Students who might be interested in pursuing graduate study in psychology should meet with a faculty member as soon as possible after their arrival at Rutgers to plan their course of study. Students who wish to specialize in particular areas of study should discuss their plans with faculty members whose expertise is most appropriate for those areas, as indicated by faculty teaching and research interests (see list of department faculty).
Prospective graduate students should include courses that provide training in research and/or theory, particularly in their areas of possible specialization. In addition, such students should include research activity in their programs of study, by enrolling in Research in Psychology (830:494, 495) and by taking other courses in which research projects are done. Students who might wish to pursue clinical work should also enroll in Individual Supervision of Fieldwork in Psychology (830:493).
Everything you always wanted to know about grad school:
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Grad School Prep
You should start discussing your plans for graduate school with your academic advisor as soon as possible – even if you’re a freshman.
The two most important variables are GPA and GRE scores. However, there are differences among the graduate programs. Some place a lot more emphasis on the GRE than others.
In addition to GPA and GREs, graduate programs look at letters of recommendation (you should have at least three from professors you’ve classes with or done research with) and research experience.
It depends. The better the program or school you’re applying to, the better credentials you need. It also depends on the area of psychology you’re applying for (clinical is the toughest to get into) as well as the type of degree (a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program requires stronger credentials than a Masters program).
If a student is applying to a Ph.D. clinical program (about average in prestige), I think you need a minimum 3.50 GPA (cumulative) and GRE scores in the 600s in addition to some research experience, and excellent letters of reference. Notice I said minimum. This does not mean that if your credentials are somewhat lower you will not get in – it’s a question of probability. You should consult with your advisor for more specific guidance.
Not really. The schools are more interested in a well-rounded individual. As a matter of fact, most schools do not require the applicant to be a psychology major.
The Career Planning and Placement Office has all the information you need on the GRE. You should take the GRE no later than the Fall semester (preferably October) of your senior year. Now with computerized GREs, you can get your score immediately so it is possible to take it later in the Fall semester and still have the scores in time for the application deadlines. However, if you take it early in the Fall semester and do not do well, it is possible to take it again.
The Career Planning and Placement Office also has information on how to prepare for the GRE. My advice is to focus on the general part of the GRE, which is divided into Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical sections. For the Quantitative, you should review basic algebra and geometry. I don’t think that there’s anything you can do over a short period of time to prepare for the Verbal or the Analytical. The best thing is to take the practice tests that are available in the GRE preparation books. You can buy these books in any bookstore.
In recent years, a number of our students who have taken special courses for the GRE have tended not to do well. Of course, it is impossible to say how they would have done without the course. The best advice is that, unless you don’t care about the money, prepare on your own and consult with the Career Planning and Placement Office.
You can apply to a Doctoral program (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) after obtaining your BA degree. Whether you apply to a Masters or a Doctoral program depends upon your career goals (consult with your advisor) and your credentials (see above). I always tell students, even if they want a Doctoral program and have strong credentials, to apply to a couple of Masters programs as “backups”.
Yes you can but you will lose some credits in the process. You should also be aware that it is very difficult to obtain assistantships for Master’s Programs.
Most schools require three letters of recommendation. These letters should be from full-time faculty (letters from employers are of little value). You should ask faculty who have taught you. If you feel a particular faculty member does not know you well enough to write you a letter, make an appointment to see that faculty and let him/her learn more about you. I think it is useful to prepare a “bio” sheet with all the relevant information. I usually ask students to give me the following information:
a) courses they’ve taken with me and grade they received;
b) overall GPA and GRE scores;
c) type of program they are applying to;
d) research they are involved in;
e) extracurricular activities or relevant work experience;
Does it make a difference if I use the forms provided by Career Planning and Placement or the graduate school’s own forms for the letters of recommendation?
Yes. We advise students to write a cover letter where they describe why they are interested in that program, point out their strengths, and “explain away” any weaknesses in their application. You should let a faculty member read your cover letter before sending it.
Many schools will describe what it is that they want in the personal statement. In most cases, this involves a statement regarding your goals, why you’re interested in the program, etc. We advice students not to focus too much on “wanting to help people” as a reason for wanting to be a psychologist. Also, some students write about how they are interested in psychology because they or some family member had a mental illness or emotional problems. My experience is that most schools frown on this. You should not be using the study of psychology for personal therapy. In any case, you should let a faculty member read your personal statement before sending it.
The more schools you apply to, the better your chances of becoming accepted. If you only apply to 2-3 doctoral programs, regardless of your credentials, there is only a small chance of becoming accepted. I recommend a minimum of 10 schools. And even if you’re interested in doctoral programs, I recommend that you apply to some masters programs as “backups”. Of course, it does take money to apply, and many times family considerations restrict the number of schools you can apply to.
Not really. Many schools do a good job of supporting their graduate students through either tuition remission, assistantships, etc. This is especially true for those in doctoral programs. If you are accepted, then you begin to look at financial factors to make your decision.
You should familiarize yourself with the program (i.e., curriculum, requirements, etc.) and the faculty of the schools to which you are applying. This can help tremendously in writing your personal statement. It is also not inappropriate to call a faculty member whose research you are interested in and learn more about the program. However, you should consult with your advisor before doing this.
Another suggestion is that beginning in your freshman year you should start taking courses that will prepare you for graduate school and for the GREs. For example, take a lot of writing courses and math courses. Most students take the minimum number of courses in this area required by the college. This is a big mistake. Quantitative and writing skills will not only help you with the GRE test, they are essential for success in a graduate program.
|Listing of Ph.D. Programs in the U.S.||Obtain registration materials for the GRE|
|Local Area Graduate Schools||About letters of recommendation|
|Preparing for and applying to graduate schools||Response to the inevitable rejection letters|
|About the GRE||Nursing for Psychology Majors|