Some PhD programs are more flexible than others. If you earn a high general GRE score, let's say 1550, a high subject GRE score, maybe 800+, get a master's degree with close to a 4.0 (preferably at a school that is research-focused, highly esteemed in the psych community), do research for a couple of years, and write well, you will probably get interviews at some competitive (social) PhD programs.
If you are serious about getting into a PhD program, do everything legal in your power to get all A's until graduation--even if that means washing your professors' cars, babysitting professors' kids in exchange for tutoring from your professors, or hiring an excellent tutor, even if that means $$$, to assist you from now until graduation.
It's probably a good idea to spend 200+ hours preparing for the general GRE and also spend a lot of time preparing for the subject GRE, even for schools that don't require it, to optimize your GRE scores. Very high scores will make selection committees more convinced that you are extremely capable in this field.
You will increase your odds by applying to many more schools than average (15+ total?) given that, as some other posters mentioned, the schools are a good "fit."
Write the most compelling statement of purpose you can, and get several people to review it. "I got low grades because I drank a case of beer every other day for four years" probably won't work. On the contrary, something along the lines of "my whole family was being held hostage and I had to work two jobs to earn money to secure their release while studying business..." that is truthful might be required to sway the committee. (I've seen SOPs somewhat like this!)
I know some people who had approx. 2.5 GPAs at community colleges and state universities who are now in reputable but not super-competitive counseling PhD programs funding themselves. Some of them are struggling, but that doesn't mean that someone else who had less than stellar grades can't make it and even do so gracefully. Keep in mind that some POIs want Boy Wonder or Girl Wonder (meaning performed superbly and consistently from the time he or she was an infant and still is at 21 or younger)! I've run into a few POIs who will take only this type of applicant. Different professors are different, though, so I wouldn't say getting into a PhD program is impossible with the profile you described.
Last edited by katciao; 03-01-2010 at 08:34 PM.
Reason: someone misinterpreted what I wrote and were offended