Preparing for Graduate School
Attending graduate or professional school is a huge commitment of time and in some cases money. The only universal thing that can be said about graduate school is that it is very different from undergraduate school! You are there to focus on a much narrower area than you learned about during undergraduate school. In some cases you will be the world expert on a topic when you finish. Thus, understanding what you want to do for a career is essential before even thinking about whether you will go to graduate school or not.
Begin by reviewing the information in the Psychology Career Finder and the associated links (e.g., gaining post-baccalaureate experiences, finding a Research Assistant position, APA's resource for getting involved in research and internship opportunities). Discuss this information with your advisors including your Psychology Faculty Advisor. Search out several people in each line of work that interests you (the Career Services can help) and find out what it is really like to do that job. Ask them about their training. What would they have done differently if they could do it again? Good luck on your journey. When you find the right place for you, graduate school can be some of the best years of your life!
Many graduate programs from different disciplines require students to submit GRE scores including the General Test and sometimes the Subject Test. You should plan to study for the General GRE for 3-4 months spending a minimum of 4-6 hours a week. You may also want to consider taking a test-prep course. Make sure to take multiple practice tests which are also available online. If you need to take the Psychology Subject Test for programs that you are applying to plan to double that study time. Pull out your Introduction to Psychology textbook and course notes. Make sure to review the entire textbook, not just the chapters that your professor may have covered. Pay particular attention to the biological/neuroscience chapter. Add to that textbooks/resources and course notes from statistics and research methods. The questions on the subject GRE do not usually require knowledge beyond these courses if you do a comprehensive job of reviewing the information in those course. There are also test-prep materials for this test as well. Once again make sure to take multiple practice tests.
- ETS Tips for the General Test
- ETS Materials for Preparing for the General Test - Free!
- Psychology Subject Test - Practice Tests
- 34 Essential GRE Tips and Strategies
- Having a good mentor early in a scholarly career can mean the difference between success and failure. Ultimately, what you are looking for in a graduate school experience is a strong mentorship relationship, but establishing good mentorship relationships during undergraduate school is also essential. The guide addresses four themes: (1) building and maintaining mentoring relationships, (2) mentoring across difference, (3) supporting career development, and (4) managing conflict within mentoring relationships.
- Hayes, L.J., & Hayes, S.C. (1989). On applying to graduate school in psychology. APS Observer, 2, 17-19.
APA Graduate School Resources
- Applying for Graduate School
- Applying to Graduate and Professional Programs: A Guidebook for Students of Color. In this guide, the authors have identified many of the factors that contribute to both successful and unsuccessful applications to graduate and professional programs in psychology. Throughout, suggestions are made in the form of "helpful hints" that will give you ideas about how to approach and successfully deal with many of the important issues you may face in the application process.
- APAGS Resource Guide for Ethnic Minority Graduate Students. A resource guide highlighting issues of wellness and self-care, conducting research, mentor relationships, professional development, and promoting diversity and creating meaningful change.
Proud and Prepared: A guide for LGBT Students Navigating Graduate Training. Rather than simply providing a list of resources (although such a list is included in the final section), this guide is filled with suggestions, advice, and support written by a variety of LGBT psychology graduate students. Proud and Prepared is presented as a series of chapters, each of which addresses a distinct set of issues graduate students may face.
Mitch’s Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Psychology in Clinical Psychology
- This brief guide is designed to provide an overview of different types of possible career options in the mental health industry, as well as specific information about the application process for a common option: the clinical psychology doctoral (Ph.D.) program.
Doctoral degrees in psychology: How are they different, or not so different? Clarifying key distinctions between the PhD and PsyD degrees
- Doctoral degrees in psychology offer individuals preparation to conduct scientific research, professional practice or both. Most individuals receive either the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. Although each of these degrees is designed to engage students in deep knowledge and skills within a subfield of psychology, there are substantial differences in the type of training and career plans of individuals with these degrees. Finding the best-fitting program for an individual student begins with understanding these differences.
- Volunteering can be an essential part of working in the human services field and preparing for graduate school. You can search volunteer sites in your community based on your interests. Interests include: advocacy and human rights; arts and culture; children and youth; community; crisis support; education and literacy; health and medicine; homeless and housing; immigrants and refugees; justice and legal; LGBT; international; people with disabilities; race and ethnicity; seniors; and veterans and military families.
Funding and Scholarship Opportunties
- The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. Awards are highly competitive and take into account undergraduate GPA and GRE scores. Students apply before or during the first or second year of graduate school and receive three years of funding.
- The purpose of the Psychology Internship with the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs is to offer applied experience to enhance the knowledge of undergraduate and graduate students with a major or minor in psychology.
- MFP is a highly successful federally funded training program for ethnic and racial minority researchers and service providers. Offers fellowships for Master’s students, predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, and the Psychology Summer Institute.
- Through its Fellowship Programs, the Ford Foundation seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, to maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and to increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.
The American Psychological Association offers a variety of funding opportunities for underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students or students interested in diversity issues. Here are some example awards offered by the American Psychological Association.
- Financial Aid Scholarship. The Financial Aid scholarship provides unmet financial need to students who, in addition to good academic standing, need financial assistance in order to complete a particular program of study.
- SPP Diversity Research Grant. A $5,000 research grant available to members highlights the importance of diversity in pediatric psychology.
- Undergraduate Scholarship Program (CIA). Students complete work sessions during each summer break, increasing knowledge and job responsibilities while assisting intelligence professionals and applying academic skills.
- APA Summer Undergraduate Psychology Research Experience Grants. APA offers grants to psychology departments to support undergraduate research assistantships during the summer of 2017.
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority General Graduate Fellowships. These fellowships provide financial assistance to African-American graduate women who are working on professional degrees, master's degrees, doctoral, or post-doctoral studies.
- Filipino-American Psychology Scholarship. The goal of this scholarship is to increase the number of Filipino-American professors, researchers and academics in the field of psychology.
- Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarships. These merit-based scholarships support students interested in careers related to the environment or native students in tribal public policy or health care.
- Minority International Research Training Grant in the Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences. Support short-term international training opportunities in health disparities research for students from health disparity populations and/or are underrepresented in their research fields.
- Point Foundation LGBT Scholarships. Point Foundation provides scholarships, mentorship, leadership training and hope for undergraduate and graduate students of merit who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
- Travel Grants for Students of Color in Psychology. Awarded to students of color in psychology to serve as a source of funding for graduate students to help defray travel expenses associated with attending and presenting research at a professional conference.
- Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research for Undergraduate Students (NIAID). Supports scientists who are members of an underrepresented group at the following levels: high school, undergraduate, medical, graduate, postdoctoral and junior faculty.
- Mental Health Dissertation Research Grant to Increase Diversity. These grants enable qualified doctoral candidates from underrepresented groups, with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue research careers in any area relevant to the research missions of NIMH.
- Psi Chi Regional Research Awards. Presented to students submitting the best research papers to Psi Chi sessions at regional conventions.
- APAGS/Psi Chi Junior Scientist Fellowship. The Junior Scientist Fellowship provides support for students entering their first year, or the first semester of their second year, of a research-oriented graduate program.
- APA Dissertation Research Award. This award program assists science-oriented doctoral students of psychology with dissertation research costs.
- Psychological Science Research Grant. This grant provides support for graduate students conducting psychological science research studies, with additional funding reserved specifically for diversity-focused research.