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Psych Grad Life: Debates on day-to-day issues and future directions


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Hello everyone :)

After consulting with several other members (and derailing other topics¬†ūüėÖ), I would like to propose the¬†creation of an ongoing thread about the¬†trials and tribulations of psychology graduate students. So maybe we can make this a place where current or incoming grad students can talk about what's concerning them, what things they are enjoying in their grad journey, ask/offer advice to others, etc. I would like to propose we also touch upon things that come after graduation and the future of the field in general.

So what do you think? What are some day-to-day grad student life things you'd like to talk about with folks currently in a program?

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I don't know who else is currently applying to internship from clinical/counseling/school psych programs, but man has this month been exhausting. How are people feeling about their interviews/rankings?

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2 hours ago, PsyDuck90 said:

I don't know who else is currently applying to internship from clinical/counseling/school psych programs, but man has this month been exhausting. How are people feeling about their interviews/rankings?

For me, that's next year along with dissertation. Oof. I hope it went well for you.

How did you go about shortlisting your sites? Were all your interviews virtual?

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15 minutes ago, Psyche007 said:

For me, that's next year along with dissertation. Oof. I hope it went well for you.

How did you go about shortlisting your sites? Were all your interviews virtual?

I have a specific niche interest area, so I started by just searching the APPIC directory for sites that offer that type of training in states I wouldn't mind living in. Then I narrowed it down further by reviewing the brochures for each program. It was a very time consuming process, and I spent most of the summer before working on various internship app related things. 

All of my interviews were virtual, which was nice because I ended up with 12 interviews and most of them sandwiched within the first 2 weeks of January. No way I would have been able to swing that financially or temporally if they were in person.  

My advice: start drafting your 4 essays this spring (we had it integrated into some of our coursework) and begin thinking about your goals for internship and beyond. Having clearly defined short term and long term goals will make it much easier for you to identify internship programs which will meet those goals (and I think that was part of the reason why I got so many interviews--I only applied to sites that really fit with what I was looking for). 

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16 hours ago, SoundofSilence said:

What are some day-to-day grad student life things you'd like to talk about with folks currently in a program

So many things...

How does anyone live on these stipends that are less than the cost of living when we aren't allowed to take outside employment?

Balancing personal research and lab research/teaching/etc

Preparing for comprehensive exams

Surviving the publishing process

How do you decide whether or not to stay in academia or go the alt-ac route after graduation?

All the things!

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24 minutes ago, SocDevMum said:

How does anyone live on these stipends that are less than the cost of living when we aren't allowed to take outside employment?

Co-signing this question! Particularly for current students who are older and had to go from decent paying job and bills to below min. wage stipend yet still have bills...

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5 minutes ago, T.O.hopeful said:

Co-signing this question! Particularly for current students who are older and had to go from decent paying job and bills to below min. wage stipend yet still have bills...

Honestly, if I didn't have a spouse, I don’t think it would have been very manageable. 

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5 minutes ago, PsyDuck90 said:

Honestly, if I didn't have a spouse, I don’t think it would have been very manageable. 

ūüė©¬†definitely what I was thinking. As a single person already with a mortgage and other bills, the stipend amount + only allowed to work <= 10 hours a week is tough. But I haven't gotten in anywhere yet so this may not even be an issue I have to worry about!

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2 hours ago, T.O.hopeful said:

ūüė©¬†definitely what I was thinking. As a single person already with a mortgage and other bills, the stipend amount + only allowed to work <= 10 hours a week is tough. But I haven't gotten in anywhere yet so this may not even be an issue I have to worry about!

This is definitely a concern for most of us. However, there are some things you can try if you don't have the opportunity to have some support from a spouse or family - in Canada you can apply even after you get into the program to funding, and that might increase your stipend. Some programs have a "bonus" where if you get a lot of funding, they might add a percentage to top it off. Also working as an RA or TA can supplement your income. This is still a Canada thing, but some grocery stores have a discount day for students - it really ads up. I'm also a big couponer :)  

For emergencies, programs have bursaries or may be able to help you in some other ways. The unfortunate reality is that many grad students use loans or credit cards to cover some costs during the program. I wouldn't advise using a credit card, but a loan with good terms might also be an option.

If you are a native English speaker, there are platforms out there that link you with kids learning English and you could earn some money and make your own schedule. That might be a better way to increase your income without committing to a part-time job or adding the stress of a commute. 

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Oh and another thing that I heard from a grad student recently - there are some government roles with more flexible responsibilities that like hiring students and can work with you, particularly after the first year or so (where you have a ton of classes), to find a good schedule. This can also help clarify the issue of staying in academia or not after graduation - you can see how you work in a gov environment and also can build up your network. These positions seem a better match for students in purely research programs, I think for clinical it might be more tricky.

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On 1/25/2022 at 1:53 PM, SoundofSilence said:

Also working as an RA or TA can supplement your income

My program (and all the ones I ever applied to) funded your stipend through a TA or RA position, so there's no supplementing option. And when I say no outside work is allowed, I mean nothing that will send you a W2 or 1099 (in the USA) at the end of the year.  I'm at a public uni, so my contract for my stipend is literally with the state, and if I'm busted working elsewhere I lose my funding. So unless I'm working for cash under the table, side jobs are a no-go... I am lucky enough to be married, and have teenagers that work for their own spending money, but even with that the cost of living here is killing us and I need to take out a certain amount of loans to keep a roof over our heads.  Academia cares nought for the basic survival of it's graduate workers.

 

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On 1/25/2022 at 11:01 AM, PsyDuck90 said:

Honestly, if I didn't have a spouse, I don’t think it would have been very manageable. 

I resonate with this statement immensely as someone with a partner who doesn't make a ton of money in her job, but still makes enough for us to get by. Also getting married meant I had the benefit of joining her insurance plan which was significantly better than my university's plan. 

 

Playing devil's advocate, I am not really sure how things are going to change unless we somehow burn down the whole system and start over. PhD students, while a source of invaluable labor to the university, are also fundamentally students IMHO because they are at the university to obtain a product: a PhD. This means the university has to hire faculty, hire admin to support the faculty, etc. to make sure PhD students (and undergrads, too) get an education. Don't even get me started on masters degree students... that is the university's cash cow, for sure. 

 

I still think we PhD students are woefully underpaid for the amount of work we put in, and I will be honest in saying that I have a couple of side-hustles only because the grad government at my university made the university wave that requirement a long time ago through a negotiation that ended a strike. These are small side-gigs (e.g., portrait photography) that are also my hobby, so it's a nice way to supplement my terrible income in my high CoL area. The sad thing is if I went full-time and really invested in launching a portrait business (or wedding photography) I could possibly earn nearly double a post-doc salary in just a year or two with the right photography connections and marketing... *sigh* 

 

I really hate academia. Even with a pretty successful research run during my PhD, I fully plan to obtain a clinical job at a VA or academic med center where I can make a decent salary after post-doc and not have to worry about this BS anymore, lol

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1 hour ago, Clinapp2017 said:

I resonate with this statement immensely as someone with a partner who doesn't make a ton of money in her job, but still makes enough for us to get by. Also getting married meant I had the benefit of joining her insurance plan which was significantly better than my university's plan. 

 

Playing devil's advocate, I am not really sure how things are going to change unless we somehow burn down the whole system and start over. PhD students, while a source of invaluable labor to the university, are also fundamentally students IMHO because they are at the university to obtain a product: a PhD. This means the university has to hire faculty, hire admin to support the faculty, etc. to make sure PhD students (and undergrads, too) get an education. Don't even get me started on masters degree students... that is the university's cash cow, for sure. 

 

I still think we PhD students are woefully underpaid for the amount of work we put in, and I will be honest in saying that I have a couple of side-hustles only because the grad government at my university made the university wave that requirement a long time ago through a negotiation that ended a strike. These are small side-gigs (e.g., portrait photography) that are also my hobby, so it's a nice way to supplement my terrible income in my high CoL area. The sad thing is if I went full-time and really invested in launching a portrait business (or wedding photography) I could possibly earn nearly double a post-doc salary in just a year or two with the right photography connections and marketing... *sigh* 

 

I really hate academia. Even with a pretty successful research run during my PhD, I fully plan to obtain a clinical job at a VA or academic med center where I can make a decent salary after post-doc and not have to worry about this BS anymore, lol

For real. My spouse doesn't make a whole ton but enough to cover the bulk of our bills. I was uninsured for a bit until we were married and I could hop on his insurance. 

My university also doesn't have this outside work requirement, so I also work part time for a neuropsychology private practice as a psychometrist. 

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2 hours ago, SocDevMum said:

My program (and all the ones I ever applied to) funded your stipend through a TA or RA position, so there's no supplementing option. And when I say no outside work is allowed, I mean nothing that will send you a W2 or 1099 (in the USA) at the end of the year.  I'm at a public uni, so my contract for my stipend is literally with the state, and if I'm busted working elsewhere I lose my funding. So unless I'm working for cash under the table, side jobs are a no-go... I am lucky enough to be married, and have teenagers that work for their own spending money, but even with that the cost of living here is killing us and I need to take out a certain amount of loans to keep a roof over our heads.  Academia cares nought for the basic survival of it's graduate workers.

 

Sorry to hear that :( Canadian programs are a bit different, but we also have to pay tuition from our stipend at most programs - I know it's waived at most decent US ones. The tuition here is a tad smaller, but it increases each year, as do the extra school fees. That's why the RA/TA work can add to that; it also might be because some programs have grad students in a union. You think that would get us something, but not much - I've heard they've been trying to raise the funding cap unsuccessfully for quite some time, while our living costs (especially rent) is going up at a scary rate.

I cannot imagine also supporting children on this, even with a working spouse.

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On 1/26/2022 at 9:57 PM, SoundofSilence said:

I know it's waived at most decent US ones.

Yes, thankfully tuition is waived for PhD students - they make their money off the Masters students, as @Clinapp2017 noted above. When I was getting ready to enter the application process, my advisors made sure to emphasize NOT going anywhere that wouldn't waive tuition. 

I'd love to see a union at my uni, I know several other graduate schools have them and have had some moderate success with improving the lives of their grad students through them. 

Such is Academia.... adjuncts and grad students carry the grunt work and get peanuts for it. Only way to push for change is from the inside, though.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a couple of questions for students currently (or recently) going through the internship application process. 

How much research productivity is needed to be competitive for the match? Please let me know if you are a US or Canadian based, since things seem to be a little different. I am particularly interested in the Canadian experience (but all perspectives are welcome) - mostly because there seem to be fewer options for Canadian applicants. Do programs expect a lot of publications and posters? Or do they expect your research to be easily "translatable" to the clinical work on their site? What would you advise someone just starting out in a program, regarding this aspect? 

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45 minutes ago, SoundofSilence said:

I have a couple of questions for students currently (or recently) going through the internship application process. 

How much research productivity is needed to be competitive for the match? Please let me know if you are a US or Canadian based, since things seem to be a little different. I am particularly interested in the Canadian experience (but all perspectives are welcome) - mostly because there seem to be fewer options for Canadian applicants. Do programs expect a lot of publications and posters? Or do they expect your research to be easily "translatable" to the clinical work on their site? What would you advise someone just starting out in a program, regarding this aspect? 

The internship year is largely a clinical year. There are some internships that have a research expectation (maybe 4-8 hours of protected research time at the most). However, 8 is going to be rare and even 4 hours is only at some of the more research-heavy sites. That being said, programs may expect that you have something research-wise on your CV but they'll be more interested with where you're at on your dissertation than anything else. I'm in the US by the way, and I'm in the internship application process now and only applied to VAs and academic medical centers. Even then, the range was 0 hours of research expected to 4 hours of protected time on the higher end. Canada does have less sites, but it also has less doctoral programs from my understanding. There is an agreement between the APA and CPA, so you can do your training in either country and be considered equivalent. Unless you're trying to go for a largely academic career following internship, you should be fine with a handful of posters and maybe a publication in the works. The more important thing is the clinical fit (like, are you applying for a child site with 0 child experience or a neuro site with only a handful of neuropsych assessment hours). 

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34 minutes ago, PsyDuck90 said:

The internship year is largely a clinical year. There are some internships that have a research expectation (maybe 4-8 hours of protected research time at the most). However, 8 is going to be rare and even 4 hours is only at some of the more research-heavy sites. That being said, programs may expect that you have something research-wise on your CV but they'll be more interested with where you're at on your dissertation than anything else. I'm in the US by the way, and I'm in the internship application process now and only applied to VAs and academic medical centers. Even then, the range was 0 hours of research expected to 4 hours of protected time on the higher end. Canada does have less sites, but it also has less doctoral programs from my understanding. There is an agreement between the APA and CPA, so you can do your training in either country and be considered equivalent. Unless you're trying to go for a largely academic career following internship, you should be fine with a handful of posters and maybe a publication in the works. The more important thing is the clinical fit (like, are you applying for a child site with 0 child experience or a neuro site with only a handful of neuropsych assessment hours). 

Thank you! It does make sense. 

I am considering staying somewhat in the area for my internship, but there are only 3 or so sites available and they are very competitive. So I was trying to get a sense whether they use research productivity to short list some of the applicants. I realize that most people move for their internship, but I've moved so much (including several countries) that it might be better for my family's mental health to stay somewhat local if at all possible. 

So my main take away points is have enough hours (with good diversity in practicums), be ready/close to ready with the dissertation and have a good reasoning why that particular site and how it furthers your clinical training. What else should I keep in mind to be competitive?

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15 minutes ago, SoundofSilence said:

Thank you! It does make sense. 

I am considering staying somewhat in the area for my internship, but there are only 3 or so sites available and they are very competitive. So I was trying to get a sense whether they use research productivity to short list some of the applicants. I realize that most people move for their internship, but I've moved so much (including several countries) that it might be better for my family's mental health to stay somewhat local if at all possible. 

So my main take away points is have enough hours (with good diversity in practicums), be ready/close to ready with the dissertation and have a good reasoning why that particular site and how it furthers your clinical training. What else should I keep in mind to be competitive?

I think those are the main points generally, but also see if you can casually speak with people who have trained at those sites. What kinds of profiles did they have? Also, if you can develop some sort of a relationship with supervisors at those sights, like completing a practicum there or maybe a research opportunity, that can also give you an edge if you build a strong rapport with them. The site needs to be a good fit for your training goals first and foremost, but those other things can be helpful. 

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1 hour ago, PsyDuck90 said:

I think those are the main points generally, but also see if you can casually speak with people who have trained at those sites. What kinds of profiles did they have? Also, if you can develop some sort of a relationship with supervisors at those sights, like completing a practicum there or maybe a research opportunity, that can also give you an edge if you build a strong rapport with them. The site needs to be a good fit for your training goals first and foremost, but those other things can be helpful. 

Those are very good tips, thank you! I was thinking of something along those lines - of having a practicum there to see how the site is like and if it can be a match for my goals. That way I can also connect with some supervisors as well. Thanks!

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