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Somebody help me please!! especially neuroscience and psychology majors, clinical psychology in the B school or neuroscience in the prestigious school


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I am in between two options:

1) It is a B school, Clinical Psychology PhD, it is 120something in the rankings, it is a good, decent school and is known well in Texas are though not very prestigious, gives funding around $15000/year. The faculty and people were really nice in the interview, but the research facilities are not that good, there might be some funding and recruiting people for the study issues. The area is 1hr drive to Dallas, it is a relatively small town. The professor over there really wants to get me into the program and I will probably get a lot of individual attention with a strong mentorship model.

2) It is definitely an A school, it is Neuroscience PhD, 20 in the rankings, has a huge reputation nationwide, has great research facilities, and it is in Dallas(which is a place I would prefer to live over the other and I already live here). Stipend is also much better, it is around $28000/year. Huge faculty size, though since they are all very high reputation people, not much individual attention as opposed to the other school.

You might be thinking 'are you crazy, it is better school and better paying and in big city so why are you even considering the other?'

OK, here is the answer, clinical psychology is what I am more passionate about, if I go to neuroscience, it is really in basic science and molecular level, and I am going to be working all day in a lab with rats and molecules, which is really not my thing. Actually I am finishing my masters in neuroscience this year and I really enjoyed the program, it is not that I do not like neuroscience, it is just I like working with actual people and I do not want to lose the human contact. My interest is more in that way too, I like focusing on the social side of events, reducing people to molecules and rats is too reductionistic to me. And another thing is if I go for neuroscience, there would not be an option other than academia and research life long. What if I want to have my own business? If I go to clinical psychology PhD, I will always have that option available.

On the other hand, the Neuroscience PhD in the top school could open me many doors and a bright career and I might have an option to continue post doc or do research in Ivy leage universities.

One other thing is, I dont have much of a background in basic science (molecular level and laboratory work wise), so if I go to that Neuroscience Phd, I am supposed to work very very hard in order to close the gap between me and other people coming from more molecular level working backgrounds.

Please help me somebody, I never imagined making a decision would be that hard! I just go back and forth between the two and can not make my decision!!!

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I'd say that the first thing you need to do is contact someone at school #2 and find out whether an internal transfer between neuroscience and clinical psychology would be permitted. At many schools, both fall under the aegis of a psychology department, and people recognise that students' interests can change over time. Switching programs may be no more difficult than changing advisors.

#1 sounds okay, but not hugely promising. If switching programs at #2 turns out not to be an option, I would simply take a year off (or maybe give the neuroscience thing a try to see how it goes?) and reapply to clinical programs next year.

Best of luck!

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I am in between two options:

OK, here is the answer, clinical psychology is what I am more passionate about, if I go to neuroscience, it is really in basic science and molecular level, and I am going to be working all day in a lab with rats and molecules, which is really not my thing. Actually I am finishing my masters in neuroscience this year and I really enjoyed the program, it is not that I do not like neuroscience, it is just I like working with actual people and I do not want to lose the human contact. My interest is more in that way too, I like focusing on the social side of events, reducing people to molecules and rats is too reductionistic to me. And another thing is if I go for neuroscience, there would not be an option other than academia and research life long. What if I want to have my own business? If I go to clinical psychology PhD, I will always have that option available.

On the other hand, the Neuroscience PhD in the top school could open me many doors and a bright career and I might have an option to continue post doc or do research in Ivy leage universities.

One other thing is, I dont have much of a background in basic science (molecular level and laboratory work wise), so if I go to that Neuroscience Phd, I am supposed to work very very hard in order to close the gap between me and other people coming from more molecular level working backgrounds.

Please help me somebody, I never imagined making a decision would be that hard! I just go back and forth between the two and can not make my decision!!!

Few things stand out from your posting:

a) that there is no comparing Clincal Psy and Neuro - one rocks and the other sux.

b)people are kwel, while molecules and lab rats are oh, hum.

c) Clinical Psy - possibility of starting own biz, Neuro - post-doc and research = more molecules and lab rats, even if they are housed in fancy-schmancy Ivy schools

d) You say you are finishing your Masters in Neuro - did you not get to bone up on molecular and lab work already? If you think Neuro is just *okay* (ie. oh hum) after doing your masters and it does not engage you enough, then a PhD with limited PI guidance will become rough ride, JMHO.

Is it possible to change to Clinical program at School #2 like psycholinguist suggests?

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Few things stand out from your posting:

a) that there is no comparing Clincal Psy and Neuro - one rocks and the other sux.

b)people are kwel, while molecules and lab rats are oh, hum.

c) Clinical Psy - possibility of starting own biz, Neuro - post-doc and research = more molecules and lab rats, even if they are housed in fancy-schmancy Ivy schools

d) You say you are finishing your Masters in Neuro - did you not get to bone up on molecular and lab work already? If you think Neuro is just *okay* (ie. oh hum) after doing your masters and it does not engage you enough, then a PhD with limited PI guidance will become rough ride, JMHO.

Is it possible to change to Clinical program at School #2 like psycholinguist suggests?

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Few things stand out from your posting:

a) that there is no comparing Clincal Psy and Neuro - one rocks and the other sux.

b)people are kwel, while molecules and lab rats are oh, hum.

c) Clinical Psy - possibility of starting own biz, Neuro - post-doc and research = more molecules and lab rats, even if they are housed in fancy-schmancy Ivy schools

d) You say you are finishing your Masters in Neuro - did you not get to bone up on molecular and lab work already? If you think Neuro is just *okay* (ie. oh hum) after doing your masters and it does not engage you enough, then a PhD with limited PI guidance will become rough ride, JMHO.

Is it possible to change to Clinical program at School #2 like psycholinguist suggests?

thank you for the replies!!

OK the thing is a switch between two departments sounds not very probable, since they are totally under different divisions, neuroscience is under division of basic science and clinical psychology is under division of clinical science, so basically they are not very related at all

And about working in a lab, in my neuroscience training I did not do any bench level lab work, the project I work in is human based, like neuropsychology and fMRI(which I like doing). So here is a thing, I have this gut feeling that I am not meant to work in a lab dealing with molecules and rats, but actually I have never tried it, so I can't really tell if I would like it or hate it, but what if I hate it?

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so in the Neuro program you will not be doing similar neuropsych and/or fMRI work? You have to do molecular stuff?

about working with mice and rats - you say your gut says you were not meant to work with them - hmmm. Will you feel queasy about sacking them? or injecting them while they squirm around and try to bite you? Do subQ? If you still at school, you might want to mosey over to a molecular/lab rat setup and spend some time there and watch the proceedings, to get an idea. Also the smell :lol:

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Of you've never done molecular or behavioral neuro don't go into a neuro program where you would be stuck doing that. That just sounds too risky (in terms of dropping out or worse...) IF However there is a strong human/clinical research component (have you looked into that at all), I would go for the better reputation PhD over the less paid, less renowned clinical PhD. Then again, I'm not squeamish of animal work, I think research is THE SHIT, and I'm getting a PhD, not an MD or clinical degree, because I don't want to work with people all day.

Also, what is this notion about individual attention? Every PI is different, regardless of the school.

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hmmm pseudoscience vs science

easy choice to me

This is pretty absurd. Hope you never develop depression or another psychiatric illness that requires you to turn to those pseudoscientific quacks!

OP, as other people have said, neuro programs are usually pretty interdepartmental. Can you really not rotate or join an fMRI/psychiatry lab at the second school? It wouldn't be a clinical psych degree, but you would be doing research that hopefully interests you more. If this is possible, I think the only reason you should choose school 1 is if you really don't want to stay in academia, but just want to see patients.

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hmmm pseudoscience vs science

easy choice to me

Alex don't make me smack you over the internet. Might I remind you that many, many neuro faculty hold joint appointments in psychology departments (including at the schools that we both interviewed for).

That said...clinical psych versus neuroscience are two really different paths. I cannot even imagine applying to both types of programs in the same application cycle, there are just such different goals for each. I am definitely a research person, but I do come from clinical research, and I can't imagine switching totally to molecular bio stuff and animal models. The neuro programs I picked all had human work going on. I think it would be an even bigger stretch if I actually wanted to do clinical work.

I say go with your gut about what kind of career you really want. Clinical gives you more flexibility but there are more hoops to jump through with training (internship placement primarily). Would you be ok with the compromise of doing research with clinical populations? If so, and the neuro program has human work going on, that might be a good fit. If you don't feel like that's quite enough, I would either attend the clinical program or reapply next year to a wider range of clinical programs so that you get into one you like more.

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Alex don't make me smack you over the internet. Might I remind you that many, many neuro faculty hold joint appointments in psychology departments (including at the schools that we both interviewed for).

That said...clinical psych versus neuroscience are two really different paths. I cannot even imagine applying to both types of programs in the same application cycle, there are just such different goals for each. I am definitely a research person, but I do come from clinical research, and I can't imagine switching totally to molecular bio stuff and animal models. The neuro programs I picked all had human work going on. I think it would be an even bigger stretch if I actually wanted to do clinical work.

I say go with your gut about what kind of career you really want. Clinical gives you more flexibility but there are more hoops to jump through with training (internship placement primarily). Would you be ok with the compromise of doing research with clinical populations? If so, and the neuro program has human work going on, that might be a good fit. If you don't feel like that's quite enough, I would either attend the clinical program or reapply next year to a wider range of clinical programs so that you get into one you like more.

(ok came off a bit harsh) I guess I was just saying whether or not you want to solely use the scientific method. I find clinical to have less substance than experimental based psychology. But I'm biased =)

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Neuroscientists don't reduce people to rats; they use animal models that are close to some system they want to study in humans to study a phenomenon in rats. Also, some neuroscientists work directly with human subjects. My psychology department has social neuroscience and many (most?) of my colleagues in NS work with human subjects (mainly with fMRI). Do any of the neuroscience advisors at School #2 work with human subjects? Is there an opportunity for you to do social neuroscience, or even work with a clinical psychologist and a neuroscientist jointly to create a social/clinical neuroscience specialization for yourself?

However, if you want to be a clinician and work more directly with people, then you need to go to the clinical psychology program. I think you should only consider the "what ifs" if they are likely to happen. Do you want your own business? Does the idea of counseling people for a living (or even on the side) sound like a good one? (You also may be able to retrain as a neuropsychologist with a neuroscience degree; you can then see patients.) It's great to have options but they only matter if you actually like those options.

I think if your background were not strong enough the program would not have accepted you, so I wouldn't worry *too* much about that. It's probably at the point where you may have to take a few classes to beef up, but you should be fine.

I personally would definitely go to school #2 and find a way to make it work. The funding is better, the reputation is better, you'd have a good chance at working in academia afterwards. But then again, working with rats sounds interesting to me - been trying to find a way to inject some neuro into my social health life, lol - and I have no interest in treating clinical populations.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you everybody!

I just wanted to let you know I finally made my decision, I decided to give a try to neuroscience and see how it goes, and to find a way to make it work for me. I just realized that I am not that passionate about counseling people for a life and might do better as a scientist. We'll see, best of luck to everyone!

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OK something really weird happened

Yesterday I turned down the offer of school 1, and afterwards I felt extremely uncomfortable, I just felt that pressure in my chest, the gut feeling telling me I am doing something wrong. And today I checked my email again, and I saw the professor from School 1 sent me an email saying I would like to check in with you for the last time before I give your offer to someone else because I have the feeling that you are more interested in clinical psychology. And after I saw that email, I immediately called the Prof back and said I am still unsure and I would like couple more days to think about.

So I cant help it, my gut feeling tells me I should go for clinical psychology, would it be so idiotic of a decision to turn down the offer of the big school for the sake of doing something you really want in a relatively smaller but a decent school?

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One of the ways I decide on stuff is to flip a coin... Not to rely on chance, but to see how happy or disapointed I am about the result. If you feel that pinch saying "oh no, I wish it turned out to be the other side..." then follow your gut feeling!

I would personnaly go for clin psy over neurosci anytime. Clinical psychology can lead to very interesting research, you don't have to become a counselor, but it's nice to keep that option! Plus the understanding of the person is generally so much more hollistic, which allows you to consider so many different aspects in your research. And the unique mentoring you would get in the clin psy program sounds really attractive...

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years? How would each program support your development? These to me are more important questions than the ranking of the universities...

Good luck with you decision, and keep us updated!

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Just an update, I finally made my official decision which is going to PhD in Neuroscience in my dream school, and I feel so relieved. This decision feels so right right now and I don't even know why I doubted that much. Hope everybody else feel the same way I do with their decisions at this point!

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