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Hey all,

So, first-time "Topic-creater" and majorly freaking out about the Fall 2017 application cycle.

I will be applying for admission into clinical psychology programs after taking a gap year (combination of choice and being accepted into a school that fit less with my interests than I had originally thought). I'm looking to get some input on my chances/what I should be improving on for next year's application cycle. 

Now, a bit about me...

I graduated from a great university in Montreal, Quebec with a cumulative GPA of 3.82 with my last 60-credits averaging more around 3.9-something. I was in honours psychology, so I have a thesis written (very strong according to my supervisor and professor). 

During my undergraduate career, I volunteered as a confederate for two semesters, in a neuroscience lab for one year, and was in a memory/forensics lab for two years (Y1. as a research assistant and Y2. as a research co-coordinator). All together, I have four conference presentations, three poster and one oral (from an elective course). Taking a gap year, I am currently also involved in neurosurgery/neuroscience research at one of Canada's top universities (where one of my conference presentations come from). Though it is not what I want to study, a letter from the faculty member at the university will most definitely NOT hurt my application.

As of now, I unfortunately do not have any publications, though I am marked as a collaborator in a lab mate's soon-to-be published textbook. 

I also have clinical experience. Namely, I hold weekly hours at the university's sexual assault centre (two years) and volunteer at an outpatient mental health facility (since the beginning of the summer). 

GRE scores =

  • V = 156 (72%)
  • Q = 160 (76%)
  • AW = 6 (99%)
  • Psychology GRE = TBD as I will be writing the exam on October 29th. Any advice on preparing for that beast? 

Any feedback would be amazingly appreciated and I wish you all phenomenal luck applying :).

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You sound ultra qualified to me.  Maybe you could bump up your GRE verbal score a bit, but otherwise I don't see much room for improvement.  

RE: the Psychology GRE.  Given your experience and GPA I'm sure you'll find it a piece of cake, but if you're aiming for a top score I would recommend reading an intro psych textbook or two cover to cover and knowing them inside out.  Supplement that with reviews using either Barron's or Kaplan's latest Psych GRE prep books.  Know the DSM V. Review in particular any areas you're weaker on or don't know much about (e.g., industrial-organizational psychology).  

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Thanks so much, @St0chastic. I don't think that I have the time, nor the drive to have to re-write the GREs, they're not particularly fun.

For the PSYC. GRE, I already got a DSM-V compatible introductory textbook as well as Barron and Kaplan's prep. books. It's a fairly daunting exam to write.

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Yeah, retaking the GRE is probably unnecessary.  I'll be the first to admit I'm biased because the GRE helped me compensate for a merely good GPA (I feel like all psych majors who get into competitive clinical programs have >3.8 even though the data say otherwise).  

Don't worry too much about the psych GRE.  I had a lot of fun studying for it.  After all, you are reviewing stuff you probably already learned at some point and that is mostly interesting to you.  When studying for exams keep in mind the principle of diminishing returns.  By studying let's say 60 hours you can significantly improve your score.  Studying an additional 60 hours will help but not quite as much.  And studying another 60 hours for a total of 180 will probably only improve your score marginally.  So spend your limited study time focusing on key concepts and famous names and theories.  Don't expend a ton of effort worrying about the nitty gritty details (unless you're a huge nerd like me and have fun doing so).  With a big, comprehensive exam like the psych GRE it can be easy to lose the forest for the trees.  As long as you score >90% you should be fine (and even >80% is probably good enough).  With a psych background and some focused study this isn't very hard to do.  Using ETS' scoring charts, some back-of-the-napkin math tells me you need to answer about 83% of questions correctly to do this, less if you don't provide incorrect answers to the questions you don't know.  

On that note, I think it's actually better to guess on any questions where you can eliminate at least two of the five multiple choice options.  This is because you will have a 33% random chance of getting the right answer and are deducted .25 points for every incorrect answer.  So just purely probabilistically, you will maximize your expected score by guessing on any questions where you can eliminate two trap answers.

Edited by St0chastic
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Hey fellow Canadian here :)

Congrats on making it this far in your application! I also took a gap year before entering a clinical program last Fall (second year of MA starts...this week!). By the looks of things you have a very strong research background, and those presentations/posters will definitely be advantageous! I also did not have any publications at the time of my application except for a couple submitted/pending. 

The GRE is not always a make or break, and it is the most useful when you may need to help boost your overall application only if there are other areas that could use work. 

Overall, you have great chances! I would say to ask your current advisors/people who will be writing your recommendation letters to look into who you are applying to. Not sure if you plan to go into neuropsychology given your diverse background, but that community is quite small and many people know each other. Academics will be the best in helping you figure out fit, which, in my opinion, is the most essential part of the application process. Knowing that a student will be great in his or her lab can be the best way for a PI to determine whether to take someone on!

Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions or need help! Good luck :)

Edited by Jay's Brain
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