Selecting a Graduate Program
- Talk to faculty, psychologists you know, and other professionals.
- Note the location of authors of articles and books that interest you.
- Identify programs with emphases compatible with your interests.
- Look at Masters and Ph.D. programs, do not narrow your sights.
- Write to graduate programs for information about the program along with application forms (late summer or early fall).
- Pay special attention to information about faculty interests sent by graduate programs.
- Consider choosing a state or part of the country to narrow your choices.
- Apply to schools of varying degrees of selectiveness: some seemingly too difficult to get into, some which seem easy.
- The American Psychological Association has some excellent information about applying to graduate school.
Letters of Recommendation
- It is not necessary to have all psychology letter writers—choose those who know you well and look upon you favorably.
- When asking someone to write for you, pay attention to any hesitation or doubt expressed by the person. Do not hesitate to ask directly whether the person feels he or she can write a supportive letter.
- Do not worry about asking letter writers to write to many schools.
- Provide letter writers with a résumé, statement of intent, and grades in psychology courses.
- Make sure letter writers know the kind of program you are interested in, especially if you are applying to several different programs.
- Talk to the letter writer about what you feel are your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant. Often, he or she can write a stronger letter after an in depth conversation with you.
- Plan on applying to a minimum of six programs. Twelve or more is recommended, especially for clinical doctoral or other competitive programs.
- Apply to at least one “dream” program where you do not think you have much of a chance of acceptance. Apply to some that may be easier to get in as well.
More information on requesting letters of recommendation
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- The Center for Career and Professional Development has information about test dates and sites.
- There are fewer test dates now; more testing is being done individually by computer.
- Kaplan and other GRE test preparation programs are worthwhile; there are discounts for people who sign up in groups with some of these programs.
- The psych practice comps is equivalent to the GRE psychology test.
- The GRE “aptitude” test is much more important than the psychology test.
- Retaking the test if you did not do well is advised; schools will generally use the higher scores you have achieved and practice helps.
- When looking at GRE statistics for a program, remember that one-half the students admitted were below that score: it is not a minimum.
How to Stand Out from Other Applicants
- Read the research published by graduate faculty at a school that interests you.
- Contact graduate faculty to express interest in their research and find out about research opportunities in your area of interest.
- Let K faculty, SIP advisors, family members, and friends of the family know what programs you are interested in; they may know people there they could contact on your behalf.
- Try to visit those schools in which you are most interested.
- Do your SIP with someone publishing in professional journals.
- Plan to participate in the undergraduate conference in the spring.
- Find schools that have taken K students previously or where there are K grads on the faculty.
- Put a good effort into writing your statement of interest.
- Do a good job as a teaching or research assistant.
If You Are Planning to go to Graduate School Later
- Keep in touch with K faculty to let them know what you are doing.
- Take a graduate-level course or two to keep your academic skills honed.
- Do volunteer work if you are not working at a psychology-related job.
- Use the time to find programs that best match your interests.
- Research Gap Year Programs
- Apply for scholarships or fellowships offered by the program. Your chances for admission are not improved by suggesting that you do not need aid.
- Grad school is not a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you do not get in the first try, keep trying.
- If you do not get in, try to find out from the program what you were lacking.
- If you are accepted into a program they may pressure you for a decision right away. Talk to a faculty member if this happens to you.
Don’t forget to check out the Kalamazoo College’s Center for Career and Professional Development Graduate School Page.