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GPA blues, advice?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by horizonspsych, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. horizonspsych

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    Hi,
    I am trying to understand more about how I might pursue my goal of being a clinical psychologist in light of my low gpa. I have taken a lot of psychology classes and have a strong interest in the field. I have volunteered in a number of different settings with clinical populations. I worked in a professor's lab over one summer. I have taken three different lab courses. I have volunteered with a clinical psychologist. My grades are mixed..some are good and some are not as good. Unfortunately I am expecting one failing grade. I have a history of clinical depression and even though I feel I have coped with it well at college it has affected my performance. I have struggled to maintain confidence in my academic ability and sometimes that has created a self fulfilling prophecy. In my first year I had a 3.4 gpa overall but I lost a lot of confidence in my second year. I am worried that my gpa may go below 3.0 especially with this failing grade. I have a strong academic interest in psychology. I have persevered in the past to get into a good college and to overcome depression. I am considering studying for a year long Msc to get more research experience. Also, I am an international student..I don't know if that will affect my chances of being admitted?
    Really my question centers around trying to understand whether it is possible/likely that admissions committees will be able to overlook my low gpa and what I can do to create a more competitive profile. I am a senior and I have one more semester at college. I'm very interested in Psychology and in working hard. I'm not interested in social work. I would really like to get into a Phd program or a strong PsyD program. Is it impossible? Any advice appreciated :)
     
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  3. edieb

    edieb Senior Member
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    You will have to re-take the courses that you did poor in (operationally defined as a low "B" or worse). Sorry, there is no way around it. If you have a hx of depression, you will definitely need to consider the impact that will have on your grad school performance.... most graduate schools (at least from what I hear) are very unforgiving, political and demanding places that can bring anybody to his/her needs.

    I don't really have any clinical depression or anxiety, and I have had a really hard time in graduate school, I honestly don't think I would have made it (I'm on internship now) if I had a history of those things. Good luck
     
  4. apumic

    apumic Oracle of the Sheet
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    I think you'll need to do an MS to show you can handle grad-level coursework. Part of the problem with accepting you as you are now would be that a C is basically considered a failing grade in many (most?) grad programs. Many have policies such as "more than 2 Cs, or a single F, and you're automatically dismissed from the program." Therefore, you are a high risk student in terms of failing out. An MS could show otherwise; however, if you have not gotten treatment for your MDD, you should get that ASAP and wait on the MS until you are sure your diagnosis won't get in the way. Remember -- if you fail to get a high (3.6+) GPA in the MS program, you're doing little more than sealing your fate my "proving" to an admissions committee that even given a 2nd (B.A.), 3rd (M.S.)...and likely now 4th (Ph.D./Psy.D.) chance, you simply cannot succeed -- and that's the last thing you want them to think of you.

    Best of luck in all of this! I hope you are able to overcome this hurdle.
     
  5. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    Do you really think that this is helpful? I'll say it if others won't, this might not be the right field for you. While we all struggle with our own inner demons, someone with a significant history of Clinical Depression probably is ill-suited to pursue a career in clinical psychology.

    This is not to say that you should never be able to pursue a degree in clinical psychology, but rather that you need to do some serious soul seeking before continuing. Just as people with broken down cars infrequently become mechanics, and those with heart conditions rarely become cardiologists, people with depression possibly are not the best choice for psychologists.

    To answer your question, you're somewhat screwed. You can go back and retake a bunch of courses... or you can get your Masters degree... but you still have a uphill struggle ahead of you.

    I'm not trying to make this a bitter pill to swallow, but what you wrote really suggests that this might not make the most sense for you. If you do decide to pursue this, I think one question that you will need to be able to field is: "Why do you want to be a clinical psychologist?" You will need to do it without reference to your own struggles... or face near certain slaughter should you secure an interview.

    I wish I could put a happier face on things, but these programs are so ridiculously competitive that GPA's are one of the first hurdles to overcome followed by the GRE. Without those pieces in place you are cut before your statement is even read (in many places.) Some programs promise to evaluate the full package (and do), even so you still have to stand out as an outstanding candidate.

    I have been through this grinder more than once, and it's not a pleasant experience. It's full of anxiety and moments that challenge even the most confident candidates. I do wish you the best.

    Mark
     
  6. edieb

    edieb Senior Member
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    If you took the course where you're expecting the failing grade at a different school, you could just not order the transcript when you apply to graduate school.
     
  7. biogirl215

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    ^
    Don't most grad school applications stipulate that you have to send in transcripts fronm *all* colleges and universities you attended?

    I get what you're trying to say here, but these two examples don't quite connect to clinical psychology and depression.

    While I agree that grad students and psychologists should be emotionally stable and shouldn't go into the field to "fix" themselves, I think saying a history of pathology should rule out the field is quite hasty and would wipe out not only many grad students and practitioners, but most of the seminal theorists in the field (Jung, Adler, and Freud all come to mind). If someone has been asymptomatic for an extended period of time, shows good insight into his or her mental state, and is otherwise well qualified (GPA, GRE, research, etc), a history of pathology shouldn't be an automatic disqualification. Of course, a person with active or poorly controlled pathology might be another matter, but...
     
  8. Cigolon

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    I tend to agree. I also think that there is a certain degree of passion for the field that an individual may obtain through their tribulations. It's not uncommon to find individuals in the field to have some history that has engendered their focus for clinical psychology. The question is the degree to which an individual is well adapted at current, not if there is a past history.
     
  9. edieb

    edieb Senior Member
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    While depression, per se, is not rampant in psychologists and psychiatrists, from my experience people in the mental health field are, by and large, have very different personalities (and not necessarily in a good way) than the population at large....
     
  10. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    Did you skip this sentence? "This is not to say that you should never be able to pursue a degree in clinical psychology, but rather that you need to do some serious soul seeking before continuing." The history is something that needs to be addressed by that person, and then make an informed decision. I don't think that I suggested that a history of pathology was disqualifying but rather needs to be adequately addressed before proceeding.

    Mark
     
  11. Jon4PsyD

    Jon4PsyD Go Red Sox
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    I could not disagree more. I have a classmate from college who suffered two major depressive episodes during our time in school together. He graduated with a 2.5 GPA, was eventually diagnosed with Schizophrenia...dominated the GRE exams, did well in an Experimental Psychology Master's program, and was accepted last year into one of the most competitive Clinical Ph.D. programs in the country (and had a pretty solid first year).

    Now as I am applying this year let me just say, I'm jealous!
    But I think if you want this, DO IT. Re-take some courses, get a Master's in Experimental/General Psych and apply.

    Jon
     
  12. karamello24

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    You can be whatever your want to be, alot of psychologists do alocohol or another substance. I agree u might have to retake that class, but worst case scenario is go to Argosy, . DONT LET ANYTHING STOP you from being a clinical psychologist. Depression can be treated, and alot of psychologist have issues and are in therapy. DONT STOP
     
  13. psydd

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    related question:

    if it's going to take me 5 years to complete my bachelor's because of an honors thesis, will grad schools only look at my first 4 years of cumulative GPA? or will all 5 years count collectively?
     
  14. psychgirl77

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    They will look at all 5 years.
     
  15. horizonspsych

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    Thank you for your responses to this question. I do understand the point that someone who has clinical depression might have difficulties with graduate school but I don't really agree that someone with depression is a dubious choice for a psychologist. I do think that someone who has depression might have something to add the field in the end. I want to believe in my capabilities because I know when I am well I am a pretty solid student. My transcript shows mixed grades. I know that I can produce good coursework. But also I know this is a very tough field and graduate school is incredibly competitive to get into. What I am looking for at present is a route upwards and I don't know if there is one or how often people are able to achieve it.
     
  16. PSYDR

    PSYDR Psychologist
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    1) please get treatment.

    2) if your GPA is <3.0, it would be considered very bad. you are competing against a hundred or more others. easiest way to whittle down the applicant pool is to decline anyone below the minimum GPA and GRE. you will have to do something to make it up. a masters is, imo, the best route. a master's will also acclimate you to the admissions process.

    3) here is the saleint problem with your situation imo: you have basically demonstrated that your condition significantly affects your academic performance, such that you would be unable to perform at the graduate level for 4 years (i.e., the aforementioned 2 C's or one F and you're out = grad school standard). the psychologists on the admission committee are going to wonder if you will have a recurrence during the 5-7 year process of doctoral training. you will have to demonstrate how you will prevent and mitigate relapse.

    i don't know how you have dealt with your pathology in the past, but have you sought treatment when sufferring from a depressive episode? if not, why? this behavior could be thought of as a failure to seek help when appropriate. this could have widespread implications in academics, practica, internship, professional life, etc. you'll have to demonstrate how you sought appropriate help when necessary.

    4) a stellar GRE may help. i would estimate mid 700s would be the minimum to being helping.

    5) if you could demonstrate an incredibly prolific publication history, then that would also mitigate low grades.

    6) being an international student makes no difference.

    7) retake the courses
     
  17. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    Look, there are exceptions, but do you really think the average schizophrenic would make a great psychologist? I wish your classmate nothing but the best, and I love to see people rise above their circumstances to triumph in life. These are great stories that should inspire all of us, but is the average person capable of overcoming these challenges?

    I agree, if you have thought about it, and decided that this is what you want to do... then go for it! I am not advocating anything different than that, so I find it hard to see where you would disagree. Having depression or schizophrenia is hardly an asset though in attending graduate school. For every one that has succeeded in pursuing this dream, there are hundreds (perhaps more) that fail... and these are people who don't have depression or schizophrenia.

    You act as if it is no big deal to get into a stellar program and that a 2.5 GPA shouldn't be a big deal. My experience was a little different, even with a 4.0 and a 1300 GRE it took me multiple attempts to get accepted. I saw others fall to similar fates and we can examine the acceptance threads each year to see how many were not able to pursue the dreams despite solid credentials.

    Like I said, I wish the OP nothing but the best, I hope that should they choose to pursue this that they are met with success. The realist in me cautions that this may not come to fruition and that some thought is warranted. I stand by that.

    Mark
     
    #16 Markp, Jan 2, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2009
  18. edieb

    edieb Senior Member
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    Although it will be hard to get in, I feel the OP's post speaks to a growing problem in clinical psychology, particularly with university-based phd programs: the programs are TOO selective in their admissions criteria. I mean does somebody with a 1250 GRE and 2 publications really stand that much better of a chance that someone with a 1000 GRE and no publications who worked in a professor's lab but didn't get placed on any publications?

    These crazy admissions standards are giving birth to much of the pathology present in our field today: insanely expensive for-profit Psy.D. programs (e.g., SOME people who cannot get into university-based phd programs, go to these mercenary for-profit schools), workaholic graduate students (e.g., I am in still in school [well, on internship now] seven years after I started in my program (more common than you would think in my program), etc.

    I really think it would behoove the profession to loosen admissions standard at university-based programs and have them increase class sizes and decrease training time to 2-3 years including internship. If psychology were welcoming of ALL students who want their doctorates, regardless of what you make on some silly standardized test, I think our profession would be much more diverse, and as a result, much stronger on a legislative level. Psychology should not be made up entirely of the intellectually elite. It should be made of people from all walks of life, from all ability levels, etc. The overly selctive system we have right now (are you mentally ill, not a stellar test taker, aren't brilliant at mathematics or reading comprehension, fail to have access to academic resources, have a husband and a family, then you're likely denied entrance) is absurd. Psychology is built upon helping people but how can you help others when you enforce these elitist admissions policies???
     
  19. nmrh35

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    Hi. Its important to be realistic, but I think one thing that will give both you and admissions committees more confidence is if you take a couple of years off before applying to schools. In the mean time you can do all the right things such as getting research experience and studying for the GREs, and take a class here or there. I was in a similar situation, and after years of up and down school performance it felt hard to break the cycle. When I graduated I felt if only I had the right GPA I could apply to grad school, but looking back if I had gone straight to a PhD program, I probably would have encountered the same academic difficulties I had already experienced.
     
  20. KillerDiller

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    Although I understand the complaint that programs are highly selective and thus likely shutting out a certain number of people who would make good psychologists, I have to disagree with most of this. First of all, Ph.D programs tend to accept as many students as they can realistically fund and provide mentorship for. Standards for research, theses and dissertations would plummet if professors were expected to provide mentorship to several students each year instead of the standard 1-2. Additionally, grants and scholarships would not be available for these additional individuals and so these programs would have to start asking students to take out large loans, just like the much-maligned professional school model.

    I also think the profession needs to maintain a level of quality control and in general I'd rather see qualified students excluded for a year or more than numerous unqualified students gain entry (yeah, maybe that makes me a horrible person, but it's in the best interest of the discipline). I'm sorry, but not everyone who wants to should be able to walk into being a doctoral-level psychologist. It takes a lot of hard work and a sophisticated level of thought--comprehending and applying abstract theory and critically evaluating the decisions of yourself and others. I think people should have to demonstrate some hint of these abilities before they are allowed admission. GPA and GRE scores happen to be decent indices (not perfect, but decent). When you supplement these with letters of recomendation, personal statements, and CVs, you start to get a fairly clear picture. It's not like the profession refuses to admit someone who had special circumstances as an undergrad and simultaneouesly didn't do well on the standardized test. In such cases, a person simply has to display an amount of initiative by learning how to better their performance on the GRE and/or by getting a Masters and retaking coursework in order to better their grades. There are always avenues open to those who have the temerity to seek them.
     
  21. Ollie123

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    Agree with this wholeheartedly. The solution to prof schools being a problem is definitely not to make all university programs more like prof schools.

    Plus, if grad school was for everyone, I definitely would never have decided to go. I hate being in an environment with low standards (my undergrad definitely fell into this category), it can be incredibly frustrating for someone who really wants to learn and if psychology went that route it certainly would have driven me to go do something where I could get the intellectual environment I desire. There's certainly something to be said for being open-minded and having diversity, but there are limits on what is reasonable.

    I'll also add I have NO idea how anyone could become remotely qualified in 2-3 years. I have a tough enough time imagining being ready in the 6 years I'm expecting to be here. I can't even fathom cramming it into 2-3 years - what would get cut?
     
    #20 Ollie123, Jan 3, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  22. amphigory

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    I have yet to meet someone in this profession (PhDs and MDs) who doesn't have some Axis I disorder. Read through some of the threads here if you don't believe me! (I know I'll take heat for that, but come on, guys, I hardly ever read a thread without thinking it). Granted, the PIs I've had tend to lean more towards the cyclothymic/bipolar II end, but I don't think having depression necessarily means you shouldn't pursue clinical psychology. However, you have to get yourself to a place where you can function at a high level consistently. I can't tell from your post what year you are in college or if you already finished a BA or the equivalent, but I think taking time off when you're crashing will look better than a transcript that's all over the place. I wish I hadn't rushed through the whole four years, I would have been better off taking a year out or really starting later would have been ideal. Just try to do the least damage possible while you're finishing up whatever you're in the middle of, and take some time off to get yourself together, and when you're ready, either get the Masters or retake all of those classes and get straight As. It is possible, but will be really hard and you can't rush it.
     

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