lifelonglearnerPhD

5+ Year Member
Apr 15, 2009
7
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Psychology Student
Hi everyone,

As we gear up for a new application season, i'm wondering if there's a central place where prospective students can read honest opinions about PhD programs from actual students (past or present). Everytime I do a search on SDN or google, I come up super short (or I find reviews that solely focus on undergraduate programs). If such a thread or external resource already exists, please kindly direct me to it.

If not, i'm particularly interested in hearing the inside scoop about programs like:

1. Univ of Michigan (personality/social)

2. Univ of Wisconsin- Madison (counseling psych)

3. Univ of Missourri- Columbia (counseling psych)

4. Georgia State (counseling psych)

5. University of Texas- Austin (counseling psych)

6. University of Georgia- Athens (counseling psych)

7. Emory (Clinical)

8. UNC-Chapel Hill (Clinical)

9. UVA (Clinical)

10. Univ of Illinois- Urbana (counseling psych)

11. Iowa State (counseling psych)

P.S: These are all schools that have strong research matches for me, so i'm not worried about that. I'm moreso concerned about the CULTURAL fit (competitive/cuttroat vs. collaborative; intense vs. laid back; URM supportive vs not so much; conservative vs. liberal etc.) If you'd rather share your thoughts privately, PLEASE PM me. I'm simply trying to do my due diligence BEFORE I spend hundreds of dollars on application fees and such.

Thanks in advance!
 
Aug 10, 2011
125
11
Status
Psychology Student
Just brainstorming - maybe you could do a search for your programs on LinkedIn, and message former students on there. You could also contact the schools and request to speak to a student, but there's some potential bias there.
 
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lifelonglearnerPhD

lifelonglearnerPhD

5+ Year Member
Apr 15, 2009
7
0
Status
Psychology Student
Just brainstorming - maybe you could do a search for your programs on LinkedIn, and message former students on there. You could also contact the schools and request to speak to a student, but there's some potential bias there.
Thanks. I already considered both suggestions, but I don't believe folks would be super forthcoming (or at least not as forthcoming as they would be on a semi-anonymous platform i.e: yelp)
 

LETSGONYR

5+ Year Member
Jul 7, 2012
359
91
Washington, DC
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Post Doc
Thanks. I already considered both suggestions, but I don't believe folks would be super forthcoming (or at least not as forthcoming as they would be on a semi-anonymous platform i.e: yelp)
You might be surprised. I worked for my school's admissions office while in grad school, and I was always blunt and honest with potential students. My reasoning was that I wanted people to know what they were getting into... grad school is really stressful, and it's important that people make informed decisions. Having unhappy or bitter students would affect the whole department. I didn't see a downside to this, either... if my answers turned someone away, it was saving everyone (applicant, other students, and faculty/staff) a lot of unnecessary stress.

Not everyone will share that view, but it may be worth a shot anyway. You could get some good information. I'd encourage you to be direct in your questioning.
 
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lifelonglearnerPhD

lifelonglearnerPhD

5+ Year Member
Apr 15, 2009
7
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Psychology Student
Nice! That's the kind of candor i'm hoping for (and since you put it that way, i'll give it a try.) I'd really hate to fall in love with a place from afar only to end up hating it once I visit.
 

MCParent

Bronze Donor
7+ Year Member
Jan 10, 2012
1,592
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Students' appraisals of their specific labs and mentors are going to matter more than appraisals of the entire program.

You get this, but more typically on interview day after you have identified people you want to work with.
 
Nov 21, 2011
165
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I agree with MCParent. At places you interview, ask grad students in the lab open-ended questions on topics such as how collaborative/competitive the lab environment is, how involved the mentor is (some mentors out-source an amount of mentoring to the older graduate students and that amount varies), what is the general mix of praise and constructive criticism from the mentor, what do they see as the pros/cons working with that mentor, what is the pace the students in the lab get through the program, how well do lab members match for internship, what kinds of places do the lab members end up after the program, etc. Unless there is a lot of in-fighting among staff, unusual policies, etc, much of your experience in these programs will be driven by your experiences in your particular lab.
 
Mar 24, 2014
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Apply to them all and pick the one that selects you. If you are fortunate enough to get two offers then you have a choice. Responses about environment and culture are going to have too low interrater reliability to be of much use anyway.
 

WisNeuro

Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
10,175
8,861
Somewhere
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Best bet to find accurate information is to interview and talk to current students. Things you find online have the same problem as other reviews, the people most likely to leave a review are those that are the most deeply dissatisfied.
 
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MamaPhD

Psychologist, Academic Medical Center
7+ Year Member
Aug 2, 2010
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Students' appraisals of their specific labs and mentors are going to matter more than appraisals of the entire program.
This is a good point. It's important to find out about the program at large and the lab/mentor-specific culture. When it comes to working environment especially (cutthroat-versus-collaborative, intense-versus-laid back), the specific lab and faculty advisor matter enormously.
 

MiniLop

7+ Year Member
Mar 6, 2012
89
92
Status
Psychology Student
Not to be a contrarian, but I do think there is a lot of value in getting opinions online (anonymously) in addition to learning more on interview day. A few years ago I posted here soliciting opinions on a program I'd been accepted to and got a few private messages that painted a MUCH different picture of the program than the one I got during the interview.

I think current students tend to want to be as positive as possible during interviews and that can color the perception that interviewees get somewhat. I had a friend who was very unhappy about many aspects of her program and was vocal about them in the department. The department went out of their way to make sure she was not at interview day events. So getting opinions in a variety of venues can be important to get the full scoop.