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Lack of Lab Experience


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Hi everyone,


this is my first time posting, though I've been reading the forums and results page much more than I'd like to admit. I've applied to seven social psych programs for this year, and I'm fairly convinced I won't get in (five of them have already extended interview invites). I kind of think I overestimated my application quite a bit, and should have applied more conservatively. I'm already making plans for applying again.


Like several people I've seen post, I attended a relatively obscure university that didn't have a focus on research-there are no labs or anything, just small research opportunities, such as a senior thesis-style class (just one semester-long class though). I've been pretty fortunate compared to other students here, I did my senior thesis and presented it at our school's undergraduate conference as well as a Psi Chi conference nearby. I also did another research project after that working one-on-one with one of our professors, again presenting the poster locally, and I'm writing it up to submit to an undergraduate journal, hopefully soon.


However, most of my "research" experience has been program evaluation. I've done three projects for the evaluation I've been working on for almost two years now, one for the local conference and two at national conferences. I'm also working on a paper that we are hoping to submit for publication (though the results may not be publishable, still working on it). 


I guess my question is this: how does my experience compare to undergraduates who have lab experience? I know my evaluation experience isn't exactly relevant to my professional interests (social psych, though I am considering looking at more evaluation-oriented programs such as Claremont), while undergrad labs offer more specialized training. Do grad schools want me to have extensive research experience relevant to my social psych interests?



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Well don't count yourself short- you still have two applications out there. I have a wide variety of research experience but I think if your in undergrad the expectation is that you've done some research. They don't want people who've never done any research for then who knows if you are really serious about grad school or if you will stay after you start doing research. Maybe you won't like it? Just keep the faith. 


With all that being said there might be different tiers of research experience. Like a strictly literature review based experience versus one where you ran subjects, collected data, and analyzed it using statistics. 


Good Luck. You will get in. 

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I have four years of in-lab experience, two of which I designed & ran studies myself, and I've already received a rejection and haven't received interview invites for two others that are happening the next two weeks. Research is obviously important but it isn't the only thing that matters. I don't think area specific research is as important as research in general, some people like yourself just flat out didn't have access to resources that gave them relevant research experience. Schools know that. Part of the reason I'm speaking confidently on this is that I've received an acceptance for a program that's outside the domain I have most experience in, so I know it's possible.

Like the person said above, it's important for them to know you don't absolutely hate research and will burn out immediately.

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Thanks to both of you, I was just worried that maybe there were some critical skills I'm missing because of my circumstances. But I think my experience has been at least decent. I've been heavily involved in data collection (full time since I graduated), which consists of long interviews for a longitudinal study, as well as the data entry, analysis, and reporting. 


The other weakness of my application is a lack of psych stats training. I took a stats class my first semester of college, but it was before I was a psych major. Since that class transferred over, I wasn't required to take a psych stats class or any more stats. Can anyone speak to the importance of a specifically psychology stats class? I have quite a bit of experience with SPSS, but my formal training isn't anything to write home about... Now that I've graduated, is there another way I can bone up on my stats that might give me an edge next year? If I report that I've done personal/informal studies on stats, would they even care about that?

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