Jun 23, 2014
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Hi All,

I am applying to child clinical PhD programs straight out of undergrad. Everyone has their reason for either taking a gap year or not, and I have my own personal reasons that steer me away from a gap year.

I have heard all of the pros of a gap year, but I am interesting in the people who did not take a gap year and still got in to clinical PhD programs.

Specifically, (1) what was your defense during interviews for not taking a gap year? And (2) did you also explain it in your personal statements?
 

psyched2graduate

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May 28, 2015
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I actually did get a variation of this question from a professor who frequently collected data out of state. He basically wanted to know how comfortable I was working independently given that I hadn't even graduated from college. I talked about having joined a lab as a freshman and my experiences working for my hands-off undergraduate advisor. I don't think it's something you need to address in your personal statement.
 
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Jun 23, 2014
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I was told that as gap years are becoming more and more recommended to gain experience in the field or research, an individual not taking a gap year would have to defend their decision by explaining what makes them qualified straight from undergrad. Is that not true?
 
Mar 24, 2014
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I was told that as gap years are becoming more and more recommended to gain experience in the field or research, an individual not taking a gap year would have to defend their decision by explaining what makes them qualified straight from undergrad. Is that not true?
Gap year makes it sound like taking time off to travel in Europe. :cool: If you have the research experience, GPA, and GRE scores and are ready to go immediately after undergrad, I don't think you will have to justify anything because you will be rocking it. If you don't have solid research experience under your belt, then a year working on that would be necessary. I also struggled with the application cycles and meeting the deadlines during undergrad while maintaining my courseload and working so that was actually the main reason I had gaps.
 

WisNeuro

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Feb 15, 2009
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Out of dozens and dozens and colleagues, I only know of 2 who went straight in. They also happened to have already published before applying, so they were definitely outliers. For reputable programs, having space between undergrad and grad where you beef up your CV is definitely the norm.
 
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Justanothergrad

Counseling Psychologist
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Mar 2, 2013
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I never needed to defend the gap. It's the norm and I spent the time doing related work. That shows on myC.V. and, as WisNeuro said, its the norm so they don't ask a lot about it.

If they did? I would just talk about expanding my training from the classroom to the field and how I used the time to refine my ideas of where I want my career to go. Generic 'professional development' answer basically.
 
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Jun 23, 2014
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Out of dozens and dozens and colleagues, I only know of 2 who went straight in. They also happened to have already published before applying, so they were definitely outliers. For reputable programs, having space between undergrad and grad where you beef up your CV is definitely the norm.
That's my concern. I am not published nor have I presented at a conference. However, by the time my application is submitted, I will have began my honors thesis and have an abstract under review at a conference. However, I have a 3.99 GPA and have been in two research labs for a year and another one for 6 months. I wasn't sure if that is enough (in their opinion) to be ready to apply?
 

WisNeuro

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It's really going to depend on the program and the advisor at that point and their philosophy. Some places/people really want students to have that extra experience, some don't place as much emphasis on that.
 
OP
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Jun 23, 2014
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Thank you, I appreciate all of your input! It appears that this debate is still very much two-sided and in the process of changing.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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I say if you have a good enough gpa, research experience, and a good idea of what you would like to do, you might as well try at least! I know several people who got into graduate school right out of undergrad, and they never indicated that it was an issue or problem in their interviews and did not really bring it up in statements either. It's also just great experience to apply, even if you don't get into a program right away.

This will actually be my 3rd year applying, and although not getting in the prior two cycles was a little disappointing I'm much more organized, on top of things, and prepared for what to expect this year for the process than I have been in the two previous application cycles and am really a much better candidate this year. So, I'm really glad to be going in with that experience this year even if that did mean not getting in during prior years.
 
Nov 21, 2011
165
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Hi mandak, I'm curious, are you interested in a more clinical or research-oriented career? I didn't take a gap year, and it put me behind other folks who had a year or two to gain pubs or presentations. If you're not interested in a tenure-track position though, I would say it doesn't really matter.
 

PBCocce

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Aug 20, 2015
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I have been in my lab for 3 years now. A total of 2 older students went straight to grad school, but the asterisk is that they both took over 4 years to complete their Bachelor's degree. 1 took 5 years, and 1 took 6 years. So both had an extra year, at least, of research experience. They told me it was not a negative on their apps or interviews, and was never discussed.
 
OP
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Jun 23, 2014
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I say if you have a good enough gpa, research experience, and a good idea of what you would like to do, you might as well try at least! I know several people who got into graduate school right out of undergrad, and they never indicated that it was an issue or problem in their interviews and did not really bring it up in statements either. It's also just great experience to apply, even if you don't get into a program right away.

This will actually be my 3rd year applying, and although not getting in the prior two cycles was a little disappointing I'm much more organized, on top of things, and prepared for what to expect this year for the process than I have been in the two previous application cycles and am really a much better candidate this year. So, I'm really glad to be going in with that experience this year even if that did mean not getting in during prior years.
I definitely agree that it is a wonderful experience to help someone understand the application process. However, I would never be able to afford doing that twice. The cost of applying, sending GRE and subject test scores, sending transcripts, possible interview travel costs...that would never happen for me haha. I do wish, though!

Hi mandak, I'm curious, are you interested in a more clinical or research-oriented career? I didn't take a gap year, and it put me behind other folks who had a year or two to gain pubs or presentations. If you're not interested in a tenure-track position though, I would say it doesn't really matter.
I am aiming at scientist-practitioner models that are on the clinical-research scale at about 4-6. However, if it is scaled as a 6, I eliminate it if they state they put a preference on academia (which is most). Most of mine tend to be 5's. So something a little more balanced.
 
Apr 11, 2012
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Speaking as a faculty member, it's definitely more common to see students who have taken some time off between undergrad and grad. That said, I've taken several straight from undergrad, and I can think of at least four undergrads who worked in my lab who got into great PhD programs before they graduated. All of them had significant research experience (honors theses, multiple conference presentations, multiple lab groups).

Two questions germane to this topic that I think about when making offers to applicants are (a) has this person done enough research to know what they are getting into for the next five years? and (b) is this person mature enough to succeed in the clinical domain? The first question comes from the CV, the second mostly from the interview.