jengle

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Hi All,
I will be visiting four programs in the next 3 weeks (2 in Human Development and 2 in Psych) and will have a tough decision to make about where I want to go. I have already made a preliminary list of questions to ask at each one but was wondering what you all think are the most important things to know before making a decision about grad school.

For those of you who are in grad school already, what did you wish you had asked before you started school or what have you learned since that would be good to know ahead of time?
 

twiggers

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Hi Jengle,

I"m in the same boat you are. I have 4 acceptances (2 human development and 2 psych) as well.
I think for me the first decision is deciding whether I want to go with human development or psych. Personally, I'm leaning towards psych since that was my initial plan. I'm not sure if it matters in the long run, but I feel that a psych degree will allow me a little bit more flexibility in jobs (maybe more departments to work at in universities).
Then I really looked at how much I liked the school, the faculty, the other students...all people you'll be working next to for 4-5 years. I also heavily factored in cost of living in the different cities as well as the stipends offered. One of my biggest concerns was that the funding was guaaranteed for the full time. One school told me that it wasn't guaranteed but that students who want funding get it. I prefer the security of a place telling me it's guaranteed for 4-5 years.
Of course primary importance was on whether I could study what I wanted to...but then I wouldn't have applied there in the first place if I couldn't...so that really didn't factor into my choices too much.
I want to teach/research later on in life, so a program that provides TA-ships was important to me. Surprisingly, I found that even programs with an undergrad program do not always provide that opportunity.

I've narrowed myself down to 2 choices (the other two eliminated based on the high cost of living in one city, and the other because of the fact that externships in years 2&3 were located 3-4 hours away from school and that is not something I want to have to do 2 days per week for 2-3 years, and the funding was pretty low) which are equally matched (although one has more funding than the other but not by much), so I think the final decision will be based on how much I like the campus, the city, and the faculty/grad students.
 
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jengle

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twiggers said:
Hi Jengle,

I"m in the same boat you are. I have 4 acceptances (2 human development and 2 psych) as well.
I think for me the first decision is deciding whether I want to go with human development or psych. Personally, I'm leaning towards psych since that was my initial plan. I'm not sure if it matters in the long run, but I feel that a psych degree will allow me a little bit more flexibility in jobs (maybe more departments to work at in universities).
Then I really looked at how much I liked the school, the faculty, the other students...all people you'll be working next to for 4-5 years. I also heavily factored in cost of living in the different cities as well as the stipends offered. One of my biggest concerns was that the funding was guaaranteed for the full time. One school told me that it wasn't guaranteed but that students who want funding get it. I prefer the security of a place telling me it's guaranteed for 4-5 years.
Of course primary importance was on whether I could study what I wanted to...but then I wouldn't have applied there in the first place if I couldn't...so that really didn't factor into my choices too much.
I want to teach/research later on in life, so a program that provides TA-ships was important to me. Surprisingly, I found that even programs with an undergrad program do not always provide that opportunity.

I've narrowed myself down to 2 choices (the other two eliminated based on the high cost of living in one city, and the other because of the fact that externships in years 2&3 were located 3-4 hours away from school and that is not something I want to have to do 2 days per week for 2-3 years, and the funding was pretty low) which are equally matched (although one has more funding than the other but not by much), so I think the final decision will be based on how much I like the campus, the city, and the faculty/grad students.
Hi Twiggers!
Thanks for the quick response. It's good to hear from someone who's in the same boat. I'd prefer to go with the psych degree too, but my problem is that the two psych programs I've been accepted at are at less prestigious universities than the two development programs - so I'm thinking maybe I'll go with a development degree. I'm hoping that once I visit I will get a feeling of where I would fit in best and that will help with decision making, too.
I just saw that someone posted on the Bravenet forum about choosing which programs to go to. I might try that method, too.
 

lazure

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Make absolutely certain that your supervisor has money and funds students well.... do not absolutely fall for thinking "well, s/he has little money, but I absolutely love his/her research area" .... you will come to hate the research area if you are starving.....

I knew this but many of my peers didn't....save yourself the pain.....
 

twiggers

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Jengle:

You will know when you get there. I went to one interview and just knew I didn't like the city, the look of the campus. I think not only do you need to like the program itself, but you really need to like where you're going to live for years and years.

I too was tossed up about psych vs. HDFS. I think if the subject area is one that you are passionate about then no biggie. In my case, one of the HDFS ones wasn't my population interest (older kids whereas I like the younger ones under age 12).

Try to take the opportunity to see a bit of the town you're in as well. The campus may be nice, but the town may be ghetto and then you may be regretful.

It's really just a combination of all of these factors.
One of yours is in Philly isn't it? My husband was totally mad I didn't get into a school in Philly. He claims its the ugliest city, but he loves it (he lived there for several years before we met).
 
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jengle

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One of mine is Penn State, but it's not in Philly - it's about 3 hours away in State College. I'm going to visit there this weekend and they've dedicated a whole day to showing us the campus and city so I should be able to get a good feel for what it's like to live there.
I have had the same experience as you in visiting some other schools and not feeling like they were quite right for me. So I'm hoping that once I visit them all my gut reaction will tell me where I really want to go. The problem is that they all seem to have equal strengths and weaknesses. Maybe I need to start making a rating scale.... :laugh:
 

twiggers

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I did a similar thing. Just a plain piece of paper listings the pros and cons of each one.
 
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I got into my PhD program right out of undergrad with no research experience, so I had no concept of how to do anything, lol. I am also a loner. Bad combo. We don't HAVE to be TAs so I never did that- only get a stipend anyway. I worked a lot at first outside of school- *I'd recommend working in school, or becoming a TA or RA. Not a choice, just do it. Talk to every professor who has a research lab, and find one that is close to your interests, even if it isn't, if you get funding and publications- do it. *Start thinking of your master's thesis/dissertation from Day 1. Seriously. Just sit down, come up with ideas and on Day 2 start talking to professors. I was kind of intimidated by professors, didn't want them to think I was dumb probably. *This advice is for those who don't automatically receive funding. First year focus on getting your funding in place as a TA/RA etc, and start learning how to do research, ie read other people's thesis and dissertations. * I attended other people's defenses and saw that it was not that scary. Years of reseach and only 15 min talk- the rest is just answering questions for 30min-1hr.

These are all beginner/dummy ideas- but if I'd followed them I'd be in a better place right now- like doing my post doc.
 
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Two things that i wish i knew before grad school...

Individual assignments or tasks are not hard within themselves; however, it's the culmination of these assignments that can be a bit stressful.

The route to tenure makes grad school seem like a cakewalk.
 
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The route to tenure makes grad school seem like a cakewalk.
On a related note, for folks interested in the academic route:

Start researching the academic job market before you go to grad school. Don't believe the folks who try to spin academia as a meritocracy, where there will always be jobs for good people and the cream will rise. For a variety of reasons, it's simply not true.
 

aequitasveritas

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hi all,
i will be visiting four programs in the next 3 weeks (2 in human development and 2 in psych) and will have a tough decision to make about where i want to go. I have already made a preliminary list of questions to ask at each one but was wondering what you all think are the most important things to know before making a decision about grad school.

For those of you who are in grad school already, what did you wish you had asked before you started school or what have you learned since that would be good to know ahead of time?
1. Is the program fully funded?
2. How long will it fund you?
3. What is the average student debt coming out?
 
Oct 18, 2010
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1. Is the program fully funded?
And be sure to find out what "fully funded" means for each particular program. If it means you'll be serving as a teaching assistant, that's not quite the same as if you get a free ride or work as an RA, where you may have an opportunity to co-publish. Imagine 75 undergrads crawling all over you (no--not like that!) with questions you've already answered three times, requests (more like demands actually) for extensions, excuses for blown deadlines (I got, "I was locked out of my apartment for two and half weeks" once). Then imagine trying to get your research done. Oops! Gotta go--undergrad email just popped up in my inbox...
 

paramour

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And be sure to find out what "fully funded" means for each particular program. If it means you'll be serving as a teaching assistant, that's not quite the same as if you get a free ride or work as an RA, where you may have an opportunity to co-publish. Imagine 75 undergrads crawling all over you (no--not like that!) with questions you've already answered three times, requests (more like demands actually) for extensions, excuses for blown deadlines (I got, "I was locked out of my apartment for two and half weeks" once). Then imagine trying to get your research done. Oops! Gotta go--undergrad email just popped up in my inbox...
RA or TA positions are "equal" in my program, so they're both "fully funded." Even if you're an RA for a professor doesn't necessarily mean you're given the opportunity to publish. Often, dependent upon the prof, you may simply be the lab/project director or a glorified admin asst for the prof and do whatever they tell you to do. You may run everything. You may be greatly involved in the projects. You may oversee stuff. You may work your ass off above & beyond what is required of you but not receive a single pub out of the experience because "well, that's just what RA's do." :p
 
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RA or TA positions are "equal" in my program, so they're both "fully funded." Even if you're an RA for a professor doesn't necessarily mean you're given the opportunity to publish. Often, dependent upon the prof, you may simply be the lab/project director or a glorified admin asst for the prof and do whatever they tell you to do. You may run everything. You may be greatly involved in the projects. You may oversee stuff. You may work your ass off above & beyond what is required of you but not receive a single pub out of the experience because "well, that's just what RA's do." :p
Ugh, don't know if that's general advice or based on personal experience, but if it's the latter, my sympathies, paramour.

That said, you're definitely not going to publish off of your TA experiences...well, perhaps it will inspire a horror novella one day.
 

paramour

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Thread is 6 years old!!
I actually knew this. :laugh:

I presumed it was initially bumped by folks wanting to be "helpful" to the incoming crop of folks applying or recently entered (or at least that's my excuse). :D
 
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Thread is 6 years old!!
eh, somebody out there's reading it who never thunk of some of this stuff.

paramour, i got a horrible chill when i read your word of caution re: if you geographically limit you may be setting yourself up for failure or a career change. nooooooo--say it isn't sooooooo!

i'm assuming you're thinking about a person who gets stuck at a crappy pro school and then does not match come internship time...
 

serotonin

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I found there is no underestimating the importance of a good match, in terms of program, location, and mentor. If it all matches, you are more likely to stay sane and happy and successful.

Also, work SMART, not just hard. For example, for a longitudinal research study, I know some people who would spend over an hour trying to figure out how to perfect the art of addressing and printing envelopes to look just the way they wanted, with the right logos and alignment and font and whatnot. I just hand wrote my addresses- took all of 15 seconds & slapped on a stamp- and got a way better response rate from participants.

Make time to enjoy yourself. Have a hobby. Don't let other people freak you out (but do let them help you)- there is more than one way to skin a duck. Have a good attitude- grad school can be actually enjoyable and not the stressful hell some people make it out to be. Your attitude will go a long way.
 

paramour

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eh, somebody out there's reading it who never thunk of some of this stuff.

paramour, i got a horrible chill when i read your word of caution re: if you geographically limit you may be setting yourself up for failure or a career change. nooooooo--say it isn't sooooooo!

i'm assuming you're thinking about a person who gets stuck at a crappy pro school and then does not match come internship time...
Not necessarily. This could and can be true for anyone geographically limiting themselves.

We have undergrads who limit themselves to certain areas for grad school and refuse to consider any other options. I know many of them who ended up going into other fields (or aren't doing anything) because they weren't accepted locally. They seem to think that simply because there are several programs nearby that they're bound to be accepted to one of them. They do not listen.

We have folks in my program (not a pro school) who do the same thing when it comes time to apply for internship (despite words of caution and being figuratively beaten over the head by our dept not to do such things). Some of the students learn and apply more broadly the following year; some of them don't and continue to restrict themselves quite a bit (and thankfully match).

Unfortunately, our program is in an area with a number of other programs nearby (and some of those are pro schools). Restricting oneself geographically to this area alone is tantamount to extreme stupidity (IMO). There are a number of decent internships in the area. There are folks who will be applying from outside the area who are excellent candidates. There are folks who will be applying from outside the area who are acceptable or not so acceptable candidates. There are folks who will be applying from outside the area because hey, I want to move there, it seems like a cool major area to live in/nearby, or hey, I want to move back there because that's where I'm from anyway and I'd like to get back to the area. Then, there are also the abundance of folks who are already here and who want to stay here.

Umm, yeah, not all of those folks are going to match in this area (or any other area where there are a number of internship sites/slots with a number of candidates vying for them locally and from afar). Just not going to happen. Gotta spread the love around a bit. :love:
 
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Not necessarily. This could and can be true for anyone geographically limiting themselves.

We have undergrads who limit themselves to certain areas for grad school and refuse to consider any other options. I know many of them who ended up going into other fields (or aren't doing anything) because they weren't accepted locally. They seem to think that simply because there are several programs nearby that they're bound to be accepted to one of them. They do not listen.

We have folks in my program (not a pro school) who do the same thing when it comes time to apply for internship (despite words of caution and being figuratively beaten over the head by our dept not to do such things). Some of the students learn and apply more broadly the following year; some of them don't and continue to restrict themselves quite a bit (and thankfully match).

Unfortunately, our program is in an area with a number of other programs nearby (and some of those are pro schools). Restricting oneself geographically to this area alone is tantamount to extreme stupidity (IMO). There are a number of decent internships in the area. There are folks who will be applying from outside the area who are excellent candidates. There are folks who will be applying from outside the area who are acceptable or not so acceptable candidates. There are folks who will be applying from outside the area because hey, I want to move there, it seems like a cool major area to live in/nearby, or hey, I want to move back there because that's where I'm from anyway and I'd like to get back to the area. Then, there are also the abundance of folks who are already here and who want to stay here.

Umm, yeah, not all of those folks are going to match in this area (or any other area where there are a number of internship sites/slots with a number of candidates vying for them locally and from afar). Just not going to happen. Gotta spread the love around a bit. :love:
Thanks, paramour--very helpful and generous. Though I have to say, I'm most surprised that you have undergraduates who don't listen! How peculiar! :rolleyes:

Anyway, I would have never even gotten my BA if I hadn't been married to Mr. Wonderful. Since he's a saint for putting me through school and putting up with me, I can't very well scuttle his career by demanding he move with me, and I can't kill our relationship by moving away (again). I might go the Alliant route if, when the time comes, plan A fails and I still feel passionate about it. It'll be interesting to see how everything pans out.
 

Ollie123

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Many people do geographically restrict to varying degrees and still do okay, but it is certainly difficult. I brought up in another thread that I get concerned when the attitude seems to be that "The profession must lower their standards to accommodate me because of my limitations" rather than "I must find a way to make sure I can get adequate training despite my limitations", but that's kind of a separate issue.

I do think that if one is completely inflexible geographically, one needs to either be confident they are the "best of the best" even among graduate students and willing to work 24/7 to make sure of it, or be flexible in other ways. I know some people who went into the field who had geographic limitations but were very flexible about the sort of job they got and the salary they expected to receive. Clinical work, traditional academia, other non-professor research gigs, big pharma, corporate HR stuff, etc. May or may not even be psychology-related. Basically - folks who are happy with a "job" (vs. career) that is loosely related to skills that they possess. I think its possible for it to work in that scenario. The people who seem to run into the most trouble based on what I've seen here and elsewhere are the ones who restricted themselves, had very particular goals (i.e. "I want to work at the VA"), and expected to make at least an average salary for a psychologist. Some folks get lucky, but that combination seems like setting oneself up for misery and I would never, ever, ever recommend anyone enter this field if they are in that situation. If they still choose to, I have little sympathy when they complain they HAD to take an unpaid post-doc, can't get licensed, etc. People who do their homework know what they are getting themselves into before venturing down that path to begin with.
 
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"The profession must lower their standards to accommodate me because of my limitations" rather than "I must find a way to make sure I can get adequate training despite my limitations", but that's kind of a separate issue.
Whaddya mean--the entire profession isn't going to lower its standards just for little old me? :laugh:

I get your point, Ollie. I think the worst of the poor outcomes you describe would be going through the work and expense and then failing to get licensed (presumably because of internship match troubles and/or post-doc troubles). All good things to think about.
 
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I got into my PhD program right out of undergrad with no research experience, so I had no concept of how to do anything, lol. I am also a loner. Bad combo. We don't HAVE to be TAs so I never did that- only get a stipend anyway. I worked a lot at first outside of school- *I'd recommend working in school, or becoming a TA or RA. Not a choice, just do it. Talk to every professor who has a research lab, and find one that is close to your interests, even if it isn't, if you get funding and publications- do it. *Start thinking of your master's thesis/dissertation from Day 1. Seriously. Just sit down, come up with ideas and on Day 2 start talking to professors. I was kind of intimidated by professors, didn't want them to think I was dumb probably. *This advice is for those who don't automatically receive funding. First year focus on getting your funding in place as a TA/RA etc, and start learning how to do research, ie read other people's thesis and dissertations. * I attended other people's defenses and saw that it was not that scary. Years of reseach and only 15 min talk- the rest is just answering questions for 30min-1hr.


These are all beginner/dummy ideas- but if I'd followed them I'd be in a better place right now- like doing my post doc.

THIS is what I wish to have known.
 

aequitasveritas

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My defense lasted 35 mins and the q & a was over an hour and a half
 

AlaskanJustin

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So many of you have become familiar with me or at least my SN over the last few years and I have had the pleasure of meting many of you at interviews and through Fordham.

Anyways I thought it appropriate to say this in this thread. There are things you CANNOT possibly know when even deciding to go into Psychology, especially clinical. For instance, sometimes, Clinical Psychology is NOT the right area for you. Remember it's NEVER too late to change areas, even changing from psychology to another basic science.

And on that note I bid everyone adieu and wish those I have met and know the best of luck in their training. If anyone ever wants advice on changing fields or programs, feel free to email me at [email protected], the email will be active until May when I leave for a Biomedical Science Ph.D. program.

--AJ
 

jnine

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I did not know how draining it would be to wear so many different hats (student, researcher, consultant, clinician, project manager, report writer, parent talker to-er, etc. etc.) in a single week. Don't get me wrong, it's thrilling, but, for me, it's also a completely exhausting and all-encompassing endeavor during the semester. Moral: those choosing between scientist-practitioner and pure research programs beware- the rigorous sci-practitioner programs will probably be more intense than the pure research programs because of the many different kinds of activities you have to juggle every week. just my 2c
 

2012PhD

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There are a good number of unstable, difficult, and crazy folks in clinical psychology. Sometimes they are faculty members, supervisors, and internship staff. Having a difficult supervisor/advisor can really tarnish your experience and make it difficult to graduate.
 

AcronymAllergy

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So many of you have become familiar with me or at least my SN over the last few years and I have had the pleasure of meting many of you at interviews and through Fordham.

Anyways I thought it appropriate to say this in this thread. There are things you CANNOT possibly know when even deciding to go into Psychology, especially clinical. For instance, sometimes, Clinical Psychology is NOT the right area for you. Remember it's NEVER too late to change areas, even changing from psychology to another basic science.

And on that note I bid everyone adieu and wish those I have met and know the best of luck in their training. If anyone ever wants advice on changing fields or programs, feel free to email me at [email protected], the email will be active until May when I leave for a Biomedical Science Ph.D. program.

--AJ
Sorry to see you go, AJ, but as you've said, it's never too late to change your mind if your happiness is at stake. Best of luck to ya in the new program.
 

psich

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So many of you have become familiar with me or at least my SN over the last few years and I have had the pleasure of meting many of you at interviews and through Fordham.

Anyways I thought it appropriate to say this in this thread. There are things you CANNOT possibly know when even deciding to go into Psychology, especially clinical. For instance, sometimes, Clinical Psychology is NOT the right area for you. Remember it's NEVER too late to change areas, even changing from psychology to another basic science.

And on that note I bid everyone adieu and wish those I have met and know the best of luck in their training. If anyone ever wants advice on changing fields or programs, feel free to email me at [email protected], the email will be active until May when I leave for a Biomedical Science Ph.D. program.

--AJ
I really enjoyed your insights on the forum AJ...wish you all the best in your new career.
 

psychwanabe

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I seem to remember this thread from when I was a first- or second-year, and thought I'd posted on it. Maybe there are two floating around...I've been away from SDN for a long time.

I wish that I had known two main things. One, that I didn't have to seize EVERY opportunity that came my way. I said "yes" to too many things and came close to burning myself out a few times. It's okay to say no sometimes in order to preserve your own sanity. Self-care needs to be practiced as well as communicated to your clients.

I also wish I had not been quite so narrow in my focus. I knew (and still know) what I wanted to do and I pushed to get mostly those experiences. I wish I had gotten a little bit more broad exposure to treatment - more general presenting problems.