Are you planning to attend graduate school?
The Career Development Center (CDC)
Located on the second floor of Glendening Hall (211), the CDCenter is a great resource for professional/graduate school research, career exploration and internship/employment opportunities.
Join MentorNet! What is graduate school really like? How can you make the most of your first "real" job? The CDC's MentorNet directory gives students and recent graduates the opportunity to learn about graduate study and the world of work by connecting with professionals in their field of interest. Relevant mentors can be easily identified by searching the database according to major, graduate degree, occupation, location, or keyword. Contact the Career Development Center at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a unique username and password.
Erika Delanoy '09 completed her Masters in Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin in 2011. She interned in Hospice/Palliative Care at the Department of Veteran Affairs for 5 months and is now currently a social worker for Family Preservation Services in Charlottesville, VA.
Planning for Graduate School
When to Apply
You should begin to gather materials for application to graduate programs by the middle of your junior year, or a year and a half before your anticipated graduation. The first step is to check for dates when the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) will be offered over the next year. Almost all graduate programs require the general test, so take it first. If necessary, you can take the advanced GRE at a subsequent date.
Your GRE scores are important determinants of whether or not you will be admitted into graduate school. Workbooks on how to prepare for the GRE are available in bookstores and GRE also has a test preparation web site.
Your second step is to become familiar with Graduate Studies in Psychology, published by the APA. This book provides information about each university in the United States. This information includes GRE scores required and average scores accepted, required GPA, fees, types of programs available, and financial aid opportunities.
In order to make your graduate school application as attractive as possible to screening committees, begin planning early. Good grades are very important, as well as research experience and other experience in applied settings. These will be seen as evidence that you have more than just book knowledge of your field of interest and are genuinely interested in pursuing further training. Try to establish a rapport with your professors. You will need to have letters of reference from two or three professors who know you well. An important experience to have on your educational resume is having presented research (e.g. conference presentation, such as EPA). This is where the several opportunities for research offered at SMCM can benefit you (See Opportunities for Research). Finally, get involved in departmental activities and societies such as Psi Chi.
How to Apply
After you have decided on several universities you are interested in, the third step is to request applications. You can acquire information online about the universities you have taken an interest in. (Also see Peterson's Graduate School Channel). You should apply to several programs. You should then make sure that you register to take all required admissions tests (GRE, MAT, etc.). After application forms and other relevant materials for admission are received, read all forms carefully! Neatness is very important (for clarity) - if at all possible, type the forms. Most schools require at least the following:
- Application form
- Letters of Recommendation (from professors, see Recommendation Request Form and Advice on letters of recommendation from the Social Psychology network.)
- Official Transcript
- GRE Scores
Peterson's Graduate School Channel has some timely information about the graduate application process, as well as other information about graduate schools.
Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that all materials reach the college or university! Some hints:
- Follow the guidelines on the Recommendation Request Form
- When requesting a transcript, ask when the transcript will be sent and then follow up to verify in was sent when promised.
- If the school to which you have applied does not respond within a reasonable amount of time, check to see if all parts of your application have been received by the admissions panel. This should be done at least three weeks before the school's deadline for applications to be completed.
What is the purpose of a personal statement?
The personal statement is generally used by graduate school screening committees to supplement the information presented in the rest of your application. Because most of the information in your applications is factual and usually statistical in nature, the personal statement allows the committee to learn about you in a different manner. Personal statements can give the committee four different ways to learn more about you. First, they are used to learn why you are interested in graduate school. (What got you interested in your field of study, what are your career goals, and how motivated are you about your choice?). Second, it is used to evaluate how well your interests correspond to the interests of the program to which you are applying. (Are your interests consistent with what that particular graduate school can provide to you?) Third, it is used to assess your writing ability. (Do you write in a coherent, organized, and succinct fashion?) Fourth, the personal statement is used to help differentiate those applicants who are in the middle range, with good, but not outstanding, grades and test scores.
What material should be covered in a personal statement?
First, answer all questions that are asked of you. Address all aspects of the questions and be organized and thorough. If the application gives you the ambiguous "write a personal statement", however, your essay should be an organized and well written statement in which you integrate your various academic, research, practical, and life experiences in a manner that shows your determination to pursue your goals. Also show that the program to which you are applying will maximize your ability to pursue those goals. This material you are presenting in your personal statement should be well thought out and well presented. If you are unsure about how your personal statement presents itself, have others such as professors, advisors, and writing experts, read it.
What other specific points should I consider when writing a personal statement?
- DO NOT makes misteaks in grammer, speling: or punctuation; (see how bad it looks!)
- Conform to the required structural specifications (e.g., 1 page, single spaced). If there are no specifications, no more than 1 single spaced or 2 double spaced pages is a good rule.
- Do not use cute fonts or colored paper - standard font and resume quality paper will make the best impression.
- Show individuality without being "odd".
- Avoid discussing personal problems.
- Avoid using cliche's such as "I want to help people" or "I want to make the world a better place".
- Be straightforward and honest. If you have researched graduate schools thoroughly then you are honestly applying to the schools that can serve you best.
- Write with confidence but not arrogance. Let the committee know you are enthusiastic determined, and ready for graduate school. Do not write the statement that you know everything and the school would be lucky to have you.
- Demonstrate that you have researched the school to which you are applying such as the type of program, general research interests of the faculty, etc., and that it would suit your goals. Be careful not to be so specific however, that you narrow your options and decrease your chances of being accepted.
- As stated before, proofread it! Have a friend or family member read it, a faculty member read it, and take it to a writing center on campus.
The information above was based on the following references:
- Keith-Speigel, P. (1991) The complete guide to graduate school admission: Psychology and related fields. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale, NJ.
- Norcross, J.C., Sayette, M.A., & Mayne, T.J. (1996) Insider's guide to graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology. The Guilford Press: New York.
- Hope College Psychology Web Page.
- Mississippi State University Psychology Web Page.
- Deciding to Attend Graduate School
- Get Acquainted with the GRE
- Which Graduate School is Right for You?
- GRE Subject Test in Psychology; download the practice booklet
- Resources from Dr. Marky Lloyd: