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Complicated situation: interested in Psychology, Music Therapy, and TEFL. Any grad school advice?


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Hello everyone,

 

Sorry if the title seems confusing. Although it might sound crazy, I am seriously considering pursuing all of these things. Of course, I am not opposed to narrowing it down and only pursuing one or two of them, but I have a lot of questions and I would really appreciate some advice. If you are serious about offering me advice, please take the time to read this entire post, as I am trying to give as much background information as I possibly can to give you a better understanding of where I'm coming from.

 

I'm a Psych major with minors in German and Music and I expect to graduate with a BA in Psychology with honors next spring. I currently have a cumulative GPA of 3.45, which should bump up even higher before I graduate since I've already taken the most difficult courses for my degree. I currently have a research internship at a psychiatry-neuropsych unit and I'm also working on developing a pilot study for my honors thesis involving music and psychology. I'm also a "SI Leader" in Behavioral Sciences at my university (for those who don't know what SI is--SI stands for supplemental instruction and it's a group study program where students attend classes they've already taken, take notes/act as a model student and hold two weekly study sessions for review.) That's pretty much about all of the psychology experience that I have. (No publications, no fancy conferences or poster presentations, etc.) Aside from my (very little) psychology experience, I have also mentored at-risk preschool children for a year and I have been working for our campus radio station, which I now manage, since the beginning of my college career.

 

Being that I'm not very experienced in psychology and I have so many other interests, I'm really having a hard time figuring out my plans for grad school. It's not that I haven't looked into schools for the things I'm interested in, it's the exact opposite: I've looked too much and I'm having a hard time trying to narrow my enormous list down to figure out which graduate schools I would be a good fit for. I'm really hoping someone on here can help me out with some advice and/or suggestions for good grad schools after hearing about my goals and interests.

 

Here are my interests:

 

Psychology: I'm mostly interested in neuropsych, but honestly, most of the field fascinates me. I could see myself as a clinical neuropsychologist, but I've unfortunately learned that clinical programs are among the most competitive psych grad programs. Because of this, I have been considering leaning more towards focusing on research as opposed to clinical work. I'm still worried about how incredibly competitive graduate applications to psych programs are though. Without publications and extensive experience, I don't feel like I'd stand much of a chance competing against hundreds of other students that have more experience and better GRE scores than I do.

 

Music Therapy: I've played guitar, piano, and various other instruments throughout my entire life. I'm very familiar with the field and could see myself practicing music therapy for the rest of my life. The only problem is that my BA will be in psych, not music, so I'd have to enroll at an institution that either has an equivalency program, or admits non-music degree applicants (such as NYU-Steinhardt or Leslie University, but both of these programs are only Master's degrees.) I have looked around and as far as I can tell, there aren't any PhD programs in music therapy that will admit non-music degree applicants.

 

TEFL: This is my most recent idea and it grows on me more and more each day. My German professor recently recommended a summer program where I could go to Germany the summer after I graduate to teach English without needing any teaching certification. I really like the idea and thought it would be even better if I pursued TEFL and/or ESL certification to open doors for more than just a summer opportunity in the future. This is something I could possibly do in the year before I go to grad school.

 

My questions/concerns (what I'd like your advice on):

 

-If you have pursued graduate education in any of these areas, could you tell me about your experience and/or possibly recommend some programs? I'd be extremely grateful to anyone that could recommend good grad schools for any of my interests, or a combination of them, especially if you think they might be a good fit for me. I'm definitely not opposed to dual-degree programs, etc. I also wouldn't mind studying abroad in Germany, however, sadly, I have heard that Europe's 3-year PhD model tends to be looked down on in the States due to lack of practical experience in comparison to our PhDs here. :(

 

What I want in a grad school: most importantly, I'd like to walk out with the least amount of debt possible. I really want to get into a grad program that has decent funding! (One major reason I won't rule out studying in Germany--tuition is always paid by the state!) Next most important thing to funding: I want to go to a school with a good reputation and a certain amount of prestige. (I don't expect to get into Harvard or anything, but I would at least like to attend a school that looks impressive on my resume.)

 

-If I could somehow get into a funded psych PhD program, would it be logical for me to complete that program and then enroll in a Master's in Music Therapy, or would it be weird that I pursued a PhD before a Master's? (I really want to be a board certified MT and a psychologist, I just have no idea how to go about doing it. I thought that since getting funding for a Master's can be an issue, maybe I could attempt to pursue the funded PhD degree first, establish myself in the field a little and save some money, and then go back for music therapy.) Is this a weird plan? Do you have a better suggestion?

 

-Would it be a better idea to just take on a little debt to pursue the Master's in MT first and then apply to psych PhD programs? Is it possible that having the Master's in MT could give me a slightly better advantage in the PhD applicant pool?

 

-What would you do in my situation? Honestly--I appreciate any sort of advice, but the best advice comes from people who try to put themselves in others' shoes. Give me your honest opinion; if you were me, what would you pursue, how, and where?

 

 

I would genuinely appreciate any advice that you could provide. If you have any questions for me, please let me know. Thanks in advance to everyone who took the time to read through this post, and extra special thanks to anyone who offers advice. :)

Edited by psych_33
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The only school I can think of off the top of my head that has everything that you are looking for is NYU. I got my undergrad at The New School University in NY and I concentrated in Drama Therapy with the hopes of doing just what you have described except with Drama Therapy. NYU has all of the creative arts therapies and decent PhD programs to boot. I am not sure how  music therapy works, but I know that in drama therapy they have what is called "alternative training" where you can be working towards your RDT (registered drama therapist) and getting a degree in a similar field. you are set up with a board certified trainer who helps you to meet the specific requirements necessary for your drama therapy credential while you get your degree. you can do all of this simultaneously. you should check with the american music therapy org to see if they have something like this and reach out to them to see what is possible. if not, I know that the master's program is only 2 years long and if you can get your foot in the door at NYU it might help when you want to go for the PhD.... or... NYU also has the Gallatin schol of individualized study where you can propose a specific track in which to follow (like getting your PhD and music therapy credential) And they may admit you that way.... 

 

hope this helps!

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The only school I can think of off the top of my head that has everything that you are looking for is NYU. I got my undergrad at The New School University in NY and I concentrated in Drama Therapy with the hopes of doing just what you have described except with Drama Therapy. NYU has all of the creative arts therapies and decent PhD programs to boot. I am not sure how  music therapy works, but I know that in drama therapy they have what is called "alternative training" where you can be working towards your RDT (registered drama therapist) and getting a degree in a similar field. you are set up with a board certified trainer who helps you to meet the specific requirements necessary for your drama therapy credential while you get your degree. you can do all of this simultaneously. you should check with the american music therapy org to see if they have something like this and reach out to them to see what is possible. if not, I know that the master's program is only 2 years long and if you can get your foot in the door at NYU it might help when you want to go for the PhD.... or... NYU also has the Gallatin schol of individualized study where you can propose a specific track in which to follow (like getting your PhD and music therapy credential) And they may admit you that way.... 

 

hope this helps!

 

Thank you for your reply! I checked out Gallatin and it seems really awesome (especially since they don't require GRE) but I really wish they had a PhD track. :(

Do you happen to know of any grad schools that have dual-degree programs, where I could pursue a PhD in psych and an MA in music therapy? If there is something like that out there, all of my problems would be solved. lol

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Hi there, I was in a MT program for a year before I quit, but I may have some experience and advice that may help you.

 

What is it about a psych PhD that you want so badly? I find it's so completely different from the MT world. MT is completely clinically based, it's all practice. While you do read about research it is weighed waaay less than a psych phd. If you like the practicing notion and learning instruments, song interventions, etc. then it may be a good fit. But if you're expecting to do music related clinical research, it's less likely. They're not built for that, maybe more so in the masters (and phd level), but still the ultimate goal is for you to go out and practice your craft. Psych phd on the other hand is very research focused, and depending on what area you want to go in (clincial?) it will be different. Clinical phd (from what I know from my colleagues) will give you experience and chances to go out in the field and work with people, however, it will still be more research based. A psych phd will be less focused in music. I almost went into a cognitive program focusing on music cognition. There are a few routes you can go for researching "music" in psychology. Cognitive, neuroscience, some interdisciplinary programs do exist. It is tricky to get your foot in the door to music related research in psych because it is a smaller topic area, and you will have to be creative on how to get there. Often times there is not a research who purely does music research (that's what a musicologist does lol), so often they will have interests in audiology or some cognitive mechanism and then it relates slightly to music as well. Of course there are the few big names out there, but other then that it is a little scarce.

 

TLDR; you need to figure out what exactly you want to do after graduating because these degrees will give you different things. What is it about music you like? What part of it do you want to incorporate in your future job? Do you like practicing and working with people? Or are you interested in research and the mechanisms behind music, therapy, etc. There are PhDs in music therapy, which may combine a bit more of both of the elements. However, you will have to get your bachelors and masters first, and those will at first be a lot more practice-based. Personally, I realized that practice centered focus was not for me, I wanted to do research, so I went with a psych phd.

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I really don't get what you are asking here. Music therapy programs are usually Master's degrees because it is a practice-oriented profession. Furthermore, you lay out your interests then provide obstacles that will prevent you from pursuing them. You are going around in circles conjecturing yourself and I think this is a problem that lays in not knowing what your passion is. You are just skimming the surface in all 3 of your interests. You need to do more thinking about what it is that you are passionate and really interested about, not researching programs and trajectories that will some how "fit" your wavering interests.  

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