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WhatLikeItsHard

Question for people getting interviews!

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So, alas, I'm starting to think I won't get accepted this cycle, as 4/7 schools I applied to reached out to individuals already for interviews. For those that have interview offers, can you tell me VERY vaguely (i.e. You definitely don't need to say "I worked with ______ for three years at _____") about your work experiences, match with faculty, etc.?

I'm asking because I graduated with a fairly high GPA, have two years of research experience, two years of clinical experience, one year of teaching experience, a published paper, I was president of a mental health organization at my college, and I had thought both my research experiences methodology-wise and goal-wise fit well with faculty. But it seems like there is something lacking in my application, and I am trying to plan for how to address it for the next cycle.

Do you feel like you have depth in a subject instead of breadth? Do you feel a faculty member is interested in your work because it is similar to their own or because you may bring something new to the table? Any answers are welcome!! Thank you. :)

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12 minutes ago, WhatLikeItsHard said:

So, alas, I'm starting to think I won't get accepted this cycle, as 4/7 schools I applied to reached out to individuals already for interviews. For those that have interview offers, can you tell me VERY vaguely (i.e. You definitely don't need to say "I worked with ______ for three years at _____") about your work experiences, match with faculty, etc.?

I'm asking because I graduated with a fairly high GPA, have two years of research experience, two years of clinical experience, one year of teaching experience, a published paper, I was president of a mental health organization at my college, and I had thought both my research experiences methodology-wise and goal-wise fit well with faculty. But it seems like there is something lacking in my application, and I am trying to plan for how to address it for the next cycle.

Do you feel like you have depth in a subject instead of breadth? Do you feel a faculty member is interested in your work because it is similar to their own or because you may bring something new to the table? Any answers are welcome!! Thank you. :)

Sorry, this is a lengthy reply but this is a complicated question! Also, this is my story, I'm not insinuating anything about your applications, just sharing what I went through and what helped me!

So, this is my second application process. The first time I did not hear from a single one of the 10 schools I applied to, and this year I have 2 interviews out of 5 programs. I had a wide breath of research experiences in psychology (worked with cognition, social anxiety, and eventually substance use) and had clinical experience in social anxiety, substance use, and working with families. I have a high GPA, 4 years of research experience, and independent research project and poster presentation, as well as some papers in prep (not first author or anything like that, but it's something). 

The biggest difference for me this year was the type of programs I applied to. Some programs are so competitive that if your GRE scores aren't in the 80th percentile, your applications are essentially ignored. It's a harsh truth, but some schools (and we all know which ones) get 700+ applications each year and there's just no way that they can spend the time going through each one to see whether your experiences make up for areas that aren't as strong (ie GRE scores and GPA). I don't know how you did on the GREs but mine were not in the 80th percentile, so these schools I applied to the first time were out of my league by miles, and none of my mentors were open enough to tell me this.

That being said, now that I'm applying to programs that my GREs are more standard for, my application as a whole is taken into consideration and I've been able to show that I have the skills and experience that make up for a bad quant score. I think the most important thing is being able to relate all of the research you've done together and apply it to what you want to study. So personally, I'm studying substance use and was able to explain how my experiences in cognition and social anxiety were valuable to my goal. It's vital to relate it all together, to show that you are able to gain specific skills and knowledge from every experience that you have, and to show that all of your breadth as well as in-depth work have come together to point you towards your goal. 

ALSO, don't give up hope yet on hearing back from schools! Good luck to you, and I hope that somewhere in this very long-winded story there are answers to your questions!

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4 hours ago, WhatLikeItsHard said:

So, alas, I'm starting to think I won't get accepted this cycle, as 4/7 schools I applied to reached out to individuals already for interviews. For those that have interview offers, can you tell me VERY vaguely (i.e. You definitely don't need to say "I worked with ______ for three years at _____") about your work experiences, match with faculty, etc.?

I'm asking because I graduated with a fairly high GPA, have two years of research experience, two years of clinical experience, one year of teaching experience, a published paper, I was president of a mental health organization at my college, and I had thought both my research experiences methodology-wise and goal-wise fit well with faculty. But it seems like there is something lacking in my application, and I am trying to plan for how to address it for the next cycle.

Do you feel like you have depth in a subject instead of breadth? Do you feel a faculty member is interested in your work because it is similar to their own or because you may bring something new to the table? Any answers are welcome!! Thank you. :)

I was accepted with a similar profile to you, except I didn’t even have any publications. I think what made the difference for me was that I had in-depth experience in the area of research that I wanted to pursue. My research area is relatively uncommon for clinical psych (unlike depression, anxiety, etc.), so the PI’s were pretty excited that I already had extensive experience with the methodology. I also applied to several schools that were a decent but not perfect fit, and I didn’t hear back from those, so I really think research fit was key for me. 

Honestly, the process is a crapshoot, and people get rejected even with very strong applications. Sometimes you just happen to apply against superstars with 10 pubs, or the lab already has someone in mind, or their research is moving in a different direction than you expected. The best thing is just to apply to more programs and really maximize your chances. 

Good luck with the rest of your application cycle! You never know what will happen :) 

Edited by hsnl

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This is my second round. I had 1/10 interview last time and 4/15 this time, but the 4 are also much lower ranked programs than anything I applied to before so it's hard to say if I'm "more successful" this time around. 3 years undergrad research + 2 years as an RA. GPA and GRE are above the averages for the places post them.

This probably isn't helpful/what you want to hear, but biggest predictor seems to be if my letter writers know people at the program. 3 of my potential advisors know my current or undergrad advisor really well. I had some interest from people at top programs (both rounds) so I think my applications were competitive ....but only the places they knew people actually panned out. 

Also worth mentioning these were the places with some of the worst fits between what the labs do and what I want to study! I don't think fit matters as much as people say except in the sense of useful skills/techniques for the lab OR final acceptance once you have an interview.

Edited by round2_

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Similar to @spookycat, but with a couple caveats to consider: 1) I am in Canada and, despite Canadian schools being very competitive, some US schools are just bonkers with the number of applications they get; and 2) I have only secured one open-house interview/4 so far (none of my other schools of interest seem to have reached out to anyone yet), so I am not necessarily the golden child of interviews. That said, I also graduated with a high GPA, etc., and have worked in research labs to some extent for 4 years. I worked as a paid RA for just over a year and am working as a lab coordinator currently. I only applied to schools with PIs who closely matched my research interests. Because I am interested in a fairly specific area, my current PI has worked with/has connections with many of those I applied to. I think this will help me with potentially getting interviews, but that's obviously not 100% the case with all applicants. There are SO many unpredictable factors that come in to play when admissions committees and individual supervisors review applications, some of which (at least in my opinion) are simply about serendipity (i.e., applying to the right person at the right time). If you have a specific person you're wanting to work with, I would say try to tailor your CV to their area and work with other PIs who are connected to those people. Best of luck! Don't give up hope yet, you still have 3 schools to hear back from!

Edited by chopper.wife

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6 hours ago, WhatLikeItsHard said:

So, alas, I'm starting to think I won't get accepted this cycle, as 4/7 schools I applied to reached out to individuals already for interviews. For those that have interview offers, can you tell me VERY vaguely (i.e. You definitely don't need to say "I worked with ______ for three years at _____") about your work experiences, match with faculty, etc.?

I'm asking because I graduated with a fairly high GPA, have two years of research experience, two years of clinical experience, one year of teaching experience, a published paper, I was president of a mental health organization at my college, and I had thought both my research experiences methodology-wise and goal-wise fit well with faculty. But it seems like there is something lacking in my application, and I am trying to plan for how to address it for the next cycle.

Do you feel like you have depth in a subject instead of breadth? Do you feel a faculty member is interested in your work because it is similar to their own or because you may bring something new to the table? Any answers are welcome!! Thank you. :)

I won't lay out my story or stats, because you're applying to clinical programs -- these programs are, at least statistically just as competitive as medical schools. I think that's one thing you must consider.

In terms of improvement, one that you can do that will work in your favor is to try and meet and or talk to as many professors as you can (that you plan on working with).  Perhaps you'll have some give talks in your school's department, or perhaps they'll be at a conference and you can arrange a meeting? If you're confident in your abilities and you can get in contact with say a graduate student at one of the labs you plan on applying to, perhaps you can get them to invite you to give a presentation for one of their lab meetings.

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18 hours ago, round2_ said:

... biggest predictor seems to be if my letter writers know people at the program. 3 of my potential advisors know my current or undergrad advisor really well. I had some interest from people at top programs (both rounds) so I think my applications were competitive ....but only the places they knew people actually panned out. 

+1. This is so important.

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On 1/11/2019 at 10:34 AM, WhatLikeItsHard said:

So, alas, I'm starting to think I won't get accepted this cycle, as 4/7 schools I applied to reached out to individuals already for interviews. For those that have interview offers, can you tell me VERY vaguely (i.e. You definitely don't need to say "I worked with ______ for three years at _____") about your work experiences, match with faculty, etc.?

I'm asking because I graduated with a fairly high GPA, have two years of research experience, two years of clinical experience, one year of teaching experience, a published paper, I was president of a mental health organization at my college, and I had thought both my research experiences methodology-wise and goal-wise fit well with faculty. But it seems like there is something lacking in my application, and I am trying to plan for how to address it for the next cycle.

Do you feel like you have depth in a subject instead of breadth? Do you feel a faculty member is interested in your work because it is similar to their own or because you may bring something new to the table? Any answers are welcome!! Thank you. :)

As other mentioned above, being open to a variety of schools and locations I think is really important.  Pretty much none of the schools I initially thought I would be applying ended up being where I applied.  I purchased the APA Graduate Study in Psychology book and it was immensely helpful in helping me determine programs that I had competitive scores and experience for...and those that were, realistically, out of my reach with my credentials. 

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Again, I wanted to second what @round2_ said above. I currently have 3/8 interviews (and honestly, have no idea how I got them - you all are so qualified ?) and I have a sneaking suspicion that my connections secured 2/3 of them. One of them is with my undergraduate institution where the professors all know me, and for the other, a professor I worked with closely throughout my undergrad personally called my POI there and sung my praises. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with amazing people!

Otherwise, my CV is a little weird in that I have been first author of 6/7 of my conference posters/presentations. It's taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on my end, but it may have paid off now. I also had multiple graduate students and trusted faculty review my statement of purpose before I submitted it and make lots of edits, so I'm sure that helped. Since my undergraduate Honours program is awesome, they also let us be teaching assistants during undergrad, so I have a year of teaching experience too. Other than that, I'm at a loss... you sound super qualified! Best of luck, I hope you get some invites coming your way soon!

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8 minutes ago, rainydaychai said:

Again, I wanted to second what @round2_ said above. I currently have 3/8 interviews (and honestly, have no idea how I got them - you all are so qualified ?) and I have a sneaking suspicion that my connections secured 2/3 of them. One of them is with my undergraduate institution where the professors all know me, and for the other, a professor I worked with closely throughout my undergrad personally called my POI there and sung my praises. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with amazing people!

Otherwise, my CV is a little weird in that I have been first author of 6/7 of my conference posters/presentations. It's taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on my end, but it may have paid off now. I also had multiple graduate students and trusted faculty review my statement of purpose before I submitted it and make lots of edits, so I'm sure that helped. Since my undergraduate Honours program is awesome, they also let us be teaching assistants during undergrad, so I have a year of teaching experience too. Other than that, I'm at a loss... you sound super qualified! Best of luck, I hope you get some invites coming your way soon!

I just have to contradict your negativity here. It's not "weird" or a fluke that you have 6 1st author conference posters/presentations and a year of TAing. It's awesome and shows how capable you are. Don't diminish your accomplishments. And if tons of people sung your praises and reviewed your materials, it's because they believe you belong in a graduate program. 

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1 minute ago, Hk328 said:

I just have to contradict your negativity here. It's not "weird" or a fluke that you have 6 1st author conference posters/presentations and a year of TAing. It's awesome and shows how capable you are. Don't diminish your accomplishments. And if tons of people sung your praises and reviewed your materials, it's because they believe you belong in a graduate program. 

Awe, you are so kind! This forum is really unique in that regard, we all are trying to lift each other up. This is something I've struggled with, and these words are much needed with interviews right around the corner! I want to pass this along to everyone else as well. There may be reasons why you don't think you're worthy of your accomplishments (e.g., I likely feel this way because I am a younger applicant), but it's important to own them nonetheless! You all deserve these opportunities! :) 

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I know how nerve-wrecking this process is. I was in your shoes last year. And now I'm freaking out about externship applications lol (it never really ends). But yes, even statistically speaking, the odds are stacked against applicants. That means that if you get an interview, it's because you deserve it. Be confident and proud of these accomplishments. You guys all kick butt and will end up where you belong. Good luck everyone ❤️!

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I didn't mean to imply people get interviews purely because of connections. It's just a matter of there are TONS of good applicants and the connection is what gets you a second look. You're less of a chance than the next phenomenal app if their buddy recommended you. 

 

It's one of those things where if you get in somewhere competitive, you're qualified and fantastic! ....but on the flipside, people exactly as passionate, smart, hardworking as you didn't, for reasons out of their control. 

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This is my first time applying and I applied to 9 schools. So far I have 2/9 interviews and those interviews are for programs that are both in my top 3 (haven’t heard back from #1 yet). I only applied to faculty who have similar interests as me and because I’m currently in a neuropsych lab doing similar research to what I hope to be doing in grad school, my PI and another mentor who’s junior faculty did know a decent amount of PI’s I was applying to. For one school, I do think my PI played a large role in helping myself and the other R.A. in our lab get an interview bc it’s a top program/the faculty is good friends with my PI/I’ve met him already casually through a happy hour. For the other school, I think it’s mostly because we have overlapping interests but not exactly the same. I have a very low undergrad gpa (3.2) and strong gre scores besides quant. I also have 5 poster presentations, 2 manuscripts either in revision or under review (I’m 2nd author on one), and 1 chapter in prep where I’m first author. In my case, bc I’m interested in neuropsych, having assessment skills is a huge plus on my application. Coming in with a skill that they would otherwise need to teach you gives you an edge. Also, I know they say it doesn’t really matter, but I would always recommend emailing the PI’s prior to submitting applications. I did that and one of my PI’s offered me an informal phone interview back in September and now that is my other interview. 

As everyone else has said, it really is a crapshoot. Based off what other people are saying, this does seem like a very competitive cycle. Good luck!! 

 

Editing to add that I graduated undergrad in May 2017 & have been working in the same lab since. I had a research assistantship during undergrad and also was able to do clinical work in a different population than what I’m interested in but given the population, I think it really helped my application. 

Edited by hopefulgrad2019

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So far I have only gotten an interview at what I considered one of my reach schools. They are very enthusiastic which I still find astounding, and in this case it definitely has to do with research fit. I had one school where my current POI knew the POI I am applying to and while they haven’t officially sent interviews yet, I don’t think it’s looking good for me and I really thought I had a chance there based on my experience and fit. So for me I say you never know. In most cases we are applying to individual real people who have their own opinions on what makes a good grad student it really depends on what they see in your application that maybe others don’t.

Edited by Psyhopeful

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What are your GREs and what schools did you apply to?

Make sure your letters of recommendation are from people who know you really well and are writing stellar letters. I don't think they necessarily need to know anyone there, but from working on the other side of the review process, there are very specific key words in letters that signal differences in quality among candidates that you only really notice after reading hundreds of these LORs.

That said, what are your GREs and what schools did you apply to?

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I would agree that connections play a large role in the application process. I know of (many) successful applicants in the past/current cycle who did not have 20 pubs, subpar GPAs, etc, but have given their soul to well-established POIs in the field for the past however many years prior to applying.

i think ultimately as a POI, it is very difficult to pick a grad student from hundreds of deeply committed/passionate and, if I may say, overqualified candidates. Even if someone looks AMAZING on paper and the credentials are second to none, he/she may still be a psychopath who you won't want to deal with for the next 5 years. So ultimately you fall on the LOR assessments and if that LOR writer is someone that you already know and whose opinion you deeply respect, then clearly you are more likely to judge this candidate favorably.

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If i might share my edgy take, its your talent (in any way, grades, scientific potential, commitment to research, test taking and/or interpersonal) that gets you the interview, but I think what gets you IN (if you're not a total publishing superstar) is your connections. Anyone who's been around the circuit for long enough to acquire that CV has connections of some sort, I don't think there's a way to get that far without being well networked in this small scene. 

Edited by higaisha

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I don’t think it’s possible to predict how important connections are for admissions. Of course they can help, but it isn’t a given, and isn’t necessary for acceptance. 

I only had connections at two of the programs I applied to, and I was rejected from both (without even an interview at the program where I had the most solid connections). But I was interviewed and accepted by several faculty who hadn’t met or even heard of my past PIs. You never know what will happen with this process.

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51 minutes ago, higaisha said:

If i might share my edgy take, its your talent (in any way, grades, scientific potential, commitment to research, test taking and/or interpersonal) that gets you the interview, but I think what gets you IN (if you're not a total publishing superstar) is your connections. Anyone who's been around the circuit for long enough to acquire that CV has connections of some sort, I don't think there's a way to get that far without being well networked in this small scene. 

I disagree with this take.

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I haven't had my interview yet (it's this Friday at Texas A&M), but speaking as someone who felt they wouldn't be getting any interviews this round due to less-than-stellar GRE scores, I would like to say that it's my research fit with my POI and my letters of rec that have helped me land at least one interview thus far! It's not that you're not qualified, that's the exact problem actually, this field is filled with thousands of highly qualified individuals all vying for very few spots. Even if something happens and you don't get accepted this round, don't lose hope, you deserve to be here just as much as everyone else does. 

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On 1/11/2019 at 9:34 AM, WhatLikeItsHard said:

So, alas, I'm starting to think I won't get accepted this cycle, as 4/7 schools I applied to reached out to individuals already for interviews. For those that have interview offers, can you tell me VERY vaguely (i.e. You definitely don't need to say "I worked with ______ for three years at _____") about your work experiences, match with faculty, etc.?

I'm asking because I graduated with a fairly high GPA, have two years of research experience, two years of clinical experience, one year of teaching experience, a published paper, I was president of a mental health organization at my college, and I had thought both my research experiences methodology-wise and goal-wise fit well with faculty. But it seems like there is something lacking in my application, and I am trying to plan for how to address it for the next cycle.

Do you feel like you have depth in a subject instead of breadth? Do you feel a faculty member is interested in your work because it is similar to their own or because you may bring something new to the table? Any answers are welcome!! Thank you. :)

Hi! Please take everything I say with more than one grain of salt. This is my first time applying, so I virtually know nothing about the application process. However, I do have two interviews, and I would like to share my experience with that.

To start off, I applied to many schools. Fifteen to be exact. All of these schools have faculty whose work I'm interested in to significant degree. Some are a perfect match, and others were overlapping interests without being exact. Some schools who have already sent out invites were where I had pretty close research interests but was not offered an interview. Some schools have not sent out invites, so I don't know yet. However, the two invitations I have received have been schools where I applied to faculty whose interests overlapped with mine, but the research match was not exact. 

I have a pretty high GPA, better than average GRE scores, BUT I only have one conference presentation, one year of research experience, no pubs, no network connections, no clinical experience, did not reach out to POIs before submitting, and I graduated from a university that is not well-known. So, I think my invites have been because they believe I can add something new to their research lab. I can't say for sure.

The process is very individual. You are a very qualified applicant. I would argue definitely more qualified than me. However, you never know what a POI is exactly looking for. Also, we don't know you, your application, or your personal situation. We can give you advice on the forum, but we only know so much. I suggest you talk to your mentor or professors/PIs you know in the field and ask them for feedback on your application. If you had contact with any POI at the schools you applied to, ask them for feedback as well. These are the people who can really help you strengthen your application. For some people, it also helps to apply to a wide range of programs. 

BUT, there is still a possibility you receive good news from the 3 other schools! Don't lose hope :) Regardless of the outcome, you are qualified and worthy. Remember it often takes more than one try to get in!

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One thing is clear: We will never know the magic formula. And every single program/POI has its/his/her own magic formula. For some programs, a committee decides and your POI (as much as she/he may want you) has zero say. For other programs, the POI is the boss and can do whatever the heck she/he wants, and brings in as many graduate students as he/she wants due to their own ability to secure lots of funds (Worked for one of these in the past, this is a very specific example lol).

@PsychWannabee's experience is very different than @hopefulgrad2019's, and these are two very realistic situations. @InfiniteLoop's questions are suggesting that GRE has a big say, but for the programs I got invites to, GREs clearly are irrelevant (my/ some of my co-applicant colleagues GREs are/were below-average garbage ;)). 

This process sucks. Too many unchecked methods/biases/processes involved, in my opinion, that we as applicants cannot control. Did I mention the process sucks?

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To those who have been invited/accepted - do you believe that relevant clinical experience or relevant research experience holds more sway over the other? (i.e. if you had to pick).

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2 minutes ago, EileanDonan said:

To those who have been invited/accepted - do you believe that relevant clinical experience or relevant research experience holds more sway over the other? (i.e. if you had to pick).

Depends on the program and where they fall on the clinical/research spectrum. My PsyD programs have been far more impressed by my clinical rather than research experience, understandably. Some of the balanced PhD programs like clinical experience. Obviously the APCS schools will REALLY prefer research experience.

Edited by dancedementia

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