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Options regarding when to apply to PhD programs? Please Read.


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So, I am currently in a master's program and my goal is to gain admission into a clinical psychology program (to specialize in Neuropsych). However, I JUST landed an RA position to gain research experience (my master's is not research, it's more clinical emphasis). I got my BA this past summer '19.

Option A: Apply to PhD programs this fall (2020), where I'll be in the lab for 10 months by the time I submit my apps (1 yr & 7 mo. by the time I matriculate). I will also most likely be able to get LORs from professors at my master's program.

Option B: Apply to PhD programs next fall (2021), where then I'll be in the lab for 1 yr & half by the time I submit apps (2 & half years by the time I matriculate). Extend my MA graduation until spring 2022 (i can slow down the course load, it's not a problem from that side), so then I can still get LORs from professors within the program in addition to my PI.

Option C : Same as B except that I will finish my MA in spring 2021 & spend the rest of gap years doing just my RA position alone. 

So I am considering the plans above, I obviously would prefer option A (the quicker the better). However, I am just not sure on two things 1) if PhD programs would calculate "research experience" by what you have by the time you apply or by the time you matriculate? I am afraid that 10 months into my RA position would not be taken seriously (also for an LOR request from PI!). 2) If I went by option C, then I am afraid that i will run into an LOR dilemma. Sure by that time my RA PI can give me one (which is the most important I believe), but what about the other two? can I reach out to my MA professors a handful of months after taking their courses to request LOR? is that common or do you think its inappropriate? Also, I would like to add that I already have a year and half of undergraduate RA experience if that also counts!

I would like your insights on which plan is a "usual" plan and also which is most favored or the least problematic!

Thank You all,

Yoyo

Edited by yoyo1995
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I would go with option C. Clinical psych is very very competitive. There is no magic number for years/months of research experience. However, admissions committees only play attention to what you have at the time of admissions because that is the data they have. More important than the amount of research experience is the quality of research experience. Most notably, they want to see you have presented posters at conferences (regional are ok, national are better) and maybe even have your name on one or more publications. All research experience is not created equal. Doing data entry is very different from helping with grant writing, research design, etc. 

As far as LORs, make sure to forge strong connections with some faculty before graduating. I was out of my master's for 3 years when I applied to clinical psych programs, but I had developed good relationships with my thesis committee over my time there, so they were happy to write me good LORs even years later. 

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16 hours ago, PsyDuck90 said:

I would go with option C. Clinical psych is very very competitive. There is no magic number for years/months of research experience. However, admissions committees only play attention to what you have at the time of admissions because that is the data they have. More important than the amount of research experience is the quality of research experience. Most notably, they want to see you have presented posters at conferences (regional are ok, national are better) and maybe even have your name on one or more publications. All research experience is not created equal. Doing data entry is very different from helping with grant writing, research design, etc. 

As far as LORs, make sure to forge strong connections with some faculty before graduating. I was out of my master's for 3 years when I applied to clinical psych programs, but I had developed good relationships with my thesis committee over my time there, so they were happy to write me good LORs even years later. 

Yes I actually have been eyeing that option since that way I won't have to stay an extra year in the MA (save money! the MA is meant to be done in 1.5-2 years). Also, 10 months into the lab I probably won't have that much done. In terms of quality, during the interview they emphasized on intellectual independence. I also had a chat with the RA there (it will only be 2 of us) and she mentioned that most of the time they get her involved in grant writing, data analysis, and co-authorship (of course that's even aside from the clinical duties such as interviewing and assessments). So from the quality of research, I feel optimistic; just maybe it takes a while to get on track. Therefore, I reasoned that I should just push it for next cycle.

 

Thanks for your input!

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