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not a perfect match? advice please!

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by serotonin, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. serotonin

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    I am a little torn here and would love some thoughtful advice :)

    I have an interview coming up this weekend at a top 10 clinical PhD program (YAY!) with a professor who shares my wide interest, which is neuropsychology, but not really my focused interest, which is psychiatric illness/schizophrenia. He has done NO work with psychiatric illness, which is where all of my neuropsych experience is. He is a more classic neuropsych guy, into head trauma and epilepsy and the like. Historically (ie as an undergrad and before) I was very interested in these things, but my past 5 years experience has been in the neuropsych of psychiatric illness. My personal statement was all about neuropsych and schizophrenia, but after a lengthy phone interview he still invited me down for a personal interview with him and his grad students and other faculty (none of which focuses on schizophrenia). I really, really want to love this program because of its reputation and high quality of life-- plus I have heard the professor is great to work with.

    So the question is, how do I relay that while all of my experience in neuropsych has been with psychiatric patients, I really want to work with him still and do work in his area of expertise, in which I have nearly no experience? I can't figure out if he wants me because he wants to branch out into psychiatric stuff, or if he wants me to offer a different point of view, of if he just recevied barely any neuropsych applicants and chose me somewhat randomly. I don't know if I should focus more on my background (psychiatric neuropsych) or my future (classic neuropsych). How should I approach this?

    EDIT: Ps, I am passionate about all areas of neuropsych and would be happy working in either one!
     
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  3. cleverclover

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    I was in a similiar situation. I did not have any background in what the POI I was interviewing did, but I had vast experience in other areas of neuropsychology. What I did was discuss ideas I had about future research projects in his area of expertise. I tried to relate them to what I did have experience with. For example I am currently working on a project that examines insight in people with dementia, I proposed ideas on examing insight in his population. I think as long as you show an interest in his area of work, you will be fine.




     
  4. paramour

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    Why not go ahead and interview? Share your concerns. Ask him if he's willing to supervise you if you wanted to study schizophrenia or if he would prefer you to stay within his particular realm of research.

    Be glad that he at least considered you when your interests are not a perfect match. I seem to keep getting "well, we will interview you or waitlist you for an interview but your interests don't exactly match up with ours so we're not going to accept you outright."

    I actually started to post something about research interests not being a perfect match earlier this morning but thought I'd wait until I'm less frustrated at this entire process. I limited myself to applying to programs with exact interests (where profs seem to be retiring or not accepting students) or semi-related interests (but not exact matches) in a broader area (which is what likely led me to a # of rejections). I'm now being advised by some of the profs in my current program that I narrowed myself too much. However, this really somewhat confuses me when most of the programs & profs I've reviewed want someone with research interests in their particular area. So why would I apply to someone not in the area with the hopes that they would consider allowing me to expand my research outside of those parameters? It all seems screwy to me!

    Anyway, back on topic. I would personally go. If this is the program you were talking about earlier, I've heard wonderful things about it and would jump at the opportunity (of course, I'd leap at anything right now ;) ). At least go and get a feel for it and the people there. Who knows--you may go and realize you'd prefer not to be there for the next 5-7 years. Or, you may visit, learn that you do have some flexibility in your interests, and would absolutely love to stay for years on end. Keep your options open!

    G'luck~ :luck:
     
  5. Sorg1123

    Sorg1123 Member

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    I'm in a similar situation. I've been accepted to two programs that I feel very good about, but the POI research interests are quite different. At 'A' the research is in TBI and MS, while at 'B' the interests are in HIV and Substance abuse. Both researchers use neuroimaging (DTI, MRS, MRI). My core interests align best with site A, but site B has a lot of NP opportunities that A does not offer (multiple NP rotations under some heavy hitters in the field) and has a stronger NP reputation (and "rank"). ANyway, to your question, if they're interviewing you despite you not having the best match of ints, that, from my exp, means that they're interested in you. Show them what you have to offer thier program and if it's not the best fit, at least you know for sure.

    s
     
  6. irish80122

    irish80122 DCT at Miss State U.
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    While it may be a top 10 program and that is alluring, this is still the next 5 years of your life and you want your research and publications to be in the research you see yourself doing, you know? This is when you start to form your niche. Because of that, I think you have to make sure that you will be able to do the research you want to do. The last thing you want to do is get known for something else and be stuck.

    Yes, this may mean you are not a perfect match, and you may get turned down at places because of it (I did) but it also will help you realize when you do have that perfect match and in the long-run that is what is going to matter the most I feel.

    I haven't made an official decision but I interviewed at a school which was ranked 38 positions lower than another school I interviewed at and it has a lower stipend. However, the research is what I want to do and I fit into the climate. If I were to gain acceptance to both schools, I would go to the lower one. Perhaps it is just me, but I do think it is that important!
     
  7. zbombvt

    zbombvt Bona fide Posting Member

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    I couldn't agree more about sharing your concerns to professors when you interview. Of course there is a tactful way to do this, and finding the proper balance is essential. If you come across in an overweening manner, claiming that you'd only like to do research one way, you might have just as well burned the money you spent on your plane tickets. If however, you state your interest in the professors work and outline directions you'd like to take their research, you will be much better off. If the professor appears unwilling to budge from their own focus, then the match simply isn't there. You could suck it up and do research that you don't like, but eventually this will catch up to you, and you'll come out of graduate school with publications in the wrong speciality.

    Disclaimer: Mentioning you want to work in a different direction then the professors work may be a surefire way to guarantee rejection. But you shouldn't kid yourself. You have to decide what you really want to do. Hopefully though, this is all moot, because you wouldn't apply to programs that don't have a focus in what you'd like to do.
     
  8. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    I think ranking for clinical programs matter much less than something like law school. I know with law school, you generally want to go to the highest rated program you can get into (if you want to maximize your ability to get into a top firm) Alternatives are to go somewhere that is locally/regionally known if you want to stay in the area (this happens a lot for CA psych schools).

    I think in the end it comes down to where you will feel most comfortable. I chose my school based on the fit, and not on ranking. Looking back on it, I think I made the right decision, but I guess time will tell.

    -t
     
  9. serotonin

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    hey, thanks everyone :)

    I had my interview there on Monday and it turns out my POI is just a super open guy within the field of neuropsych-- he is supportive of pretty much anything you'd like to study as long as it's neuropsych somehow.

    I LOOOOOVED the school! I want to get in SO bad. I feel like it went really well, but I know there are 5 of us trying for one spot. He wrote me a nice personal letter to say that he and the department were very impressed with me and that a decision will be made after they interview the remaining few candidates.

    One annoying thing was that both he and the head of clinical training told me that I must have many, many offers by now-- but in truth I only have one other, plus I'm on one waitlist. He asked me which other schools I've interviewed at and I felt a little bad telling him only one other, but hopefully that just means he has a better chance of getting me... But DAMN I wish I did better as an undergrad now! I have great research and clinical experience and GREs, but my GPA was only a 3.3, which probably caused most of my rejections.

    ANYWAY they just got a gorgeous 3T magnet, to be only used for research and is FREE, and I would have total freedom to do whatever studies I would like on it, which is AMAZING!!! There is literally no waiting time-- if I want to get an fMRI done, it can be done that day or the next, with plentiful access to any patient populationI'd like, and tons of cooperative clinics and hospitals in the area. It's so ideal!

    This is pretty much my dream school- amazing POI that I get along with super well, awesome big vegetarian-friendly city with a great music / social scene, gorgeous weather, super supportive department, freedom to study what I want, top-10 ranking, a much lower cost of living than Boston, and plenty of funding.

    I am crossing my fingers so hard!!!!
     
  10. Sorg1123

    Sorg1123 Member

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    Good Luck!!
     
  11. tkj

    tkj

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  12. irish80122

    irish80122 DCT at Miss State U.
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    I wish you the best of luck as well. Remember what they say, it is all about fit. If you feel that you fit there that well, chances are that they will feel the same. Hopefully your appreciation for their facilities will also shine through :). Good luck!!!
     
  13. serotonin

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    awww thanks guys!!!

    I don't think anyone there could've missed my enthusiasm level :)

    Hey Sorg, say hi to my friend Thomas (only male in his first year class) at USCD/SDSU! There is a running bet that he'll cross over to the neuropsych track (he's doing experimental psychopathology now).
     
  14. Sorg1123

    Sorg1123 Member

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    Will do. I remember meeting him. Mostly because, as you said, he's the only male in that class. Hopefully that won't be the case next year.
     
  15. neuronerd1

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    weird, i know thomas too. small world.
     
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  17. serotonin

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    small world, yes!

    We worked at desks right next to each other for the 2 years before he went to grad school.

    We actually spoke on the phone last night. He's a good kid :)
     
  18. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    I feel left out.....I don't know Thomas. :(



    :laugh:

    -t
     
  19. psychwanabe

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    First, I wanted to say congrats and good luck to serotonin!

    Second, I know this off the topic of this thread, but what is the deal with the advice about "specific interests" versus "broad interests?" I interviewed at one program and it was a concern of my POI that I have pretty broad research interests in clinical child at this point. Yet at another school, it was a big plus. Why should we be expected as undergraduates (I assume more of us are in this position than with a terminal masters) to have research interests so focused that we know we want to study the effects of service location on pediatric referrals (for example)??? I can't even wrap my brain around that yet. What ever happened to a more generalist approach: getting training along a broad spectrum in order to be a well-rounded scientist, and narrowing your focus as you move toward your dissertation?

    This has been my rant for today. :eek: Thanks for listening.
     
  20. Ollie123

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    You make a good point, but I think its just to weed out the riff raff from the people that are actually serious about their studies.

    Any moron can walk into an interview and say "I want to help people with eating disorders!" but it takes a very different person to come up with a specific idea and a study design. When you have 50-60 people (or more) for every 1 spot, its easy to cut the first person because even if they have the ability to think on a higher level, they didn't demonstrate it during the interview. Yes, they may be enthusiastic, and there IS certainly something to be said for that. Enthusiasm only gets you so far though.

    I get the impression when professors ask for specific research interests, they are doing so mainly so you can demonstrate that you are CAPABLE of thinking on a higher level. I don't think anyone will complain if your dissertation ends up being something different than you say in the interview. I doubt many people's dissertation is even SIMILAR to ideas they bring up in the interview.

    When I was flying to one of my interviews, I would review some of the POIs research, come up with a project that was related to their research but with a different perspective on it. During my interviews, I asked them what they thought of it, if they thought it was workable, what they would change. It got me into at least one pretty competitive PhD program so that at least worked for me:)
     
  21. psychwanabe

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    Ollie, I agree with you, and in a perfect world it would be just as you say. I did the same type of research on the prof prior to interview, and went in with ideas about how my interests would fit in to her lab. It was quite a nice fit, in my (never to be humble) opinion! However, she openly expressed concern that I did not articulate a specific desire to focus on her very narrow area. I am sure that there are POI's out there who would welcome a student with that approach, but my luck was not to find one!
     
  22. Sorg1123

    Sorg1123 Member

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    My experience with interests aligning well with POIs and acceptences is, well, interesting. At one program, my interests aligned very well and I got an offer. At another I described my interests in a more inclusive category (broader probably would have sufficed) and was given an offer. Another time I didn't even describe my interests much at all, aside from saying neuropsych and imaging, and was made another offer. At my first interview I felt I did a poor job of describing how my interests aligned with the POI, but got an offer. Lastly, I did not get an offer (high alternate) and it really seemed apparent that our interests did not align too well (no imaging). What does all this mean? Clearly interests are important, but a perfect match does not seem to be required to get an offer. Good enough match seems to do the trick.
     

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