The Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University offers tips on applying for graduate school.
Each school and program has separate applications that will need to be completed for admissions. It is important to complete these applications carefully and professionally because illegible handwriting, incorrect spelling, typos or poor grammar can negatively impact admissions decisions.
Each application will specify topics to address in the personal statement. Common topics include career plans, clinical experiences, interest areas, specific faculty of interest, research experiences, an 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 parts of the question. Personal statements that are well-written, have gone through multiple revisions, and are free of grammar and spelling errors have the best chance for consideration.
The Graduate Record Exam is a critical part of the application process and consists of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. There is a fee to take the GRE and it can be taken every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period. Studying for the exam is the best way to achieve the highest score. This can be accomplished by taking a prep course like PSY 4010 at WMU or by finding other prep courses and materials to study from. The GRE website offers information regarding test dates, fees, frequently asked questions and preparation materials.
Transcripts and GPA
Official transcripts from each college and university ever attended are required as part of the application for graduate school. Request transcripts early to ensure they are received by the deadline and follow up to make sure the transcripts have been received. Many graduate programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 while some schools require a higher GPA, so calculating overall or psychology GPAs may be a necessary part of the application.
A curriculum vita is an academic resume and summarizes academic and employment history as it pertains to career goals in psychology. Vitae topics include educational history, relevant coursework, clinical, research and teaching experience, honors and awards, memberships in professional organizations, publications, and presentations.
Letters of recommendation
Letters of recommendation provide admissions committees with an objective evaluation of a potential graduate student by someone who is working within the field. Identify individuals such as psychology faculty members, practicum supervisors, or work supervisors from employment in a psychologically-related job to write letters of recommendations. Getting involved early in practica, research projects, teaching opportunities, other departmental activities and taking multiple courses with the same instructor are the best ways to secure letters of recommendations.
Tips for success
- Start the application process early, allowing ample time to complete all application requirements before the deadline.
- Become involved with activities in the psychology department to help gain important research, teaching and clinical experiences as well as building relationships with faculty members or other individuals who can provide letters of recommendation.
- Use the Writing Center for assistance with editing resumes, personal statements and your curriculum vita.