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How to decide on POIs/universities


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How did you all decide on POIs and universities to apply to?

I've made a list of schools that I want to apply to in Canada (and a couple of other countries) and POIs by simply looking at all of the faculty profiles (in the area of psychology I'm interested in) at all Canadian universities

However, it seems that there are so many more universities in the United States compared to Canada and other countries that this method would be extremely time consuming.

How did you all decide on POIs and universities to apply to, especially in the US?

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I went down the the list at: http://www.socialpsychology.org/ranking.htm and looked at faculty profiles, pretty much exactly as you described. It was incredibly time consuming and my original list had 74 schools on it. Then, I created a really ridiculous and completed rating system for each school (because I'm a giant nerd), and eliminated all that fell below a certain score. Then I divided them into "tiers" based on rankings and picked the top scoring schools from each tier.

Honestly, I don't recommend this method. There's got to be a better way. But I'm a maximizer and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.

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I used two lists when trying to figure this out. I wanted to be very thorough, as well. I went through the US News and World report social psych rankings and looked for faculty. Then I went through their general psych list going down. Then after a certain point, I went to the website that steropticons posted and started at the bottom, doing the same thing. I made an excel spreadsheet and listed the school, faculty, and copied/pasted their research interests. I put asterisks next to the faculty that I thought were really interesting. Then, I narrowed it down based on asterisks and the sheer amount of profs that did interesting work at each university. The thing is, you don't want to go to a school where you're only interested in working with one faculty member (unless you really think that his/her works is perfect for you, but it's still risky if they end up not being a good advisor). I found myself at 11 schools this way.

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@Steropticons that is hilarious, but very thorough! Good for you.

Wondering if there are any other ways that anyone has thought of- specifically just for narrowing down POIs

I will look through all of the faculty profiles, but I'd prefer to be as lazy as possible B)

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The thing is, you don't want to go to a school where you're only interested in working with one faculty member (unless you really think that his/her works is perfect for you, but it's still risky if they end up not being a good advisor).

This is a really good point. My advisor told me about how her PhD advisor moved to a different school partway through her program and there wasn't really anyone else she wanted to work with, so I made the number of people at the school that I wanted to work with part of my rating system. I also included research interests, goals of the program (does everyone go in to academia? what is the program designed to prepare you for?), general impression, location, cost of living, and crime.

I imagine a better way might be to look at some articles that are about what you're interested in and find those people. That way, you can specifically look for people in your area of interest without having to go through every faculty members' profile.

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@svh thank you so much for mentioning the below, I hadn't taken this into consideration!

you don't want to go to a school where you're only interested in working with one faculty member (unless you really think that his/her works is perfect for you, but it's still risky if they end up not being a good advisor)

What is a good number? 2? 3?

Edited by carlyhylton
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@svh thank you so much for mentioning the below, I hadn't taken this into consideration!

What is a good number? 2? 3?

The best ones I found were at 4 or 5. I did also apply to some that only had 1, because I thought it would be good to cast the net as wide as possible. So, my top choices have 4 or 5...

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Did something similar to stereopticons, excluding the whole rating system thing though. Basically just went to school website after school website to figure out which programs interested me and I fit in well with.

And yes this method takes forever.

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I asked my mentor which people she would recommend. This got me about 10 schools (with multiple POIs at each). I looked through a few relevant articles and found a couple more. Then I looked through some schools at locations where I would love to live and saw if there were any professors that did research in my very specific area. Ended up with 14 schools and a good mix of top and middle tier programs.

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I asked my mentor which people she would recommend. This got me about 10 schools (with multiple POIs at each). I looked through a few relevant articles and found a couple more. Then I looked through some schools at locations where I would love to live and saw if there were any professors that did research in my very specific area. Ended up with 14 schools and a good mix of top and middle tier programs.

I also asked my undergrad advisors who they thought were good matches. My undergrad was small and only really had clinical and neuro faculty, but I wanted to do social psych. I told them my broad area and so basically they just reported the biggest names they knew in the field. Then I looked at the webpages to narrow it down (plus I only applied to schools in geographic areas I liked). In retrospect, I did it pretty haphazardly. I applied to 8, got into 5, and ended up supremely happy with my choices and final selection. I was beyond lucky how it worked out.

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I had to conduct a pretty extensive literature review as a component of my undergraduate thesis. When the time came to apply to graduate school, I just went back and looked at researchers who had published work that I found compelling. I just looked them up, and found out where they were doing research.

Doing that gave me a decent list (~10-15) of schools. From that I further narrowed the list down based on how good of a fit I thought the program was more generally (other faculty member research interests, location). I also cut out a couple of programs where, although I found the POI's research interesting, my research experience was only tangentially related to what they do.

Ultimately I ended up applying to 6 schools. I've heard positive things (interviews, but no official acceptances yet) from 2 schools.

They are both great programs that I am really excited about, and I am really happy with the way things have gone. I think my method for selecting schools was good, but perhaps incomplete. I think that applying to six schools is a bit on the low-end of the recommended number, and since applying I've discovered a couple of other programs that I might have liked to apply to.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Also keep in mind that the search is narrowed if you have any geographic limitations (for example, if you don't want to go to school on the west coast, that eliminates A LOT of choices!). If you have a specific research area in mind, then it's actually not as daunting as you'd think to go down the NRC list mentioned above. Give yourself a couple of months to do this...it would be torture to sit down and do it in one day. I looked through a few each day and wrote down any schools that caught my eye. Advisors can help you notice schools you may not have noticed. Also, apply to a VARIETY of schools from different "tiers" (aka- don't apply to only the top schools in your research area).

I would apply to ~10 schools... don't apply to any school you wouldn't actually want to attend! Good luck! :D

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I had looked up journal articles in the field I was interested in, then researched the names of the people involved in that research. Off of that, I compared the schools. Personally, I'd rather apply to a school where it was the 'perfect research fit' then settle for a school which had 2-3 professors of 'general interest.' I'd rather have my full Neapolitan ice cream sundae, and not just settle for the strawberry ;-)

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I first spoke to my academic/research mentors, then went through the Grad School/Faculty profiles on the SIOP website. I agree with the posters who recommend finding programs with at least 2 faculty you'd be interested in working with. Cast a wide net! Good luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

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