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Preparing for PhD application - still four years to get there


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Well hello there!

If I may, let me introduce myself: I'm a beginning psychology pregrad student, with four and a half more years to go before obtaining my masters degree (here in Europe, Czech Republic, a five-year pregrad study program such as this one is standard, at least in psychology).
I assume that you guys are more experienced in our field; hopefully, some of you may also be willing to share your perspective and experiences regarding further academic progress (I'm certainly counting on that!)

I too would like to get from point A (where I'm standing right now) to point B (getting enrolled in a PhD program). The trick is: how to get there?

So, let me ask you the following questions:
- which sub-field in psychology should I specialize in?
- what should I do to maximize my chances of getting accepted into the PhD program?

Now, I know that these questions, as they stand, are extremely vague and lazy; therefore, let me specify the details and other variables that also take place here, to make these questions as specific and answerable as possible.



My thoughts, details and specifics:

The two aforementioned questions are intertwined, as one only wants to specialize in a sub-field that has some future, I believe (to maximize their acceptance chance, of course).

One should play to their own strengths when choosing a specialization; whilst the prototypical undergrad student in our school is a cute, emphatic female (should do well in clinical psychology), I'm a cold, calculating person who is not interested in dealing with other people's intense touchy and feely (would be the worst clinician ever).
On the other hand, I like the methodical science. So, I'm thinking of learning all methodology, statistics and data interpretation really well and building my skillset here (with a previous degree in mathematics/IT, this should go relatively easy). The other perspective option may be neuropsychology, i think, but that would be a painful path, as I have literally no biology background.

What should one do to build up their resume for the upcoming PhD application (beside the usual stuff such as publishing)? I'm thinking of getting involved in a research right now (start with the easy stuff, such as data acquisition, and then progress to statistic etc., as soon as the ability to handle the harder tasks is adequate).

What additional advice would you give me?
If some of the provided info is still too vague, let me know - I'll specify.

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Quant psych could be an option. However, from your post it isn't clear what research topic you're interested it.

Interesting. Quantitative science just might be the thing I'm looking for (psychometrics ... or perhaps psychosemantics).


I may get to think this suggestion of yours through; however, I cannot give you a proper response (on the research topic), as my knowledge of various sub-fields (including this one) is very limited - the according classes are just waiting for me, in the future semesters. Still, I might do a bit of a pre-study on my own.




As for you, dear Quant_Liz, you do seem to be applying to the same sub-field this fall. Well, feel free to tell me (and our dear readers) about your experience so far (yes, this is an open question).

Edited by Garret
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I think you definitely should just explore different labs and topics in psychology until you find something that really interests you.  You can't really calculate what you will go into if you don't know what it is you're into, and your tastes may change as you go through your curriculum. In the meantime just focus on getting research experience (it doesn't necessarily have to be in the specific field you will end up in and different labs will give you a realistic idea of how research is in those specific areas).  

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If you're interested in computers or engineering, you could look into human factors. Despite the lack of "psychology" in the name, it is a psychology sub-field.

I've noticed that you're thinking in terms of getting into a PhD program. But the question is... what kind? You say that you want to, "specialize in a sub-field that has some future, I believe (to maximize their acceptance chance, of course)." However, PhDs are rarely, if ever (at least not in the U.S.) granted in general psychology. You earn a PhD in, say, cognitive psychology, or social psychology, or quantitative psychology. So I think you need to reorient yourself - it isn't about choosing a field of psychology that will maximize your chance of being accepted to grad school. It's about choosing your career path in general. 

If your degree is anything like American ones, you will take some survey classes during your first and second year that will allow you to explore different areas in psychology. These may help crystallize your options. I do recommend getting into a lab for research experience as early as possible.

Also, just because you mentioned it - a biology class or two wouldn't hurt. You should know the basic functioning of neurons, and neurons are cells. A cell biology course paired with more information on the brain would help orient you on how the brain works.

Good luck to you!

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You may be at Point A, but I think you mislabeled Point B.  Point B for you is the end of your first year of undergrad.  Getting accepted into a PhD program is more like Point G or Point H.  Some things must be experienced to be known.  And hopefully, the next four and a half years will change you in ways you can't even imagine now.  Explore, young scientist.   


My suggestion is take as many different types of psychology courses as you can.  I agree that getting involved in research right away is a good thing.  If you're lucky you will be able to be involved in a few different types of research.  Ruling things out is a great way to narrow down what it is you want.  


But if I had to suggest a specialization for you to look into, I'd suggest cognitive psych.

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Fair enough. As advised, I will take chances, explore the environment, participate in a few researches. Hopefully, by the third year or so, I may get a solid general overview of the whole psychological science with all its branches.


Thanks for the suggestions.

Edited by Garret
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