Considering debt and given the chance, would you do a PsyD program again?

  • Yes, it panned out.

    Votes: 7 63.6%
  • No, I have financial troubles that weren't worth it.

    Votes: 4 36.4%

  • Total voters
    11
Aug 24, 2016
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Hi guys,

I just got into the Wright Institute, which now has APA only internships at the end of the five year program. However, I'm really hesitant to accept due to debt fears and job prospects. I am in my late twenties, have no debt, and am a teacher in the Bay Area. The school has a good reputation, what seems like a good faculty, and a good vibe on campus. Yet I cannot shake the fears off 120k+ in debt for tuition- that being pre interest accrual. California does sound like it's saturated as far as opinions go- but what's it like out there for those of you really working who have graduated from a PsyD program? We cannot work during the program and being a little older has made me realize (especially up here) how expensive life is. Thoughts, opinions, experiences, and stories are all welcome. Ideally, I would like to work in a hospital setting such as Kaiser. Feasibility, however, I'm unsure of. I have to reply to them shortly and am all ears from those who know.

Mahalo!
 
Nov 4, 2015
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Hey there OP,

One issue with many PsyD programs is that they take more students than they can actually match for internship. You can see the info on Wright Institute here: https://www.appic.org/Portals/0/downloads/APPIC_Match_Rates_2011-14_by_Univ.pdf (page 326). In 2014, 39 students applied for the match; 16 matched to an accredited site, 17 matched to a non-accredited site, 4 didn't match, and 2 withdrew. Those are...disheartening numbers. Matching to a non-accredited site can make things difficult for you, particularly if you want to work for a major system like Kaiser; the burden will be on you to prove that your training was adequate during internship in order for you to get licensed, which can be complicated and take more time/extra training on your end. If I were you, I'd be wary, but that's just my 2 cents.
 

PsyDr

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Imagine someone wanting to retrain as a stock broker. But this person says they refuse to move to Wall Street, won't move to go to a school that all the big investment houses recruit from, can't waste time shadowing a broker to see if they like the job, etc. When you ask about that would work, they reference an outlier whose career started in a very different climate (e.g., an uncle who put $10k in apple in 1999). All because they say they want to go work for the Edward jones branch down the street from where they live.

Would you tell this person to go for it? What if they were putting $200k in the line?
 

ClinicalABA

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Assuming 6%, 20 year term, you'd need to make ~14k more per year (before taxes) than you do at your current job to cover the annual student loan payments to financially break-even (as compared to staying in your current position). Best case scenario, you will have no appreciable uincome for 5-6 years while in school, and It will take you ~7 years before your really hit the professional job market, so you'll also want to add the lost income to the total costs of the wright psyd. fro comparison purposes. Let's say, conservatively, your making 35K per year and over the next 7 years you maybe cand draw in a total of 50k between practicum, internship, etc. The addition costs in lost income will be 195K. At an average license psych salary of 65k over your first 10 years (I kinda pulled that number out of my a**, using a mid-carreer median figure of 75K annual salary), it'll take 6-7 years of working as a licensed psychologist to recoup your lost income as a result of the program. Those are all some pretty big numbers there, with a lot of assumptions (e.g. that your wright degree will result in a typical mid-career salary; that doctoral level salaries remain consistent; that my math is remotely correct), but hopefully you get the picture. Between my day gig, benefits, and adjuncting, I have a good salary, substantially above that mid-career median. My student loan payment are "only" ~380 per month (undergrad and some graduate debt- despite fully funded program). That is not an inconsequential ammount- I feel it each month. It's a necessary evil, and it ultimately paid off for me in the end, but the debt is real and meaningful. I could not image doubling or tripling that amount without major lifestyle consequense (like having to drink cheap american lagers).

Caveat Emptor
 
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Mar 24, 2014
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As far as the survey goes, I didn't answer. If I knew then what I know now, I would have probably gone the PhD route. I really just needed more research experience and had a willingness or understanding of the need to move out of state. On the other hand, I received solid education and training at a reputable program and have been able to meet my goals. I would rather not have the debt, but it is not insurmountable and I am still doing better financially than I was before starting this path. I also have low interest on the loans so that helps. These days the rates for student loans are even higher than my home loans so that would be a problem. Interest rate makes a huge difference in whether the debt is insurmountable or not. At 2.8 percent, I'm much less in a hurry to pay it than at 6 or higher. I had one loan at 8.5 but paid it off last year with loan repayment money. That sucker could have been a killer otherwise.
 
OP
PsySigh
Aug 24, 2016
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Hey there OP,

One issue with many PsyD programs is that they take more students than they can actually match for internship. You can see the info on Wright Institute here: https://www.appic.org/Portals/0/downloads/APPIC_Match_Rates_2011-14_by_Univ.pdf (page 326). In 2014, 39 students applied for the match; 16 matched to an accredited site, 17 matched to a non-accredited site, 4 didn't match, and 2 withdrew. Those are...disheartening numbers. Matching to a non-accredited site can make things difficult for you, particularly if you want to work for a major system like Kaiser; the burden will be on you to prove that your training was adequate during internship in order for you to get licensed, which can be complicated and take more time/extra training on your end. If I were you, I'd be wary, but that's just my 2 cents.
Thank you. May I please ask if you know what Wright means by now "only allowing APA internships"? If I understand correctly, the goal now is to make it so every student graduates with one.
 
OP
PsySigh
Aug 24, 2016
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Imagine someone wanting to retrain as a stock broker. But this person says they refuse to move to Wall Street, won't move to go to a school that all the big investment houses recruit from, can't waste time shadowing a broker to see if they like the job, etc. When you ask about that would work, they reference an outlier whose career started in a very different climate (e.g., an uncle who put $10k in apple in 1999). All because they say they want to go work for the Edward jones branch down the street from where they live.

Would you tell this person to go for it? What if they were putting $200k in the line?
Touche. C'est la vie. I'm 29 and my relationship matters more to me than the programs out there do. A decade ago I would have eagerly jumped at the chance to move for school (and did). But you're right. My therapist graduated from Palo Alto University in their PhD program with a total debt tab of $250k. She is 35 and making in the low $100's with her degree. I thought a hospital route was safe because you don't need to gather your own clientele and the stability seemed appealing. Nonetheless, she is paying over a grand a month in loans and with that debt I suspect will be paying for quite some time. I make a little over half, but I have no debt. Tonight is the last night to say yes or no. Guess I know my answer.
 
OP
PsySigh
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Do you guys think MFT's are saturated and thus a waste to obtain?
 

ClinicalABA

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Thank you. May I please ask if you know what Wright means by now "only allowing APA internships"?
Most likely means that they will give support to or permit students to apply to non-APA accredited internships. I don't see any indication on their website that they have their own captive APA accredited internship.
If I understand correctly, the goal now is to make it so every student graduates with one.
A more cynical person might reframe that as the "the goal now is to make it so no student graduates without one." Either way, having the requirement is one thing, making sure your students can meet it is another. Based on their last 3 years of data published on their site, over that time frame , 71 students (45%) of the students who applied for internship would not have met this requirement. Not sure what those student would be doing instead of graduating, but it likely involved minimal income and increased debt.
 

ClinicalABA

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Do you guys think MFT's are saturated and thus a waste to obtain?
That will be area specific. Do a job search as if you were an MFT looking for work in your area. Search agency websites, register for job notifications on MFT professional websites, approach current MFTs and ask them about the current job market. When reviewing job openings, look for language along the lines of "LMFT, LMHC, LCSW, or equivalent required." If you are seeing a lot of that, it's a good indication that the market is not for specific MFT skill set, as well as that you'd be competing against folks from other disciplines.
 
Mar 24, 2014
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Sounds like your therapist has terrible boundaries?
Yeah, I tend to be on the fairly open side with my patients about biographical data and I have never even come close to revealing my salary or debt and don't see where it would ever be therapeutically indicated. I have had patients ask (younger people) a couple of times and it was an opportunity to demonstrate how to set appropriate boundaries and/or to talk about the patient's views of money and career, etc and how that relates to presenting problems.
 
OP
PsySigh
Aug 24, 2016
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I asked directly and appreciated her transparency. She knew I had been applying.

Clicking decline is incredibly difficult. I just don't want to graduate $200k in debt in five years. :(
 
Mar 24, 2014
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I asked directly and appreciated her transparency. She knew I had been applying.

Clicking decline is incredibly difficult. I just don't want to graduate $200k in debt in five years. :(
I can understand why you would appreciate her sharing that information with you, but I would likely have handled it differently. My main point is not to criticize her or how she handled it, but since this is a site for students and clinicians at varying levels it is more to provide info for them. I have had a few patients who asked similar types of questions because of interest in pursuing the same field. It usually creates a bit of an ethical dilemma because I am treating them, not teaching, or supervising. Having clear delineations about roles and relationships is important and thinking about these types of ethical questions is part of what a psychologist does. We sort of overthink everything ;), but that is one of our strengths and I have witnessed the problems that arise when other professionals don't emphasize this enough.
 
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entitlement

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As someone who has had direct experience with supervising students from Wright, the students, at least the ones I had experience with, tended to be bright and well trained, and the faculty I am familiar with there have good reputations. However, $250k worth of debt is insane and while if you were in a PhD program you could more easily transition to high paying industry positions in the Bay Area (e..g, biotech, consulting, Facebook) and make $100-$150k right out of your program, and much more in a matter of years with promotions, a PsyD makes that very difficult, if not impossible, under the current climate here.
 
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psy234

Most likely means that they will give support to or permit students to apply to non-APA accredited internships. I don't see any indication on their website that they have their own captive APA accredited internship.
Actually...

http://wi.edu/training-ihptp#internship

"The Wright Institute's Integrated Health Psychology Training Program (IHPTP) prepares Doctoral interns with advanced training and skills for best practices in clinical psychology within a primary care community health setting. Since 2012, IHPTP has been a full-time, 12 month doctoral internship in clinical psychology. IHPTP is an APA-accredited exclusively-affiliated internship site and is sponsored by the Wright Institute, in collaboration with Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) the health department of Contra Costa County California. CCHS health centers are located in Richmond, San Pablo, Martinez and Pittsburg California."
 
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ClinicalABA

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Nice. That's for finding that and pointing it out. Is it guaranteed that every student in the program will have a slot here? That would be a good thing, and worth asking about by anyone considering this program. Still expensive, but less chance of hitting a huge hurdle after years of study.
 
Nov 4, 2015
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If they have their own captive APA-accredited internship, and have had it since 2012, why do their recent match stats from APPIC show that so many of their students don't do accredited internships?

To repeat from above, the APPIC data show that in 2014, 39 students applied for the match; 16 matched to an accredited site, 17 matched to a non-accredited site, 4 didn't match, and 2 withdrew. So, while having their own internship might help with the problem, it certainly isn't going to solve it for everyone.

Also, I just looked up the APPIC listing for this internship, it's here: https://membership.appic.org/directory/display/1389

Recently they had 8 full time slots available. That actually makes me more nervous about their training credibility! If the internship was similarly sized in 2014, 39 students applied, presumably 8 matched to the in-house one (since no one outside of Wright can apply to that one), 8 matched to other accredited sites, 17 matched to non-accredited, 4 didn't match, 2 withdrew. That means they're only actually able to place 8 of 39 students in accredited internships that aren't captive.
 
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Waste of time (poor quality of life for 10 years during graduate training) and money. I like the field but now that I am about to enter the field as an early career psychologist I won't have near the standard of living I had expected until I pay my loans of 10 years from now. When all is said and done, I'll be able to buy a house, afford the full repayment amount, and my monthly bills, save for retirement etc. but I'll only have about $600-700 of expendable income to have fun with each month.

Lots other careers I could have gone into and probably come out further ahead and enjoyed a better quality of life in my 20's. This field doesn't compensate well enough versus effort, time and training it takes to practice. I would only chose this as an option if you get a full funded offer with stipend.
 
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Nov 4, 2015
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According to a search for APA accredited internship programs, it was accredited in 2015. I assume based on their APPIC profile that they've been an APPIC member since 2012 w/o APA accreditation.

http://apps.apa.org/accredsearch/?_ga=1.133067337.617849761.1468184314

I'm not suggesting that having this captive internship solves the problem.
Ah, ok, I see now. So in 2014 the students at the in-house program would have fallen into the non-accredited group. So of the 39 students who applied that year, 16 matched to other accredited sites, 17 matched to non-accredited (presumably approx 8 to the captive site, and 9 to other sites), 4 didn't match, 2 withdrew. If we assume similar match rates now and their captive program is accredited, it would end up being 24 accredited matches, 9 non-accredited, 4 non-match, 2 withdrawals, or an accredited match rate of approx 62% (24 of 39). Obviously, individual years will vary, but the odds are I suppose slightly better now? Still wouldn't be something I'd recommend, personally, but YMMV.
 

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If we assume similar match rates now and their captive program is accredited, it would end up being 24 accredited matches, 9 non-accredited, 4 non-match, 2 withdrawals, or an accredited match rate of approx 62% (24 of 39).
A 62% match rates while having a captive internship site taking EIGHT students???

That sounds like atrociously bad statistics to me. Most programs would have 100% match with spots left over, with an 8-person captive internship....
 
Nov 25, 2015
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I'm a little late to be helpful to the OP, but as a Wright student, I wanted to share the updated statistics for the Wright Institute's APA internship match rate. In 2015-2016, 84% of students obtained APA/CPA accredited internships and 100% obtained an internship. Historically, the Wright attracted a student population focused on community mental health and private practice work. As a result, there was little incentive from students to seek APA accredited sites, particularly given the availability of CAPIC sites in the local area. That has changed in recent years due to the influence of the APA. The Wright culture has shifted to encourage geographic flexibility during the internship phase; by considering out-of-state sites, I was able to land my first choice APA internship at a top tier VAMC. If you're set on staying in the Bay throughout training, the Wright typically places students at APA accredited internships at Kaiser, CPMC, San Quentin, Napa State, and college counseling sites in addition to IHPTP. If you're set on working at Kaiser, the Wright has a long history of placing students at Kaiser for practicum, internship, and post-doc.

While tuition was a hardship, given my savings from my years as a teacher, it actually made more financial sense for me to enter a PsyD program in the Bay Area than to take a year off work to build a resume for a funded PhD program--especially given that I wasn't geographically flexible at that time, and it could have require multiple rounds of graduate school applications to obtain a funded position. By going to the Wright, I'm graduating much faster than I would have graduated from a PhD program, which translates into fewer years of lost income. I have less debt than several of the funded PhD students in my internship cohort.

In my experience, the main drawback of the Wright Institute was the lack of research opportunities. Although I was able to find a research group and completed a decent amount of research for a PsyD, it took a lot of legwork. The only other concern is that many people in the field do not know that the Wright Institute is one of the last remaining non-profit independent schools of professional psychology and may confuse it with for-profit PsyD programs.

Here's the latest outcome data for the Wright: http://www.wi.edu/psyd-outcomes

If you clicked decline, I hope you landed at a great program. Personally, it was hard to leave teaching behind, but I have no regrets about pursuing a PsyD.
 
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Psycycle

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In my opinion, steer AWAY and fast. That level of debt is not worth the career. I've been slowly formulating my thoughts on the debt issue over the last few years, and while I think psychology as a field is worth some debt, it is not worth a large amount of debt. The work, clinically, administratively, and research-wise, is difficult and sometimes draining (also rewarding). I have found that having enough money to see some personal value in it is important to the work itself. I like the work better if I can see it going into paying for quality of life things, if that makes sense. Maybe it's just me.

Even with getting loan repayment through EDRP, I had to delay on a lot of things (EDRP requires one year of up-front funding out of pocket which is then reimbursed, and losing a significant chunk of income for a year has far-reaching effects in terms of savings). Now that I'm pulling out of that and looking into building a house, I can see how much better I feel. Work feels worthwhile knowing that I'm planning a good quality of life. High levels of debt take that away and the work feeds back into itself - e.g. the work only becomes about the work of paying off the education, and it's not so glorious that it overrides all the other things in life that make life worth living (housing, travel, fun).
 

Wendi22

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In my opinion, steer AWAY and fast. That level of debt is not worth the career. I've been slowly formulating my thoughts on the debt issue over the last few years, and while I think psychology as a field is worth some debt, it is not worth a large amount of debt. The work, clinically, administratively, and research-wise, is difficult and sometimes draining (also rewarding). I have found that having enough money to see some personal value in it is important to the work itself. I like the work better if I can see it going into paying for quality of life things, if that makes sense. Maybe it's just me.

Even with getting loan repayment through EDRP, I had to delay on a lot of things (EDRP requires one year of up-front funding out of pocket which is then reimbursed, and losing a significant chunk of income for a year has far-reaching effects in terms of savings). Now that I'm pulling out of that and looking into building a house, I can see how much better I feel. Work feels worthwhile knowing that I'm planning a good quality of life. High levels of debt take that away and the work feeds back into itself - e.g. the work only becomes about the work of paying off the education, and it's not so glorious that it overrides all the other things in life that make life worth living (housing, travel, fun).
I think it is great that you shared this in light of the fact that many people will be coming to this site in the near future as they contemplate important life decisions. It was reading posts like this a few years ago that helped be decline 200k in debt and reapply to funded programs.
 
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In my opinion, steer AWAY and fast. That level of debt is not worth the career. I've been slowly formulating my thoughts on the debt issue over the last few years, and while I think psychology as a field is worth some debt, it is not worth a large amount of debt. The work, clinically, administratively, and research-wise, is difficult and sometimes draining (also rewarding). I have found that having enough money to see some personal value in it is important to the work itself. I like the work better if I can see it going into paying for quality of life things, if that makes sense. Maybe it's just me.

Even with getting loan repayment through EDRP, I had to delay on a lot of things (EDRP requires one year of up-front funding out of pocket which is then reimbursed, and losing a significant chunk of income for a year has far-reaching effects in terms of savings). Now that I'm pulling out of that and looking into building a house, I can see how much better I feel. Work feels worthwhile knowing that I'm planning a good quality of life. High levels of debt take that away and the work feeds back into itself - e.g. the work only becomes about the work of paying off the education, and it's not so glorious that it overrides all the other things in life that make life worth living (housing, travel, fun).
100% agree


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Psycycle

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I think it is great that you shared this in light of the fact that many people will be coming to this site in the near future as they contemplate important life decisions. It was reading posts like this a few years ago that helped be decline 200k in debt and reapply to funded programs.
To clear, and perhaps to add to the whole picture, I went to a fully funded PhD with a stipend. But it was a small stipend, and wasn't livable. I made some bad choices with spending money, but nothing terribly egregious. So to underscore my point even further, I had far far less than $200K debt, not even close to half that, and it still had an impact on my quality of life. So I can't imagine having that level, and would steer anyone away from it if I could. I now understand, on the other side if it all, what debt with interest really means. I am forever grateful that I received a way to pay it off.
 
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psych.meout

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I'm a little late to be helpful to the OP, but as a Wright student, I wanted to share the updated statistics for the Wright Institute's APA internship match rate. In 2015-2016, 84% of students obtained APA/CPA accredited internships and 100% obtained an internship.
An 84% match rate seems quite low when you're talking about a program that has a captive internship. What proportion of that 84% is made up of positions at the captive internship? What is the match rate like without the captive internship?

Historically, the Wright attracted a student population focused on community mental health and private practice work. As a result, there was little incentive from students to seek APA accredited sites, particularly given the availability of CAPIC sites in the local area. That has changed in recent years due to the influence of the APA. The Wright culture has shifted to encourage geographic flexibility during the internship phase; by considering out-of-state sites, I was able to land my first choice APA internship at a top tier VAMC. If you're set on staying in the Bay throughout training, the Wright typically places students at APA accredited internships at Kaiser, CPMC, San Quentin, Napa State, and college counseling sites in addition to IHPTP. If you're set on working at Kaiser, the Wright has a long history of placing students at Kaiser for practicum, internship, and post-doc.
What percent of Wright's students tried to match to APA-sites, but couldn't and had to settle for non-APA sites vs. those who didn't try to match at APA sites?

How much were those graduates actually making in private practice and community mental health? Were these the students making the masters-level provider pay that negatively skews income statistics for psychologists?

While tuition was a hardship, given my savings from my years as a teacher, it actually made more financial sense for me to enter a PsyD program in the Bay Area than to take a year off work to build a resume for a funded PhD program--especially given that I wasn't geographically flexible at that time, and it could have require multiple rounds of graduate school applications to obtain a funded position. By going to the Wright, I'm graduating much faster than I would have graduated from a PhD program, which translates into fewer years of lost income. I have less debt than several of the funded PhD students in my internship cohort.
Firstly, you're talking about an N=1 situation, which is not necessarily indicative of anyone else's outcome. Other PsyD applicants/students may not have had your savings (if any) and the PhD students you knew may have been atypical and had debts higher than the average PhD student.

Secondly, you can't just factor in the lost income during graduate school. You also need to factor in both the lower income while you repay the debt you still have and the opportunity cost of spending that money you saved on tuition and living expenses, e.g. compared to what you would have earned in interest if you invested that money while gaining the experience necessary to get into a funded PhD program and while you attended the program.

Thirdly, tuition alone at Wright is what, $33,900/year? Even if you're only attending four years of that on campus with tuition, that's still over $130,000 before calculating interest that is accruing while you're still in school, internship, post-doc, etc. In funded PhD programs, you're likely to accrue no debt from tuition, but only from living expenses and maybe ancillary student expenses, e.g. travel.

In my experience, the main drawback of the Wright Institute was the lack of research opportunities. Although I was able to find a research group and completed a decent amount of research for a PsyD, it took a lot of legwork. The only other concern is that many people in the field do not know that the Wright Institute is one of the last remaining non-profit independent schools of professional psychology and may confuse it with for-profit PsyD programs.

Here's the latest outcome data for the Wright: http://www.wi.edu/psyd-outcomes

If you clicked decline, I hope you landed at a great program. Personally, it was hard to leave teaching behind, but I have no regrets about pursuing a PsyD.
Why does it matter if Wright is a non-profit if it costs as much and has similar outcome statistics to a for-profit?
 

cara susanna

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I wouldn't. It's just too many years without a solid income. I graduated without any debt from a funded ptigram and even I got so tired of jumping through so many hoops and earning so little.

Also, fwiw, I know a graduate from an unfunded PsyD program who said they wouldn't attend that school if they could go back in time.
 
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erg923

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I wouldn't. It's just too many years without a solid income. I graduated without any debt from a funded ptigram and even I got so tired of jumping through so many hoops and earning so little.

Also, fwiw, I know a graduate from an unfunded PsyD program who said they wouldn't attend that school if they could go back in time.
But schwan song got a "top tier" internship. How can we argue with that kind of data/evidence?