Deslok

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CURRENT QUESTIONS - any background information you might need to answer can be found below

1. What are some PsyD programs with full funding? I don't recall finding any when I first started looking at graduate schools, but PsyD123 says they exist...
2. Would it be a bad for me to go to school part-time and work part-time next semester instead of just going to school full-time? The only reason I wonder is because I'd be doing the bare minimum required to graduate, and I'm not sure how graduate schools feel about that. I'm not sure whether I'd be able to get a job related to psychology or not.
3. Would it be better to get 2 letters from professors I've done research for and 1 from a clinical setting or to get all 3 from professors? Would 3 from professors and 1 from a clinical setting be even better, or do they prefer you to send only 3?
4. Some people think graduating so quickly or being so young (I'll be 20 at the beginning of the next school year) might be a problem, so any advice there would be helpful.

BACKGROUND

This is my 3rd semester in college, but I came in with 72 AP credits, which took care of all but 2 of my non-major requirements, so I pretty much jumped full force into psychology, though I'd already learned a decent amount from books, the internet, AP psych, and my own experiences. I volunteered at a junior high classroom for students with behavioral and emotional problems (tutoring, behavioral observation) my 1st and 2nd semesters. I started doing research at a lab 2nd semester and am still doing that (data entry, training newcomers, physiological data cleaning... possibly running participants in the near future). I just started at a second lab (running participants and helping with data collection in various ways). I'll most likely continue at both labs next semester and possibly start at a third unless I can get a research job (see question 2 above). I also started volunteering at an inpatient mental health center (mostly interacting with clients) this semester. I'm planning on graduating this December with a PhD in clinical psychology as my ultimate goal. I'm interested in working with adults and have an idea of what I want to research in graduate school. As far as preparation goes, I have a 4.0 thus far, I have a list of 14 schools I'm interested in going to (including faculty I'm interested in working with), I got an 840 on the GRE subject test and a 700/800/6 on the general test, I've been working on my personal statement, and I'm planning on getting letters of recommendation from the two professors I'm currently doing research for and either the LCSW who currently supervises me at the inpatient mental health center or a third professor (maybe both; see question 3 above).

SCHEDULE

FIRST YEAR
Statistical methods in psychology
Survey of clinical psychology w/ service learning mode
Introduction to sociology
Gender and contemporary issues
The art of wellness

Abnormal psychology w/ technology mode
Personality theory
Social psychology
Intro to visual arts
Research experience: developmental

SUMMER
Research methods in psychology
Adult development and dying
Cognitive psychology
Reasoning and rational decision making
Research experience: developmental
Research experience: clinical (I won't get credit for this till next semester because I started late)

SECOND YEAR
Brain and behavior
Intro to speech and language pathology AND/OR death and dying
MAYBE childhood and adolescent development (see question 2 above)
Research experience: developmental
Research experience: clinical
 

cmuhooligan

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[

1. What's a good number of grad schools to apply to?
2. Is it worth having GRE subject test scores sent to schools that don't require or recommend them (e.g. listed as "optional" or "not required")?
3. Is there anything wrong with going to a school with a good clinical psych program but low overall rating (e.g. Temple U)?
4. How refined should my research interests be at this point (e.g. depression vs. pharmacological treatments for depression vs. the effects of pharmacological treatments for depression on cognition vs. ...)?
5. Is it a good idea to contact faculty members I'm interested in working with before applying? If so, what should I say?
6. What exactly do admission interviews consist of? I have social phobia myself and haven't had much luck with therapy or medication, so this isn't exactly my strong area at this point.
7. Any suggestions for narrowing down the my list of graduate schools would be good. I'd post an image of the spreadsheet I'm using to compare them, but I don't have anywhere to host it.
8. Any suggestions as to what classes I should take during my last semesters would also be good.


Well first of it sounds like you are very motivated and will achieve in the future! As for the number of programs you should apply to it really depends on how strong your application is, i know some people who applied to 20 programs, and then there is me how only applied to 4, what my advisors told me was to apply to 3 top schools, that may be a tiny bit reach for you, 3 schools where you are right around there averages, and 3 schools where you are above there averages (saftey schools) although the word saftey here isnt really a fair word to use! And i would say that you should not even concearn yourself with "rankings" clinical psychology programs are all about how you fit with the program and what you want out of it, you cannot go by rankings, and temple is a very very good school! Dont worry about having refined research experience as an undergrad, grad schools know that you can always do the exact research you want to do in grad school while at your undergraduate institution. For example, i want to do research with depression and anxiety in adolescents and adults, but my undergrad research was mainly on infant sleep, and later internalizing problems in toddlers, so there is some connection, but it does not need to be a dead on match, although if you can get it then of course that will only help you out! I would suggest for sure to contact faculty memebers at every school you apply to, not only do you need to find out if they will be taking on students, but you will also possibly get the chance to creat a relationship with them! As for interviews i have my first one in a few weeks, so i cant give you much help there, but from what i have heard once you get that far it is more about how you fit with the program and your personality, so if you come across anxious it may not look the best, but you have plenty of time to practice interviews untill you feel comfortable.

Goodluck!!!
 

psychgeek

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Hi Deslok,

I am uniquely qualified to comment upon this issue since I did such a terrible job applying to graduate school myself.

Q1. I would worry more about generating quality applications than having a huge number. Cmuhooligan’s 9 number sounds about right to me. However, don’t do what I did and apply to a bunch of safety schools that don’t really fit with your interests. Somehow I managed to get interviews at exactly NONE of my safety schools probably because they could tell they were second stringers.

Q2. Call the graduate admissions secretary and ask. Most are very helpful and will let you know whether or not material in addition to the required material will be considered.

Q3. Ignore ratings (warning: incoming rant) I don’t understand why we have all decided to let US News and World Reports rate every aspect of our lives. What the hell does USNWR know about hospitals, clinical psychology, or anything else for that matter. It is a third-rate hack magazine targeted to semi-literate business men who don’t like to read. The reason USNWR continues to come out with these rankings is because they are a joke within the world of journalism, and it is the only way they can sell magazines. The irony is that USNWR can’t get any respect among fellow journalists but every dean, graduate school administrator, and hospital director jumps through their series of capricious hoops hoping to make their silly list. And this isn’t just sour grapes; I am actually at a pretty highly ranked program.

Q4. General research experience is more important than refined research goals.

Q5. YES!. Definitely contact professors. I would start this summer since everyone else will be e-mailing them in the fall. Let them know that you are applying for graduate school and looking for an opportunity to research _______ (fill in appropriate faculty research topic here). Do a little bit of preliminary work and find some relevant recent research you can inquire about. You might even go so far as to ask if they anticipate having a need for a graduate student in the year in question. Their really isn’t much to be gained by being coy; they know what you are doing anyway.

Q6. Interviews generally consist of a few 30-60 minute discussions with a handful of faculty, a meeting with graduate students, and some sort of general orientation. They are pretty relaxed affairs from the student and faculty perspectives. Unfortunately I don’t have a great deal of advice about overcoming social anxiety in this sort of setting (there are some things that are just anxiety provoking for everyone and this is one of them). Look at resources such as this one to get an idea of the questions that would be asked and plan some responses. Also, don’t worry about seeming nervous -- everyone seems nervous at interviews.

Q7. I’d investigate all that you have listed and pare down the list once you have more information from faculty members.

Q8. It seems to me you have most of the classes necessary. One thing I would suggest is having both an upper-level neuro course and an upper-level cognitive course instead of one or the other. Both are pretty major fields in psychology and it would be good to have advanced classes that cover both.

One other piece of advice that I think could help. Professors want to take students who are going to be productive researchers so any opportunity you have as an undergraduate to demonstrate that you can produce finished research products weighs heavily in their decision-making. I strongly recommend you try to publish something (anything) in any journal or do some sort of poster presentation at any conference. It doesn’t have to be a good journal or a good conference, and the process of getting published is not as difficult as you might think if you avoid the good journals who maintain some sort of standards.

One last think I just thought of. If you are graduating after only two years of college this could put your age somewhere around 19 or 20 upon graduation. You will need to address this on interviews or in your essays. Program directors have a hard time putting 23 year-olds in a room with patients for the first time; you could conceivably be 20.

Good luck and remember the process is really capricious. I followed almost none of the advice I just gave you and I still got into a great program.
 

psychanon

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Other people have done a great job of answering these questions, but I'll add my two cents.
1. What's a good number of grad schools to apply to?
My undergraduate advisor said at least a dozen, and I took his advice. Remember that the schools that you are applying to range from very very competitive to very very very very competitive (for example, i heard that a couple years ago BU got 800 applications for a class of 6). It is a good idea to hedge bets. But don't apply to schools that you absolutely don't want to go to, or that don't offer your research interests. If you're not a good match, you probably won't get in and if you did you'd be miserable and your career would suffer.
3. Is there anything wrong with going to a school with a good clinical psych program but low overall rating (e.g. Temple U)?
I LOVED psychgeek's rant. So true! The rankings for clinical psych and other non-professional graduate schools are probably even less valid than undergraduate/law/med etc. The way that they gather them (read the methodology) is to survey professors at APA accredited programs, and ask them to simply rate each program on a reputation scale from 1-5. That's it. The response rate is EXTREMELY low, I can't remember exactly what but I think below 10%. You don't need advanced statistics to find that methodology extremely dubious.
But of course there are differences in the prestige and quality of programs, and that does make a difference to your career. So how can you tell which are better? If you must use the rankings, look at them as tiers, with the top 30 or so being absolute top-notched, the next 30 being almost as great, and so on. I'd say anything in the top 70 or so will prepare you well for a career in academia. Even better, talk to your professors!
That didn't really answer your question, which was is it okay to go to a school with a great clinical psych program and a not as great overall department. I would answer yes, as some of the best clinical programs are like that for historical reasons, but there are some advantages to going to a school where you could work with top professors in other areas as well.
Okay, I've babbled on a lot already and other people have answered your other questions well, so there's just one more thing I want to comment on. You're trying to get through college in three semesters and then go straight to grad school? It definitely seems like you have a good head on your shoulders and you know what you want to do, and that's great, but I'm not sure how well that's going to pan out (or whether it's such a great idea). Many people (including myself) took multiple years to do research after college because we found that four years is simply not enough time to get all the experience that you need to be competitive for the best schools. Those are the people you'll be competing with. Certainly plenty of people make it into programs straight from undergrad, but to whoosh through undergrad in a year and a half....from the perspective of the admissions committee, I don't see how you could be competitive. They also might question if you'd be ready at 19 or whatever to start a graduate program (esp as some practica require that you be at least 21). My advice: slow down a bit. Enjoy college, write an honors thesis (almost a prerequisite at many places), get more experience. I don't agree with the advice to get a publication in any journal you can-- some journals will accept anything and it doesn't really look impressive to have that on your vita, and can even look bad as your career progresses. But publications in decent journals or presentations are reasonable goals.
Good luck!
 
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Deslok

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cmuhooligan said:
Dont worry about having refined research experience as an undergrad, grad schools know that you can always do the exact research you want to do in grad school while at your undergraduate institution.
I was actually referring to knowing what I want to research in grad school rather than having relevant experience.
I would suggest for sure to contact faculty memebers at every school you apply to, not only do you need to find out if they will be taking on students, but you will also possibly get the chance to creat a relationship with them!
Another question since everyone seems to think graduating so quickly will hurt me: would it be a bad idea to actually ask the faculty members I contact about it?
psychgeek said:
One last think I just thought of. If you are graduating after only two years of college this could put your age somewhere around 19 or 20 upon graduation. You will need to address this on interviews or in your essays. Program directors have a hard time putting 23 year-olds in a room with patients for the first time; you could conceivably be 20.
I'll be 20. How exactly would I address that? I can't really think of a way to put a positive spin on it.
psychanon said:
You're trying to get through college in three semesters and then go straight to grad school?
Four semesters, technically, but yeah, I realize it's pretty quick. I don't know why I'm in such a hurrry, but I guess I'm pretty stubborn about it. I'm sure getting rejected at all the schools I apply to will be a good reality check :) I'm actually thinking about not graduating in December even though I will have met all the requirements, 'cause then if I don't make it into grad school, I can put the remaining 4 semesters of funding my scholarship has to offer to use (in theory, anyway — I haven't actually checked whether this is allowed).

Thanks a lot for the replies. Just because I didn't comment on things doesn't mean I didn't find them helpful!
 

PsychStudent

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I was 20 last year when I applied to clinical psych PhD programs (took 4 years to finish my degree, but skipped kindergarten long ago). I seriously doubt that it hurt me in admissions, or that anyone even noticed.
 

PupDogGirl

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hey there....I'm 20 now, and will be when I graduate (I am getting out in three years). I am at one of these "top ranked" schools, applied for other "top ranked" schools, and did not get an interview at ANY of the big research institutions. However, I knew this was coming. The professor who I work with, who is distinguished in developmental psychology, told me that I am simply too young and that the two and a half years of experience that I would have by the time I graduate just cannot compete with all these other people who took time off. I didn't listen to this professor, and instead applied to like 13 schools, hoping someone would see something in me. And if you choose a school that focuses on clinical training, you will run into this problem of "life experience." I went on an interview last week where a professor definitely expressed doubt in any 20 year olds' ability to see an adult client.
I'm now in the position between choosing a school which is not geared toward my interests, or taking some time off. I'm likely going to choose the latter (although I'm assuming I have a choice--I may very well not even get a single acceptance), and this process has left me down a few hundred bucks and given me quite a bruised ego.
Instead of talking to the profs you would want to work with in grad school, talk to the ones you work for now. They know you the best and are in a position to give you an honest assessment.

Hope this helps.
 

Sanman

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Well, I can tell you that it is tough to get in straight from college. I'm applying right now and after finishing my first interview, I can tell you that most people do take at least a couple of years off. I was one of two people at a 17 person interview that were coming straight out of college; several candidates had a masters. If you want to save some cash, you may want to get research experience working as a research assistant for a couple of years. The cash certainly comes in handy. I should also mention that the programs I am getting interviews at a mostly my "safety schools" and that I busted a** in college (i.e. 2.5 years research in a cog lab.,1.5 years research in neuropsych lab, neuropsych honor's thesis, clinical experiences, etc.). I also felt as if I had to prove my decision to apply to grad school a little more than others.
 
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Deslok

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Hmm... things aren't lookin' good for me. One more question though:

Who usually pays the costs of getting an interview — you or the school?
 

cmuhooligan

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Deslok said:
Hmm... things aren't lookin' good for me. One more question though:

Who usually pays the costs of getting an interview — you or the school?
90% of the time you will have to pay for the expenses associated with the interview, although most school will let you stay with a grad student so you will save some money there by not having to pay for a hotel
 
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Deslok

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I talked to my psychology advisor today, and she seemed to be fairly knowledgeable. You never know though. Some of what she said: apply to ~12 programs, send subject test scores when they're optional if you do well, rankings are crap, don't contact faculty too early, take a cognitive and neuro class, age might be a problem, get more research experience...

Just figured I'd share :eek:
 
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Deslok

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Sanman said:
All sounds about right. Remember that when you apply you should consider where you want to live for 5 years.
I've lived in a number of different places, and they're all the same to me, so I guess I'm not very picky. I should probably at least take a look at that though...
 

SaraL124

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The most important thing you should keep in mind when applying is how good of a research match you are for the professor you're applying to work with. If they don't see a parallel in your interests and the professors, they probably won't see you as a good candidate. It doesn't have to be so "on target" even. My interests are in women's health and sexuality and I have been interviewed (1 accept, 1 high alternate) by 2 schools where there is research on trauma and stress in women after rape, and revictimization risk. So it's not an exact match, but pretty close.

Another piece of advice I will give you is to contact professors early in the game and be upfront about your intentions. Give some background about yourself, why you are interested in them, and ask if they are taking on students for the following fall. THEN keep up the communication. Even if you have to make up questions to keep it going, it will show your continued interest. Ask to be put in contact with current students, and graduates of the program. Read the professors most current articles and email her/him about them. Be persistent and they will remember you when it comes time to review apps for interview invites. This way, even if your scores don't meet the cut-offs, the professor may overlook that because s/he knows you are a good match and interested in her/his work.

Call the school 3-4 weeks after the apps are due to make sure all your materials arrived....you'll want to know right away if something never arrived so you can get your app complete.

Also, apply to as many schools as you can. If you have decent scores/grades/research experience and apply to a wide spread of schools, you will definitely get in somewhere. Don't limit yourself!

good luck!