13 Tips While Prepping For Grad School, Because Applying To A Clinical Psych Ph.D. Program Can Be Daunting
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13 Tips While Prepping For Grad School, Because Applying To A Clinical Psych Ph.D. Program Can Be Daunting

I'm not in yet, but my chances are much better because of these 13 things I've done!

Upham Hall Arch in the Spring at Miami University

When I first decided I wanted to apply for a clinical psychology Ph.D. program, I found a wonderful grad student to mentor my journey. They told me a general timeline of what I needed to do, and I've taken that and ran with it. Since then, I've gotten more advice from grad students in my lab as well as various professors. So, here's the list of XX things you should think about doing when you are applying for (clinical psychology Ph.D.) grad programs. I started this at the end of my sophomore year, but the earlier, the better!

1. Find a research lab (in psychology). 

It's a bonus if it's in an area you're really interested in, but that can't always happen! Reach out to professors and hear about their work, read some articles, and then apply if they have open spots! Best time of the year to reach out is the end of spring semester/ right before fall.

2. Keep your grades up and get PASSIONATE about psych/ related fields. 

You truly have to show work ethic and STRONG PASSION to be accepted into clinical Ph.D. programs.

3. Really start honing in on what you're interested in. 

This will help you narrow down colleges/ professors/ programs when you finally get to that point! Read articles or books and definitely take many psychology classes!

4. Get involved in your lab! 

Go over and beyond what you have to do. Clinical Ph.D. programs are some of the toughest programs to get into. Most have a 5% acceptance rate or less! Anything that helps you stand out as someone dedicated to and interested in science/ research will give you a leg up. Honors Theses, working with grad students, research conferences, or any other semi-independent projects are great!

5. Buy the Clinical Psychology Book for the most recent year. 

It's called "Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology" and has every accredited program in the US as well as statistics! I read through every program and it took a few hours, but it was worth it! I focused on Clinical Ph.D. programs that were a research balance of "4" to "6", had all or almost all of their students accepted into APA accredited internships, paid full tuition and a stipend, and did research in what I was interested in (personality disorders). This book was really a lifesaver!

6. Start looking into each of these colleges' professors/ research. 

Some of the book's info is broad, and you need to identify which professor's lab you would want to work with at any given school you apply to. This is one thing that is different about Clinical Ph.D. programs versus other programs. Visit their websites and check out each professor's research. This is where a LOT of leg work will be done. Keep in mind that this list should be pretty long, as you will continue to widdle it down and some professors on your list might not be accepting students for the years in which you are applying.

7. Look into each of the programs. 

This is another "widdle down" step. I read their full program description or handbook. At this point, I excluded programs that either didn't fit with my views on research, didn't have enough current research or required the psych GRE. I considered the psych GRE an exclusion because as a low-income college student, it is both not cost-effective and also feels like a way to exclude low-income students. I am not interested in a school that is not interested in equal opportunities.

8. Really look deep into these professors. 

They might be a good fit research-wise, but will they fit well personality-wise? I looked for labs with creative research websites or focuses in diversity to put into my top spots. Each of these things shows commitment to something I find important. I also created a professional Twitter to see how the schools and professors interact with a world that has moved drastically to social media.

9. Study for the GRE. 

Start as early as you can, but keep in mind that you should take it before you senior year begins.

10. The summer before senior year, reach out to the professors you are interested in. 

Bonus if this is done before the GRE because you get to send a few free scores when you take it. After that each score yous end is $27. Give them a BRIEF description of yourself and your interests and then ask if they are reviewing any applications for grad students for the year in which you are applying. They are busy, so make it BRIEF. If you are lucky, they might ask for more info, but it's not a bad sign if they do not reply with anything more than a yes or no. If you do not receive a reply, reach out to the grad program.

11. Take the GRE. 

This one is obvious, but do your best. It's one of the first things they will see on your application.

12. Reach out to YOUR professors. 

You'll need help with your CV, personal statement, and you'll likely need 3 letters of recommendation from Ph.D.'s. Be sure to create these professional relationships early and reach out to ask them if they would be able to write you a strong letter of recommendation by the beginning of your senior year.

13. Complete your applications and then panic for 3-5 months. 

This is probably one of the most stressful parts. You will get a rejection or an invitation to interview and then you'll eventually find out about all acceptances or rejections. Grad students in my lab recommended applying to 8-12 schools, due to the acceptance rate being so low.

I haven't applied nor been accepted yet, but come back in 10 months and I'll let you know how everything went! Good luck, you've got this!

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