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Will I get into a Psychology PhD program?


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I'm new to this site so I am not sure if this is posted in the right area. Im worried about my chances of getting into a grad school. Im currently a psych undergrad junior. Cumulative GPA 3.45, Major GPA 3.9. However, I am a little behind in research and internships. My school doesn't allow students to do research or internships until junior year and since was not able to get into a clinical psych class last semester (pre-req for intern) I cannot do an internship this semester. However, I do plan on volunteering this semester, somewhere relevant to my graduate interests. I also plan on doing an internship over the summer 2018, fall 2018 and possibly spring 2019. I also plan on doing research both semesters of my senior year (fall '18, spring 19'.) Assuming this all goes according to plan, I keep my GPA where it is, and can do well on my GREs, is there a chance i can get into a PhD program in psychology (interested in either cognitive or developmental.)

Can anyone weigh in on my chances of getting into a PhD program from their personal experiences? Im very interested in Arizona States PhD program in cognitive psychology, but they don't report their grad acceptance rates, so I don't know if I stack up. 

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Hey!

Most programs really like to see research experience, and it is not so much about the quantity but the quality. If the experience you get between now and application time is really really good and applicable to what you want to do, I think you'd have good chances. If not, you'd definitely be able to find a master's program to get in to and gain more experience. Good Luck!!

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I agree with what is above. Try to get research experience. I'm not sure if the internship to which you refer is clinical--if so, that will likely help you less in cognitive or developmental applications than would research experience.

Start studying for the GRE and reading articles you find interesting. A good test score and some knowledge in the actual field to which you are applying will go far.

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Hello! So first things first, your GPA isn't something I would worry about. I got offers from multiple programs with numbers similar to yours (cumulative 3.5, psych 3.78). I don't think any programs had doubts about my GPA, but if they did, my GRE scores definitely alleviated them. So, the fact that you're confident about your ability to do well on the GRE is a huge plus. 

I don't know about getting into a PhD program directly from undergrad but if you feel by the fall of your senior year that you are not confident in your application, you can always take a year off to gain even more research experience (this is what I did). If you're not trying to go into clinical psych then there is no need for any sort of clinical internship. Cognitive and Developmental programs will only be looking for research experience. So instead of devoting energy to taking that clinical class, and to applying for and finding an internship position, and then spending your whole summer doing that, nix the idea and try to get into a research lab that summer instead. 

My advice is to start talking to professors at your school right now to ask for advice on how to make your application stronger. If you know what your research interests are, ask them if they know of any universities that have faculty doing strong research in that area (doesn't matter if you know the answer or not, the point is to show that you are interested and this is something you are seriously considering. you can just pretend you don't know the answer. This is how you build strong relationships with faculty and potentially even get recommenders). 

Also, in response to what someone above said, you really shouldn't go into a terminal masters degree program unless you absolutely have to. If you feel that you're lacking in research experience and that is your motivation for doing the MA, definitely just take a gap year and work as a lab manager/research assistant instead. 

Edited by 01sonal
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I am also curious of my own chances. I graduated undergrad a year early and had a GPA of 3.61 (3.7 psych); GRE scores Verbal 61%, Quant 59%, Analytical 82% I have a year of undergrad research, a year of undergrad clinical work, and 2.5 years of full-time program coordinator work, including a rather large presentation for an ivy-league program, but no posters/papers. 

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3 hours ago, Bluflmngo1 said:

I am also curious of my own chances. I graduated undergrad a year early and had a GPA of 3.61 (3.7 psych); GRE scores Verbal 61%, Quant 59%, Analytical 82% I have a year of undergrad research, a year of undergrad clinical work, and 2.5 years of full-time program coordinator work, including a rather large presentation for an ivy-league program, but no posters/papers. 

It depends on what type of program you're applying to and the specific school. Lots of places use GRE scores as cutoffs to narrow down their applicant pool, so you may want to check the GRE averages of the programs you applied to (they usually post these). If you're around (or above) their average, then it'll come down to research experience (which you seem to have) and fit with the program + the program's current needs (you may fit well with a professor, but if they're lower priority for accepting students that year then it may not matter, unfortunately). 

In a vacuum, you'd seem to have good odds at universities that average around your GRE scores, but there's a lot of extra behind-the-scenes stuff that is typically beyond your control. 

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So things are not going as I expected and I’m starting to think about plan B. Any advice on how to make my app more competitive for the next round would be appreciated (will be round 3 for me). I will also need to make some $$ to support my expensive application process. 

 

Applied for Ph.D. Clinical Psych focus on developmental disorders, 13 schools, 2nd time applying. Ended up in a 2 year MS program that I will graduate from in May and will be ready to take the BCBA boards. Undergraduate GPA 3.42 & a psych GPA OF 3.56 with Psychology Honors, completed an Honors thesis. GRE 161/161/4. Recipient of two financial research awards, one from my undergraduate institution & the other was a national award. Two funded summer research internships at an IVY league institution mentored by an very well known professor. Two publications in prestigious journals, one was a research study where I was lead author & the other was a book review where I was the author. Masters GPA 3.96. Masters thesis in progress. Currently working as an intern at a facility for the developmentally disabled and working part time as a research assistant on a study related to my area of interest. Psi Chi & vice president of the psychology graduate program at my current university. 4 Letters of Reference, one from a very well known professor who has been my mentor, one from the director of my current program, one from an undergraduate professor and one from my current supervisor. Wasn't invited to interview last time around. What do you think my chances are and how can I improve my profile if I have to apply again? Thank you.


 

 
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32 minutes ago, umlemaillist said:

So things are not going as I expected and I’m starting to think about plan B. Any advice on how to make my app more competitive for the next round would be appreciated (will be round 3 for me). I will also need to make some $$ to support my expensive application process. 

 

Applied for Ph.D. Clinical Psych focus on developmental disorders, 13 schools, 2nd time applying. Ended up in a 2 year MS program that I will graduate from in May and will be ready to take the BCBA boards. Undergraduate GPA 3.42 & a psych GPA OF 3.56 with Psychology Honors, completed an Honors thesis. GRE 161/161/4. Recipient of two financial research awards, one from my undergraduate institution & the other was a national award. Two funded summer research internships at an IVY league institution mentored by an very well known professor. Two publications in prestigious journals, one was a research study where I was lead author & the other was a book review where I was the author. Masters GPA 3.96. Masters thesis in progress. Currently working as an intern at a facility for the developmentally disabled and working part time as a research assistant on a study related to my area of interest. Psi Chi & vice president of the psychology graduate program at my current university. 4 Letters of Reference, one from a very well known professor who has been my mentor, one from the director of my current program, one from an undergraduate professor and one from my current supervisor. Wasn't invited to interview last time around. What do you think my chances are and how can I improve my profile if I have to apply again? Thank you.


 

 
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One method that was an especially helpful resource for me was contacting PI's with which I established contact early in the application process and requesting feedback for my full application package - i.e. was it my GRE? my undergraduate GPA? etc. It turned out that for me in particular, it was my lack of publications. I couldn't show anywhere in the time that I had been doing research (at that point ~5 years) that I could see a project through from start to finish.. I had plenty of experience with data collection and analysis, but had never published any of my work. With that in mind, I left my job and took a 10K pay cut to work in a lab that has given me invaluable opportunities in publishing and contributing scientifically. I honestly still think its early - maybe all 13 schools you applied to have shown up on the grad cafe survey for example, but come february/march, this may be a good thing to try. I would still say now that you sound like an incredibly strong applicant and should stay positive! 

I've also heard from other's experience that sometimes the package is really strong, but the applicant's interests are very specific and are tough to draw parallels with, more generally. Not sure if that is the case, but I think its challenging to nail down that balance of being focused...yet not TOO focused. This is something that is typically reflected in your personal statement - perhaps considering the way you're relaying your interests may help if this applies to your circumstance. 

Even one small thing that made a difference for me this time was requesting LOR's from folks who made me secure in their writing of an excellent LOR over just a good one. I had very generic LORs last time and while I know that shouldn't make a huge difference, I believe that it did for me (I had a weak undergraduate GPA and middle of the road GRE scores). 

I hope that any of this may help in some way. Keep your chin up!!

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  • 3 months later...

Hello all, I'm also in a position of potentially doing either a gap year or a funded masters after an unsuccessful application season right out of undergrad. While my situation isn't directly what the OP asked about, reading everyone's responses has been helpful. Thanks for starting this thread!
May I ask @01sonal why you feel that the OP shouldn't do a masters unless they absolutely have to? I hear a lot that people suggest a gap year over a masters, but I never really hear too much about why.

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On 12/21/2017 at 11:26 AM, 2ndTimeHopeful said:
 
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I mean, your level of experience and clear commitment is amazing. I'm surprised you weren't accepted your second attempt. These programs are among the most competitive graduate programs in the country and luck is unfortunately a factor too, so don't be too hard on yourself.

How many interviews have you generally gotten? What have your mentors told you? What kind of feedback have you gotten on your applications? Usually when I see someone who is awesome on paper but has not had much luck, the issue is something like not applying to labs that are a strong fit with your current experience. 

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21 hours ago, DippinDot said:

Hello all, I'm also in a position of potentially doing either a gap year or a funded masters after an unsuccessful application season right out of undergrad. While my situation isn't directly what the OP asked about, reading everyone's responses has been helpful. Thanks for starting this thread!
May I ask @01sonal why you feel that the OP shouldn't do a masters unless they absolutely have to? I hear a lot that people suggest a gap year over a masters, but I never really hear too much about why.

The reason is that while PhD programs generally offer full funding (tuition waiver + stipend/assistantship to cover cost of living), Master's programs still make YOU pay tuition. Even though it's only for a couple of years, those expenses can really rack up debt. Moreover, different types of MA programs may or may not really make your application competitive. Some example scenarios of when a MA first would be helpful or not-so-helpful to your application:

1. Your undergrad degree was NOT in psych or a related field. You do a psych MA to acquire a strong foundation of background knowledge and demonstrate that you're up to speed. The MA is helpful.

2. Your undergrad degree was in psych or a related field. You do a coursework-based (non-thesis) MA because you think it will look good on an application. You do not acquire much more meaningful research experience or produce posters and publications. You end up footing the bill for the degree, and it is not very helpful to your application.

3. Your undergrad degree was in psych or a related field. You do a thesis-based MA, and gain experience with (maybe) proposing and designing your own study, and following it through. You most likely get at least one poster presentation out of it. You maybe get a publication out of it. The MA was somewhat helpful, but whether the cost was worth the experience is debatable, because it is possible to get comparable credentials out of a paid research assistantship or lab manager job.

 

This applies to many of the other "will I get in" case studies in this thread: Seriously, quality research experience is king. I got into great PhD programs this cycle straight out of undergrad. At interviews, some profs explicitly told me that the admissions committee generally rejects undergrad applicants immediately, on principle. My extensive research experience made me stand out enough to get me an interview, and from there, I had a real shot to impress in-person. I had quantity (four years of work in four different labs, sometimes two concurrent research positions). More importantly, I also had quality (three programs of original research which I proposed and designed, multiple poster and oral presentations, two first author pubs in process).

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@brainlass Thank you so much for laying everything out so clearly! I really appreciate the advice.
Your application sounds incredibly strong. I wasn't able to do any conferences or publications in my time as undergrad (although, there's still 2 months left and I may be able to do a poster in this remaining period). Thank you so much for that incredibly valuable piece about how admissions tends to reject undergrad applicants. I had the feeling that the trend tends to be that applicants with research experience outside of undergrad are more favorable, with the exception of those with outstanding applications, such as yourself. Your interview conversation seems to confirm this. 
However, given everything you've said about masters vs gap year, would you still hold the same opinion regarding funded masters? That is, thesis-based masters that are 2 years fully funded with tuition remission and a living stipend. I understand the concern about wasting time is still present here as one could just gain the same research experience and publication opportunities in a gap year. It also seems in general, from what you've been saying, it's difficult to start and finish a publishable project in 2 years at a new institution when one needs to juggle coursework on top of the research. So I imagine that this problem would still extend to research masters that provide full funding. What are your thoughts?

And my apologies if this is derailing the thread. If so, I will move my conversation over to private messages or a separate thread.
Thanks in advance!

Edited by DippinDot
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@DippinDot, if it's a fully funded Master's, then I think that makes it a lot more appealing. If it's a thesis-based MA program with funding, I would definitely go for it! If there's no thesis, though, I'm inclined to think that you'd be better off working as a lab manager or research assistant for the same amount of time, preferably in a situation where you will be allowed some ownership over a project.

If you'd like to chat more about this, feel free to PM me. :)

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On 4/9/2018 at 4:32 PM, brainlass said:

@DippinDot, if it's a fully funded Master's, then I think that makes it a lot more appealing. If it's a thesis-based MA program with funding, I would definitely go for it! If there's no thesis, though, I'm inclined to think that you'd be better off working as a lab manager or research assistant for the same amount of time, preferably in a situation where you will be allowed some ownership over a project.

If you'd like to chat more about this, feel free to PM me. :)

Yes, I second this. The experimental thesis and research I had to do as a result for my Masters was the most valuable component of the degree. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Adding to this conversation because it seems that people have very valuable information. Can anyone tell me what the average GRE scores are for cognitive psychology programs? Thank you.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/6/2018 at 7:30 PM, CogPsych97 said:

Adding to this conversation because it seems that people have very valuable information. Can anyone tell me what the average GRE scores are for cognitive psychology programs? Thank you.

That varies a ton because it greatly depends on the university and the calibre of the program. (Also, MA vs. PhD.) Try checking the department and graduate school websites for each institution. Sometimes, the schools will release historic stats about applicants and admitted students. As a general rule of thumb, you're basically never going to see an average score below 150 for Q or V. For better programs, averages are in the mid-160s for each section (admitted applicants). In psych, verbal scores tend to be higher than quant.

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