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A bit overwhelmed.


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Hi my name is Trey, I'm new here. This place was suggested to me by a friend as a excellent source to gain information and "join the struggle" with others so-to-speak in regards to the pursuit of further schooling. 

I've been spending the past few days researching potential POI's and grad programs with very little progress and have become quite frustrated with the process.

I am hoping someone here may have similar academic interests as me and may be able to provide some information that could be helpful.

My desired research focus is the impact of technology/social media on the developing mind as well as it's impact on public discourse and interpersonal communication. 

Short back story and why I feel overwhelmed: I graduated in May of 2014 with a BS in Business Management at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a GPA of 3.1. After graduating I spent this past year interning for a non-profit organization in Washington State. After realizing that the organization (Christian affiliated) was not something I would like to pursue as a career or vocation (change of worldview) I opted to move back home when I fulfilled my obligations to figure out what's next. 

I have always been fascinated with the social/cognitive sciences and I am learning that the only reason I didn’t pursue that interests during my undergrad years was because of the grip religious dogma had on me. What troubles me is that I am terrible new to this process. With no academic back ground in psychology (though I know for many programs it’s not necessary) I feel as though I am lacking in experience. Currently I am preparing for the GRE which I plan to take at the end of May. Passed that point however I’m sort of at a loss, outside of the clear intuition that it is an area of study I’m willing to devote myself to in hopes to build something for myself professionally. 

Any advice or info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Have you thought about doing an MS at ULL? 

With no psychology background, getting into a PhD program will be quite hard. The program at ULL is pretty good, and it's a school you're familiar with. Moreover, if you're living in the area already, it's quite inexpensive for a grad program, and they're good about partial/full support for masters. 

It would help you refine your interests a lot too, as your current research focus seems (to me) to be very, very broad.

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Have you considered looking at programs in communication/communication studies, in addition to psychology? Given your interests, it seems like a semi-obvious fit. I also agree with Eigen about trying to do a master's program before doing a PhD so you can gain research experience and make sure that this path is truly the one which you want to pursue. Good luck!

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Hi, Trey -- welcome!

It's definitely understandable to feel overwhelmed about "getting back in the academic game," so to speak. That said, there are lots of pathways into Ph.D programs (if you decide that's the kind of program you'd like to pursue), and quite a lot of people enter graduate school without necessarily having taken a "linear path" to get there.

As you said, many programs don't require applicants to have majored in psychology, but many do require applicants to have taken some core psychology classes (typically classes on methods and statistics are the most important here). More important, though -- again, for research-oriented Ph.D programs -- is that applicants have some research experience in one or more psychology labs. You mentioned you don't have an academic background in psychology -- did you by chance gain research experience as an undergrad, perhaps in a different kind of social science lab? 

To address the (potential) coursework issue, you may want to look into master's programs in experimental psychology. These are (typically) two year programs that should get you all caught up with the relevant coursework, and also give you the opportunity to gain some independent research experience in the form of a master's thesis. Some of these programs are actually fully-funded, too, which is nice.

To address the latter point about research experience, volunteering or working in a psych lab would give you an enormous leg up in the application process (as well as give you some really important research skills, and confirm that you're truly interested in psych research!). I'm in my second year as a full-time research assistant/lab manager, and I truly believe it was the best thing I could have done for my graduate applications. If you can afford to do this on a volunteer-basis, you could e-mail faculty at nearby institutions whose research interests overlap with yours and ask if they could use a volunteer, part-time RA. If you'd like to shoot for a full-time, paid position, you could check job listing boards like indeed.com for "psychology research assistant." 

Hope this helps as a starting point. To speak to your specific question about finding POIs/programs with overlapping research interests, you'll probably want to find scientific psych papers or journals on what you're interested in, and track down the authors on your favorite papers that you find. 

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1 hour ago, Trey_Delcambre said:

My desired research focus is the impact of technology/social media on the developing mind as well as it's impact on public discourse and interpersonal communication.

My apologies in advance if what follows isn't helpful, I'm focusing more on your interest in technology and social media than on your emphasis on psychology. Nevertheless, based on your interest on "the impact of technology/social media" you might consider looking at some STS, Media Studies, or even History of Technology programs. It's true that these programs won't be intensive psychology programs, but if you're interested in looking at the impacts of technology on public discourse and interpersonal communication they'd be worth considering. STS and Media Studies tend to be fairly interdisciplinary fields and you could probably do interesting psychology related work within such a program. Indeed, your interest in psychology might make you stand out as a candidate or applicant.

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