been received from (whomever you are asking to write).‖ Sign your name, and ask the referee
         to include it with his/her letter or form. If you do not receive the card in a few weeks, check on the
         status of the letter.
    7.   Be sure to indicate for what purpose the letter is being written, (e.g., Master of Science program in child
         development, probation officer for juvenile substance abuse offenders, etc.). The more specific the
         purpose, the more specific (and pertinent) the letter.
    8.   Waive your rights to read the letter or form. Recipients place more credence on letters that are not read
         by students. If you are in doubt about the kind of recommendation the referee will write, ask.

How are personal statements evaluated?
Is there a ―match‖ between your interests with those of the institution and department to which you are applying?
Are there special skills or activities in your background that are interesting or valuable?

Most graduate school applications ask for a statement of interest. This is sometimes referred to as a letter of
intent, a statement of interest, a personal statement, or even an autobiographical statement. The readers of these
statements are not looking for something that begins with ―I was born in a small town in the Midwest…‖ or ―My
friends have always told me that I was a good listener…‖ The personal statement is your opportunity to

    1. describe your interests in psychology and how you came to have those interests
    2. indicate your goals in the field of psychology
    3. explain how the program to which you are applying can help you to achieve your goals

The personal statement is not just an exercise in essay writing. It is a record of your interests, accomplishments,
abilities, and goals. In order to write about these things you need to have them. With respect to interests, it is not
recommended that you state the obvious (―I want to help people‖) or the ridiculous (―Ever since I was two years
old I wanted to be a psychologist‖). Be Specific! Refer to specific intellectual interests and the educational and
occupational experiences that led to those interests (a course you took, a research project you participated in, a
practicum). If you like you can couple specific intellectual interests with your emotional motivations, but do not
allow your personal experiences to dominate your statement. The most important thing to convey to the people
reading your statement (academic psychologists) is that you have an intrinsic and serious interest in a specific
area of psychology. If you do not have an interest in a specific area of psychology then it may be advisable to re-
evaluate your reasons for applying to a graduate program in psychology.

You also need to be specific in outlining your accomplishments and abilities. Briefly, describe your experience
in research, applied and professional experiences, and your specific skills (computer skills, interviewing skills,
animal care). Instead of simply listing your participation in Psi Chi, identify specific accomplishments (fund
raising, writing a newsletter, presenting a paper to an audience). Of course, you should include any publications
or presentations at professional meetings that may have come out of your research. It should be obvious to you
by now that in order for you to include such wonderful accomplishments in your statement you need to have
achieved them. This point cannot be over stressed – get involved in psychology outside of the classroom as early
as possible.

Also, be specific when it comes to your goals. Express specific academic interests but also convey an openness
to learn new things about the field and career choices. It is a good idea to apply to schools that have faculty with
interests that are consistent with yours. Many graduate programs admit students into specific labs with a specific
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                      17

faculty member. If a faculty member is looking for a new graduate student and sees a good fit with your
interests (and skills) your chances of being accepted into the program increases considerably. Do your
homework! Study the graduate programs to which you are applying. Know who the faculty are and know their
interests.

What should I consider when I choose the graduate schools to which I am
going to apply?
Does the school have a program in my general area of interest?

Does the school have faculty in my specific area of interest?

Do I have a reasonable chance of being accepted?

How many and which schools should I apply to?

How will the graduate school’s reputation, location, etc., affect my ability to get
a job after getting my graduate degree?

Where can I get information to answer these questions?

Let us answer the last question first: Step #1: Purchase a copy of Graduate Study in Psychology
(2009) from APA books. This book offers complete practical information about approximately 600
psychology programs in the United States and Canada. The latest edition provides current facts about
programs and degrees offered, admission requirements, application information, financial aid, tuition,
and housing. Graduate Study in Psychology is a reference that is suitable for students, counselors,
libraries, and department offices in psychology, education, and other related fields. You may order
this book directly from the APA through their website [http://books.apa.org/books.cfm?id=4270092].
Step #2: Read the book.

The Grad Study book will describe programs by degrees and areas of study. The indices list programs
organized by state and content area (cognitive, adult cognitive, aging, human development, substance
abuse, etc.). Taking the time to work with this book will thus address the first question listed above
(general area of interest). Moreover, once you know the name of the particular university you will be
able to go to their web site to learn more about the current faculty at these institutions. Acceptance
rates are published in the Grad Study book, but you should be a little cautious with these data…some
schools have been known to stretch the truth a bit to make themselves appear more selective.

As for how many schools to which one wants to apply, this really depends upon one‘s financial
resources. Each application will cost approximately $50. How many can you afford? We would
suggest doing no fewer than three or four, but even preparing up to 10-15 applications is not that
unusual. Given that some doctoral programs are quite competitive, it is a good idea to apply to 1-3
master‘s level programs. You should make sure that these programs are a good fit for your career
goals.

For years, we have been telling students that the process of completing applications will be as
demanding of your time as a challenging 300 or 400 level class. Do not make the mistake of assuming
that you can throw together a couple of applications over a weekend. The lack of preparation will
show and you will be wasting your time and money. Moreover, the process of selecting 10 programs
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                               18

from the over 500 described in the Grad Study book will take some time…measured in weeks rather
than hours. Look back at the timetable presented earlier …the task of looking for potential schools to
which you were going to apply should be started in the second term of your junior year so that you can
have the specific programs identified over the summer between your junior and senior years. Most
applications are due in December or January, so the fall semester of your senior year will be at least
partially devoted to applications.

How do I apply?
Make an honest self-appraisal of your credentials.

Prior to the start of your senior year, you should:
Decide where your own interests lie.
Find out what schools match your interests and obtain/send for information, etc.
Decide to which schools you intend to apply.
Discuss any questions with a faculty member.

During the fall of your senior year you should:
Fill out your applications
Arrange to get letters of recommendation
Arrange to take the GREs.
Organize and write your personal statements
Discuss any questions with a faculty member
Expect this process to take about as much time as a 4-credit class

The overall question of how to apply to graduate schools has been addressed by Linda and Steve Hayes in an
article originally published in the APS Observer in September of 1989. We have reproduced this below:

How to Apply to Graduate School
Linda J. Hayes & Steve C. Hayes
REPRINTED FROM THE APS OBSERVER, SEPTEMBER 1989

Admission into graduate programs in psychology can be quite competitive. High quality programs are, of
course, more competitive than lower quality programs in general doctoral programs are more difficult to get in
than master's programs. Usually applied programs more difficult to get in than basic programs.

The primary determinant of success in applying for graduate school is the quality of your background and
abilities. But these qualities are not assessed magically. They are evaluated on the basis of a limited number of
kinds of information. The purpose of this article is to review those kinds of information for the purpose of
understanding the process.

                                 ASSEMBLING A COMPETITIVE APPLICATION

Graduate Record Exams and Other Admission Tests
Most graduate admissions committees require the GRE, and a few still require the MST. These scores will often
be interpreted as a measure of the student's general intellectual ability and likelihood of success in graduate
school. Thus, it is wise to obtain the best scores you possibly can.

Some believe that it is impossible to study for these exams, but it is not true. For example, if you haven't taken a
mathematics course in some time, review of this material can be quite helpful. If you are unsure how to take
tests of this type, examination of one of the many books on the market about the GREs may help. Students have
been known to pull up their scores greatly through careful preparation.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                 19



The GREs can be taken more than once, so it is wise to take the test earlier rather than later. That way if you do
not do well due to illness or lack of preparation, you can try again.

There is another reason to take the test early: to be sure that your scores are available by the admission deadline.
Incomplete applications are not usually considered, and when they are, the fact that they are incomplete reflects
poorly on the candidate. If you can, take the GREs in October. If you take the December test you could be
cutting it close. If you have to take the December test, follow up with the graduate schools right before their
deadline and make they have received it.

This rule on timeliness applies to all parts of the application. If the candidate couldn't manage to get their
admission materials together on time, will they be late with class assignment as well? Are they generally
disorganized? Are they careless?

Grades
Your grades reflect your standing among your peers. Obviously, grades are important and no good student needs
to be reminded of that. As it applies to admission into graduate school, what students sometimes do need to be
told is that it is wrong to assume that good grades are enough. There are too many students with good grades out
there interested in graduate training. You will need other qualifications to distinguish yourself.

Letter of Intent/Statement of Interest/Autobiographical Statement
Most applications ask for a statement of interest. This is sometimes called an "autobiographical statement." The
request for an autobiographical statement is often misunderstood by student applicants. Students who take the
request literally harm their application by appearing to be unsophisticated and naive. It is sadly not uncommon
to see such statement begin with "I was born in a small town in the midwest...."

What is being requested is: 1) a statement of your interests in psychology and how you came to have those
interests, 2) what your goals and ambitions in the field of psychology are, and 3) how the program to which you
are applying can help you to achieve those goals.

With respect to your interests and how you came to have those interests, some words of advice: While it may
seem to you that the reason you are interested in psychology is that you want to help people, this reason has
become a terrible cliche and should be avoided. The problem is that it adds little information. Can you imagine
anyone saying that they want to get into a field in order to hurt people? Particularly in applied fields, of course,
helping people is an obvious motivation, but it would be better to be specific. Perhaps there is some particular
kind of human problem that evokes your desire to be helpful--maybe you are particularly interested in helping
emotionally disturbed children, or possible the aged, or the disabled. In addition, this will allow you to couple
your emotional motivation with the serious intellectual interests you may have.

Secondly, in describing your interests in psychology and how you came to have them, try to focus on particular
educational and occupational experiences you have had that could account for your interests, rather than
personal experiences. For example, it is probably unwise to say that you are interested in the neural basis of
depression because you want to find out why your father became depressed and had to be admitted to a mental
hospital. Such personal experiences are difficult to put into a short written statement without either trivializing
them or needlessly confining your intellectual interest to emotional motivation. It helps to think of your
audience. Who will read this statement? It will be read by academic psychologists who have dedicated their
career to scholarly endeavors. Scholars rightly distrust too much personal motivation entering into science
because it can lead to a distortion of the scientific process. They are looking for the kind of motivation they
themselves either have or wish they would have--an intrinsic and serious interest in the substance of the issues
dealt with. Try to share experiences that reflect on that part of your reasons for seeking graduate level training.
If you cannot find such reasons, perhaps now is a good time to think about whether a career in science is for
you.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                              20

As for your goals and ambitions, you should try to be as specific as possible. When candidates are asked: why
do you want to go to graduate school or what are you interested in doing in this program? A common reply is "I
just want to learn--I'm open minded--I want to study a bit of everything--and then I'll decide on my career." This
can be taken to mean that you don't know why you want to go to graduate school and that you have no idea what
you are interested in studying. You should try to be more specific, while at the same time showing an openness
to learning new things. Too much specification suggests that you do not plan to benefit from what you may learn
in graduate school about the discipline and carious career choices. Position yourself between these poles. You
can, for example, state your current interests in the field. You will not be held to these interests. It is assumed
that your interest will be shaped in graduate school. On the other hand, keep in mind that ill defined goals
suggest that you haven't thought much about the future. It can suggest that you don't care much about the future,
or that you aren't very ambitious.

It is wise to apply to schools that have faculty with interests that fit with your own. Do your homework. Go to
the library and look up the publications of the faculty. Decide whether this kind of work is what you want to do.

Many schools admit students into specific labs. That is, each faculty member will admit x number of students. In
this case, the goodness of fit between your interests and your mentor-to-be is crucial. You should know that
person's research program. If it fits what you want, say so, but do so after you have carefully researched the
matter or you will inevitable appear unsophisticated or even manipulative.

Other things that may go in your statement of interests are research, applied and professional experiences and
relevant skills such as computing skills.

Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are extremely important. They can help you and they can hurt you. The most helpful
letters come from teachers who have had considerable contact with you, especially in non-classroom setting
such as research labs. A letter from a teacher who says he or she can't remember who you are exactly but you
got an A so you must be quite bright is not helpful. After all, information about coursework per se is available
on your transcript--the letter adds nothing and may in fact subtract something; it suggests that you haven't had
sufficient contact with your teachers to have secured a more informative recommendation. What does this mean
to committees? Maybe it means that you are an extremely timid person, the kind who disappears into the
background, does well on tests but says nothing in class, for example.

The best kind of letter is from someone who has been involved with you professionally - who has supervised
research on your part, who has co-authored a paper with you, who has served as an adviser to you in your role as
an officer in Psi Chi, and so on. However, if you want to have a really fine letter of recommendation, you have
to have done some really find things, such as conducting quality research or making presentations to
professional meetings. You have to have been involved in the discipline of psychology than that if you expect to
get a really good letter of recommendation.

A letter from an employer can be useful if the job was in the field of psychology, and the letter comments on
your accomplishments of specific duties, your aptitude for this type of work and so on. Otherwise, such letters
are usually not helpful. Also, don't include letters from public officials or professionals with whom your
contacts have not been of a professional sort. What the mayor has to say about you is of no interest to
admissions committees. It may even do you a disservice. It suggests that you believe that you ought to be looked
upon more favorably because you have some contact with important public officials. This will probably be
offensive to most academics. Likewise, don't get your priest or rabbi or minister, your family doctor or other
individuals of that kind to write a letter in your behalf. Last but not least, don't ask your personal therapist to
send a letter.

Include a Vita
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                21

It is a good idea to include a carefully assembled vita even if some of the material is redundant with the
application itself. A vita is something you should begin now, if you haven't already done so. If you do not know
how to construct one, you can write to authors of this article for a copy of an article on that topic.

Presenting Your Materials Appropriately
All of your communications should be typed. Don't send anything hand written. You should be certain that your
letters are grammatically correct and that they contain no misspelled words and no colloquialisms. Have
someone else read your letters if necessary.

If you visit the program (see below) look presentable. Parties sometimes happen on interviews. Don't drink too
much. Don't flirt with members of the opposite sex. Don't talk much about unrelated leisure time activities.
Don't gossip. Don't follow up on remarks made from one office to the next (e.g., "that can't be right. Dr. So-and-
so said you never did research."). Don't assume you are not being evaluated just because the setting is informal.
For example, do not assume that your interactions with students at the program are "off the record." They
probably are not.

Finding the Right Program
Putting together a competitive application through careful preparation is one thing. Applying to the right
program is something else. In the "one down" situation most undergraduate students feel they are in; it is easy to
get into an "anybody take me, I will go" type of attitude. Such an attitude, if taken to the extreme, is dangerous.
You have to be happy with your education. It has to fit with your values, abilities, and interests. It is wise to
make sure you are applying to the right program.

Try to be clear with yourself about what you're looking for. What sort of career do you want to have? In what
area of psychology? What graduate programs offer training in this area? What theoretical orientation do you
have? Are you a behaviorist? Are you a cognitivist? Which programs have such an orientation? Whose work
have you found most agreeable? Where does this person work?

Once you are clear, examine programs that fit in terms of sub-disciplinary area. The APA book on graduate
training in psychology is a good place to start. Write for the catalogs of as many programs as seem in the
ballpark. Ask your professors about possible programs. If you have come across researchers in your area of
interest who interest you, get the materials from their programs. Don't write to faculty members asking for a
catalog and admission materials. Write to the department.

As you narrow down the list you may find particular people who stand out. Should you contact them directly? If
you have a specific interest in their work, it is fine to do so, but only after you have done your homework. It is
reasonable to request reprints of articles. It is reasonable to comment on how much you enjoyed or gained from
reading something this person has written, although don't overdo it. It is also reasonable to ask an intelligent
question arising from something this person has said or written. This is especially good if you know what you
are talking about. It is not wise to make a point of telling someone just exactly what you think is wrong with
their theory, their method, etc., on the grounds that they will then be convinced of your superior intelligence.
Most academics are pleased to have others interested in their work. Be respectful.

If you want to explore the possibility of working with them, say so. You might ask if they are accepting students
into their lab (sometimes the answer is no due to upcoming leaves or other reasons). If you know you are very
serious and your qualifications are reasonable, you might ask if it is possible to visit. Not all academics will
grant such visits because they can be time consuming, but it will not offend to inquire. Some programs
(especially applied programs) have a policy of inviting applicants for interviews as a part of their admission
procedures. If they wish to interview you, you will be invited. In this case, if you are not invited, you will not be
welcome to visit.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                              22

If you begin to center on some programs, do not forget that other students can be a valuable source of
information. Sometimes it is easier to talk informally to a student in the program you are interested in and get a
clearer view of what it is like.

When you have your list, put together your application carefully. How many programs should you apply to? It is
not uncommon for applied students interested in Ph.D. training to apply to 10-12, including one or two "fall
backs" (e.g., MA programs). Basic students usually would apply to smaller numbers.

What do you do if after all of this, no one admits you? If you are committed to further training, it makes sense to
try again. Examine the reasons why you were not competitive. Was it a bad letter? Poor GREs? Lack of
experience? Did you apply to too few programs? Try to correct these problems. If you are graduating, try to see
if you can get a psychology related job. You may be able to take a few graduate courses at your local University
on a non-degree basis just to keep your hand in and to show your commitment and ability. It is not unusual to
find well-known psychologists who did not get in their first time around.

What are the particular concerns I must have if I am considering going to
graduate school in clinical psychology or a related field?
What are the differences among a PhD, a PsyD, and a MA?
Is it easier to get into one than another?
How do these programs differ?
What kind of career can I expect with these degrees?

We cover these topics in detail in our ―Careers in Psychology‖ workshop. Briefly, it is important to realize that
the PhD is traditionally viewed as a research degree and that most people holding a PhD in clinical psychology
are trained to do research, that the PsyD is a relatively new degree recognizing training to enter the service
delivery arena, and that many new options are arising from practitioners holding a MA degree.

A PhD may enable you to make more money and may open up different doors for you, but it is not necessary to
have one. In many cases, a master‘s degree may be ideal! In fact, with the current rise of managed care systems
in the field of mental health, insurance companies may only pay for psychotherapy provided by clinicians who
are part of a group practice. While PhD‘s may be in charge of the group, they may very well hire clinicians with
master‘s degrees to do therapy with the clients who are referred to the group. It is very possible that
psychotherapists with master‘s degrees will be in greater demand in the future than they have been in the past.
There are a variety of master‘s level programs in fields related to clinical and counseling psychology. Usually
these programs train people in basic counseling skills. Some programs may have specialized areas of training
such as marriage and family counseling, drug addiction counseling, group counseling, vocational counseling,
family therapy, child therapy, divorce mediation, prison counseling, etc. When it comes time to apply for jobs, it
is very advantageous to have an area of specialization. People with master‘s degrees usually work in group
counseling practices, clinics, programs for specific populations (drug abusers, battered wives, chronic
psychiatric patients, etc.), and employee assistance programs. In many states, people with master‘s degrees
CANNOT have their own private practice. It is important to note that with the exception of a MSW (Master‘s
Degree in Social Work), many states do not allow those with a master‘s degree to provide clinical/counseling
services without supervision by a fully licensed doctoral-level psychologist.

What is accreditation and do I need to be concerned about it?
Some counseling, school, and clinical psychology programs (PhD or PsyD) have been approved/accredited by
the American Psychological Association. This means that the program meets the APA guidelines for ―good‖
training. The APA book Graduate Study in Psychology will tell you if a program is accredited or not. It is much
more difficult to get into these programs.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                                23

If a program is not approved, it could mean several things. The program may have lost its approval or has been
unable to attain it – which is a bad sign. On the other hand, the program may be in the process of applying for
approval – which is a good sign since it may be an up and coming program. Alternatively, the program may not
care about applying for APA approval – which usually is a bad sign, although there are a few excellent training
facilities that are not concerned about APA approval. Our advice is to apply to approved or soon to be approved
programs.

Internships in clinical and counseling psychology also will be APA approved or not. Usually APA approved
internships prefer students from APA approved graduate programs. Since many jobs in the mental health field
require that a person had an APA approved internship, we strongly recommend that you seek an APA
approved internship.

In order to practice psychology (and have your own practice) you must be licensed by the state. Most states
require approximately two years of supervised experience AFTER you get your PhD, PsyD, or EdD. You must
also pass a national multiple-choice exam covering ALL aspects of psychology and, in many states, present a
case study to a board of psychologists. You cannot advertise yourself as a ―psychologist‖ or say that you offer
―psychological‖ services unless you are licensed. These terms are protected by law. Being licensed also enables
you to receive payment from your clients‘ insurance companies.

The APA recognizes four major specialties in applied psychology: clinical, counseling, school, and
industrial/organizational. All professionals, regardless of their specialty, take the same state licensing exam. If
they pass the exam, all carry the same legal title in the eyes of the state: Psychologist

Clinical social workers also are permitted to have private practices as long as they have been licensed by the
state. In many, but not all states, people with master‘s degrees are not permitted to have their own private
practice.

Is social work an option? (e.g. MSW)
Social work programs are an alternative to psychology training. ―Clinical‖ social work programs teach students
about working in the mental health and social welfare systems. Training in counseling and psychotherapy
sometimes is not as extensive as in psychology programs, especially PsyD programs. Research usually is not
emphasized. Many clinical social workers do individual and group psychotherapy. Social work programs may
be easy or difficult to get into depending on the reputation of the university.

Clinical social workers work in hospitals, clinics, specialized programs, and private practice. Although a MSW
degree tends to be perceived as less prestigious than a doctorate degree in psychology, this may be a good option
for you if you want to provide therapy and are not interested in research.

Should I consider counseling and other related programs?
Counseling psychology programs usually emphasize training in counseling/psychotherapy methods. These
programs may also include some training in research methods (stat and experimental courses), but usually are
not as rigorous as in clinical psychology programs. However, counseling programs that offer a PhD rather than
the traditional EdD often have intensified their research training. Similar to clinical psychology programs,
counseling programs require internship experiences and a dissertation. In many cases, the distinction between
counseling and clinical psychology programs is disappearing. A counseling program often is completely
separate from the psychology department at the university.

Some counseling programs are part time and tend to attract people who are older, working, and/or have families.
Counseling psychology programs tend to be perceived as less prestigious than PhD and PsyD clinical
psychology programs, although these perceptions may be based on bias rather than fact.
Psych Grad School Workshop                                                                           24

Counseling psychologists tend to work in group counseling practices, private practice, and programs for special
populations (mental retardation, drug addicted, prison settings, battered wives, etc.). Some counseling
psychologists may teach at universities – usually in graduate counseling psychology programs and less often at
the undergraduate level or in psychology departments.

				
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