Each school that you apply to will have a separate application to be completed. Common information that you will be asked to supply include full name, previous and maiden names, citizenship status, semester of entrance, current mailing address, permanent home address, educational history, degree sought, field of study, relevant courses taken, GPA, academic honors, clinical experience, special qualifications, employment history, teaching/research experience, career objectives, and references.
It is important that you complete these applications carefully, professionally and neatly. Illegible handwriting, incorrect spelling, and poor grammar will seriously affect your chances of being admitted. Consider making photocopies of the applications and completing a first draft of the applications.
A curriculum vita summarizes your academic and employment history as it pertains to your career in psychology in a structured format. It is essentially an academic resume. Topics included on your vitae are educational history, relevant coursework, clinical, research, and teaching experience, honors and awards, memberships in professional organizations, publications, and presentations. Involvement in departmental activities, such as research projects and teaching experiences, as well as relevant clinical experiences, such as practicum experience and volunteer experience at agencies that may pertain to your research interests, are excellent activities to highlight on your vitae.
Your application to graduate program will require you to write a statement of purpose. When conceptualizing your personal statement, it is best to view it as a professional statement. Your personal statement is not a forum to discuss personal philosophy on life, significant life experiences, such as your first love, or intimate narratives on how you have chosen psychology as a career path. Instead, keep the tone of your statement formal, clear and professional and write about your activities and experiences as an expectant psychologist.
Each application will specify the topics that you are to address in your personal statement. Common topics include career plans, clinical experiences, interest areas, specific faculty of interest, research experiences, autobiographical statement, academic objectives, reasons for applying to that particular program, and educational background. Carefully read the question for each application, individualize your response to each program, and respond to all the parts of the question.
Your personal statement must be written extremely well, void of all grammar and spelling errors. Write several drafts of your personal statement, and with each revision, concentrate on the organization and clarity of your thoughts. Share your personal statement with others to gain feedback about your writing and make sure to proofread!
The Writing Center provides assistance for students with resume, vita, and personal statements. You are always welcomed to schedule an appointment with an advisor at 1343 Ellsworth Hall.
Most graduate programs require a minimum combined score (verbal + quantitative) of 297 on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some programs, such as clinical, require scores over 308. Plan on taking the test as early as possible in your senior year (perhaps even the summer before), so that if you do not receive the score that you wanted, you will have time to retake the test before your application materials are due. Because your GRE scores are such a critical part of your application, don't take the test cold. You can improve your score by studying for it. In addition to the study materials that will be sent to you by the Educational Testing Services when you register for the test. Below is a list of some resources for the GRE:
Before you sign up, be sure you know what the schools you are applying for require of applicants. Some programs will require applicants to take the Subject test in addition the GRE General test. If you must take the Subject test, register early as this test is only offered a few times a year. The GRE website offers a lot of good information regarding test dates and preparation hints. Visit them to familiarize yourself with the testing procedures.
In the Kalamazoo area, tests are given at the Prometric Testing Center located at 640 Romence Road in the Hillside Center, Suite 215. You can call 321-8351 for more information and to schedule a testing date.
You must also include official transcripts from each of the colleges and universities that you have attended as a part of your application materials. Most schools require that these transcripts are sent directly from the schools and not included with your application. Therefore, make sure you request to have transcripts sent to the schools that you are applying to by Thanksgiving (October/November) to ensure that the transcripts are received by the deadline and follow up to make sure that the transcripts have been received by the schools you are applying to.
Most graduate programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0; some schools require a higher GPA. Do everything you can to boost your GPA, including retaking courses (particularly courses in psychology that you may have earned a low grade in). Learn how to calculate your Psychology GPA.
Letters of recommendation provide admissions committees with an objective evaluation of your work by someone who is working within the field. When choosing individuals to write letters of recommendation for you, try to identify individuals that can attest to your ability to complete advanced studies in psychology. Such individuals include psychology faculty members, practicum supervisors, or work supervisors from employment in a psychologically related job. Start working on gaining letters during your sophomore and junior year by being involved in practicum, research projects, teaching opportunities, other departmental activities, and taking multiple courses with the same instructor. In essence, start developing a strong relationship with individuals in a position to write you a letter of recommendation, so that when the time comes to ask for that letter, they will be able to write you a good letter of recommendation.
American Psychological Association. (2004). Graduate study in psychology. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
American Psychological Association. (2003, December 8). APA online: students. [On-line] Available: http://www.apa.org/students
Norcross, J.C., Sayette, M.A., & Mayne, T.J. (2002). Insider's guide to graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology. New York: The Guilford Press.