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psychgrad26
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Hi,

I'm starting a PhD program at a program this fall ranked in the top 15. Due to the admissions process this past year, this program was my only choice.

The area I'm in is neuroscience applied to psychopathology. I am in the experimental program, but I technically could get my PhD in clinical if I manage to convince my supervisor.

Here's are my concerns. 1) Talking to the graduate student a year ahead of me within our lab, the supervisor is very difficult to work with. I suspected so during the interview, but as I said, I didn't really have any other choice, so I decided to accept the school. 2) I'm not sure how long I can live in this area - the program is 5 years (if I can manage to finish is that time because the avg completion is 7 years), but I so far am having a very difficult time adjusting to living in a college town.

Some potential regrets: I really thought I wanted to study affective neuroscience, but looking at this as a life decision (years of schooling, years of postdoc), I don't know anymore. I know I could have gotten into a top 10 school in social psychology (behavioral methods, without a neuroscience component) - I've done social psychology research and really liked it.

Here are my options:

1) STAY: Given that the supervisor relationship and the geography is less than ideal, I'm really only here for the research. But I feel it would be so much more worthwhile to get a clinical degree. My supervisor pressured me into the experimental program, but technically I think I can transfer into the clinical program. So that's a completely different career trajectory. I know that my goals are the work in an academic research setting, preferably a psych department. I always thought that if I get a clinical degree then I'd have more research career options. Is this the case? Or is getting an experimental degree better to get into a academic research setting?

2) TRANSFER: I could try to finish my masters within this first year, while applying again for 2010 entry. This time, I would apply to social psychology (behavior methods, without neuroscience), and I'd chose a geographic location I could actually live in. I'm thinking about going into social psychology behavioral because I'm just not sure anymore that I want to commit to a life of neuroscience. Can anyone tell me the typical career trajectory for affective neuroscience vs behavioral social psych research (like # years postdoc, ease/difficulty of finding a position, funding)? (I really should have thought about this before, but at the time of applications, I had this idealized notion of becoming a famous professor. I didn't think about having a family/children/location. And then after applications, I had only 1 choice, so I just took it).

Other questions:

3) How much does school rank factor into assistant professorship positions? Before, I was concerned that if I went into behavioral social psych research, then I'd have difficulty getting a professorship. But since then, I've realized that if you get into a good school, then you're pretty set for assistant professorship (where I'm not distinguishing between tier-1 research universities and small liberal arts colleges, but my hope is to do research at a top research university).

4) How much does my supervisor's connections factor into assistant professorship positions? I've seen that pedigree is important, which concerns me because I don't think my current supervisor is well networked. Also my supervisor's field is not exactly the one I would go down

5) If I did want to transfer, how bad of an impression am I making? Is it worth it to consider, or should I just suck it up and stay in my program (because maybe it's just a really really bad case of cold feet I'm experiencing)? If I transfer, should I wait a year and apply for 2011, or should I contact my references now and apply for 2010?

I know this is very long and confusing, so thanks in advance for your input.

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First off - let me say that I so, SO get the "cold feet" thing. I think it's easy for all of us to commiserate and say that it's "normal" or whatever, but only you know the extent to which this is true for you. What I can say for myself is that although I'm nervous about many things surrounding starting the program/moving/etc, I still do have a very real sense of excitement. While there are certainly times I feel like throwing up and retreating to my bed to let the fall pass by, there are just as many times when I feel completely excited about everything that's about to come to me.

The only advice I can offer is to check out another website similar to gradcafe. It's specifically targeted towards people entering clinical psych PhD/PsyD programs. A clinical program is VERY different from a traditional doctoral program in experimental psych, so be really sure that this is the life and career you want before committing to it: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=57

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