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Rick120020

Should I even try to apply?

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Hey everyone! I'm a senior at the University of Illinois. I'm a psych major but I started off as a biology/pre-med. Right now I'm really interested in clinical psych and would like to apply to a PhD program. Here's the thing though: I screwed up my first 2 years and got 3 C's (general chemistry 1 and 2 as well as pre-calculus), 1 W (calculus), and an F (organic chemistry). To be completely honest I received these grades for mainly 2 reasons. 1) I was pretty depressed throughout my first two years of college and this affected my greatly 2) I was in over my head. I'm by no means a person who is good at quantitative science. I hated these "hard" science classes and performed poorly as i lacked motivation to study (both because of the depression and because I wasn't enjoying the material). I kept trying though because it was somewhat expected of me (family) to become a doctor. It took 2 miserable years and an F on my transcript to realize that I was making a huge mistake. After that I changed my major to a psychology - something I have always loved and sought out help for my depression and I have drastically improved My psychology GPA by graduation will be around a 3.9, my gen-ed GPA is a 4.0, and my overall should be around a 3.5. My GPA for my first 50 credit hours was a 2.9 but for my last 70 it's a 3.8. The only classes i have received something lower than a B in are the physical science ones that I mentioned. 

 

As for research and such, I have been doing extensive medical research with an emphasis on patient psychology (eg. I've been investigated various psychological and social factors that contribute to patient non-adherance and I have proposed several interventions to address the issues). I have been doing for 3 years and have received an NIH supplement grant to do it. I have presented a poster at 3 conferences and have attended serval others. I hope to have something published by the end of the year. I have also had a large hand in the development of a patient education application (Apple store) geared towards individuals with low literacy. I have two mentors, one is a physician the other is a psychologist and both would be more than willing to write me a letter of rec. I want to take the GRE soon but considering my bad grades I don't even know if it's worth it. Obviously I wasn't planning on applying to a top tier school but do I have any chance of getting accepted even to a middle or bottom tier program?

 

Thanks in advance for all you're input. 

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There's no harm in applying. Worst case, apply to a handful of programs to keep app costs down and simultaneously apply to research coordinator/assistant jobs. Win-win.


That being said, I'm not convinced this is really what you want to do 100000% for the rest of your life.

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you should apply.

 

schools usually look at GPA in 3 ways: overall, psych, and last 2 years. the overall is the only one that hurts at all and a 3.5 certainly isn't bad. the amount of research and conference presentations you have is far and above what is expected so you're actually probably a pretty competitive candidate. 

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I think you have a good chance at getting in somewhere and I see no reason not to apply.  As others have said, your GPA is not low enough to be thrown out (maybe at the top programs, IDK), and they will consider your later years and psych classes more.  Your transcript will hurt a bit, so make sure to mention it in your statement of purpose or somewhere on the application - some have specific places where they ask you to discuss anything negative, like low grades.  You will need strong GRE scores, particularly in quantitative, to show that you have enough mathematical/analytical experience to make up for the low math class scores.  Though you may not be going into a "hard" science, research programs will care about math skills.

 

For your letters of recommendation, make sure to ask your recommenders to talk about how dedicated you are to the field, to make up for anyone who might think like the previous poster.  That's something to bring up in your SOP as well - get others' opinions and edits to make sure you are making a strong case.

 

One last piece of advice I have is to NOT talk about depression in your SOP or anywhere in your application.  It's not anything you need to hide or be ashamed of, but clinical psychology programs see so many applicants talking about their personal history with mental illness and how that has made them want to go into clinical psychology.  It's not a convincing enough motivation, and will not put you in a stand-out category of people.  Again, you don't need to hide it if asked, but I would instead emphasize how medicine was not the right fit for you, and once you found your passion, psychology, you were able to excel.  Address your negative background a bit and then go into all the great things you have to offer - it sounds like you can have a strong application, especially if that paper is published. 

 

Good luck on your application if you choose to do it!

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Yes, apply. Your stats are actually quite good.

 

Programs are not going to care that you got an F and a couple C's in your first 2 years. They want to see that you have shown progression and improvement and worked to bring up your grades, which you have. Sounds like you have great research experience and letters of recommendation under your belt, so study like mad and kill the GRE. I have no doubt that your application will get you into a program, if you apply wisely.

 

I have an almost identical background. I was pre-med my entire undergraduate career, and I switched to psychology at the last minute after realizing medicine wasn't quite where I saw myself. I have one E (equivalent to F) and a few W's on my transcript for my very first semester, due to some medical issues. I have good research and clinical experience, and decent GRE scores. I didn't even bother explaining or justifying my poor first semester grades, I just worked my butt off and got my crap together, and the admissions committes could see that. If you show consistent improvement, that's all they care about.

 

As others have said, it's not all about GPA. Make sure you're applying to programs that will be a good fit, research-wise. Study for the GRE. Keep up the research.

 

I applied to 8 Clinical Psychology PhD programs, and was accepted into 4. They aren't Harvard or Stanford, but they're all great programs with faculty and research that complement my interests perfectly. If they weren't deterred by my application, I assure you they won't be by yours.

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One last piece of advice I have is to NOT talk about depression in your SOP or anywhere in your application.  It's not anything you need to hide or be ashamed of, but clinical psychology programs see so many applicants talking about their personal history with mental illness and how that has made them want to go into clinical psychology.  It's not a convincing enough motivation, and will not put you in a stand-out category of people.  Again, you don't need to hide it if asked, but I would instead emphasize how medicine was not the right fit for you, and once you found your passion, psychology, you were able to excel.  Address your negative background a bit and then go into all the great things you have to offer - it sounds like you can have a strong application, especially if that paper is published. 

+1.

Especially in your SoP.

Your research grant will be a bonus on your app. Your GPA after you switched majors is good; I'd be surprised if you had problems with the GRE. You may not get into an Ivy, but if you keep up this level of effort, you should do well for yourself.

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Thanks everyone! I appreciated all the advice and I feel a whole lot better about applying. I'm going to keep working hard and see what happens. I have put a lot of effort and thought into my undergrad psychology career and I know this is what I want to do. I'll be sure to express that more strongly and clearly on my application. Thanks again!

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Rick120020, good! You didn't sound as sure in your original post. But if you honestly want it, make sure that comes across and go and get it.

 

If you makes you feel better, I had a 1.0/5.0 one freshman term (2 Cs and an F). I turned it around and graduated with a 4.1/5.0 with undergrad (wasn't a Psych major), and then got my MS in Psychology, with a 3.97 GPA. I also had good GRE scores and research experience, although I didn't have as much experience within Psychology until my MS program. When I applied to PhD programs, my undergrad grades were never mentioned once and I got a decent number of interviews at highly ranked programs. I also got into one of my top choices. However, I think where I went to undergrad also excused some of those grades, as it is known for being a very tough school with tough grades- so I'm not sure how much that changed things.

 

So, if you don't get in anywhere the first time around, it might be worth it to consider taking night classes or doing a 1-year or 2-year MA or MS program to show that you can get those great grades on a graduate level.

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One last piece of advice I have is to NOT talk about depression in your SOP or anywhere in your application.  It's not anything you need to hide or be ashamed of, but clinical psychology programs see so many applicants talking about their personal history with mental illness and how that has made them want to go into clinical psychology.  It's not a convincing enough motivation, and will not put you in a stand-out category of people.  Again, you don't need to hide it if asked, but I would instead emphasize how medicine was not the right fit for you, and once you found your passion, psychology, you were able to excel.  Address your negative background a bit and then go into all the great things you have to offer - it sounds like you can have a strong application, especially if that paper is published. 

Meant to mention this as well. There's a pretty famous paper about the "kisses of death" for psychology grad school applicants and this is actually one of the first things it talks about.

 

edit: this sucker http://psychology.unl.edu/psichi/Graduate_School_Application_Kisses_of_Death.pdf

Edited by lhommependu

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Another phrase you can use if asked is, "For my first two years I also had a chronic health condition that is now resolved." No need to elaborate; depression is a health condition. Hopefully nobody has the gall to pry.

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I had a couple of sporadic grades like yourself, and also had a lower GPA. I didn't address this in my SOP and had no issues getting some acceptances.

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I'm by no means a person who is good at quantitative science. 

 

thanks for reaching out! but I also just wanted to mention that clinical programs can be pretty heavy on quantitative stuff, so keep that in mind

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