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Developmental Psych PhD Programs


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Hey GradCafe,

I am a current junior looking to apply to developmental psych PhD programs next year. I currently am in a clinical psych lab focused on anxiety research and an applied developmental psych lab, both of which I’ve been in since freshman year. Unfortunately, since there’s a lot of grad students i haven’t been able to get a publication, nor do I think I’ll get one by the time I graduate. I’m hoping to join another lab in a few months to beef up my CV. My GPA is 3.95 and my major GPA is 4.0. I’m hoping to take the GRE in the spring. 

Some schools I’m looking at are:

- UW-Madison 

- College Park 

- Northwestern

- Hawaii

- University of Minnesota 

- University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) 

any advice for my application? I *might* consider taking a gap year to get even more experience but I’d love to jump into a PhD program right out of undergrad. 


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Are you getting to work on things like posters or presentations, either in the lab or on your own? Can you and are you planning to do an undergraduate senior thesis next year? Those would help boost your chances immensely. I went straight from undergrad to a PhD program with out a pub, but I did have an extensive track record of presentations, an undergrad honors thesis that was 100% mine from conception to IRB to analysis to final write up, a fair amount of relevant community service, and excellent writing skills. Most importantly, I had made a connection with my now PI well in advance of application season, so she knew who I was and how our interests aligned before I even sent my application over for review. Spend the next year for sure networking like mad, and try to get as many conference presentations and posters under your belt as you can - virtual conferences absolutely count!

If you still feel like a PhD is a stretch, there are many excellent Masters programs that will help you get the pubs and presentations that will get you into a PhD, and it can be an easier transition for some from undergrad to doctoral program - grad school is a whole different animal, so a Masters can be a good middle ground to ease you in. 

Lastly, many people take a 1-2 year gap year and go work as a paid RA or lab manager, which gives them many of the same opportunities to publication and presentation as a Masters without the classwork, and you may be able to get into a lab in or near the schools you would want for a PhD, helping you build your network even further. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

I second SocDevMum's note about working a gap year as a lab manager/paid RA. Often this gets you better experience than a Masters (and doesn't cost anything).

Also, what are you interested in studying? You might want to check out Ed Psych/Learning Sciences programs, depending on your area of focus...

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  • 1 month later...

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