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Hello all,

I'm new here, and also a youngin'! I just finished my freshman year and, yes, I am already worrying about grad school ?I am majoring in Psychology (doing the Clinical Track) and minoring in Cognitive Science..my end goal is a Clinical Psych PhD focusing on children and adolescents. There are so many things we are told *must* be accomplished during our undergraduate years in order to be a worthy applicant, or even have a chance, so I figured I would come straight to the people who know best! 

I have a TA position lined up for later this summer, and plan on doing honors in the major research junior year, finding an RA position, etc, etc, but any advice from the more seasoned would be extremely helpful!

Thank you so much!

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Research! Research! Research! That is one of the biggest things programs look at. You want to try to get conference poster presentations and even possibly a publication out of the research. This shows that you are academically productive and not just doing basic coding and menial lab tasks. 

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10 minutes ago, Hk328 said:

Research! Research! Research! That is one of the biggest things programs look at. You want to try to get conference poster presentations and even possibly a publication out of the research. This shows that you are academically productive and not just doing basic coding and menial lab tasks. 

Thank you! That's what I've been told, unfortunately there only seems to be one avenue through my university, though I will of course look for other opportunities:

"In this program, students research, write, defend and publish an original Honors thesis that serves as the capstone product of their undergraduate career. This thesis is published through the university library and is available to researchers worldwide through electronic databases."

Either way I plan on doing it, but is this viewed as 'meh' by many programs? 

Sorry for all the questions! :) 

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34 minutes ago, knight26 said:

Thank you! That's what I've been told, unfortunately there only seems to be one avenue through my university, though I will of course look for other opportunities:

"In this program, students research, write, defend and publish an original Honors thesis that serves as the capstone product of their undergraduate career. This thesis is published through the university library and is available to researchers worldwide through electronic databases."

Either way I plan on doing it, but is this viewed as 'meh' by many programs? 

Sorry for all the questions! :) 

Most students interested in a graduate degree will end their studies having completed an honours thesis or a substantial project. That is a GREAT way to show future supervisors that you are able to do independent research, which is a needed skill once you become a graduate student. As you are early in your degree, I would suggest looking at the research labs at your school and contacting the professors to see if they are able to take on volunteer research assistants. Take a look at labs that broadly study topics that interest you or you want to learn more about. Don't hesitate to explore multiple options as you develop your research interests. Remember, having these initial experiences become stepping stones for more concrete experiences (such as your eventual honours thesis) later in your degree.

Good luck :)

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20 minutes ago, Jay's Brain said:

Most students interested in a graduate degree will end their studies having completed an honours thesis or a substantial project. That is a GREAT way to show future supervisors that you are able to do independent research, which is a needed skill once you become a graduate student. As you are early in your degree, I would suggest looking at the research labs at your school and contacting the professors to see if they are able to take on volunteer research assistants. Take a look at labs that broadly study topics that interest you or you want to learn more about. Don't hesitate to explore multiple options as you develop your research interests. Remember, having these initial experiences become stepping stones for more concrete experiences (such as your eventual honours thesis) later in your degree.

Good luck :)

Thank you so much :) unfortunately, even to be a volunteer RA, I need to have completed stats and research methods, which will be complete by the end of this upcoming year. I might ask the professor I TA with if I can join their lab, as I feel we are already developing a good rapport. Thanks again!

 

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My biggest advice to you is stay committed. From what I've seen, a few longer experiences are valued more than many shorter ones. This isn't like a hard and fast rule, but it sort of makes sense. Obviously, if your interests change or if you don't like the lab, then you should leave. But I stayed in my lab for 2.5 years (I started sophomore year) and as a result of that, I was able to present at multiple conferences and actually get a paper published in addition to building really strong relationships with my mentors. I think it would be hard to get that much out of like a one semester lab experience.

 

Another piece of advice is to consider taking time off after undergrad. Not everyone chooses to do this for a variety of reasons. That being said, I would say the majority of applicants I encountered on interviews were at least 1 year out of college and had additional full-time research experience after graduation. I also found, personally, that it made time management a lot easier when I could focus on GRE/clinical volunteering/research/etc and  not also have classes on top of all that. Good luck, and let me know if you have any more questions! It's definitely a good time for you to be thinking about this.

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12 minutes ago, SarahTonin said:

My biggest advice to you is stay committed. From what I've seen, a few longer experiences are valued more than many shorter ones. This isn't like a hard and fast rule, but it sort of makes sense. Obviously, if your interests change or if you don't like the lab, then you should leave. But I stayed in my lab for 2.5 years (I started sophomore year) and as a result of that, I was able to present at multiple conferences and actually get a paper published in addition to building really strong relationships with my mentors. I think it would be hard to get that much out of like a one semester lab experience.

 

Another piece of advice is to consider taking time off after undergrad. Not everyone chooses to do this for a variety of reasons. That being said, I would say the majority of applicants I encountered on interviews were at least 1 year out of college and had additional full-time research experience after graduation. I also found, personally, that it made time management a lot easier when I could focus on GRE/clinical volunteering/research/etc and  not also have classes on top of all that. Good luck, and let me know if you have any more questions! It's definitely a good time for you to be thinking about this.

Thank you so much! I definitely understand the longer experiences being better, I hope to find a lab I can stick with! 

I wouldn't be opposed to taking time off but as of now my ultimate goal is to be accepted out of undergrad, though I know not to get my hopes up or bank on this completely.

One more quick follow up Q: Is there any benefit to doing the clinical track, since I'll be able to take electives/courses that more closely align with my interests and such, or is undergrad curriculum not examined much except to see if the major is there?

Thanks again! :) 

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13 minutes ago, knight26 said:

Thank you so much! I definitely understand the longer experiences being better, I hope to find a lab I can stick with! 

I wouldn't be opposed to taking time off but as of now my ultimate goal is to be accepted out of undergrad, though I know not to get my hopes up or bank on this completely.

One more quick follow up Q: Is there any benefit to doing the clinical track, since I'll be able to take electives/courses that more closely align with my interests and such, or is undergrad curriculum not examined much except to see if the major is there?

Thanks again! :) 

So actually, I wasn't even a psychology major. I majored in neuroscience and did the pre-med track, and changed my mind very late in college (too late to change my major). Obviously most of the people who apply are psychology majors and I do think some schools require that, but I got into 2 really great programs regardless. I had a handful of psychology classes and psychology work experience, and I also took the psychology GRE and did very well. So, from my personal experience, you need to have a solid background in psychology and classes like stats, but no one was really concerned that I didn't specifically major in psychology because I had proven that I knew enough. If you want to do the clinical track because it will allow you to take the classes that interest you more, then go for it! It definitely can't hurt, and grad applications are all about fit so the more you "fit," the better. But if you are choosing, for example, to participate in the clinical track over having time to conduct research, I think research experience is weighted more heavily than a few classes.

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8 minutes ago, SarahTonin said:

So actually, I wasn't even a psychology major. I majored in neuroscience and did the pre-med track, and changed my mind very late in college (too late to change my major). Obviously most of the people who apply are psychology majors and I do think some schools require that, but I got into 2 really great programs regardless. I had a handful of psychology classes and psychology work experience, and I also took the psychology GRE and did very well. So, from my personal experience, you need to have a solid background in psychology and classes like stats, but no one was really concerned that I didn't specifically major in psychology because I had proven that I knew enough. If you want to do the clinical track because it will allow you to take the classes that interest you more, then go for it! It definitely can't hurt, and grad applications are all about fit so the more you "fit," the better. But if you are choosing, for example, to participate in the clinical track over having time to conduct research, I think research experience is weighted more heavily than a few classes.

That definitely goes to show your talent and work ethic, congratulations! Luckily, I am able to do the clinical track and still (ideally) have time for a good bit of research, because all the track changes are the courses I take. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Honestly, as a freshman I don't think you need to worry about this much. Do try to get into labs and make the most of it, but make sure you aren't absolutely focusing on grad school. Your goal should be to evaluate whether or not 1) you want to actually pursue psychology and 2) you want to study/focus on younger populations.

I went into uni knowing that I wanted to do psychology, but it still took me about two years before finally taking all the science courses outside of psych. Which meant I had a really weird undergrad transcript :D Still got into an excellent program.

Basically, my advice would be not to worry too much about doing things *right*, but rather on finding your own path and interests. Be part of a lab. Take classes that interest you outside of psych. And so on. Really cliche I know, but hey it's solid advice

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