Jul 22, 2014
11
7
Status
Pre-Psychology
I'm a junior undergraduate psychology major and becoming worried at the thought of applying to PhD programs in Clinical Psychology after hearing how competitive they can be. I just want to know, especially for those who were accepted immediately after undergrad, what your experiences were. Also, is clinical experience important and what exactly would be some examples of that? Thank you!
 

Realities

5+ Year Member
Nov 30, 2012
32
61
Status
Psychology Student
I worked in 3 research labs (2 developmental, 1 human factors - note I do not work with kids now so this research was all completely unrelated), did a couple independent studies (honors thesis + another independent project that started as part of a class but I later got internal undergrad grant funding for), and maintained a high GPA/GRE scores. I coauthored/first authored a few posters in undergrad, but no publications. No real clinical experience; I led our university NAMI group for a few years and led a peer support group there, but not even sure I mentioned that in my application. It's hard to get true clinical experience as an undergrad. I applied during my senior year and am now at a well-regarded clinical science program.

Note that I don't think my experience is the norm.. from what I hear now, it's hard to work in multiple labs simultaneously, but I did it with no problems (10 hours per week per lab).
 

cara susanna

10+ Year Member
Feb 10, 2008
5,572
1,845
Midwest
Status
Psychologist
Keep in mind that this was several years ago, but I had two years of research experience and two years of clinical experience (co-facilitating support groups).
 

psyched2graduate

2+ Year Member
May 28, 2015
57
25
Status
Psychology Student
I was accepted to a clinical program as an undergrad. I worked in the same lab for three years and spent three summers working as an RA at a local research center. As an attempt to gain experience in my area of interest, I volunteered at a PHP for a year where I mostly entered data. I had a few first author poster presentations and two submitted papers (not first author and not yet accepted at the time applications were due). I had no clinical experience besides administering diagnostic assessments in research settings. GPA was great; GRE was average.
 

bmedclinic

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
May 9, 2008
901
241
Status
Psychologist
Note that I was not accepted as an undergrad.. but I think that's pretty clearly because I took the first 2 years of college to grow up alot and had a TERRIBLE GPA.

But, as an undergrad, I spent two years in a cognition lab, had a poster presentation and a publication from the same lab. That was actually enough to counter my terrible GPA for a masters program, which I used to get into a phd program.
 

AcronymAllergy

Neuropsychologist
Moderator
Gold Donor
7+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2010
7,337
1,644
Status
Psychologist
In my case, I had roughly 1.5 years' worth of research experience concurrently in two different labs (one clinical and one cognitive), a decent GRE (~1350 on the old scale), a middling GPA (3.4 or 3.5), 3 decent letters of rec, and apparently an interesting enough personal statement that my advisor decided to invite me to interview. He later let me know that said personal statement was the main reason he wanted to meet me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: brightbluebirds
Mar 26, 2015
6
4
Status
Pre-Psychology
6 years of research experience in psych, and 5 in neuro; 2 first authored publications; more than a dozen posters; a MA degree with a great GPA; 3 years of direct service experience with survivors of domestic violence and youth in state custody. I had an unremarkable undergraduate GPA but pretty good GREs. Took me 4+ rounds of applications to get in somewhere funded.
 
  • Like
Reactions: brightbluebirds

WisNeuro

Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
10,152
8,828
Somewhere
Status
Psychologist
1.5 years working in 2 labs during my senior year of undergrad, both clinical. I don't remember my GRE's, it was the old scale, but verbal was around the 85th%, Quant was maybe around the 65th%. 3.8 GPA. Solid letters of rec. I took a year off to manage (paid position) one of the labs I volunteered in undergrad. I later became a grad student for that lab. No pubs pre grad, but did have a 1st author poster at an international conference. Also, learning how to code helped for psychophys stuff.
 
  • Like
Reactions: brightbluebirds
OP
brightbluebirds
Jul 22, 2014
11
7
Status
Pre-Psychology
Thanks for the answers! Were there any specific classes that prepared you most for grad school?
 

MamaPhD

Psychologist, Academic Medical Center
7+ Year Member
Aug 2, 2010
2,075
1,942
Status
Psychologist
I'm a junior undergraduate psychology major and becoming worried at the thought of applying to PhD programs in Clinical Psychology after hearing how competitive they can be. I just want to know, especially for those who were accepted immediately after undergrad, what your experiences were. Also, is clinical experience important and what exactly would be some examples of that? Thank you!
I didn't know I wanted to be a psych major until the end of my 2nd year in college. As a junior I transferred from a so-so school to a large research university and I hit the ground running. I worked in two research labs as an undergraduate research assistant, one of which then hired me to coordinate several studies after I graduated. My grades were just OK, far from amazing. However, I got high GRE scores (all in the 700s - not sure what the conversion would be for today's score ranges). I developed a reputation for working hard and writing well. I was a middle author on a poster presentation. Most importantly, I found a good fit, and I was in the right place at the right time. The latter is probably more influential than people would like to believe.

The only courses that helped prepare me for grad school were my outstanding intro stats and research design course and my "advanced topics" courses that required me to write up a literature review and synthesis. What really helped me prepare was working in a lab and taking on increasing responsibilities for running research studies. Outside of interacting with study participants I had zero relevant clinical experience, and no one seemed to care.

Note that all of the above happened well over 10 years ago. Your mileage may vary.
 
  • Like
Reactions: brightbluebirds
Dec 5, 2015
4
0
Fairbanks, AK
Status
Other Health Professions Student
I'm a junior undergraduate psychology major and becoming worried at the thought of applying to PhD programs in Clinical Psychology after hearing how competitive they can be. I just want to know, especially for those who were accepted immediately after undergrad, what your experiences were. Also, is clinical experience important and what exactly would be some examples of that? Thank you!
I just received acceptance into a Clinical Psych program. I have a BA in Psych and almost done with my MPH degree. I had minimal clinical experience which consists on a year long internship in a substance abuse treatment facility. Yet, I am also working as a supervisor for a local non profit who serve individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues.

Anyways, best of luck!
 

CheetahGirl

Clinical Psychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2007
1,350
726
formerly from Atlanta, GA
Status
Post Doc
6 years of research experience in psych, and 5 in neuro; 2 first authored publications; more than a dozen posters; a MA degree with a great GPA; 3 years of direct service experience with survivors of domestic violence and youth in state custody. I had an unremarkable undergraduate GPA but pretty good GREs. Took me 4+ rounds of applications to get in somewhere funded.
Wow. Are you me?

Very similar, although I got in after the second round of applying...and was ready for the 3rd if I didn't get accepted.

I did not even bother to apply after undergrad. I got married instead, lived life for a bit, got two great jobs as a clinical researcher (many publications, presentations, traveled all over the U.S. and Europe, some of which was on my jobs' dime), and also got a masters degree, as well as direct clinical service to survivors of sexual assault/domestic violence as a volunteer advocate.

As an undergrad, an academic counselor told me to give up on wanting to be clinical psychologist. I remember her saying it was an "impossibility" and "not a realistic goal" for me. Well, where there is a will, there is certainly a way. And...:mooning: to that counselor.

Edit: I personally loved abnormal psychology as an undergrad. I was a math major, then a biology major before I finally became a psych major (I know...wishy-washy 17-20 year old). Undergrad courses that involved logic helped me the most (like multivariate calculus, chemistry, statistics, etc.) because combined with research design and later critical thinking, formed a good basis of understanding problems and how to navigate them, both professionally and personally. You don't have to travel down those hard science paths (or do you?) but the best advice is do well in what you do take, so you don't waste time or money (which is hindsight was something I kind of did as an undergrad). Also, one of my doctoral professors would always reflect on what wonderful clinicians literature majors were because of their superb use of words and language.

2nd Edit: Just realized the OP posed this question almost a year ago.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: modestmousktr

PsyDr

Psychologist
Lifetime Donor
10+ Year Member
Dec 18, 2005
2,897
2,611
Status
Psychologist
Just a whole lot of stripping.

Or 2 years of fruitless research experience, 1 year of clinical experience, a less than stellar gpa (~3.3 iirc), but a 780 on both the quant and verbal.
 

hamsterpants

7+ Year Member
Aug 19, 2009
841
112
Status
Psychology Student
Did anyone else sacrifice a goat to Cthulhu to get into grad school? I'm pretty sure that's what put my application over the top.
I killed a man.
 
  • Like
Reactions: conky124

modestmousktr

5+ Year Member
Jan 22, 2013
227
114
Status
In undergrad I had two second-author publications, was graduating summa cum laude, awesome letters of rec, a member of every club, honors society, etc, on campus, was a part of a federally-funded research program for low-income first-gen students, as well as participating in four labs- two of which I was in for 1+ years and had awesome relationships with the advisors. I applied to 18 programs and was rejected from almost everywhere, the ones I was accepted to I realized I didn't want to attend... at all. And I think that was the issue applying out of undergrad, I had barely turned 21. I knew I loved research, suicide, and adolescence/emerging adulthood, but I didn't know much else. And it definitely showed in the schools I applied to- no concern for research fit. My GRE score also sucked.

So since I was fairly strong in all other aspects, I'd say that fit with a particular professor/mission statement of the university is important, as well as your GRE scores.

That was also the feedback I got from the schools I was rejected from ;)

I took some time getting a (funded, woohoo!) M.A., took the GRE again, and was able to pinpoint something I love doing, and immediately was accepted into my top-choice doctoral program. Looking back, I think the research fit and personality fit was most important. My current advisor does work on literally exactly what my thesis is about.
 

lovefash67

2+ Year Member
May 17, 2016
74
4
Status
Psychology Student
In undergrad I had two second-author publications, was graduating summa cum laude, awesome letters of rec, a member of every club, honors society, etc, on campus, was a part of a federally-funded research program for low-income first-gen students, as well as participating in four labs- two of which I was in for 1+ years and had awesome relationships with the advisors. I applied to 18 programs and was rejected from almost everywhere, the ones I was accepted to I realized I didn't want to attend... at all. And I think that was the issue applying out of undergrad, I had barely turned 21. I knew I loved research, suicide, and adolescence/emerging adulthood, but I didn't know much else. And it definitely showed in the schools I applied to- no concern for research fit. My GRE score also sucked.

So since I was fairly strong in all other aspects, I'd say that fit with a particular professor/mission statement of the university is important, as well as your GRE scores.

That was also the feedback I got from the schools I was rejected from ;)

I took some time getting a (funded, woohoo!) M.A., took the GRE again, and was able to pinpoint something I love doing, and immediately was accepted into my top-choice doctoral program. Looking back, I think the research fit and personality fit was most important. My current advisor does work on literally exactly what my thesis is about.
How many schools were you accepted to when you first applied, if you don't mind me asking.
 

modestmousktr

5+ Year Member
Jan 22, 2013
227
114
Status
How many schools were you accepted to when you first applied, if you don't mind me asking.
It was a few years ago, but I think like two out of the 18. Neither was funded or had a good reputation, in hindsight I should've saved the application fees and not even applied. I'm very glad I tried the whole thing over again when I had a better GRE score and a clear idea of where I wanted my research to take me. :)