Psychology After Dominican
Grad School Preparation
Admission to graduate programs in psychology continues to be extremely competitive. Plan ahead to make sure you have all the necessary pieces in place.
Be sure to read " So You Want To Go To Graduate School," a paper written by Mary Petrosko, a 2009 Dominican graduate, who successfully navigated her way through the graduate school application process.
Here are some other helpful pointers:
- Identify Your Target Schools – Refer to Graduate Study in Psychology (ISBN: 978-1-4338-0535-6), the American Psychological Association’s compendium of all the graduate psychology programs in the United States and Canada. It includes valuable information about the application process at each school and the program’s history of admissions. The Psychology Department keeps a copy of this book, or you may purchase your own copy.
- Allow Enough Time - Application to graduate school can be a long process, particularly if you are applying to several programs. Allow enough time to search for graduate programs that may interest you, prepare and take admission exams if required, send transcripts, give faculty members enough time to write letters of recommendation, and make certain that you have completed the application process before the deadline dates. Graduate programs often have deadlines that may not allow for late applications.
- Obtain Reference Letters – Most graduate schools ask for letters of reference as part of the application process. Such letters can help graduate schools get to know you and understand how you will fit into their programs. These letters also are an opportunity to showcase you and your accomplishments. The best letter will be written by a faculty member who has taught you, has advised you, has supervised your independent research and has spent time talking to you about your plans and goals.
- Take the Graduate Record Examination – Many graduate programs will require you to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This test has two principal parts, the General Test and the Subject Test. The General Test includes: Verbal, Quantitative and Analytic Writing sections. The Subject Test covers your undergraduate major. This test must be taken before you begin the application process.
- Consider Location – Graduate study in psychology can be very competitive. Limiting yourself geographically (“I must stay in Chicago”) can have a serious impact on your ability to find a program that is a good fit. Schools in major metropolitan areas are very attractive to applicants from around the country. If you are willing to travel to a different location (e.g. North Dakota, Alabama, Oklahoma) for the few years that it will take to earn a graduate degree, you may increase your odds of being admitted to a graduate program.
PhD programs are found within major research institutions (e.g. DePaul University, University of Illinois, Northwestern University, etc.). Students receive education in both clinical psychology in a mental health setting and research methodology. Ph.D. programs ordinarily require that students attend on a full-time basis.
PhD programs offer two main advantages:
- Preparation to do both clinical work and teach in a college or university.
- Students in these programs typically pay no tuition and receive payment for assisting a professor for about 20 hours per week.
These programs are competitive. A university may receive 300 to 400 applications for fewer than 10 open slots.
It is difficult to enter a PhD program without completing an independent research project as an undergraduate. At Dominican, you can gain research experience by doing an Honors Project or a Degree with Distinction Project. Get an early start: ask your Dominican advisor about doing independent research before the end of your second year of study.
PhD programs favor applicants who have a strong mathematics and natural science background. Take as many courses in these areas as you can, particularly biology, neuroscience and math through calculus. Even better: earn a minor in one of these areas.
PsyD programs are typically offered in freestanding schools of psychology. This degree is based on the professional model of training, which focuses on applied training in clinical settings.
That means the PsyD degree prepares students for a life of professional clinical service, not research or teaching.
PsyD programs typically admit much larger classes of students as compared to PhD programs and they usually offer little, if any, financial aid. You’ll need to plan to fund your advanced education through savings, earnings or educational loans.