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Preparing for Graduate Work in Psychology
Perhaps the most important preparation for graduate school is serious research experience. Students applying to top graduate programs participate in the honors program, enroll in more than one semester of directed study, work in a laboratory during the school year or over the summer, or work as a full-time research assistant for a year or two before enrolling in graduate school. For students interested in clinical or counseling psychology, some kind of paraprofessional experience is also recommended.
As part of their course-work, students should take upper-level courses in several areas of psychology and related fields with a particular focus in one area of special interest. Upper-level undergraduate seminars can be good preparation for the kinds of courses students might experience in graduate school.
Students are also recommended to take additional courses in statistics beyond PSY209. Students interested in cognitive/neuroscience programs are encouraged to take mathematics, computer science and computer programming. Students applying to certain sub-discplines of psychology may also benefit from courses in Teaching and Learning, Sociology, Special Education, Neuroscience, or other areas. You major advisor, research advisor , or course instructors can be a good course for recommendations for preparing for graduate school.
Letters of recommendation are also key to graduate programs. Be sure that you think carefully about who to ask to write letters for you. It should be someone who knows you well, and can say something more than “John got an A in my class”. You want someone who can write a detailed letter about your abilities and goals. Once you choose letter writers, be sure to put together a packet of information for them including your updated c.v. (resume) and other information you think will be relevant. Also be sure to include a full list of the programs you’re applying to and the deadlines for each one.
The following links may be useful for preparing for graduate work in psychology:
- APA’s Getting into Graduate School
- Master’s and Doctoral-Level Careers in Psychology and Related Areas
- Social and Behavioral Sciences Graduate Program Listings by Area
- Online Psychology Career Center
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)