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Combined BA/MA

The Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Science offers the opportunity for students at Vanderbilt to earn a Bachelors degree (BA) and a Masters degree (MA) in just five years of study. This is a highly selective program with an intensive research emphasis. It is primarily intended for students who are considering a PhD or MD-PhD in a research-oriented graduate program in psychology, psychiatry, cognitive science, neuroscience, learning science, and related disciplines. The program could also be appropriate for students interested in research-oriented programs in marketing and managerial decision making offered by some business schools or research-oriented programs in law and human behavior offered by some law schools. This program offers no training in clinical practice whatsoever, although it would be excellent preparation for students interested in doctoral programs in clinical science that follow what is called a scientist-practitioner model.

In this program, students would earn a BA degree at the end of their senior year, graduating along with the rest of their class. The MA would be earned after the fifth year, based on graduate work completed in the senior year and the fifth year.

Perhaps the most important preparation for graduate school in psychology, neuroscience, and related areas is significant research experience. In addition to having sufficient grades, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation, students admitted to top graduate programs often have a year or more of research experience. Some students have participated in an honors program. Some have worked as an undergraduate research assistant. Some have worked as a full time research assistant for a couple of years before applying to graduate school. This combined BA/MA program provides another route for obtaining the research experience and training necessary for admission to top graduate programs. It also offers opportunities for additional research experience for undergraduates already enrolled in the honors program or who are working as research assistants in laboratories. In addition, it offers a way for students earning an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than psychology or neuroscience to be better prepared for doctoral work in these disciplines.

Deadline: Applications should be made by the beginning of the second semester of the junior year.

You can download details of the curriculum of the combined BA/MA program at this link.

Here are some highlights of the requirements and the admissions process:

This program is highly selective. At a minimum, students must have at least a cumulative 3.3GPA to be at all competitive for admission. The program is only open to current Vanderbilt University undergraduates.

The first step is to identify a faculty member who agrees to serves as a mentor. Once a faculty mentor has been identified, application for admission to the combined BA/MA program should be made directly to the Department of Psychology.

Applications should be submitted by the beginning of the spring semester of the junior year.  Applications received at other times will be considered on a case-by-case basis. This allows the Graduate Studies Committee to make an admissions decision in time for the applicant to register for the appropriate courses for the fall semester of their senior year. Applications must include:

  • A statement of purpose. This statement should discuss anything that might relevant to an admissions decision. This is your opportunity to talk to the admissions committee directly. Ideally, your statement should address why you wish to be admitted to the combined BA/MA program, your preparation for the program, a summary of the research project you might work on, and your future plans after receiving a MA degree. This is also your opportunity to discuss anything else you might need the admissions committee to know about you, but please keep your statement relevant to an admissions decision to a research program. This statement should be no more than two single-spaced pages.
  • Two letters of recommendation. These letters must come from Vanderbilt faculty. One letter must be from the faculty member who has agreed to be your faculty mentor. These letters can be mailed directly to the program or they can be included along with the application in a sealed envelope.
  • A current Vanderbilt transcript. Only a Vanderbilt transcript is needed. There is no need to include transcripts from high school.

In addition to the procedures specified in the above brochure, applicants to the 4+1 Program must also complete the petition available here . This petition will be signed off by the DGS if the student is admitted into the 4+1 program.

All application materials should be submitted to Angel Gaither in the Department of Psychology, 301C Wilson Hall.