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Uncertain about Ph.D. chances


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Hey, everyone! Congrats on all of your acceptances for the 2018 year.  I stumbled upon this forum when searching for I/O Psych programs and was wondering if someone could give me their honest opinion on my chances of being accepted by any program, given that you have seen the process firsthand.

Program of interest: Industrial-Organizational Psychology

 

Research interests: Emotional regulation, work-life balance, productivity, how diversity influences job application processes, social undermining and social support, CWBs

I haven't taken the GRE's yet but I test pretty well and plan on studying all summer using various tools to get ready.

Undergrad. GPA: 3.44

 

Education:

I'm graduating in May with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health from Penn State and I've taken 15 credits of psychology courses (including I/O Psychology) and the combined GPA from those courses is a 3.8

Research Experience:

7 months of data entry in Alicia Grandey's Emotional Labor Lab at Penn State

6 months as a research assistant in a Diversity Lab at Penn State

I plan on continuing the research assistant job into the summer and fall before I apply in December.

 

 

Could someone please weigh in on my chances at being accepted to a Ph.D. program given my background and grades? I decided a year ago that I wanted to do IO psych and it was too late to change my major.  Biobehavioral Health is very related to psychology and sociology.  I have asked my advisors and professors about my chances and they all say to keep going for it, but I'm not sure if they just don't have the heart to give me the hard facts.  

 

Just someone who doesn't want to keep barking up the wrong tree,

 

Thanks!

 

 

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On 2/25/2018 at 11:17 PM, StudentGuy said:

 

Hey, everyone! Congrats on all of your acceptances for the 2018 year.  I stumbled upon this forum when searching for I/O Psych programs and was wondering if someone could give me their honest opinion on my chances of being accepted by any program, given that you have seen the process firsthand.

Program of interest: Industrial-Organizational Psychology

 

Research interests: Emotional regulation, work-life balance, productivity, how diversity influences job application processes, social undermining and social support, CWBs

I haven't taken the GRE's yet but I test pretty well and plan on studying all summer using various tools to get ready.

Undergrad. GPA: 3.44

 

Education:

I'm graduating in May with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health from Penn State and I've taken 15 credits of psychology courses (including I/O Psychology) and the combined GPA from those courses is a 3.8

Research Experience:

7 months of data entry in Alicia Grandey's Emotional Labor Lab at Penn State

6 months as a research assistant in a Diversity Lab at Penn State

I plan on continuing the research assistant job into the summer and fall before I apply in December.

 

 

Could someone please weigh in on my chances at being accepted to a Ph.D. program given my background and grades? I decided a year ago that I wanted to do IO psych and it was too late to change my major.  Biobehavioral Health is very related to psychology and sociology.  I have asked my advisors and professors about my chances and they all say to keep going for it, but I'm not sure if they just don't have the heart to give me the hard facts.  

 

Just someone who doesn't want to keep barking up the wrong tree,

 

Thanks!

 

 

It's preferable for your undergrad GPA to be 3.75+, but that certainly doesn't mean that a 3.44 GPA will disqualify you. However, I would strongly advise then that you achieve GRE scores that are in the 75th percentile and above to demonstrate that you are ready for graduate-level work. 

Also, given that your background is in biobehavioral health, it might be a stretch to justify why you would want to pursue an I/O program versus a health psychology/biopsychology/cognitive psychology/developmental psychology program. If you have poster or paper presentations in the research field that you want to go into, then you can make a case for why you want to pursue I/O.

Do you have any work experience in industry that might justify why you want to pursue I/O? 

Also, what is the quality of your research experiences like? There is a difference between being someone who merely enters data, and someone who enters the data AND uses the data to develop an independent study project, or collaborates with the lab on a project that will result in publication. If you are merely entering data, making copies, etc. without engaging in rigorous research, it's definitely time to start working on an independent study project, preferably in I/O. 

As you're applying next year, one thing I would think about is the quality of the PhD program you will attend. In other words, don't just settle for "any" PhD program. You want to go to a program that is well funded, has lots of resources, and is actively producing research. These programs have the network that you need post-graduation. If you know you want to go to X school, then take another year to strengthen your application and reapply. I have had friends who regretted settling for a program simply because it was the only PhD program they got into that year--they're now leaving with a Master's and are re-applying for PhD programs at top-tier schools with lots of resources.

Don't be afraid to take a year off to strengthen your application! A lot can get done in a year. I spent three years as a math major before deciding it was the wrong path. I switched my major to psychology in my fourth year, and as I was getting my coursework done in psych, I was also doing and put out 8 poster/paper presentations that same year (5 already presented, 3 accepted). The motivation and enthusiasm for my research field showed, and I got into some top-ranked programs. In addition, I spent a lot of time networking with professors at other universities, and got a letter of rec from a professor at a top-ranked school (I did summer research with her). 

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On 2/28/2018 at 7:11 PM, ilikepsych said:

It's preferable for your undergrad GPA to be 3.75+, but that certainly doesn't mean that a 3.44 GPA will disqualify you. However, I would strongly advise then that you achieve GRE scores that are in the 75th percentile and above to demonstrate that you are ready for graduate-level work. 

Also, given that your background is in biobehavioral health, it might be a stretch to justify why you would want to pursue an I/O program versus a health psychology/biopsychology/cognitive psychology/developmental psychology program. If you have poster or paper presentations in the research field that you want to go into, then you can make a case for why you want to pursue I/O.

Do you have any work experience in industry that might justify why you want to pursue I/O? 

Also, what is the quality of your research experiences like? There is a difference between being someone who merely enters data, and someone who enters the data AND uses the data to develop an independent study project, or collaborates with the lab on a project that will result in publication. If you are merely entering data, making copies, etc. without engaging in rigorous research, it's definitely time to start working on an independent study project, preferably in I/O. 

As you're applying next year, one thing I would think about is the quality of the PhD program you will attend. In other words, don't just settle for "any" PhD program. You want to go to a program that is well funded, has lots of resources, and is actively producing research. These programs have the network that you need post-graduation. If you know you want to go to X school, then take another year to strengthen your application and reapply. I have had friends who regretted settling for a program simply because it was the only PhD program they got into that year--they're now leaving with a Master's and are re-applying for PhD programs at top-tier schools with lots of resources.

Don't be afraid to take a year off to strengthen your application! A lot can get done in a year. I spent three years as a math major before deciding it was the wrong path. I switched my major to psychology in my fourth year, and as I was getting my coursework done in psych, I was also doing and put out 8 poster/paper presentations that same year (5 already presented, 3 accepted). The motivation and enthusiasm for my research field showed, and I got into some top-ranked programs. In addition, I spent a lot of time networking with professors at other universities, and got a letter of rec from a professor at a top-ranked school (I did summer research with her). 

Hey, ilikepsych.  Thanks for the really solid advice. To answer your questions, I am going to study really hard for the GREs and hopefully I achieve in the top 75 percentile! I definitely lack solid justification as for why I want to do IO psych.  I'm in an IO psych class right now and love the topics that I've been involved in research labs.  My problem is a lack of opportunities to expand into the field of IO psych since I have a background in Biobehavioral health.  I cannot seem to find any extended research positions or applied jobs that are available to strengthen my application in the field of IO psych.  

 

I have been pursuing research assistant positions in health labs to develop my research skills while I still stay actively engaged in an IO lab/ do an independent research project.  Do you have any recommendations for opportunities to look for that would strengthen my application and show that I am dedicated to this field? I seem to be running out of time and resources to strengthen my application as I leave Penn State in May.

 

Just trying to turn things in a different direction like you.

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Even after you graduate, see if a professor is willing to collaborate with you on an independent study project. Maybe reach out to professors who have data sets on topics that are related to IO (doesn't have to be IO specific... maybe even social/personality psych), and see if they'd let you play around with the data to see if you come up with something. You just have to prove that you have serious interest in IO (through work experience, for example, and even better, research related to IO), and that the professors you've worked with can say "Yes, this person has what it takes to conduct research."

For what it's worth, one of my friends got into a pretty prestigious IO psych program without much IO-related research. She has a strong stats background, which I think helps for IO. She was doing some research related to social/personality psychology and was able to link it to why she wants to pursue IO (she is an RA and also has two independent study projects, but only one of them is related to social/personality I think). Ultimately I think her research background justified her research interests, and her research interests fit well with one of the professors in the program. As long as your research experience justifies what you want to study in grad school, and a professor sees that you're a good match with his/her interests, you should be solid without a heavy IO background, I think.

I never took developmental psychology, yet I got into developmental programs, lol. My previous research is focused on development, though, so that worked out well for me. 

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16 hours ago, StudentGuy said:

Yeah, I've been in two labs for 8 months now but both professors have said they're too busy to guide me on an independent research project.  I think I've gotta just go ahead and do it myself haha.  Thanks for the heads up I really appreciate it.

I highly recommend you do an independent study and write a paper about your study. You don't need to have publications but you need to show your POIs that you have the potential in I/O. Before I applied this year, I did an independent study without much supervision (because I already graduated!). However, I asked a lot questions online and got some great answers from experts all over the world, which really helped my research move forward. After a painstaking process of hard work for four months, I finished a  paper based on my independent study and submitted it as a writing sample in my app package. I also posted this writing sample on my personal academic site. When I contacted my POIs, I attached the link in my emails so they could check it out very conveniently. It helped me get in. I should point out that this method wouldn't work well if you need to recruit participants to gather data because I don't think you have funding to pull that out. It's better for you to reach out to professors who have data sets and are in need of someone who's able to analyze their data. 

Edited by wnk4242
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On 3/8/2018 at 2:11 PM, wnk4242 said:

I highly recommend you do an independent study and write a paper about your study. You don't need to have publications but you need to show your POIs that you have the potential in I/O. Before I applied this year, I did an independent study without much supervision (because I already graduated!). However, I asked a lot questions online and got some great answers from experts all over the world, which really helped my research move forward. After a painstaking process of hard work for four months, I finished a  paper based on my independent study and submitted it as a writing sample in my app package. I also posted this writing sample on my personal academic site. When I contacted my POIs, I attached the link in my emails so they could check it out very conveniently. It helped me get in. I should point out that this method wouldn't work well if you need to recruit participants to gather data because I don't think you have funding to pull that out. It's better for you to reach out to professors who have data sets and are in need of someone who's able to analyze their data. 

Hi wnk4242 where were you contacting these experts? I am currently in a situation where I have access to data but not much direction from professors.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey, your story sounds a lot like mine. I was pre-med and a biology major throughout undergrad and decided in the fall of my last year I wanted to go to grad school for psych. I also had a very average GPA - 3.5 - but my Psych GPA was much better - 3.8. So my numbers are pretty similar to yours. I had already had 3 years of research experience in a biology lab (completely irrelevant to my research interests - not even possible to stretch it like biobehavioral health to IO psych) but absolutely ZERO experience in psych research, so I volunteered as an RA in a lab for the last 6 months of undergrad, and then after graduating found a job as a full-time RA in another lab.

I don't think you need to worry about being able to do an independent research project or getting publications or poster presentations out. Of course, everyone knows that those things help, but not having them is not a deal breaker. I did not have any of the above. In my full-time RA job, I was just a paid hand hired to do data collection (didn't even get to do any analyses), and I still was accepted into 5 top-ranked PhD programs in my field(s) of interest.

What got me into amazing grad programs was my passion, and my ability to sell the experiences I did have as something relevant to grad school (both in terms of tangible transferrable skills and in terms of relevance to my research interests). I think everyone is capable of this, proven they have the right mindset. Your undergraduate GPA will in no way disqualify you, given how great your graduate GPA is. Your GRE will only help. Switching fields is possible. You just need to focus on finding a compelling reason for why you want to go to grad school, and on being able to communicate that in writing and in conversation.

Edited by shiningorb
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