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clinical psych phd right after undergrad


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Hi all,

Looking at these forums, I've noticed that most people seem to do additional research after undergrad before applying to clinical psych programs. Does anyone apply for phd programs in clinical psych while an undergrad?

I'm a double major studying psychology and communication sciences and disorders at a top 15 university. I've done a lot of volunteering Special Olympics and preschoolers with ADHD/developmental delays. I started working as a research assistant in 2 labs as a sophomore and will complete an honors thesis. My gpa will likely be in the 3.6-3.7 range. Ideally, I would like to apply to PhD programs next year (I'm currently a junior), but the process does seem a bit daunting.

Do undergrads have a chance getting into PhD clinical psych programs? Has anyone had any experience with this? I realize that clinical psych phd programs are extremely competitive so I'm not expecting to get into a top 10 program, but I would like to get into a top 50ish program (based on the US news rankings, but I'm not sure if this is the best way to research clinical psych programs).


Good luck to everyone applying to PhD programs this year!

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Good for you for planning ahead! You're at a huge advantage by thinking about grad school this early.

I think most people take time of between grad school and undergrad to get more research experience if that area of their resume is lacking. Personally, I took time off because I wasn't really focused enough on one particular area to apply to grad school. It's not impossible for someone to be accepted straight out of undergrad.

Your credentials are impressive. Research and clinical work/volunteer experience are really important in a clinical application. I'd say you definitely have a chance to be admitted to a clinical program. This might feel far away, but start thinking about the GRE. Plan to take it next summer, when you aren't taking any classes. Give yourself lots of time to study, and study hard. Most clinical programs will want to see a score around 1300 combined.

When looking for schools to apply to, you should focus on research match. Apply to schools with faculty whose interests match yours. Talk to your thesis advisor and the grad students in your lab for advice on where to apply. "Fit" is much more important than program rank.

Edited by schoolpsych_hopeful
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  • 3 weeks later...

schoolpsych_hopeful has it right on for looking for schools- you should be focusing on your fit with potential advisers and to this point, your research mentors are a great resource for you. They probably have a sense of what you're interested in and can point you towards faculty you would want to work with. Another way to look in to schools is to go to specific research papers you think are interesting and find out more about the authors.

To answer your other question, you definitely sound like a well qualified applicant! I believe that students are often accepted to top programs directly from undergrad, so don't let that stop you. Of course (and hopefully this won't happen for you) it is sometimes the case that very well qualified applicants don't get in the first time they apply (happened to me). Part of the reason this process is so tough is that you really do have to find a program that is a good match for you- sometimes that just takes a while, and can be easier the second time around, so sometimes having to apply multiple times ends up being a good thing. So really, there's no reason not to apply- you very well could get in, or in the worst case scenario, you will have to apply again, but you'll be much better prepared for it.

Best of luck!

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Quick follow-up.

Just realized you said you were a junior. Kudos for being so on top of things! One thing that may be a great idea for you is to try to go to a conference or two in the next year (if you have a poster to present great, if not it's also really beneficial). It's a great way to meet people and to find out about other exciting work. (They're also a lot of fun).

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I'm not in clinical, but here's my data point. Last winter, I went to 4 interview weekends at great schools, and I was really surprised at just how few of my fellow interviewees were still in undergrad. I would say at least 80% of the people who were at the interviews had some sort of experience after undergrad - usually paid RA/lab manager positions, occasionally Masters degrees. There was some variation amongst schools though; some departments seem to prefer students with more experience and who are a little older, while others are more welcoming to bright eyed young'uns. It's something you could probably gauge by looking at CVs of current grad students (or asking the current grads / admissions person yourself), but either way I wouldn't let it stop you from applying to a school you're really, really interested in. Just know that you might not get in on your first try and have a backup plan in mind!

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I'm not clinical either, but I think my story might help. I applied to PhD programs coming out of undegrad. I actually even took some time off to gain some research experience, but you definitely have more than I had. I graduated from UVA with a 3.6 and a 1370 GRE. I did not get into a single PhD program and ended up going the master's route. I really wanted to work with Dr. Jon Maner at FSU (social) but only received a phone interview. Two years later, he remembered me and was impressed with my dedication and determination and ultimately selected me for admission into his lab. Look, you have a very impressive resume but it's not the only thing that counts. This is a HUGE investment for the faculty member you want to work with so they want to make sure that whoever they take has the ability, but also the motivation, to succeed. If I were you, I would work my butt off studying for the GRE. you are applying to clinical programs so the competition is as fierce as it gets. I think you need to aim for at least a 1300. But studying really does work. My friend came into her masters program with a 1200. She is now applying to PhD programs and, after months of studying words and words and words, she got a 1450 and will likely have her lot of choices. Also, try to attend a conference or two in which faculty you are interested in working with will be attending. It is important to get your name out there and let them be familiar with you. I would also e-mail the faculty members early in the game (at least wait until the year you are actually applying) to see if they are even accepting students. There is nothing worse than wasting time and money on an application in which the faculty member isn't even accepting students. Good luck throughout the process. It can be daunting but preparation and determination will be key.

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