Aug 6, 2015
Hi, I am 18 and I am ready for the next step. But I never got the whole story. I know that I want a Ph.D. that I want to go into research; cognitive psychology most likely. However the idea of clinical work would give me that certain something selfless feeling that I selfishly love. I just sort of assumed that you go to college, then graduate schools are for your masters and then a Doctorate.

Now I hear that some people just go for their doctorate right away? Some people don’t have to pay for a doctorate? (This one is really important because my college is going to cost too much so as it is. Whatever that is, I will do/earn it) The new SAT is called a GRE? I need to take them but, unlike an entrance exam, are they somehow independent from universities? Where did we hide GRE's? Apparently my college does not matter or the title on the degree!? Psych majors are going for business masters!

I just want to plan my life, I am committing to this life and investing (heavily into a bachelor’s degree that is little more than a stepping stone). Will someone please show me the way?

P.S. This world of the study of the mind speaks to me like no other. I am ready to jump in but I don’t know where we put the pool.
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Gold Donor
7+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2010
Sounds like you've still got quite a bit left to figure out when it comes to what you'd actually like to do and the field(s) into which you're looking to going. Some of the questions you've asked have been asked and answered on these boards previously; if you search and browse through the forums, you're likely to find a wealth of information. I'd also suggest you check out the stickies at the top of this forum, particularly the "DOCTORAL APPLICANTS READ FIRST" thread once you get closer to the actual application process.

But, in a nutshell:

1) The GRE has not replaced the SAT; the SAT is for college (i.e., undergraduate) admissions while the GRE (which has been around for a good while) is used for graduate school admissions to some programs (ala the MCAT for med school, LSAT for law school, and GMAT for various business programs). Like the SAT, its scoring scale has recently been shifted around a bit, but it contains math/quantitative, verbal, and analytic writing sections.

2) The way most doctoral programs are structured, if you come in without a masters already, you will generally earn one on the way to completing your doctorate. Some programs require that you already have a masters while others do no. In general, if the programs to which you're applying don't require a masters, folks may still opt to go into a masters program first if they need additional research experience and need a GPA boost in order to improve their application credentials.

3) Many doctoral programs are indeed "free" in that you receive a tuition remission and often a small stipend. Most Ph.D. programs have this setup, and a few Psy.D. programs do as well. The remission and stipend are earned by conducting various activities, such as by being a teaching assistant, research assistant, or working in the university mental health clinic. There are some scholarships/fellowships available as well, such as for minority students.

4) What your degree is in, just like with medical school, doesn't really matter so long as you complete the necessary pre-requisite classes, which usually include things like introductory statistics, intro to psychology, various other psychology classes (can vary by program), and research methods. The requirements aren't as uniform as they are for med school, so you'll want to check on a case-by-case basis for each of the programs to which you're applying. However, if you do indeed major in psych, odds are you'll finish most or all of the doctoral application requirements as a part of your undergrad degree, which is why most folks just go ahead and major in psych.

5) While in undergrad, you're going to want to spend a good bit of time gaining research experience in one or more psychology labs. You're very early in your academic career, so you have a bit of an advantage there; you may need to complete a couple intro classes first in order to be eligible, but often there are classes available that will let you earn course credit for the research experience you gain. Even if not, volunteering in research labs is essentially a "must" for psych doctoral applicants, especially if you're going to go the cognitive psychology route.
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Mar 6, 2014
Psychology Student
^^ What they said.

The next step is your bachelor's. Don't worry too much about anything else. Explore your options, talk to lots of people, take a variety of classes, and start getting research experience as soon as you get settled in.

Your college does matter in terms of the quality of your experiences there. The title of your degree matters too, but psychology is heavily engrained into any field that has to do with working with people--as business most definitely does--so many people gets bachelors in psychology before moving on to other fields. There's an entire subfield of psychology (Industrial/Organizational Psychology) that deals with business and the workplace. Graduate schools accept only a small fraction of applicants each cycle. The truth is we can't all be doctors.