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MissData

Fall 2019 Quant Psych Applicants (+ AMA with Faculty and Grad Students)!

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Hi Everyone!

I wanted to take the opportunity to start a forum for students interested in Quantitative Psychology, particularly those considering applying to graduate school during Fall 2019. I hope this can be a place where students share and discuss their experiences applying, and currently enrolled students can impart some wisdom on the incoming class. I personally benefited quite a bit from using GradCafe when I was applying, so I want to make sure the practice carries forward!

Additionally, I wanted to say that we have a group of current graduate students and faculty who have committed to doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) October 1st - 7th. So each "panelist" is committing to logging on at least once a day and answering questions about quantitative psychology. Each of the panelists will introduce themselves providing as much detail as they feel comfortable with (Quant can be a small community and many of the panelists are current graduate students, so they may choose to remain anonymous). I assure you however that these panelists have been selected based on their previous experiences and expertise in quantitative psychology! Additionally, please understand that each of us are expressing our individual views and these views do not represent those of our universities, departments, or areas. 

From now til October 1st, I hope this forum can serve as a place of discussion and community to the incoming students in Quantitative Psychology!

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Hi Everyone! My name is Amanda Montoya, and I'm a new faculty at UCLA in Quantitative Psychology. I graduated from The Ohio State University this summer (August 2018) with my PhD in Quantitative Psychology. I also got a Masters in Statistics along the way. My adviser was Dr. Andrew Hayes. I applied for grad school a while back (started in Autumn 2014). When I applied I applied to 5 schools Ohio State, UCLA, UNC-Chapel Hill, Arizona State, University of British Columbia. There was a 6th school but I forget what it was. It was kind of a "back up" which I had been warned not to have, and I got into Ohio State before the application for the last school was due, so I decided not to submit there. I got interviews at 4/5 of the places I applied, and was accepted at 4/4 of the places I got interviews. 

My background when I was applying was in social psychology. I had worked in a social psychology lab at the University of Washington, done my honors thesis in that lab, and stayed an extra year as a lab manager. That lab managing position gave me the opportunity to present some posters at conferences and get additional experience with data analysis. I majored in Psychology and minored in Math. 

I am happy to answer questions about my experience as a graduate student, applications, interviews, life as a grad students. I'm also willing to share my perspective from the faculty side of things. This position is very new to me, but I did have the opportunity to review applications last year and am familiar with the process from the faculty side. 

Our other panelists will be joining us on October 1st. I hope that we can get some questions posted over the weekend so that they have some material to cover when we get started on Monday!

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Hello everyone,

 
I am a quant psych student currently in my dissertation (last) year. When I applied to schools, I applied to 10 programs (among them were UCLA, UNC, ASU, Notre Dame, UVA, Missouri; a few others) and got into 9 of them.
 
My background when I was applying was both in psychology and math/stats. I had a MA in Psychology and a MS in math with concentration in stats, both from a relatively small university. At the time, my thesis project during my MS in math/stats was what best prepared me to understand the field (and it was very helpful during interviewing). For my thesis I was doing a small simulation study testing different ways to handle missing data. Other than that, when I applied, I had no publications, no knowledge of the PhD lifestyle, and I had never been to a conference.
 
I used this forum when I was applying to grad schools a few years ago, and I found it very helpful. More than anything it seems like there is very little information about what quantitative psychology is, and I had very little idea of what it was when I started considering entering this field. All I knew was that I liked math and psych, and this was a way of combining the two. Reading through GradCafe (especially reading responses from people who were in the field already) was very insightful, especially when they gave concrete examples of the types of projects that people worked with, the types of questions that they were trying to answer, the types of jobs that one could get after (in academia and industry), etc.
 
I'll be happy to answer any questions that I can regarding the field and what we do. My answers are based on my experience only, and do not reflect on my program or my mentors.

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Hello, 

I am a third year graduate student at UNC.  I did my undergraduate degree at UNC in psychology and linguistics and it was there that I was lucky enough to be introduced to quantitative psychology.  I then worked for a few years before applying to phd programs.  I completed my MA in history quantitative and theoretical psychology at Simon Fraser University and then applied to schools again.  I applied to 5 programs and received 4 offers.  For the last year I have served as a pre-graduate school advisor and I have a strong interest in helping folks navigate through the application process.  

My interests in quant include measurement and analysis of longitudinal data. My substantive interests are relatively strong as well and include adolescent substance use and other topics in clinical psychology.  I work with applied researchers and find their work to be a source of inspiration, but keep in mind that not all quant students are as interested in the content of psychology.  I do not have a strong background in math and was worried at times that this would make it difficult for me to do meaningful work.   I've found that this concern about knowing enough math or stats is a common source of anxiety for applicants and students in quant.  While having a strong math and/or stats background is excellent preparation, my opinion is that you can absolutely be successful if you come to graduate school without it.  

As MathStat86 said, GradCafe was really helpful to me for learning more about quant and especially for connecting with other applicants.  I like the GradCafe because you can hear the opinions/experiences other people have had about graduate school and the application process in an unfiltered way. That being said, you have to weigh the advice appropriately and that caution should be applied to anything I say here.  I am only talking from my experience and observations and you may find your own experience to be quite different.  

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On 9/20/2018 at 8:27 AM, MissData said:

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to take the opportunity to start a forum for students interested in Quantitative Psychology, particularly those considering applying to graduate school during Fall 2019. I hope this can be a place where students share and discuss their experiences applying, and currently enrolled students can impart some wisdom on the incoming class. I personally benefited quite a bit from using GradCafe when I was applying, so I want to make sure the practice carries forward!

Additionally, I wanted to say that we have a group of current graduate students and faculty who have committed to doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) October 1st - 7th. So each "panelist" is committing to logging on at least once a day and answering questions about quantitative psychology. Each of the panelists will introduce themselves providing as much detail as they feel comfortable with (Quant can be a small community and many of the panelists are current graduate students, so they may choose to remain anonymous). I assure you however that these panelists have been selected based on their previous experiences and expertise in quantitative psychology! Additionally, please understand that each of us are expressing our individual views and these views do not represent those of our universities, departments, or areas. 

From now til October 1st, I hope this forum can serve as a place of discussion and community to the incoming students in Quantitative Psychology!

 

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving this opportunity to ask questions.

I would like to apply to Ph.D program in Quantitative Psychology, but to be honest, I have not specified my research concern yet. Since I have been interested in developing statistical methodologies in Psychology, I want to learn more about Quantitative Psychology in graduate school, but I'm wondering if the non-specific personal research concern will be critically negative to evaluation.

Also, my gre score is Verbal 150 Quant 170 Writing 3.5. I am worried about my low verbal score, since I've heard that in general, verbal score of applicants in Psychology is very high. So, I would like to ask if high verbal score is also required in Quantitative Psychology or mathematical ability is more important.

Thank you again for giving this opportunity for applicants.

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6 hours ago, quant123 said:

 

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving this opportunity to ask questions.

I would like to apply to Ph.D program in Quantitative Psychology, but to be honest, I have not specified my research concern yet. Since I have been interested in developing statistical methodologies in Psychology, I want to learn more about Quantitative Psychology in graduate school, but I'm wondering if the non-specific personal research concern will be critically negative to evaluation.

Also, my gre score is Verbal 150 Quant 170 Writing 3.5. I am worried about my low verbal score, since I've heard that in general, verbal score of applicants in Psychology is very high. So, I would like to ask if high verbal score is also required in Quantitative Psychology or mathematical ability is more important.

Thank you again for giving this opportunity for applicants.

In my experience people come in with differing experiences in quant, and so some have very defined research interests and some are not really sure at all. I had pretty defined research interests when I applied and then only really applied to work with people who did that thing. Alternatively, there was a person in my year who really didn't have a lot of exposure to quant but had a really strong math background and was very open about being unsure of his research interests. We both got in at our top schools, and I think have very similar careers ultimately. The important thing is that faculty see you as "trainable" so often times that either comes with clear resesarch interests or a skills background that makes it seem like you'll pick things up quickly. Even if you're not sure exactly what you're interested in, it's really good to be aware of the breadth of topics covered in quant. I would recommend picking up journals like Psychological Methods and Multivariate Behavior Research and trying to find papers you think are interesting. 

A little personal story that I'll share: When I was interviewing to grad school, I got invited to a school I applied to where I had a very specific person I wanted to work with. When I got off the plane one of the grad students picked me up. When we were driving around she asked who I wanted to work with, and when I said who it was she said "Oh well they're not taking students." I totally freaked out (internally) and felt like I had to take a 180 on my approach to interviewing. I couldn't figure out why they would have invited me if my potential PI wasn't taking students. So then I was trying to figure out who else I would want to work with there. When people asked me about my research interests during the interview I essentially said "Well I don't know that I'm sure exactly what I would like to do, because I've been really interested in everything I've been exposed to in quant. Like I haven't run into anything that I'm *not* interested, so by contrast it's hard to nail down what I *am* interested in." I think an answer like that alone would not be sufficient and would seem like you're avoiding the question, but they would always follow up and ask what I had been exposed to and I spent quite a bit of time talking about mediation/moderation, IRT, bayesian statistics, latent class analysis, generalizability theory, etc. Which made it clear that I at least knew some of the things people are working on it quant and wasn't just B.S.ing. 

 

RE GRE scores. My understanding is that often your scores have to just be over a threshold and past that I don't really know how useful they are (though sometimes they're used for university funding decisions). A 150 in verbal does seem pretty low, but it seems like you make up for it with the Quantitative score. You have to remember that you're not being compared to all Psychology students, you're really only going up against other Quant people. I couldn't find any statistics on Quant Psych GRE scores on average. I think if the rest of your application is strong, then you'll likely not have any issues, but if you're kind of in the middle ground then you may want to consider retaking the test. I think it will also really depend on the faculty you are applying to. I have a colleague who looks for people who are strong writers because they believe that it's easy to teach people about statistics but it's hard to teach people to write. Most of their graduate students were previously English majors or some variant of that. That faculty might be unlikely to consider a student with a 150 Verbal GRE score, whereas others might just focus on the Quant score. There's a lot of individual variability. 

One thing I will say. Compared to other areas, quant get relatively few applicants. So you are practically guaranteed for the faculty to look at your whole application, rather than relying on cutoffs and metrics to narrow down the field (cause it's already pretty narrow). So think about the whole picture, and if the verbal GRE score is your only major weakness, I'm sure you'll do quite well. 

 

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8 hours ago, quant123 said:

I would like to apply to Ph.D program in Quantitative Psychology, but to be honest, I have not specified my research concern yet. Since I have been interested in developing statistical methodologies in Psychology, I want to learn more about Quantitative Psychology in graduate school, but I'm wondering if the non-specific personal research concern will be critically negative to evaluation.

My response to this question  will mostly echo MissData's response.  Unlike other areas of psychology where an applicant is expected to know their interests, it is typical for quant students to not have a clear idea of what they want to do when they start in my program.  Exposure to quant before graduate school is not always possible, and even if you have the technical background (e.g., math or stats major), you may not be aware of the research going on in quant specifically.  Thus, it is not necessarily going to hurt you to not know this and you will likely see that other applicants are in the same situation.  You're not going to be expected to come into the interview with a research project in mind or anything like that.  

At the same time, I think you need to be able to communicate that you have a reasonable grasp of 1. what quantitative psychologists do and 2. the research areas of the faculty at each school you apply to.  As MissData mentioned, a defined interest is helpful for figuring out which programs and faculty to apply to and will give you talking points for your personal statement and interviews.  So it may be best to try to get some sense of what research areas sound interesting to you, at least right now.  Keep in mind that interests can and do change. I do think that it could potentially hurt your application if your interests come across as being very vague.  I think MissData alluded to this in her personal story.   Faculty may wonder whether you know enough about quantitative psychology to actually want to pursue it, or they may feel they can't gauge whether you'd fit well at that school.  

So the short answer is...it is ok to not know what your interests are, but you need to somehow communicate that you are aware of the possible research areas in quant and particularly the research of the faculty to which you are applying. 

8 hours ago, quant123 said:


Also, my gre score is Verbal 150 Quant 170 Writing 3.5. I am worried about my low verbal score, since I've heard that in general, verbal score of applicants in Psychology is very high. So, I would like to ask if high verbal score is also required in Quantitative Psychology or mathematical ability is more important.

 

This is a tough question.  It is really hard to say how GRE scores factor into admission decisions.  A 150 in writing is 48th percentile, so you are just around the average.  Verbal ability is important to any academic field because you will have to write papers, and I've seen that psychology applicants tend to have higher verbal scores on average. It is possible that any concern about this score might be offset by a very strong personal statement, a transcript showing high scores in writing-related courses, and/or a referee addressing it and mentioning that you have strong writing skills.  However, it is also possible that a faculty may wonder why your score isn't higher.  I would consider a few things when thinking about whether to re-take the GRE:  Do you have the time/resources to do so?  Would preparing to re-take the GRE take a significant amount of time away from preparing your applications?  If you can pull your score up, it might be worth it, but only if it will not require significant amounts of time.  My opinion is that you should avoid neglecting your other application materials in order to focus on your GRE verbal score.  

 

I hope this helps! 

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11 hours ago, quant123 said:

 

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving this opportunity to ask questions.

I would like to apply to Ph.D program in Quantitative Psychology, but to be honest, I have not specified my research concern yet. Since I have been interested in developing statistical methodologies in Psychology, I want to learn more about Quantitative Psychology in graduate school, but I'm wondering if the non-specific personal research concern will be critically negative to evaluation.

Also, my gre score is Verbal 150 Quant 170 Writing 3.5. I am worried about my low verbal score, since I've heard that in general, verbal score of applicants in Psychology is very high. So, I would like to ask if high verbal score is also required in Quantitative Psychology or mathematical ability is more important.

Thank you again for giving this opportunity for applicants.

I agree 100% with MissData and xolxs, and in fact I had started writing a response almost identical to xolxs before I saw it posted.

 

My only addition is regarding research interests during the process of application, coming from a place where I had a very strong mathematical and statistical background, but no exposure whatsoever to the quant psych field or research.

Before applying to programs, I spent about 2-3 weeks reading through many programs' websites and professors' research interests, trying to understand the type of research that they did. Although at first it might seem overwhelming, after some time you start to see common topics coming up repeatedly, themes, and understanding the types of questions that people in this field are trying to answer. For instance, some people focus on methods related to the development of psychological/educational assessments (for instance, how to make sure that the assessments accurately measure what they are supposed to), methods for longitudinal data (for instance, how to identify groups of people that follow similar developmental trajectories, or how to deal with missing data which is common in longitudinal studies), methods for non-randomized research designs (for instance, how to compare the effect of an intervention on groups of people who are different to begin with). These are just some (and somewhat simplified) examples. Reading papers from the potential PIs can be very challenging (the papers are sometimes very technical and difficult to understand), but it gives you a better idea of the types of questions that they are trying to answer and what you would be doing if you entered the field. I think this is an important part of the application process, because it really challenges you to think about what you want to do. 

Like the others already mentioned, nobody expects you to show up to an interview with a research proposal, but it's important to start thinking of what types of questions you want to answer with your research (and if your research interests change once you start a program, that's fine as well; that's very common).

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13 hours ago, quant123 said:

 

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving this opportunity to ask questions.

I would like to apply to Ph.D program in Quantitative Psychology, but to be honest, I have not specified my research concern yet. Since I have been interested in developing statistical methodologies in Psychology, I want to learn more about Quantitative Psychology in graduate school, but I'm wondering if the non-specific personal research concern will be critically negative to evaluation.

Also, my gre score is Verbal 150 Quant 170 Writing 3.5. I am worried about my low verbal score, since I've heard that in general, verbal score of applicants in Psychology is very high. So, I would like to ask if high verbal score is also required in Quantitative Psychology or mathematical ability is more important.

Thank you again for giving this opportunity for applicants.

Current Quant Psych PhD student at Notre Dame here.

I think that it is true that a lot of people may come into grad school with very specific goals or area of interest in mind. This, to my knowledge, is generally true for a lot of areas in psychology (expect a "but..." later). You obviously seem to have done a really good job of research on application stuffs! But I think for quantitative psychology, it can be difficult to come in with a honed-in area of interest: On the one hand, quant psych programs that i know really encourage students to work with multiple faculties and really explore around in the first couple of years; on the other hand, you would also be exposed to lots of in-depth stat courses the first couple of years that can definitely help you shape/change your research interests. To be honest, I came in with some pretty specific interests in mind: I am, of course, still "interested" in that, but I am actually doing research on things that, when I was applying I said, I would not be interested in doing at all. And guess what? they are great fun!

 

I think that you have a very solid GRE quant score. Congratulations on that! I think your GRE quant score is definitely competitive. It is true that some areas of psychology puts some emphasis on verbal scores. But I really don't think that GRE scores should be the focus here. It is more about fit, what you want to do (not exact topics but like a couple of general interest points that you would like to explore more), what faculties do in the programs that you apply to (if that coincide with your interests). I hope that these would help!

Edited by VentureIntoNothingness

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Dear MissData, xolxs, MathStat86 and VentureIntoNothingness,

Thank you all for your detailed answers to my questions.
The advice was really helpful and I think things to do have become clearer.

I hope to be a scholar who can help others like you someday.

Thank you again.

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Dear all,

Thank you for hosting this AMA session! 

I happened to chance upon the field of quant psych only in the past year and I find this part of psychology to be really interesting! I'm also hoping to apply to a quant psych program in the near future! 

I would greatly appreciate it if someone could answer some of queries below:

1. What is the level of mathematical rigour one should expect in quant psych? I've browsed through several articles in quant journals (SEM, MBR, Psychometrika) and the level of mathematics involved seems to vary wildly from article to article. Should I be expecting epsilon-delta proofs and asymptotics? Or is it more computational (e.g. extensive simulations) in nature? I'm pretty comfortable with simulation-based studies but I can't quite imagine spending 4-5 years solely on deriving asymptotic properties (which seems kind of divorced from psychology). 

2. What is considered a decently strong math background? I'm currently doing a double in psych and stats but I kind of messed up a few math modules (B+ for calc, multivariable calc, real analysis I & III). Will that be a problem? To put things into perspective, I've scored decent grades (at least A-) in other math modules (ODE, Linear Algebra, Real Analysis II, Probability etc.) and all the stat modules. Also there's no grade inflation where I'm at (some school in Asia) but I guess most American professors won't be aware of that?. Is it even worth it (from an admissions point of view) to take more advanced (pure-ish?) math classes (like linear algebra II, functional analysis) to make up for those deficiencies?

3. One thing that really confused me is the apparent distinction between mathematical psychology and quantitative psychology. How exactly are they different? Or are there some overlaps?

4. Will previous experience in substantive research actually help when applying to quant psych programs? If yes, how much does it matter? I've spent quite a bit of time working on social decision-making before transitioning towards quant and I'm just wondering if its even relevant at this point.

5. Does the prestige of the PhD program matter when it comes to job prospects for faculty positions later on? I know that the specific advisor you get is probably more important but still... Also, how do you actually evaluate the "prestige" (whatever that means) of a quant psych program since there are so few of them? Its a little confusing since the conventional league tables for psych don't really apply to the quant subfield. 

6. I know that some programs allow (or demand?) that their students take up a masters from the stats/biostats department. Is that usually the case or is it program-specific?

Sorry for the long list of questions! Really appreciate being able to get some insight into quant psych through this platform!

 

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4 hours ago, LostLamb said:

Dear all,

Thank you for hosting this AMA session! 

I happened to chance upon the field of quant psych only in the past year and I find this part of psychology to be really interesting! I'm also hoping to apply to a quant psych program in the near future! 

I would greatly appreciate it if someone could answer some of queries below:

1. What is the level of mathematical rigour one should expect in quant psych? I've browsed through several articles in quant journals (SEM, MBR, Psychometrika) and the level of mathematics involved seems to vary wildly from article to article. Should I be expecting epsilon-delta proofs and asymptotics? Or is it more computational (e.g. extensive simulations) in nature? I'm pretty comfortable with simulation-based studies but I can't quite imagine spending 4-5 years solely on deriving asymptotic properties (which seems kind of divorced from psychology). 

2. What is considered a decently strong math background? I'm currently doing a double in psych and stats but I kind of messed up a few math modules (B+ for calc, multivariable calc, real analysis I & III). Will that be a problem? To put things into perspective, I've scored decent grades (at least A-) in other math modules (ODE, Linear Algebra, Real Analysis II, Probability etc.) and all the stat modules. Also there's no grade inflation where I'm at (some school in Asia) but I guess most American professors won't be aware of that?. Is it even worth it (from an admissions point of view) to take more advanced (pure-ish?) math classes (like linear algebra II, functional analysis) to make up for those deficiencies?

3. One thing that really confused me is the apparent distinction between mathematical psychology and quantitative psychology. How exactly are they different? Or are there some overlaps?

4. Will previous experience in substantive research actually help when applying to quant psych programs? If yes, how much does it matter? I've spent quite a bit of time working on social decision-making before transitioning towards quant and I'm just wondering if its even relevant at this point.

5. Does the prestige of the PhD program matter when it comes to job prospects for faculty positions later on? I know that the specific advisor you get is probably more important but still... Also, how do you actually evaluate the "prestige" (whatever that means) of a quant psych program since there are so few of them? Its a little confusing since the conventional league tables for psych don't really apply to the quant subfield. 

6. I know that some programs allow (or demand?) that their students take up a masters from the stats/biostats department. Is that usually the case or is it program-specific?

Sorry for the long list of questions! Really appreciate being able to get some insight into quant psych through this platform!

 

Hi LostLamb,

 
These are all great questions, and I'm interested in hearing the perspectives of others.
 
In general, the answers to your questions are all "it depends on the program and advisor". Programs range very widely in terms of the mathematical rigor, some programs leaning strongly towards the "psychology" side, with classes that need to be accessible to the full psychology department and encouraging quant psych students to become involved in applied research with others in the applied area of the department, and some programs lean strongly towards the "quantitative" side.
 
1. The level of mathematical rigor: 
In terms of admissions: I've seen students accepted into programs from very different backgrounds and math preparations (when I was accepted into my program, I had a masters in math/stats... and the other girl that got accepted into my program had a stats minor in undergrad, I think she had taken Calc 1, but her experience was mostly in applied research). If you've worked with derivations and epsilon-delta proofs, your math background seems fine.
In terms of the courses taken during the program: it differs a lot by programs. A lot of quant psych programs are housed in psychology departments and need to be accessible to the other psychology branches (clinical, social, etc.), whose math background may be as little as a class or two in college algebra. So the mathematical rigor in these classes is minimal (for someone who's taken so many math classes as you say), unless you are taking additional classes from the math/stats department.
In terms of research: depends on the advisor. The people that I've worked with do simulation work mostly. Psychometrika is a more technical journal, so if you're looking to working with someone technical, I'd find professors that publish there. SEM and MBR are generally on the less technical side.
 
PIs and programs, like you've pointed out, vary greatly in terms of where they stand on the spectrum between "mostly applied" to "extremely technical" work. Reading through some of their publications will probably tell you where they stand. From what you mention, it seems like you're doing that already, and that with you're background you're probably understanding a lot of the papers.
 
2. My answer to this question mirrors my answer in (1). Most accepted applicants from the last couple of years that I know have less background than what you're mentioning, but it ranges a lot.
 
4. Yes, previous experience with substantive research does help a lot. Since great part of quant psych is about bridging the gap between psych (applied) and stats, we value people in the middle who are quantitatively oriented but can communicate with psychologists and have a passion for psychology. If there is no interest in psychology, then a pure stats program would be more appropriate. So yes, especially since your background seems to be so strong on the mathematical side, I think it is important to highlight as well that you are interested and have worked with psych applied research.
 
6. It's program specific. Some programs encourage students to get a masters in stats along the way, and other programs do not offer the option to get a masters in stats. If this is something you're interested in, you can find out through the program's website, looking from alumni CVs, or directly contacting people that are in the program already. In my experience, most students are happy to answer questions (we are a small community and get very happy when we find out people are interested in our field).

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5 hours ago, LostLamb said:

Dear all,

Thank you for hosting this AMA session! 

I happened to chance upon the field of quant psych only in the past year and I find this part of psychology to be really interesting! I'm also hoping to apply to a quant psych program in the near future! 

I would greatly appreciate it if someone could answer some of queries below:

1. What is the level of mathematical rigour one should expect in quant psych? I've browsed through several articles in quant journals (SEM, MBR, Psychometrika) and the level of mathematics involved seems to vary wildly from article to article. Should I be expecting epsilon-delta proofs and asymptotics? Or is it more computational (e.g. extensive simulations) in nature? I'm pretty comfortable with simulation-based studies but I can't quite imagine spending 4-5 years solely on deriving asymptotic properties (which seems kind of divorced from psychology). 

2. What is considered a decently strong math background? I'm currently doing a double in psych and stats but I kind of messed up a few math modules (B+ for calc, multivariable calc, real analysis I & III). Will that be a problem? To put things into perspective, I've scored decent grades (at least A-) in other math modules (ODE, Linear Algebra, Real Analysis II, Probability etc.) and all the stat modules. Also there's no grade inflation where I'm at (some school in Asia) but I guess most American professors won't be aware of that?. Is it even worth it (from an admissions point of view) to take more advanced (pure-ish?) math classes (like linear algebra II, functional analysis) to make up for those deficiencies?

3. One thing that really confused me is the apparent distinction between mathematical psychology and quantitative psychology. How exactly are they different? Or are there some overlaps?

4. Will previous experience in substantive research actually help when applying to quant psych programs? If yes, how much does it matter? I've spent quite a bit of time working on social decision-making before transitioning towards quant and I'm just wondering if its even relevant at this point.

5. Does the prestige of the PhD program matter when it comes to job prospects for faculty positions later on? I know that the specific advisor you get is probably more important but still... Also, how do you actually evaluate the "prestige" (whatever that means) of a quant psych program since there are so few of them? Its a little confusing since the conventional league tables for psych don't really apply to the quant subfield. 

6. I know that some programs allow (or demand?) that their students take up a masters from the stats/biostats department. Is that usually the case or is it program-specific?

Sorry for the long list of questions! Really appreciate being able to get some insight into quant psych through this platform!

 

I'll try to take a stab at these, but also I think MathStat86 hit the nail on the head: much of this depends on the department and the adviser. I'll try to emphasize when the adviser or the department tends to be most important. 

1. It depends on the project. Even within my work, I've done computational simulations and I've done formal proofs. I think the ability to do both is a strength, because it means that you can use the most optimal tool for the problem that you are trying to solve. I've seen many papers where they use a simulation and I think "They could have just done a proof, it would be much clearer and more generalizable." So the ability to do both is great. What your adviser does will largely (though not entirely) influence what you do. Personally, my adviser did not have a strong theoretical math background, but I got a masters in stat so was able to do things that he would not have been able to do himself. But if you want to be doing one type of work or another, look at the published work of potential PIs and select people based on the type of work they do. People who publish in journals like Psychometrika and Biometrika are likely to have more formal mathematics expectations. 

2. I personally look for multivariate calculus and linear algebra, anything else is a plus (real analysis is a big plus). To me calculus and linear algebra are the core of the mathematics behind statistics, so those are required to do any meaningful mathematics work with statistics. I think you can be a successful quant person without those skills, your focus would just be in a different place. Something like a math or statistics minor is sufficient for me. Others require more. Many require less. 

3. The distinction I draw between quant and mathematical psychology (though the line is quite blurred) is that mathematical psychologists are building mathematical models of human behavior (usually in perception, cognition, etc) and the goal there is to create knowledge about human behavior by creating mathematical models of that behavior. Quantitative psychology is more focused on developing general methods that others can apply later (to generate knowledge about human behavior). It's tough as a line to draw in the sand. The way I think about it is whether or not my goal is to explore human behavior. Mathematical psychologists are trying to explore human behavior, whereas quantitative psychologists are not. Though people use the work of quantitative psychologists to then explore human behavior themselves. And sometimes it's hard because quant people will work with substantive people, and it's not really clear where you draw the line. I think maybe it's just how people identify, and based on who they were trained by. Ohio State has a quant area, and the head is a mathematical psychologist (Trish Van Zandt) but there are other mathematical psychologists throughout the department (including cognitive, neuroscience, and decision making). 

4. Again, I think this depends on the adviser, but in general I would say yes that experience is helpful. One thing that you learn working in a substantive lab is how research is actually done: how data is actually collected. If you are divorced from that process it's difficult to identify areas where you can contribute to the literature. For example, many of my research ideas come from consulting meetings and collaborations. Understanding the difficulties of collecting and modeling data in psychology is where research ideas in quantitative psychology often come from. I've seen students with relatively little experience in substantive areas struggle, because they are trying to solve a problem that no body has. 

5. What I'm going to say having just gone on the job market is unfortunately, yes. These things matter, and they matter more than they should. It's difficult to rank Quant programs, but I think there is a general understanding of which programs are good (and then nobody knows any of the other ones). Additionally your adviser within the program matters as well. One thing that you have to remember is when you're on the job market, you have to impress the whole department, not just the other quant people (Typically there aren't very many quant people so quant people are often the minority on a search committee, though there opinions may influence other's more heavily). So the people outside of quant are relying on other easy information (like prestige) to make a decision. Since prestige of quant programs is not widely known, I think ultimately it comes down to the prestige of the college or of the program. I went to Ohio State, which has a great quant program though people outside of quant don't really know that. However, we have a phenomenal social area, so people in social think "OSU = good" when evaluating my case, even though I'm not in social. It's an unfortunate system and it really shouldn't be this way. I think I benefited a lot from coming from a big well known and well liked school like OSU. The difficulty is you can often work with someone great at a school not well known for quant, and I think that can hurt you (though I don't think that is how it should be). In particular, I think there is a danger in working with someone at either a smaller school or a school that doesn't have a quant *program (i.e., multiple faculty) because even though your adviser might be great, you still need multiple letters of recommendation. And its easier to get letters from well respect quant people when you're working in a program where you're collaborating with different people, taking their classes, interacting with them at seminars, etc. 

6. I don't know any programs that *require* you also get a masters in stat. I think *perhaps* some advisers would prefer that you get a masters in stat, but I don't know any of those people either. I think many of them would probably just look for students coming from stat masters programs if that was how they felt (which some do). Some programs have a better relationship with the stat/biostat department than others. That was a major decision making factor for me, since I wanted to get a masters in stat. That information was readily available at my interviews, it was more difficult to figure out just searching around online. Though, if you're already in touch with a potential PI then that is the type of question they would likely be happy to answer. Just a little about my personal experience at OSU: OSU makes it pretty easy to get a masters in stat. There are two degrees that you can get over in stat, a Masters in Statistics and a Masters in Applied Statistics (There is also a Masters in Biostatistics but that is housed in the College of Public Health and a little more difficult to do because it's not in the same college as Psychology, so the process is more difficult. I only know one person who did a masters in biostat at OSU). There is also a minor in statistics, but that's different. I would say about half the quant students do some type of masters in stat. Of the students who do I think about 2/3 get the MAS and 1/3 get the MS. It's by no means required, but OSU makes it easy (procedurally, the classes are still very hard), which is nice. Here at UCLA, we're working with the stat department to create an easier way for students to get a masters in stat. Right now though the process is a little difficult, but some students have managed to do it anyway. We're currently trying to make the process easier. 

 

Hope this helps, happy to answer and followups

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Thank you both for providing such detailed responses! They were really helpful!

I have a question about the interview process: What are the things faculty look out for when interviewing potential candidates, especially when it comes to international students? I know (or am I mistaken?) that for domestic students they tend to invite potential candidates for on-site visits, but how does it work for international applicants who can't simply hop on a plane to the States due to financial constraints? Moreover, are there any pitfalls one should be aware of during an interview? I'm probably sounding like an idiot for asking something so obvious but I would really like to avoid committing a cultural faux pas in something as important as a grad-interview. 

@MissData Is it possible to share more about your grad experience at OSU? The program at OSU is really interesting to me since there appears to be a decent mix of quant and math psychologists (I'm interested in both) within the quant area. Do the different PIs / labs interact much with each other, or is each group mostly doing its own thing in isolation? What about the peer group within the quant area? And what is it like to live in Columbus as a grad student (as compared to something like cities on the coasts)? 

Once again a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this info-sharing!

 

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12 hours ago, LostLamb said:

Thank you both for providing such detailed responses! They were really helpful!

I have a question about the interview process: What are the things faculty look out for when interviewing potential candidates, especially when it comes to international students? I know (or am I mistaken?) that for domestic students they tend to invite potential candidates for on-site visits, but how does it work for international applicants who can't simply hop on a plane to the States due to financial constraints? Moreover, are there any pitfalls one should be aware of during an interview? I'm probably sounding like an idiot for asking something so obvious but I would really like to avoid committing a cultural faux pas in something as important as a grad-interview. 

@MissData Is it possible to share more about your grad experience at OSU? The program at OSU is really interesting to me since there appears to be a decent mix of quant and math psychologists (I'm interested in both) within the quant area. Do the different PIs / labs interact much with each other, or is each group mostly doing its own thing in isolation? What about the peer group within the quant area? And what is it like to live in Columbus as a grad student (as compared to something like cities on the coasts)? 

Once again a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this info-sharing!

 

Great questions!

RE Interviews: Typically, what we've done for international students is to schedule Skype or video call meetings with the potential students. Usually who ever the student indicates they would like to work with reaches out to them if they'd like to interview them. I think everyone is looking for something different in interviews but mostly I think faculty are trying to understand research interests, work style (e.g., time management skills, degree of independence), and interpersonal fit (i.e., do you seem to get along?). I think one of the biggest mistakes is for potential students to present strong negative feelings about any type of activity or research topic. It's can be off-putting for the faculty to see such a strong negative response to something that you (likely) have little experience with. I think expressing an openness to a variety of topics and ideas is really important in the interview. 

 

RE Ohio State: I loved Ohio State, it is a really fantastic school, and unlike many other schools Psychology is treated very well on campus. The psych department has a lot more resources and nicer facilities in comparison to some other departments around the country. The Quant PIs work generally independently, but there is a lot of cross talk. We have a regular brownbag on Mondays, and the faculty present, the students present, and they bring in external speakers. That is a really great opportunity for people to get to know each other and a lot of collaborations start in that meeting. In terms of collaborations, Paul de Boeck and Mike Dekay are working together on some stuff (and they are kind of co-supervising a student who is working on that project), I know Paul and Jolynn work together on stuff, Jolynn is working with one of Trish's students on a project, Andrew is working on a project with a social student. So yeah, it's not everyone on their own, the community there is pretty great. And the students have a great culture that breeds collaboration. I worked on projects with other students outside of my lab at OSU, and that was really rewarding. There's also opportunity to work with people outside of quant. I attended the Judgement and Decision Making brownbags, and found great collaborators there. Honestly, I thought I would not like Columbus. I'm originally from Seattle, and the idea of being in the midwest was not super appealing. But I loved it there. It's a great place to be a grad student because there's a lot going on in the city (without it being overcrowded) and the everything is incredibly cheap. It is very comfortable living on the student salary in Columbus, so it's nice not to be constantly worrying about money. If you're interested in Quant and Mathematical psychology I would recommend checking out Trish Van Zandt, Brian Turner, Mark Pitt, Mike DeKay, and Jay Myung as potential PIs. 

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13 hours ago, LostLamb said:

Thank you both for providing such detailed responses! They were really helpful!

I have a question about the interview process: What are the things faculty look out for when interviewing potential candidates, especially when it comes to international students? I know (or am I mistaken?) that for domestic students they tend to invite potential candidates for on-site visits, but how does it work for international applicants who can't simply hop on a plane to the States due to financial constraints? Moreover, are there any pitfalls one should be aware of during an interview? I'm probably sounding like an idiot for asking something so obvious but I would really like to avoid committing a cultural faux pas in something as important as a grad-interview. 

 

I would say that the faculty are looking for the same things in their potential students, whether they are international or domestic.  It seems that the interview largely serves as a way of determining fit, that is, does your personality mesh with your potential advisor's personality?  Five+ years is a long time to work together, so you want to get along well.  And that goes both ways, so you are evaluating the school/program as much as they are evaluating you.  Otherwise,  interview days give you an opportunity to get to see the school and the program, so it is tricky for international students who don't get to see the campus or meet with graduate students, etc. What I've seen for international students is that they do a skype or phone interview with the advisor they want to work with.  Some schools might do it differently, but it's definitely a much abridged version of interview day.  I would imagine that it is much harder to make a decision about a place you haven't seen, so I would encourage you to reach out to graduate students and talk with them via email or skype once you get an interview.  Also, just as an FYI, for quant, domestic students are typically invited and the school pays for their travel and accommodations.  

This is a great question, don't feel like an idiot. I think the biggest pitfalls for interviews is not having strong responses for "why do you want a phd (in quant)?" and "why do you want to attend [program]?"  Those questions should be easy to answer, but some interviewees are caught off guard and it can look kinda bad.  Also be sure to have questions for the faculty.  Basically, you have to show that you're interested in the program and that you're also trying to gauge your fit with the program.  They usually want to extend offers to students who they think will accept. 

As far as faux pas (not sure plural for this)...one thing that occasionally comes up in psychology is applicants disclosing their own mental health struggles, either in personal statements or in interviews.  I think that there is a way to broach this topic in a way that is okay, but I would generally steer clear of that unless you are asking about certain accommodations or resources.  Otherwise it is the somewhat obvious things like don't say anything offensive or rude and try to seem confident without being arrogant.  I honestly can't think of many instances of students doing things that automatically hurt their chances for getting an offer an an interview.  

Edited by xolxs

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Thank you all for your responses! The information provided has been immensely helpful. 

Really hope that I can be part of this amazing quant psych community one day!

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Hey ya'll I'm going to be applying to quant psych/methods programs this year and even though I am late to the party I'd figured I would just check in. Its always nice to connect with people in the one of the smallest sub-disciplines of psychology. For context most of my research experience is with minorities in STEM education although I do have experience with HLM, SEM and social network analysis it's hasn't been intensive.      

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