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PhD/PsyD Changes in undergrad opportunities due to COVID-19: How will this affect admissions?


New Member
Feb 15, 2020
  1. Pre-Psychology
Hi everyone, I know the future is uncertain right now but I'm wondering if anyone can provide some input on two questions.

I'm a rising senior in undergrad looking to apply to clinical PhD (and maybe some PsyD) programs in the fall. My area of interest is primarily obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, which I have already conducted research on and it is also the client population I intend to focus on one day in research and practice.

Just as everyone else, my plans for the next few months have completely changed:

First, I was accepted to present posters of my independent research at MPA and APS this spring. I know I will be able to put "canceled presentation" on my CV, but I still worry about grad schools seeing this less favorably than if I were able to actually attend these regional and national conferences. It feels less legitimate I guess. Do you guys know if this will hurt me/others in this position in our applications, or will admissions be understanding of this circumstance?

Additionally, I was planning to spend two months interning for a child trauma clinic at a highly-regarded state university this summer. The clinical director is an alumnus of my college and often accepts undergrads from my college for a summer to come work for him. Given that this is sort of a closed internship that only has one or two students per summer, the clinical director is able to provide lots of hands-on experience, e.g. training in client intake, and allows the interns to assist in his clinical research (funded by the university's grants). Because of COVID-19, the clinic has switched to telehealth sessions and the university's IRB has put a hold on all research. It would no longer be worth it/practical for me to fly across the country and stay in an AirBnB for two months for this opportunity. I was relying on this internship for direct clinical experience, experience as a research assistant (as opposed to independent research, which I have already done), and hopefully a letter of recommendation from the clinical director attesting to my competence/work ethic in these areas.

Now that this has been canceled, I managed to apply last-minute to my college's summer research program, and was able to secure a small stipend for five weeks of remote independent research. I am going to be focusing this research on my area of interest (OCD), as I did with my previous study, to further show potential advisors my commitment to this topic, which I would not have been able to do with my internship plans. Still, this is an undergrad at a liberal arts college conducting independent research for a second time with no experience working for a big university in a research lab.

My second question is, then, how will this summer opportunity compare to the one I had previously planned? Is it better or worse to conduct an independent study on my area of interest than it is to work as an assistant to a researcher whose area of research (trauma in children) is not my intended graduate focus? And now without this clinical experience, should I do everything I can to secure some sort of experience in the fall (e.g. at a local psych hospital)? Does that portion even matter if I'm mostly applying to PhD programs?

Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your feedback! I really appreciate it.
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