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Best Plan for Someone w/o Psych Major or Minor?

Ben7

New Member
Aug 23, 2015
9
0
1
  1. Pre-Psychology
This is my first post, so I wanted to start by saying this looks like a really awesome forum and thank you to all the helpful contributors.

I'm considering applying to clinical psychology PhD programs. The issue is that I did not take a single psych course in undergrad, and I do not have any research experience in psych. I majored in political science, so I don't have a strong science background to boost my profile, either.

My current plan is to take undergraduate psychology courses as a "special student" at UW-Madison over Spring '16, Fall '16, and Spring '17 while working full-time in Madison. At 2 courses per semester, I could take Intro to Psych, Research Methods, Abnormal Psych, Developmental Psych, and 2 more advanced courses in an area that I would apply to PhD programs as my research interest. To gain research experience, I would volunteer for whatever is available and make sure that my professors know I am looking for research experience. In late Fall '16, I would apply to the PhD programs and specifically note that in the spring I am taking psych courses and gaining research experience.

Are there any changes you would make to this plan? How much of a disadvantage would my PhD application be at if I only had these 6 courses and a small amount of research experience? I have a 3.7 GPA and am expecting to achieve high scores on the GRE and Psych Subject Test, but could I still be competitive with this background?
 
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PsychPsyance

Full Member
7+ Year Member
May 28, 2012
76
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206
  1. Psychologist
This seems like a reasonable plan. I think you could (should) apply in your first year. If you don't get in, apply again. FWIW, not that long ago I was in a similar boat. I had a BA in a social science area fairly unrelated to psychology, and no psychology coursework. For some reason, I decided I want to get my PhD in psych.

Here's my path: (1) I studied hard for the GRE & psych GRE over the summer, doing well on both; (2) I started undergrad coursework in psychology at a local university (not a major psych dept like UW); (3) I got involved with some limited research in the dept; (4) I applied for PhD programs that Fall, having completed virtually no psych coursework and having no real research experience (I only applied to 1 clinical program as I was fairly certain I wanted to do research, and didn't realize at the time that clinical also did research). (5) I selectively picked programs/mentors where I felt I was a good match, and made sure my letters emphasized the match, describing how my ideas integrated with their current research. I got interviews and offers to several schools, including the lone clinical program I applied to.

I took the clinical spot and the rest is history. All of this happened in 2005-2006, so a while ago, but things were equally competitive back then. Not the traditional path, but not impossible either. I'm now a professor at a Clinical Science PhD program. So you can start out in a nontraditional spot and still end up right where you want to be. Best of luck!
 
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Ben7

New Member
Aug 23, 2015
9
0
1
  1. Pre-Psychology
I took a math department statistic course and sociology department applied statistics course, so I'm hoping I can convince a professor to let me skip stats and go straight to research methods.

It's good to hear that I'm on the right path, and that others have a legitimate success story coming from a similar background. Thanks for the help.
 
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mcvcm92

Full Member
Aug 10, 2011
125
11
61
  1. Psychology Student
I took a math department statistic course and sociology department applied statistics course, so I'm hoping I can convince a professor to let me skip stats and go straight to research methods.

It's good to hear that I'm on the right path, and that others have a legitimate success story coming from a similar background. Thanks for the help.

I wasn't a Psych major, and took a sociology-esque stat course (as opposed to psych stats)... grad programs didn't have a problem accepting it for the statistics requirement :)
 
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AcronymAllergy

Neuropsychologist
Volunteer Staff
10+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2010
8,307
3,400
376
  1. Psychologist
That is awesome to hear. :)

Just keep in mind that the waiving of courses may be determined by the department, not the professor. It's tough to keep straight in your mind, but there are some things that may be decided largely by faculty (e.g., whom to interview and accept), and others that are set by the department or university (e.g., minimum GPA, GRE, and individuals course requirements).
 
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Ben7

New Member
Aug 23, 2015
9
0
1
  1. Pre-Psychology
Just keep in mind that the waiving of courses may be determined by the department, not the professor. It's tough to keep straight in your mind, but there are some things that may be decided largely by faculty (e.g., whom to interview and accept), and others that are set by the department or university (e.g., minimum GPA, GRE, and individuals course requirements).

Thanks for the heads up. I can't recall the schools I've looked at requiring a stats course--it was only recommended along with methods and a few other courses. Hopefully there aren't many that require it, since I have the knowledge that the class is supposed to be a proxy for.
 
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