Jump to content

Applying without extensive research experience? (clinical/forensic)


Recommended Posts

Hello folks,

I will be graduating from undergrad this fall, ultimately hoping to attend a clinical psych PhD program in the near future. I have some questions regarding the best way to move forward. Here's some background/stats:

  • Cum. GPA: 3.81/Major GPA: 3.93.
  • I will have taken 12 psych courses by the time I graduate.
  • Earned dean's list every semester and I am a member of Psi Chi.
  • GRE: taking in a month and hoping for 157+ Q and 160+ V.

Research experience: I will have acquired about one academic year's worth by the end of December. I worked in two labs - the first resulted in a project that will be presented at the upcoming national APA conference, and I am listed as a co-author....but I'm seventh in line, so it's obviously not exactly going to knock any socks off admissions. The second has involved me assisting my supervisor with building a study from the ground-up.

Since I'm graduating a semester early I won't have time to do an honors thesis, or I would. I will see about pursuing an independent study if at all possible.

LOR: I've had two professors volunteer to write me letters, one of which can attest to my research skills. Hoping to secure another letter writer this fall.

Research interests/career plans: I am most interested in forensic/correctional/law psychology. My top school choices as of now include Fordham, Drexel, John Jay, Villanova, and similar. It has been difficult finding any clinical programs, not necessarily just ones with a forensic track, that have faculty interested in forensic matters, so I feel that my pool of choices is rather limited in terms of research fit (and I realize that this can be a numbers game). If anyone knows of any POIs that have a forensic focus, I would appreciate any tips!

So, now for the actual questions:

  • Should I just pass on this application cycle and wait another year until after I gain more experience, or is it worth applying anyway if I can bank on my research fit and any other qualities?
  • Has anybody here been accepted to a good program without extensive research experience because of other merits, such as great fit or a killer personal statement?

Any advice greatly appreciated!

Link to post
Share on other sites

You could also check out University of Houston, Sam Houston State University, and McGill (although they're in Canada). A good strategy to picking schools is looking at publications of interest and seeing where those faculty teach. You also want to have a somewhat more narrowed focus. When you say forensic, do you mean eye witness testimony, psychopathy, domestic violence, etc.? Forensic is still a relatively broad category.

Whether or not to apply this cycle is a rough question. You can always try it and see what happens and get feedback from faculty in case it doesn't work out. The only thing you really lose is money. Faculty don't care if you reapply. That's actually relatively common. Applications are expensive, so a lot of it has to do with your financial situation. Research experience is one of the biggest things they look for. You have some, which is great, but having more never hurts. 

Having attended one of the schools you listed (not for PhD), I remember the faculty and some of the doctoral students talking during interview season, and research was a big decision making factor in who got interviews. Also, make sure your GREs are good, as a lot of schools use that as a filtering mechanism. 

Even though you're graduating, can you stay on in your current lab? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been seeking advice about applying from my psychologist (clinical psychology PhD). I told her I was worried about applying because I do not have a lot of research experience and I have no publications. She said she had no research experience and no publications when she applied (about 7 years ago) and she got into numerous places (and they were all quite good). So I guess that while it's common to have lots of research experience when you apply, it is still possible to get in without it if the rest of the application is strong...or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hk328:

I haven't heard of McGill, so I'll definitely look into that. My interests lie primarily within psychopathy, sex offenders, religious radicalization, motivations for terrorism, "nitty gritty" topics. Career wise, I am most interested in doing forensic assessments, but I'm open to other avenues. I'm definitely going to try and stay on my current lab project after this year if at all possible.

philopsych:

I've heard stories like that, too, which is essentially what's giving me hope at this point. ? Let's just say I'll be spending plentiful amounts of time crafting my personal statement.

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, philopsych said:

I've been seeking advice about applying from my psychologist (clinical psychology PhD). I told her I was worried about applying because I do not have a lot of research experience and I have no publications. She said she had no research experience and no publications when she applied (about 7 years ago) and she got into numerous places (and they were all quite good). So I guess that while it's common to have lots of research experience when you apply, it is still possible to get in without it if the rest of the application is strong...or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

While this is possible, I will say that it is certainly not the norm. 

There's a wide range of programs and different types of programs. Some are research focused, some are clinically focused, some are balanced etc. Some are funded, and others aren't. Typically, the funded programs are research-oriented and will be looking for research experience. Out of all my peers in clinical psych programs, only one of them had very limited research experience. 

OP: It's difficult to say. Compared to the usual applicants I've seen at interviews/final stages, you do not have as much research/clinical experience. However, with good GRE scores and strong LORs, assuming the quality of your research experience has been good (above just data entry), if you find a PI who is a really good fit with your experience/interests, I would say you should probably give it a shot and apply. But you should be realistic about your chances and have a contingency plan. The purpose of my post is not to dishearten you, but just emphasize that it is a very competitive (e.g. 4-7 applicants out of a 100-200 get admitted) process and many people end up applying a second time. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Sherrinford said:

OP: It's difficult to say. Compared to the usual applicants I've seen at interviews/final stages, you do not have as much research/clinical experience. However, with good GRE scores and strong LORs, assuming the quality of your research experience has been good (above just data entry), if you find a PI who is a really good fit with your experience/interests, I would say you should probably give it a shot and apply. But you should be realistic about your chances and have a contingency plan. The purpose of my post is not to dishearten you, but just emphasize that it is a very competitive (e.g. 4-7 applicants out of a 100-200 get admitted) process and many people end up applying a second time. 

I'm pretty well acquainted with the extreme competitiveness of applications, which is why I've been on the fence. I'm definitely going to have a backup plan - if I miraculously get accepted somewhere, then awesome, but if not, then I won't be surprised by any means.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/30/2018 at 3:31 PM, EileanDonan said:

Hk328:

I haven't heard of McGill, so I'll definitely look into that. My interests lie primarily within psychopathy, sex offenders, religious radicalization, motivations for terrorism, "nitty gritty" topics. Career wise, I am most interested in doing forensic assessments, but I'm open to other avenues. I'm definitely going to try and stay on my current lab project after this year if at all possible.

philopsych:

I've heard stories like that, too, which is essentially what's giving me hope at this point. ? Let's just say I'll be spending plentiful amounts of time crafting my personal statement.

McGill doesn't really have a strong forensic basis in its faculty (it's a strong health psychology/neuroscience department), so I wouldn't recommend applying there. If you're willing to look in Canada for clinical psych programs, with your interests I'd consider Simon Fraser University (in Vancouver), University of Saskatchewan, and University of New Brunswick. If you're willing to consider a counselling program, look into Robert Morgan at Texas Tech. 

I applied to a lot of clinical programs with a forensic focus or forensic faculty, so feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! :) 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.