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I am currently an undergrad, and will send in my first applications for Child/Clinical Psychology PhD programs next week. I graduate in May (2020) with a BA in Psychology, a BA English, and a minor in American Sign Language from the Honors College at my University. I have a 3.95 GPA, 154 in Quantitative, and a 157 in Verbal, and a 4.0 in writing on the GRE. I have been working in a child psych lab for nearly two years, and I have joined another child psych lab this August. I have one poster where I am third author, a poster submitted to SPP where I am first author, and another currently being proposed where I will be third author. I try to volunteer as much as I can and have been a part of PSI CHI for over a year. I know clinical psychology is the most competitive field. My GREs aren't great, and I don't have anything more than a few posters and lab experience. Applying is expensive and I currently have a list of 18 programs I am interested in. Am I wasting my money?

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18 is too many. I would narrow down to 10-12 where your match with mentors is highest. Any chance any of those posters can turn into a pub in progress or submitted? Posters by themselves aren’t great when papers are the gold standard. 
 

Your GRE could also be improved by ~9 points cumulatively to help you cross the 320 threshold that is often recommended for absolutely certainty that people who care about the GRE (which I’ll add is shrinking) don’t discount your application. The difficult thing is the only “objective” measurement of performance across applicants is GRE and (maybe) pubs, as GPA can vary widely in meaning between universities, as can volunteering and other stuff. 

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11 hours ago, Clinapp2017 said:

18 is too many. I would narrow down to 10-12 where your match with mentors is highest. Any chance any of those posters can turn into a pub in progress or submitted? Posters by themselves aren’t great when papers are the gold standard. 
 

Your GRE could also be improved by ~9 points cumulatively to help you cross the 320 threshold that is often recommended for absolutely certainty that people who care about the GRE (which I’ll add is shrinking) don’t discount your application. The difficult thing is the only “objective” measurement of performance across applicants is GRE and (maybe) pubs, as GPA can vary widely in meaning between universities, as can volunteering and other stuff. 

In other words, to answer the OP’s topic question: yes.

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My advice would be to wait a year and bulk up your experience for an application. Try to get higher scores on the GRE, you are most competitive with about 160 each on verbal and quant, and minimum 4.5 on AW. Try to publish a paper or do another kind of conference presentation that is not a poster (i.e. paper presentation, teaching workshop, etc.). Most importantly, narrow your research interests. Match with a PI/school is the most important thing at the PhD level. In my experience, it is unlikely that you are a good match for 18 programs if you have sufficiently narrowed your interests. I had a hard time even finding 10 that I matched with well. Taking a year to work on your application can give you an advantage in the long run and will give you more time to articulate exactly what it is you want to study.

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I agree with @humanisticPOV! I took a year off before starting my program and I highly recommend it - you will be more mentally ready for grad school with a year off and can use the time to get more research experience in terms of output (e.g., posters, pubs, workshops, etc.). There is absolutely no rush to get right into a program from undergrad and I would say most people find the adjustment easier with some time off between! It will only benefit you taking time off and likely reduce your anxiety (in my opinion, at least)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Were you really able to find 18 programs that are amazing fits for your research interest? No matter where you are in the process it seems like a mistake to apply to programs that you aren't excited about. That doesn't improve your chances of getting into the BEST program for you,  just your chances of getting into ANY program. For a commitment of this magnitude it's probably not the best plan to just throw spaghetti at the wall :).  

As far as applying or waiting, I say why not apply to your top 2-3 schools and see what happens? Not just the "top ranked" schools on your list, but the ones you are most excited about. You never know who might think you're a great fit this round, but doesn't next round? (this assumes you have the resources for 2-3 applications) 

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