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Importance of Publications/Presentations?


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Hi, friends!

I've been browsing through many psych-related forums and am growing increasingly nervous about my own applications. Here's a bit of background:

  • Year: undergraduate senior
  • Concentrations: B.A. Psychology, B.A. Spanish, Information Systems Minor
  • GPA: 3.944 cumulative, 4.00 junior/senior, 4.00 psychology
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • GRE: 610V, 740Q, 5.5A, 730psych
  • Letters of recommendation: from two program directors (one Quant, one Clinical) and one associate director of undergraduate studies, all of whom I've known for 2 to 3 years and basically consider aunts and uncles--we're Facebook friends, we text each other, we play Angry Birds together, etc.
  • Job history: full-time H.R., Legal, and IT Assistant at a federal law firm for the past 2.5 years (and still working there during breaks) and contracted data analyst (see below)
  • Research experience: 1 semester of Quant (SPSS, SAS, Mplus working with multiple regression analyses of latent trajectory models), 2 semesters of Clinical (data analysis, coding, independent research, CITI training), summer internship at a substance abuse treatment center as a (later contracted/paid) treatment outcomes data analyst

I'm also a Carolina Research Scholar, which means I've taken a certain number of interdisciplinary courses that require research. To finalize becoming a scholar, I'll be presenting in at least two conferences in April once I defend my honors thesis in late March.

The problem here is that although I have a number of nationwide publications and one international publication, these are either fictional or nonfictional--that is, they're completely unrelated to psychology. As of now, I haven't presented at a conference or published an article.

SO. The point of this is that now I'm terrified that because I don't have this experience as of right now--and I'm almost finished applying to all 11 schools--I have a substantially smaller likelihood of being accepted anywhere. What are your thoughts? Do I still stand a chance?

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Are the conferences in April for psych-related research? If so and if you have an accepted presentation then mention it on your CV as "to be presented at the XXth annual conference for XYZ psych organization"

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I think you still have a chance. If you browsed through these forums much you'll see that grad school admissions are difficult to predict to say the least. Yes, your research experiences are a little thin, and not having any presentations does hurt somewhat (it's common for applicants to have 5 or more plus a publication or two) But it's not the end of the world. You still have an overall very good application. As long as you make it sound like you know what your getting into with your PS (why do you want a phd and work with prof X at school Y) you should have good chance of getting in somewhere.

good luck!

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I'm actually going to disagree with you there--I'm just a 21-year-old undergraduate and don't know a single other person in the undergraduate major who has a publication, and only a handful with (school-wide) presentations. I'll have two presentations under my belt by the time I graduate. But the idea of having 5 publications at my age? I've also been conducting research since I was a sophomore, have collected my own data and ran my own IRB-approved studies, am CITI certified for human research...that has to mean something. I know I'll be up against some 30-year-old returning students in the applicant pool, but we have to be realistic here.

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He meant 5+ poster/paper presentations and 1-2 pubs. At the time of applications (only a few months after I graduated), I had 6 poster/paper presentations (all but one at national conferences), 2 conference proceedings/publications, and 1 paper in R&R at a top behavioral medicine journal. If you're applying to elite programs, my profile was pretty typical if not lacking.

Especially for Social Psych, a lot of students take a few years off to be full-time RAs or lab techs to get more substantive research experience since admissions has been getting more and more competitive every year. I didn't apply to a Social Psych PhD program, but I did apply to and got admitted at Carnegie Mellon's Social and Decision Science PhD program, which is as competitive as a lot of the elite programs in other Experimental Psych programs. The people I met during flyouts typically had a publication or a few papers deeper in the review process at top journals (JPSP, Psych Review, Psych Science, etc.).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have five presentations (four posters, one symposia) and two publications that are under review. I feel pretty good about my chances... at least good enough that I'll get at least once acceptance. My understanding is that, generally speaking, application committees like to see productivity. If you haven't presented or worked on academic manuscripts, you might still stand some kind of a chance if you have a significant amount of teaching experience, counseling/clinical practical experience, etc.

As my advisor told me, "they want people who they know can get high-quality work done without handholding."

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If you have a poster presentation or two that's fine. Nobody will expect to see an actual publication unless maybe--maybe--you're applying to a top 5 program. My goodness, most people just hope to have publications by the time they finish graduate school.

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