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FeministPsychologist

Reflections & Advice for Future Applicants

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Hi all,

I wanted to start a thread to allow us all to share our thoughts and reflect on this application cycle now that it is almost over. This was my second time applying to Counseling Psychology programs, and I know that I have learned a lot about myself (and the ridiculous admissions game) through this process. 

To give you a bit of background, my first application cycle, I applied to 6 programs (all CounPsy) and though I had a mix of preliminary and in-person interviews for 4 of them, I was eventually rejected from all. I was devastated, and literally had mental breakdowns every few days. So, I really understand the struggle of having to wait, but never getting the news you want. 

This time, I applied to 17 programs (yeah I know, it is a lot!). I interviewed at 9 - one of them being a School Psychology Ph.D. program - and out of those, ultimately was rejected from 1, waitlisted at 1, and received offers from 7.

Based on my experience, I want to share a few thoughts and pieces of advice: 

  1. Rejections do not determine your self-worth. Please do not feel like you are not qualified/smart/unique enough if you did not get in. I say this because my first time applying was last year, and I have not really gained any more relevant experience since then. I didn’t even change my personal statement besides 2-3 sentences. I improved my interview skills a little bit, but the big difference was where I applied. Which brings me to #2.
  2. Last time, I was picky about location/perfect fit. This time, I chose to apply to places where I would actually bring something new to the lab/POI, and I was flexible about location as well. You might think “I would never go here”, but sometimes the interview will change your mind. That happened to me with multiple programs this time. So my advice for both new applicants and applicants who are applying again, is that do not be stuck to one area if it’s possible. Of course, family/partner relocation and finance might be something you have to consider with this.
  3. Submit apps early! I submitted materials a month in advance in case I missed anything. Of course, if this is not financially possible for you, then try to review the checklist of materials for each school multiple times. This will give you enough of an idea to fix something if needed. 
  4. If you can’t afford to interview in person, don’t. Out of my 9 interviews, I did 6 over Skype/phone (although one of them didn’t have in person interviews). I was accepted to 5/6 of the programs I interviewed at on Skype, and 2/3 for the ones in-person. In fact, one of the programs strongly discouraged Skype interviews, and still ended up accepting me in the first round. This goes to show that your interviewing skills can sometimes matter more than your in-person presence. And if you do get in, you can always visit during dates that are more convenient/cost-effective as well.
  5. Be proud of yourself for completing and submitting your applications. That is a difficult task in itself. If you got to the interview stage, congratulations on that as well. No matter what the result, don’t give up on your dream of getting a Ph.D.

I hope this reflection can be insightful to folks in some way. If you would like to ask any questions, I’d be happy to answer! 

It would be awesome if all of the wonderful Ph.D. applicants out here could share their reflections as well :) I’m sure you all could bring much more to this conversation! 

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Hi! I think this is a great thread to have up and running, as I feel like we all have a few individual learning experiences that would be helpful to share for those applying next cycle.

In terms of background, I think it would be important to keep in mind that I am a Canadian applicant, so although I think what I have to say is pretty transferrable for all types of applicants, it might be different for those in the US/other countries. I also didn't apply to any Counseling/PsyD programs, and only applied to PhD Clinical Psychology programs. This was my first time applying; I applied to five schools and interviewed at two of them. I ended up with rejections from 4/5 schools and acceptance from one, which was my top choice so I accepted there without any hesitation. It was a pretty crazy ride but I think I learned a lot of valuable lessons that have really changed my perspective on the whole application process (for the better). See below:

  1. I echo @FeministPsychologist here and will say again that: rejections do not determine your self-worth and are not indicative of your potential, like at all. The fact that many Psychology applicants are rejected at multiple schools before being accepted somewhere speaks to this - capability is not mutually exclusive with rejection. The entire application process is so dependent on luck and at the end of the day, it all depends on how well you mesh with one person (i.e., your POI). Just because the fit's not there with them, doesn't mean that other supervisors would also feel the same way. The minute I stopped taking rejections so easily, my mental health surrounding the process was at such a better place. To all applicants applying next round, please remember this. Rejections happen to all of us, and will most likely happen given the competitive nature of this field. Shake each rejection off and don't take it personally - there are reasons why it didn't work out and those reasons could be anywhere from lack of funding at that school to your POI having someone else in mind from the get-go (which happen so often). Literally, look yourself in the mirror and say "rejections don't define me" until it sticks, LOL.
  2. Apply to as many schools and POIs as you can without sacrificing too much of your research interests.  This. Some would think I'm absolutely crazy for only applying to five schools (one POI at each lol), but unfortunately, my research area is extremely niche and I applied to the only schools in Canada that had researchers in my field. I ended up lucking out, however, there was a LOT of anxiety when 4/5 schools rejected me and my fate was hanging on one school LOL. This was extremely stressful, to say the least, so I recommend applying to as many schools as you can. However, I really don't recommend forfeiting your interests or making them so malleable that you lose what you really care about. Grad school is a long ride my friends, and it would suck to study something you don't care about. Which brings me to my next point...
  3. Make sure you REALLY want it before you apply. This application process is way too stressful to just do it to do it... If this wasn't the only career path I wanted, I would've opted out so quick LOL. Especially for clinical applicants, make sure your goals can't be achieved by pursuing other degrees like social work etc before applying. Make sure that the specific aims of a PhD Clinical Psychology program are what you really, really want. I think a lot of people go into these PhD programs with the thought process of that they can only work with clinical populations or deliver therapy with a Clinical Psych degree and that is so not true. If being a clinician is all you care about, opt for a psychotherapy program that's literally half the amount of years/effort. Your wallet and psyche will thank you, haha.
  4. This one (aside from the first) was probably the biggest lesson I learned - just because you know your POI personally, does not mean they owe you anything. At a few of the schools I applied to, I had already worked with the POI previously and developed a good working (and personal) relationship. I interviewed with some of them (ended up being rejected) and wasn't even given an interview opportunity by one of them. This was really hard for me to swallow at first, and made me doubt everything. If someone who knew me didn't want me, how would I get in with anyone else? But the thing is, just because you dedicated some volunteer time at a POI's lab doesn't mean they owe you anything - not even a second glance at your application. With an application process as competitive as this, that's literally just not possible to expect them to forfeit spots from other capable applicants to you, just because you already have a working relationship. Again, with the rejection piece, so many factors roll into this. They've already mentored you, so it's possible that they think there's nothing else to teach you. Or, simply, they just vibed with another applicant better. At the end of the day, each of these supervisors wrote and edited my SOPs as well as my funding applications, and all my references. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't think I was capable. As soon as I realized that, I stopped beating myself up. However, this was a really important piece to helping me re-conceptualize the entire application process.

Ok, rant over haha. At the end of the day, this is an extremely crazy and stressful process. Make sure you really want it before you apply and as said before, congratulate yourself for each application and each day you don't go crazy LOL. You can do this! 

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10 minutes ago, ventiamericano said:

This one (aside from the first) was probably the biggest lesson I learned - just because you know your POI personally, does not mean they owe you anything. At a few of the schools I applied to, I had already worked with the POI previously and developed a good working (and personal) relationship. I interviewed with some of them (ended up being rejected) and wasn't even given an interview opportunity by one of them. This was really hard for me to swallow at first, and made me doubt everything. If someone who knew me didn't want me, how would I get in with anyone else? But the thing is, just because you dedicated some volunteer time at a POI's lab doesn't mean they owe you anything - not even a second glance at your application. With an application process as competitive as this, that's literally just not possible to expect them to forfeit spots from other capable applicants to you, just because you already have a working relationship. Again, with the rejection piece, so many factors roll into this. They've already mentored you, so it's possible that they think there's nothing else to teach you. Or, simply, they just vibed with another applicant better. At the end of the day, each of these supervisors wrote and edited my SOPs as well as my funding applications, and all my references. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't think I was capable. As soon as I realized that, I stopped beating myself up. However, this was a really important piece to helping me re-conceptualize the entire application process.

Honestly, I do find it strange that the POI’s you had applied for and worked under previously treated you that way with the process, assuming that you felt that you had a close relationship with them 😕 If the POI felt the same way, there should have been a biased preference for you – that’s largely how this process works but nobody talks about.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, JoePianist said:

Honestly, I do find it strange that the POI’s you had applied for and worked under previously treated you that way with the process, assuming that you felt that you had a close relationship with them 😕 If the POI felt the same way, there should have been a biased preference for you – that’s largely how this process works but nobody talks about.

If that were the case, you would've just cracked open the application process. Like a motherload cheat for the sims, but for grad school LOL. In this scenario, why apply for grad school at all if you can just apply to RA in a lab, and then assume you'd come out with a PhD? Again, I'm a Canadian applicant so no idea if this is the wave in the states at all (you could be very much right). I have no hard feelings what so ever towards these supervisors and they were great mentors that prepared me for the next stage in my life nonetheless!

Edited by ventiamericano

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1 hour ago, JoePianist said:

Honestly, I do find it strange that the POI’s you had applied for and worked under previously treated you that way with the process, assuming that you felt that you had a close relationship with them 😕 If the POI felt the same way, there should have been a biased preference for you – that’s largely how this process works but nobody talks about.

Depends on the PI and their values as well, not all want to take their own students, and some will explicitly state so. If you're in some niche field where your skillset is hard to come across and your PI has basically trained you to work in their lab as a graduate student, of course they would want to take you, which is what you might be familiar with. More popular people in more popular fields have less of a problem finding qualified people to carry on their research, so I would think they have the least incentive to take on their own students. Might've been the case here.

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2 hours ago, JoePianist said:

Honestly, I do find it strange that the POI’s you had applied for and worked under previously treated you that way with the process, assuming that you felt that you had a close relationship with them 😕 If the POI felt the same way, there should have been a biased preference for you – that’s largely how this process works but nobody talks about.

I don't think @ventiamericano's POIs treated her in any way that was unfavourable, assuming that is what you mean. They were still willing to encourage and support throughout the application process. There are many factors that go into the decision process and although having connections seems pivotal, it's not a contract for future opportunities with the POI. I'm from Canada as well and I can't say it is largely how the process works here. It seems to be more transparent on what specific universities/programs are looking for and sometimes the decision is made by ad comm as opposed to the POI. It's hard to say what happened here, but I wouldn't assume programs allow for nepotism when it comes to admission.

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My biggest lesson this cycle: don't be afraid to turn down offers and try again next year (or the next, or the next). It's not a race to the finish line. There is nothing wrong with working another couple of years and reapplying if that means you will have better opportunities and less debt. This cycle, I was so caught up in the anxiety of "I need to get my career started NOW" that I applied to mainly unfunded schools and some schools that were, erm... indiscriminate about the folks they admitted. For some folks, those schools might be good fits. For me, I was trying to hard to get my career launched ASAP that I overlooked a ton of schools that would have fit my needs and research interests better. I had several offers from great schools that I just couldn't afford or weren't a good match for my career interests, and had to turn down.

And that's okay! I was talking to a friend the other day and she said this: I have a licensable master's. I could literally just keep applying every 2 years if I wanted the PhD that badly, until I got in. In the meantime, I can continue to get clinical and research experience. I don't need to take a giant step in the direction of my career - I can do it in baby steps if I need.

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Posted (edited)

My two penneth.

TL;DR:

Real-world experience + academic knowledge = displays passion for solving real problems for real people. It's hard to convince people you want to make a difference with words alone.

Look critically at the state of the field. Our writing sample asked us what the field of clinical psychology would look like in ten years. 

A gap year working in the field and getting more research experience can help mature you as an applicant.

Know your potential niche. If you're not reading much about your specialty in your spare time, are you really that interested? 

For PhD: establish a connection with potential mentors early. They need to feel certain there is a benefit to mentoring you, both academically and personally.

For PsyD: develop better responses than "I've always wanted to help people" and "I want to work with kids who've had trauma". I must have heard that answer twenty times. 

 

I offer the following colour about my experience for insight potential only.

I have two individual Bachelor of Science degrees in Applied Psychology (4.0) and Health Studies (Physician Assistant track, 3.87) from a small private university. My research experience is limited to a single directed study as an undergraduate, although I have worked on other directed studies such as technical writing. I have worked in mental health and substance abuse for 8 or so years in various roles, most recently as a counselor in a medication-assisted treatment facility for opioid use disorder. I'm 42. My GRE scores were very good; I could have improved the quantitative score but decided to stick with my first result from when I took it 3 years ago (I was considering applying to PA school). I applied late in the cycle as my on my references was sick. My first recommendation letter was from a PsyD I've known for 10 years. She taught me at undergrad, gave me an internship, employed me for 3 years, and has been a personal friend ever since. The second was from a PsyD who graduated from Nova. I her met when she joined me as a post-doc working for the first reference. The third was from a microbiology PhD who taught me the majority of my biological science classes during the PA track.

I had never applied before. I applied to a single programme this cycle and was accepted. I have a family and am tied to the area.

Given all this, it's hard to say what anyone else needs to do for acceptance.

I applied for a PhD programme with secondary consideration for PsyD. I suspect, but I cannot be certain, that they treated me as a straight-up PsyD applicant on interview day. My personal interview was not with a PhD mentor. This error was identified about 5 minutes in. We stopped and the interviewer made a phone call to the academic affairs director. I met with her and she asked me who I was interested in working with. She introduced me to the POI during the lunch break and we spent the entire time talking while he had lunch. We connected over research interests such as treatment efficacy and my experience working in opioid use disorder. He asked me to come and see him after the day was over. We talked further and he expressed interest in having me join his team and told me he'd review my file.

Nine days later he sent me an informal offer, with the formal offer following the next day.

The interview day itself was a lot of fun. I was extremely over-prepared, but that came from a considerable amount of personal reading and prior work experience. I have two major topics of research interest with identifiable basic and applied research goals that I could articulate easily. I am comfortable stating that my real-world experience lent me a good deal of confidence and allowed me to relax and be myself. It also encouraged me to take control of the day whenever I could, because if I had sat back, I'm certain I would be facing rejection.

That's my experience.

 

Edited by GDW

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I'm trying to react/like all of these responses, but apparently I've crossed my limit for the day <_<

9 hours ago, ventiamericano said:

Shake each rejection off and don't take it personally - there are reasons why it didn't work out and those reasons could be anywhere from lack of funding at that school to your POI having someone else in mind from the get-go (which happen so often). Literally, look yourself in the mirror and say "rejections don't define me" until it sticks, LOL.

This is so, so true! Thanks for bringing this up. 

1 hour ago, dancedementia said:

My biggest lesson this cycle: don't be afraid to turn down offers and try again next year (or the next, or the next). It's not a race to the finish line. There is nothing wrong with working another couple of years and reapplying if that means you will have better opportunities and less debt. This cycle, I was so caught up in the anxiety of "I need to get my career started NOW" that I applied to mainly unfunded schools and some schools that were, erm... indiscriminate about the folks they admitted. For some folks, those schools might be good fits. For me, I was trying to hard to get my career launched ASAP that I overlooked a ton of schools that would have fit my needs and research interests better. I had several offers from great schools that I just couldn't afford or weren't a good match for my career interests, and had to turn down.

Yes!! This is such a good point!! And we shouldn't feel bad about reapplying, nor do we owe an explanation to anyone about why we aren't starting immediately. 

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26 minutes ago, GDW said:

I had found this around last August/late summer and it was very helpful for my applications and planning

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My advice is to really seek out stellar people who will write really good LORs.  I did 8 interviews and most of the interviewers made a specific reference about something good that my LORs mentioned on my behalf.

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Posted (edited)

Ooh I love sharing things like this. I applied to cognitive programs, so if anyone is looking for experiences in that domain I'd be happy to chat. I don't know how different it is from clinical/counseling, but I imagine there's a lot of overlap and this is what I personally took from the process:

Research your POIs thoroughly, and have as solid of an understanding of your research interest as possible. I know sometimes you might still be figuring this out, but spending time thinking about this is never time wasted. It makes writing your SOP so much easier, and faculty are pretty good at telling when you have a genuine interest in the work and a good fit with their lab. The places I was accepted to were the places where my research interests fit best with the research interests of the POI, regardless of my current skillset/what I'd need to learn after arriving at the program. I think partly this is just because it makes it a lot easier to talk with the POIs about follow-up studies and you're more interested in papers they've probably read as well, so it's just easier to interview. My interviews at these programs felt more like conversations compared to the interviews at places where the research fit was still related, but a bit more of a stretch. Also be up front with POIs about your research interests, and don't try to change your interests to fit with the lab in the hopes it gets you an acceptance. You're going to be spending several years in this program, so you want to make sure you're doing work you enjoy. Also, they can tell a student who is truly passionate about what they do from one who isn't.

Make sure your letter of rec writers will be able to write you strong letters with specific examples of times you've demonstrated your abilities to be a competent researcher/student. Every POI I talked to mentioned the letter my lab director wrote for me, and while I'd like to say I got in all on my own I know that letter pulled some massive weight in my acceptances. Even some of my rejections mentioned it. My other letter writers were also very kind and wrote strong letters, but the specific examples my main writer was able to include were probably massively helpful.

What you think is your top choice might not be your top choice after visiting (and go on all the visits you can). I was so hyped for this one program I was applying to - it was my top choice from the beginning and I spent so much time reading the POIs papers and discussing research with them. The location was also wonderful and I was super excited to move there. I interviewed, got in, and was all set to go there. However then I visited a second program I was accepted to, and actually liked it better. They were more up-front about funding, understanding of student struggles, and just a very chill department overall. They produce great research and great researchers, and have a strong group for the area I research. The POI was also wonderful, and I had a very good feeling after visiting that program that I never would have gotten if I didn't visit and had just accepted program 1.

Talk with anyone in your current department who will advise you. Grad students, faculty you've worked with, faculty you haven't worked with, etc. Be respectful of their time because everyone is busy, but I asked for as many opinions as I could get. Current grad students helped me identify potential POIs, and also helped me go over offer letters and some of the things that I heard when visiting programs that I wasn't really sure how to interpret. It really helped, and brought up a lot of things I hadn't considered too.

There's a lot of luck and connections that go into this process. So as others have said, rejections don't determine your self worth. POIs talk to several students, and sometimes they might want to take all of them but just can't.

 

Edited by GradPerson

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Posted (edited)

Don't do it on your own. Like, PLEASE, don't go through this process on your own. I made this mistake. I did it because I didn't feel much support from the professor I was working with, BUT if I could do it again, I would find someone who did believe in me and wanted me to get into grad school. Find a professor who will read your statement, CV, etc. This will tremendously help your applications and your stress.

Reach out to POIs before you apply. I didn't do this, and definitely missed out on saving some time and money. I advise this because you never know if a POI's research is heading towards or away from your area of interest. I was super lucky in that I applied to someone who's research wasn't too close to mine, but after interviewing I found out they're starting new work with my population of interest. I REALLY wish I would have known that before I applied. Other POIs I interviewed with had their research heading down a completely different path– that could've been a good several hundred dollars saved. 

What you think is your top choice might not be your top choice after visiting (and go on all the visits you can). Copying @GradPerson verbatim because THIS. IS. SO. TRUE. When I first applied, the school I have now committed to I wasn't extremely excited about (for personal reasons). I fell in love with the program on my interview, and I honestly could not be more excited about attending in the Fall. I can't imagine going anywhere else.

BREATHE. Seriously.

Edited by PsychWannabee

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One thing I wish I had done was started much earlier, and really spent time researching programs and figuring out exactly what I wanted to study. I was late to the party in understanding that sometimes the people doing the research you want to do aren't in the department you think they're in. It was in the process of writing my statement that I started to see more clearly what I wanted to focus on and then I realized that some of my initial application choices weren't the best fit, and I needed to look elsewhere. It was near the end of the application season when I found that many of the people studying media effects on children were psychologists in communication departments. I'm so glad I discovered this because I was very successful with those applications, but I see all of the programs I could've applied to that might have also been great opportunities if I'd had more time.

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Make sure to reach out to all your POIs in some way before the application season begins. It's even better if you can meet them in person. I know that's not feasible for everyone, but say you're at a conference and a POI is there? Introduce yourself!! Ask if they're taking a student!

Also, don't be afraid to contact POIs outside of the core faculty if you're interested in their work. Some programs are very interdisciplinary and may not list all the POIs that can take students on the psych dept page. You can't always figure everything out with a google search. This also applies to grants and current projects. It never hurts to contact a POI and ask about future studies.

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On 3/28/2019 at 11:45 PM, FeministPsychologist said:

Hi all,

I wanted to start a thread to allow us all to share our thoughts and reflect on this application cycle now that it is almost over. This was my second time applying to Counseling Psychology programs, and I know that I have learned a lot about myself (and the ridiculous admissions game) through this process...

Thanks for the insight! I am curious, though, what do you mean when you said you applied to labs where could bring something "new to?" Additionally, how did you go about improving your interviewing skills?

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2 hours ago, PsychedforPsych2 said:

 I am curious, though, what do you mean when you said you applied to labs where could bring something "new to?"

I am not OP, but this would probably also be my biggest takeaway from a successful Round 2 of apps. Let's say you are interested in research topic X. If you apply to only labs that have X as a primary focus, you're going to be competing against every other applicant in the world who is also just as passionate about X as you are, and unfortunately, no matter how great your application is, it starts to become a game of chance in that scenario. Someone is probably going to edge you out based on a slightly better application or interview. On the other hand, if you apply to other labs who primarily study Y but perhaps did one project that included X or have been working in an area related to X, you can make a much more unique and convincing pitch that YOU are the one applicant who can bring this passion and experience for X to this lab that typically studies Y. 

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11 hours ago, PsychedforPsych2 said:

Thanks for the insight! I am curious, though, what do you mean when you said you applied to labs where could bring something "new to?" Additionally, how did you go about improving your interviewing skills?

For interviewing skills, I looked back to questions I was asked in the previous cycle and thought about which ones I could prepare for better, especially in regards to solidifying my research interests, potential dissertation topic, and designing a study. I struggled with those questions the most, personally, because it was hard not to sound like a jumble even if I mentally knew what to say. Additionally, I created a list of slightly random questions that I had seen in guides and on this forum so that it would be easier to answer unexpected questions, even if they weren't the same ones. I'd be happy to share my list :)

8 hours ago, buckeyepsych said:

I am not OP, but this would probably also be my biggest takeaway from a successful Round 2 of apps. Let's say you are interested in research topic X. If you apply to only labs that have X as a primary focus, you're going to be competing against every other applicant in the world who is also just as passionate about X as you are, and unfortunately, no matter how great your application is, it starts to become a game of chance in that scenario. Someone is probably going to edge you out based on a slightly better application or interview. On the other hand, if you apply to other labs who primarily study Y but perhaps did one project that included X or have been working in an area related to X, you can make a much more unique and convincing pitch that YOU are the one applicant who can bring this passion and experience for X to this lab that typically studies Y. 

Exactly what @buckeyepsych stated for the first question you had!

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9 hours ago, FeministPsychologist said:

For interviewing skills, I looked back to questions I was asked in the previous cycle and thought about which ones I could prepare for better, especially in regards to solidifying my research interests, potential dissertation topic, and designing a study. I struggled with those questions the most, personally, because it was hard not to sound like a jumble even if I mentally knew what to say. Additionally, I created a list of slightly random questions that I had seen in guides and on this forum so that it would be easier to answer unexpected questions, even if they weren't the same ones. I'd be happy to share my list :)

Exactly what @buckeyepsych stated for the first question you had!

That would be great if you are willing to share your list. Thank you!

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On 4/3/2019 at 9:57 AM, personallycentered said:

I had found this around last August/late summer and it was very helpful for my applications and planning

This is gold.

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To add to the point folks have made about making sure you really want it, I will say that two rounds of applications have taught me that it's definitely okay and probably even a benefit to take time off after you graduate and really think about what you want to do. 

Finishing my undergraduate thesis was so stressful and I can't imagine how I would have survived if I was applying at the same time. I first applied in the first round after I graduated and I was still so exhausted and jaded and just was not excited about the prospect of going back to school. Even though I didn't feel good about it, I submitted applications because I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing, but I didn't put my best effort in and didn't apply for funding and was unsurprised when I got all rejections. It was demoralizing and a huge waste of my time and money.

But, taking a second year off allowed me to rest and have some free time again. I was also able to keep working on some research from undergrad and eventually get them published and present at conferences, which were huge strengths on this round of applications. I also got a good job at a nonprofit on a contract, so I've been able to save and prepare for moving to my new school and I had experience in a professional environment which many fresh undergrads don't have. By the second round I was ready to go to school and found myself distracted at work thinking about research! Taking some time off can allow you to present yourself as more mature and committed to the program.

Also, apply to as many (relevant) schools as you have energy for and can afford. I only applied to three because I was also working full time while preparing applications, but it became clear pretty quickly that all my hopes were riding on one school. That's a super stressful position to be in (I was accepted thankfully), and I didn't realize how much the process came down to luck and how much I had stacked the odds against me. I wish I had applied to a few more schools and maybe branched out a little bit from my specific topic of interest.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/5/2019 at 8:55 AM, PsychedforPsych2 said:

That would be great if you are willing to share your list. Thank you!

Here it is! :)

  1. Why do you want to be pursue this field?
  2. What are your goals/how can a PhD help you attain your goals?
  3. What are you looking for in a graduate program?
  4. What interests you in our program specifically?
  5. What research are you interested in doing?
  6. If you were to design a study, what variables would you study and what methods would you use? (Usually they are wanting to get an idea of what you will do from start to finish).
  7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  8. What skills do you think will be helpful for completing a PhD?
  9. What challenges do you anticipate facing in graduate school? How will you handle these challenges?
  10. What are you looking for in an advisor?
  11. How have you shown initiative in your learning process?
  12. What was a difficult interpersonal experience you had in your life, while in your undergraduate or graduate program, and how did you deal with it?
  13. Name a time you failed to accomplish something.
  14. What did you learn from this experience?
  15. What is something that isn’t on your resume/CV, but you believe would be important for us to know?
Edited by FeministPsychologist

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After applying three times, I think the aspects of my application that made the biggest difference the time I got in were: 

  • Good undergrad GPA, GRE scores above 85th percentile, excellent LORs (ideally from people you have done research with, not just professors)
  • 8+ manuscript publications and 10+ conference posters (when I interviewed, most of my cohort that got in appeared to have this much)
  • Commitment to research in specific field - all my productive research projects and lab experiences have been specifically in my area of interest. I know a lot of people who have 4+ years of research experience like I had but not all necessarily in labs of their specific research interests. 
  • Networking with P.I.s at conferences (particularly in the summer and fall before your application cycle, let them know you will be applying to their specific lab, also I introduced and networked with as many graduate students in those labs as I could)
  • APPLY TO MANY PROGRAMS - I have talked to many grad students and the sweet spot looks to be about 10-13. That may seem like a lot, but with the amount of luck that goes into this process, you need to maximize your chances. It's pretty common to apply to that many and then only get like 3-5 interviews. I have seen lots of people with really good applications but they only apply to 3 schools, which lowers their chances by a LOT. 
  • Going off this, my PI asked me to pick a good selection of schools, with different "difficulty levels" of getting in. Obviously with PhDs all are competitive, but some are even more so. For example, some schools have around 700 applicants a year, whereas others have 300 (this could be because of location, renown, etc.). You should also consider average GPA, GRE, research experiences etc. of recent incoming classes and compare how you stand when you consider applying to schools. I picked a selection of schools from a variety of different difficulty levels (I used Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology for this and highly recommend). Keep in mind that if you want to get into a super competitive program - you might need even upto 5 years of post-grad research experience. Also even when ranking these schools PLEASE consider your research fit and interests. A school might match up with your GPA, GRE and have fewer applicants, but a PI will not interview you if your research interests don't fit pretty well. 

If you all have any questions about this feel free to PM me! When I asked PIs something they were looking for in potential grad students, something some of them said was "resilience". Academia can chew you up and spit you out in a lot of ways, so it's important to keep trying if this is your passion. Good luck everyone and don't lose hope!

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45 minutes ago, TrustingTheProcess said:

 

  • Commitment to research in specific field - all my productive research projects and lab experiences have been specifically in my area of interest. I know a lot of people who have 4+ years of research experience like I had but not all necessarily in labs of their specific research interests. 
  •  

This was talked about in another thread, but I want to see what you have to say about this. I have a niche interest and most of the schools that have labs working on it are top clinical programs. So, in addition to it being hard to get into a school to research what I want, it's also difficult to get research experience(who wouldn't want RA experience at one of the top programs). One of the PIs I interviewed with suggested that my best bet would be to get research experience in the techniques I want to use to pursue my niche interest, but maybe not the same topic (of course, same topic would be great, but it's just hard to find). Is this advice counter to the advice you've received?

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