Getting into Graduate School

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The process of applying and getting into graduate school is a stressful step in the career path of psychologists. There are a number of general steps to follow but it is recommended that you establish a mentoring relationship with a faculty member or graduate student at your institution. If you have questions about graduate school that aren't answered here, feel free to check out the section "Who can I talk to if I have a question about graduate school?."

General Steps

  1. Have a solid academic record (especially in your major classes and in your last year).
  2. Study for the GRE and take it as early as possible. It's not uncommon to need to retake the GRE to improve scores, so don't procrastinate getting it done the first time. It's actually probably better to think of your first time taking the exam as a benchmark that will tell you how hard you need to study for the second time.
  3. Get involved in research as early as possible. If you don't attend a research university, try to get involved as a teaching assistant.
  4. Start gathering a list of individuals who will write a letter of recommendation for you. This list should include at least 3 professors (or graduate students). The closer you work with someone, the better a letter of recommendation they can write. When it comes time to actually have these individuals submit the letters, make sure to handle all of the administrative details (e.g., if an institution requires a mailed copy, provide the individual with an addressed, stamped envelope; compile a list of all of the institutions you are applying to and the dates that the letters are due).
  5. Decide on the institutions you would like to apply to and begin the process very early. Compile lists of all of the different requirements so that you make sure everything is correct and go back over this list before submitting your application.
  6. Get peer review of your personal statement and CV. If you can have a graduate student or faculty member look at it, even better (note: this should be someone you have worked with closely). If you have an idea of your academic interests, it sometimes helps to mention a specific faculty member you'd like to work with (note: you'll want to make sure that s/he is taking on students that year and is still conducting the type of research listed on their faculty profile.

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