Graduate School Application Pointers
Questions, answers, and issues concerning graduate school
If you want a career in Psychology, it is necessary; the baccalaureate level jobs in Psychology are low in pay and responsibility, and in opportunity for advancement. You need to want to go, though; if you like studying, writing papers, and doing research, you probably will like graduate school.
Do I need a Ph.D. or is a Master's degree okay?
We recommend a Ph.D. because of the greater flexibility, freedom, earning opportunity, marketability, etc. If you opt for a Master's, an applied program may increase your employability (at least in some ares), but applied coursework may not transfer into a Ph.D. program later. There are also advantages (of sorts) and disadvantages to the PSYD.
How do I choose a graduate school?
You probably will be required to select a specialty at the time of application. A "good" university may have a weak program in your specialty, so look at program descriptions in the department's grad school directory, talk to professors, and talk to professionals you know in your chosen specialty area. Consider the institution's faculty in that specialty, the number of students in the specialty, and the GPA's and GRE's of accepted students. Consider where the people publishing research in your specialty are located. Remember, though, that a program whose reputation has been built on publication may or may not provide the kind of training YOU need. Also, the importance of getting into a prestigious program varies with specialties, and with your career aspirations. Try to visit the department (Some programs require interviews of top candidates); while there, learn about compatibility with faculty interests and the student environment (competitive vs. supportive, etc.). Be prepared to talk to the faculty about issues, recent research, etc. in the specialty area (i.e., do some background reading). Some programs require that you mesh with the research interests of a specific faculty member; in some cases, there is no point in trying to get into a program if you're not specifically interested in the work one of the faculty is doing.
What do I need to know about applying?
You should apply to several programs (say a half dozen); probably you should apply to programs of varying levels of competitiveness (one or two you would go into only as an alternative to not going at all, one or two at the upper limit of likelihood of accepting you, the rest in between). There will be application fees of varying amounts. Take the essay seriously--it's an effort to see how verbally adept and how coherent you are, as well as how mature your perspective is. Avoid trite statements anybody could make, like; "I want to go into Psychology in order to help people." Ask a professor to criticize your essay and your experience description.
Select your referees from faculty who can make specific comments about the quality of your work and work skills (not just your grades). It is better to ask each professor to write references for all your schools, rather than spreading the work around the department, since writing references for two different people is harder than writing two references for one person. Provide your referee with addressed, stamped envelopes. Complete the information required of you on the reference forms. You should be advised that selection committees give more credibility to a reference when the student has waived the right of access. Try to give all your reference requests to the professor at one time, rather than in dribbles. Allow your referee plenty of time before the deadline, and point out any early deadlines (before February 1). A copy of your resume will be helpful to your referees.
What about financial aid?
Usually, if you're accepted you will receive an assistantship. This might require about twenty hours of work per week, in return for tuition and a stipend that you can live on, albeit meagerly. There are a few fellowships that require no work--NSF is a good source for these--but if you are lucky enough to get one, you still should seek work experience with the faculty members. You may have to apply separately for assistantships and fellowships. Residence hall positions may also be available, and provide room, board, a stipend, and tuition. Sometimes a student is accepted into a program without support, but with the expectation of support at the end of a successful semester or year. Low interest loans may be available, as well.
What tests will I have to take?
Almost certainly, you will need to take the Graduate Record Exam aptitude test; many schools also require the GRE test in Psychology. The comps book is very good preparation for the latter, and study books are published for both tests (We have some old copies). There will be a group testing period at DePauw; check with the Office of Institutional Research (in the Ad Building) or Career Planning and Placement for information soon. You can also arrange to take the tests at other testing colleges; sometimes students take the aptitude test earlier in the semester to avoid having to take both tests the same day. A few programs require the Miller Analogies Test, which is given by appointment.
If I'm not a senior yet, is there anything I can do to prepare?
Definitely! You want to be getting the most you can out your education, and building a record that will make you attractive to graduate schools. Take courses that will prepare you for grad school, and do well in them. Get to know your profs, so they're in a better position to write meaningful recommendations for you. Get career-relevant experience during Winter Terms and summers and through volunteer work. Do research with a professor. Read outside your course assignments, so you become more knowledgeable in the field and have a better idea what you want to do in your career.