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Question on CV and letter writers

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by McMurphy, Jun 24, 2018.

  1. McMurphy

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    Hi everyone!

    I'll be reapplying (hopefully for the last time) to PhD programs in clinical psychology this upcoming cycle. I've spent the last few years getting research and some clinical experience to make myself a more competitive applicant since I had no idea what I was doing the first time I applied. Since I'm in the process of preparing my overall application cycle, I do have a few questions:

    1) Does the education of a letter writer ever factor into the application? I'm probably over thinking this, but one of my previous research supervisors received his education from a school that is not well regarded on these forums (minimal funding, poor match rates, etc). I planned on using him as a letter writer because he oversaw some of my independent research projects and I believe that he could really speak to my abilities as a researcher and as a clinician.

    2) On the CV, is it best to separate clinical and research experience or leave them all under a "professional experience" heading? A couple of my sites provided combined clinical/research experience, while some only provided one or the other. I'm inclined to keep them separate, but I also don't want it to look like I'm fluffing my resume by double listing some of my sites.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. briarcliff

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    (1.) I would say that you can have a pretty lenient cut off with this one -- If his degree is from an APA-accredited, university-based program, I think I'd go ahead and ask. Non-accredited and/or FSPS, and I might think twice, but even then I'd have to think about it on a case-by-case basis.

    (2.) Having separate clinical and research headings is advisable. For experiences with dual training/involvement, I'll often list things twice, once where I outline my clinical responsibilities and again where I outline my research responsibilities.

    Good luck!
     
  4. McMurphy

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    Thanks for the reply, briarcliff! My supervisor's school was FSPS but APA accredited. He is a licensed psychologist but I know the school is not well regarded for good reason.
     
  5. McMurphy

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    I'm curious if anyone has any more input regarding my first question?
     
  6. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist
    Moderator Psychologist Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

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    Can a supervisor's education/training factor into how well her/his letter is regarded? Yes. But would it outweigh the benefit of having a letter from a writer who knows you well and can speak to skills and abilities that other supervisor can't? I'd say in most cases, probably not. Letter readers know (or at least should know) that you don't have any control over your where your supervisors went to school, and particularly when at the stage of applying to doctoral programs (rather than to internship, postdoc, or jobs), that you may not even know to consider this.

    If a writer is very well-known in their field and/or went to a very highly-regarding program themselves, that can certainly help. But as a letter reader, I'd rather see an informative, personalized, and glowing recommendation from someone who themselves attended an FSPS than a templated, generic letter from a "pillar in the field."
     
    briarcliff likes this.
  7. Eric LeClair

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    Hate to say it but Education is a big factor. At least in my experience. If there are two candidates with the exact same skills and experience but one of them has a better education, that person would be picked.
     
  8. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist
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    When it comes to the applicant, certainly. But when it comes to their letter writers, I don't know that it's quite as substantial a factor.
     
  9. MCParent

    Faculty Bronze Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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    As a faculty evaluator, how would I know where a letter writer went to school? I'd just know where they work now by their signature line. It's not like we have time to sit around googling people's letter writers.
     
  10. EmotRegulation

    Psychologist Faculty 5+ Year Member

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    Yes, I was about to say the same as MCParent. As someone who reviews applications, I have no idea where a faculty member/supervisor went to school. I might pay attention if they have a PhD or a PsyD, or a masters degree. So degree might matter, yes, but education? Nope.

    I will also echo what was said above, that good letters of rec make it clear that the person writing it knows the applicant well and has a strong understanding of what they bring to the table. They are detailed, specific, and enthusiastic. Lack of those things suggests either the writer doesn't know the applicant very well (note: this happens even for good applicants, if they just don't have a 3rd letter writer that knows them well), or if the writer knows the applicant well but is trying not to tank them by providing negative information. My red flag radar goes up when none of the letters have specific information about an applicant.
     
  11. CA_PsyD_FL_LMHC

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    This may seem concrete, but how can you tell if a letter-writer knows someone well? I've read a lot of letters, and outside of general comments related to the recommendee's personality, research interests, career goals and performance, many of them read the same: organized, dedicated, blah blah.

    Also, some of the internship prep books/courses suggest giving our letter-writers lists of things that we think could be highlighted. What are some thoughts on being a recipient of such a list? Pushy? Presumptuous? Pleasing?
     
  12. EmotRegulation

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    Knowing someone well translates into "specific and detailed comments." Honestly, you don't have to know someone *that* well to be able to make these kinds of comments, but to have attended to and observed behavior. Good letters I've written have given examples of what it means to be organized ("She provided a suggestion for a new method to store consent forms and tracking sheets that was simpler and more secure than what we used before") or dedicated ("He volunteered extra time to cover shifts for people who were sick, and often stayed late to make folders for upcoming sessions, without being asked to do so").

    I personally like such a list, but I ask for it. If someone just handed me a list and said "highlight these things" I would be irritated. I think the best approach might be to ask the letter writer if he/she would find a list useful, to help reminder the writer of tasks the person did for the lab/job/whatever.
     
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