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Becoming a better PhD candidate


Jessica Davis
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Hi all,

I'm halfway through my junior year of undergrad at a public, not at all prestigious university. I'm a psych major and have my heart set on getting into a clinical psych PhD program when I graduate, but I worry that I'm not competitive enough to get any offers. My cumulative GPA is currently pretty low (3.1) due to a rough freshman year, but improving (I got a 3.7 last semester and plan on maintaining or surpassing that). I've already started studying for the GRE. I worked as a TA last semester for a professor that has her PhD in clinical psych and really likes me, so that should be a strong LOR. I also started working in a research lab at the start of this semester that I will continue working in until I graduate (so 2 years altogether, including summer). This is kind of a bigger lab, so I worry that I won't have an opportunity to do any presentations, though research is wrapping up on one of the studies. I'm also joining Psi Chi next semester.

Basically, I'm wondering what would be the best thing to do to make myself stand out more. I was thinking about volunteering in a crisis center line or a hospital, but I wonder if it would be a better choice to try to get involved in another lab?

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

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Hi all,

I'm halfway through my junior year of undergrad at a public, not at all prestigious university. I'm a psych major and have my heart set on getting into a clinical psych PhD program when I graduate, but I worry that I'm not competitive enough to get any offers. My cumulative GPA is currently pretty low (3.1) due to a rough freshman year, but improving (I got a 3.7 last semester and plan on maintaining or surpassing that). I've already started studying for the GRE. I worked as a TA last semester for a professor that has her PhD in clinical psych and really likes me, so that should be a strong LOR. I also started working in a research lab at the start of this semester that I will continue working in until I graduate (so 2 years altogether, including summer). This is kind of a bigger lab, so I worry that I won't have an opportunity to do any presentations, though research is wrapping up on one of the studies. I'm also joining Psi Chi next semester.

Basically, I'm wondering what would be the best thing to do to make myself stand out more. I was thinking about volunteering in a crisis center line or a hospital, but I wonder if it would be a better choice to try to get involved in another lab?

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

You are on the right track with getting research experience. That seems to be a huge part of the process. Presentations and posters help as well though so try to work in a lab that allows you to get quality research experience. The subpar gpa can be off set with a high GRE and strong LORs. Although you may have to take some time off after you graduate. That seems to be the norm, especially for clinical psych programs. If you browse around the forums you'll find tons more info on the application process :) good luck!

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You are on the right track with getting research experience. That seems to be a huge part of the process. Presentations and posters help as well though so try to work in a lab that allows you to get quality research experience. The subpar gpa can be off set with a high GRE and strong LORs. Although you may have to take some time off after you graduate. That seems to be the norm, especially for clinical psych programs. If you browse around the forums you'll find tons more info on the application process :) good luck!

Thanks for the input! I think I'll try to get involved with the prof that I TA'd for, as her interests are similar to mine.

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