Resources for Graduate School Application for Social Work / Psychology
What follows is a list of tips that may help you create a plan for actualizing your graduate school dreams. More comprehensive discussions of these tips can be found elsewhere:
- Harvard University. (2022, September 30). Harvard Psychology’s PhD Resources and Online Tips Page (PRO-TiP). Harvard University Department of Psychology.
- Norcross, J. C., & Sayette, M. A. (2022). Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology: 2022/2023 Edition. Guilford Publications.
- Prinstein, M. (2017). Mitch’s uncensored advice for applying to graduate school in clinical psychology.
- Reyes, J. (2005). The Social Work Graduate School Applicant’s Handbook: The Complete Guide to Selecting and Applying to MSW Programs. White Hat Communications.
- Nathan Schneider. Inside Ph.D. admissions: What readers look for in a Statement of Purpose | by Nathan Schneider.
- Swapneel Mehta. How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Grad School.
- Lucy Lai. All About PhD Applications.
- Peter Sokol-Hessner. How Applying to Graduate School Works.
- Kate Petrova, Graduate School Application Guide for applicants to Ph.D. programs in non-clinical Psychology in the United States.
- Arathy Puthillam and Haniya Rumancy. Applying to Social Psych PhDs as an International student: An informal, subjective guide.
- Cristello et al., Resources for International Students entering Clinical Psychology Programs.
- Elayne Zhou. Applying to Clinical/Counseling Psych PhDs: Open Access Materials, Tips, Pitfalls.
- [Video Playlist] APA Professional Development: Becoming a Psychological Scientist.
The tips below were written together with Dr. Sophia Williams Kapten!
1. Create a plan but know that you are not a failure if your plan takes on a new timeline.
Many how-to guides recommend giving yourself 8 – 9 months to navigate the admissions process (Prinstein, 2017). This time frame is wise and consistent with how we approached the application process. However, it is okay if your timeline needs to shift or shorten!
2. Build your research experience by volunteering as a research assistant.
Comb through university career websites to find volunteer or paid positions as a research assistant. It may be helpful to notify faculty members you know or have worked with that you are looking for RA jobs. You can develop as a researcher through RA positions and demonstrate your ability to engage in the research process to faculty you are interested in. PsychResearchList website provides a list of paid internships, post-baccalaureate jobs, and other materials for prospective students.
3. Some programs offer research opportunities integrated with the graduate school preparation process dedicated to undergraduate students underrepresented in psychology.
See the pages for the New York University QUEST Program and the University of Minnesota Multicultural Summer Research Opportunities Program. American Psychological Association also runs a summer research internship program for undergraduate students interested in seeking graduate degrees.
If necessary, think creatively about who you ask to write your Letters of Recommendation: In the absence of noteworthy relationships with faculty from undergraduate studies, consider other meaningful relationships such as employers or the chair of any student organization on campus that you were in. Lean into creative solutions when it feels as though your options are limited.
If you would love to pursue a master’s degree before deciding commitment to the Ph.D. program but if you do not have money, some programs do provide research/teaching assistantships with funding packages even for master’s programs. It applies especially when the programs do not have many doctoral students to do RA/TA jobs. Here is the list of master’s program that is affordable and has solid methods/stats training. It would increase your chances of getting into the Ph.D. programs.
4. In the absence of doctoral students or Ph.D. holders in your network, preparing doctoral application packages may seem daunting and mysterious.
Nonetheless, mentorship programs are available to help demystify the application process for underrepresented students. The following is a list of such resources:
- Application Statement Feedback Program (ASFP): a volunteer-driven effort to even the playing field in psychology Ph.D. admissions by providing feedback and editing support for Ph.D. applicants in psychology, particularly minorities underrepresented.
- NextGen Psych Scholars Program: A virtual graduate student-led mentorship program for underrepresented (e.g., BIPOC, low-income, first-gen, LGBTQIA+) undergraduates and post-baccalaureates interested in applying to psychology Ph.D. programs.
- Psychin’ Out: The global resource hub of aspiring and current psych researchers and practitioners (i.e., Master’s students, Doctoral trainees, etc.) supporting each other. It provides an annual Ph.D. application bootcamp, offering applicable resources for Ph.D./PsyD applicants.
- Project SHORT: Project SHORT is committed to working to shrink the socioeconomic gap in medical and graduate school. It provides mentoring for graduate school applicants, including personal statement feedback, mock interview preparation, and school selection assistance.
- Harvard University PPREP Program: PPREP program provides paired mentoring with a current member of the Harvard psychology department and provides structured feedback on the materials you intend to use to apply to research positions and graduate school.
- Case Western Reserve University CPAW-UP Program: a graduate student-run and faculty-supported virtual workshop that aims to increase access to resources, training, and experiences to support interest and competitiveness in pursuing a graduate degree in psychology.
- Yale Psychology Diversity Committee: the Psychology Department Committee for Diversity and Inclusiveness, in collaboration with the Office for Graduate Student Development and Diversity, hosted a three-part bootcamp for undergraduate students and recent graduates interested in applying to psychology PhD programs. The three sessions provide more information about what you can do with a PhD in psychology, how to gain experience and make yourself a competitive applicant for psychology PhD programs, and how to apply to psychology PhD programs.