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bbwinks

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Hello, I am looking for some advice....I want to attend either a Counseling Ph.D. program or a PsyD program. Just some personal background, I just graduated with a B.S. double major in Health Science and Psychology, with a 3.9 GPA, and did decent enough the GRE. I have just about every undergraduate Psyc and research-related course I could take, with a 4.0 in Psychology courses. I am trying to work for about two years before applying to a doctoral program, for general money reasons ha. But I am trying to decide what to do during that time to boost my application....I work for a university so I am lucky to have a lot of resources at my feet. I am getting involved with volunteer work for the University's sexual assault crisis team, and a local domestic violence outreach group. But I also think I should continue taking some courses to improve my educational transcript. I have been looking into the Harvard Extension School Psychology masters....or perhaps just their Human Behavior Graduate Certificate in combination with an Applied Research Certiifcaite at the university I am working for (that would be paid for as a staff member). Those options would allow me to continue my education while getting a salaried paycheck. Does anyone have any advice regarding what would get me where I want to get? Do I need to just accept the fate of student debt and take the loans needed out to pursue a full-time master's? Thanks in advance!
 

summerbabe

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I work for a university so I am lucky to have a lot of resources at my feet. I am getting involved with volunteer work for the University's sexual assault crisis team, and a local domestic violence outreach group. But I also think I should continue taking some courses to improve my educational transcript.
All of these can help but the biggest barrier in gaining admission is having a competitive research CV (e.g., poster submissions to local/regional/national conferences, publications in peer-reviewed journals).

The more foreign this process seems, the more prep you'll likely need to build up a competitive CV. Regardless, your best bet is to volunteer with an active psychology research lab as additional coursework or certificates or field experiences are only helpful if the research piece is already in place.
Do I need to just accept the fate of student debt and take the loans needed out to pursue a full-time master's?
If your primary goal is to be a clinician, a MS degree such as a MSW would likely be your best bet and with your strong GPA and possibly some more extracurriculars like what you mentioned, you'd probably be a really strong candidate. Good luck!
 

bbwinks

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All of these can help but the biggest barrier in gaining admission is having a competitive research CV (e.g., poster submissions to local/regional/national conferences, publications in peer-reviewed journals).

The more foreign this process seems, the more prep you'll likely need to build up a competitive CV. Regardless, your best bet is to volunteer with an active psychology research lab as additional coursework or certificates or field experiences are only helpful if the research piece is already in place.

If your primary goal is to be a clinician, a MS degree such as a MSW would likely be your best bet and with your strong GPA and possibly some more extracurriculars like what you mentioned, you'd probably be a really strong candidate. Good luck!
Thank you for the response! In your experience, does a master's research thesis count as competitive research? One of the programs I was looking at does have a thesis track. I believe I can also volunteer at a lab near me, I just want to know all the options!

Additionally, one professor suggested a Counseling Master's prior to applying for Counseling Psychology PhD programs....but I asked around and got mixed messages whether that was really any more helpful than just volunteering in a lab.
 

WisNeuro

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Thank you for the response! In your experience, does a master's research thesis count as competitive research? One of the programs I was looking at does have a thesis track. I believe I can also volunteer at a lab near me, I just want to know all the options!

Additionally, one professor suggested a Counseling Master's prior to applying for Counseling Psychology PhD programs....but I asked around and got mixed messages whether that was really any more helpful than just volunteering in a lab.

Depends on the nature of the research. Original data collection? A lit review? Existing data?
 

summerbabe

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Original data collection! Under the supervision of a faculty member.
I did a MS with an original thesis and was license eligible. However, I would almost certainly bet such a program would require full-time attendance.

I can't see part-time working well as a model for such a program because you'll need 16 credits x 4 semesters plus a lot of time devoted to learning the research ropes, developing an idea, IRB, data collection, analysis, writing the thesis, defending the thesis, and prep for publication, most of which happen outside the classroom. Also, if it's a license eligible program, you'll be doing clinical practicums all second year including a likely full-time summer internship.

The main benefit of volunteering for a lab or working as a RA is bypassing all the hours spent in the classroom/practicums which doesn't matter nearly as much for PhD admission. Downside is that you could get lost in the shuffle in a big lab or your energy doesn't result in something published, despite your best efforts, which a structured program and faculty mentoring can help prevent.
 
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bbwinks

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I did a MS with an original thesis and was license eligible. However, I would almost certainly bet such a program would require full-time attendance.

I can't see part-time working well as a model for such a program because you'll need 16 credits x 4 semesters plus a lot of time devoted to learning the research ropes, developing an idea, IRB, data collection, analysis, writing the thesis, defending the thesis, and prep for publication, most of which happen outside the classroom. Also, if it's a license eligible program, you'll be doing clinical practicums all second year including a likely full-time summer internship.

The main benefit of volunteering for a lab or working as a RA is bypassing all the hours spent in the classroom/practicums which doesn't matter nearly as much for PhD admission. Downside is that you could get lost in the shuffle in a big lab or your energy doesn't result in something published, despite your best efforts, which a structured program and faculty mentoring can help prevent.

That does make sense, thank you for all your help!

Where I am living, there is only one school and they have a PsyD program so they do no hire RA's in the psychology department outside of their program. Even in the master's program there, only one or two students get Research Assistantships, the rest have to TA due to competition with doctoral studnets. But I could volunteer! I guess my concern with being a volunteer vs being in a masters (with a thesis produced at the end) is that I was not sure if you get the same name on the paper evidence of your research if that makes sense? Like, with a masters thesis, I know I have something concrete to show the admissions board.

I may just need to be a full-time student again, it sounds like as I type lol!
 

summerbabe

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But I could volunteer! I guess my concern with being a volunteer vs being in a masters (with a thesis produced at the end) is that I was not sure if you get the same name on the paper evidence of your research if that makes sense?
Totally makes sense. Just remember that If an admissions committee wants peer-reviewed data points (as opposed to contributions to ongoing projects), you likely will not be anywhere close to done with the thesis itself if you were to apply in Nov/Dec of your 2nd year, much less have submitted it for peer review publication. You can always put it as ‘pending/ongoing’ on your CV but it’s still more concept than proof at that stage (although some PhD admissions committee may be fine by that).

If you find yourself in a good volunteering situation (and I’d recommend looking afar at places that are operating virtually for Covid), you could likely at least get on a poster after a bit and hopefully 3rd or higher authorship on a paper. Regardless, be clear in articulating your goals and having direct discussions with possible mentors if you go down this route. And saying no if all that lab wants is somebody to manage data or other grunt tasks with no room for getting further involved in the research process.
 
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bbwinks

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Totally makes sense. Just remember that If an admissions committee wants peer-reviewed data points (as opposed to contributions to ongoing projects), you likely will not be anywhere close to done with the thesis itself if you were to apply in Nov/Dec of your 2nd year, much less have submitted it for peer review publication. You can always put it as ‘pending/ongoing’ on your CV but it’s still more concept than proof at that stage (although some PhD admissions committee may be fine by that).

If you find yourself in a good volunteering situation (and I’d recommend looking afar at places that are operating virtually for Covid), you could likely at least get on a poster after a bit and hopefully 3rd or higher authorship on a paper. Regardless, be clear in articulating your goals and having direct discussions with possible mentors if you go down this route. And saying no if all that lab wants is somebody to manage data or other grunt tasks with no room for getting further involved in the research process.
Thank you so much again. You gave me so much good information to think about! I will focus on the research aspect of my resume....whether that be volunteering in a masters program. And thank you for the tip about virtual opportunities, I had not thought about that! I will look into that.
 
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