Aiming To Get Into a Psychology Doctoral Program.

One of the biggest mistakes that students make when applying to psychology doctoral programs is to rely on their GPA and GRE scores as a compass measuring their chances of getting in. What you may not have learned from your classes or even your participation in the Psychology Club is that psychology doctoral programs tend to admit “holy grail” students straight out of undergrad – those students who have those objective criteria at a minimum. You will need much more to get into graduate school. What other factors should you consider when preparing for advanced study in doctoral programs?

A recent U.S. report on the state of education, In Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005, revealed that thirty-eight percent of schools offered distance learning online PhD programs. Further, the Survey of Earned Doctorates found an increase of 3.4 percent in the doctorate degrees awarded in the U.S. as of June, 2004. PhD education online offers working students the opportunity to complete coursework within the parameters of their busy schedules, which may account for the substantial increase in doctorate degrees earned in the past two years.

Online doctoral programs offer students guidance through coursework, email, online chats and virtual lectures. Students are expected to work independently and use research resources to fulfill course requirements. Some doctoral programs require students to complete a thesis, which is a detailed research paper that will be made available to other students in the field.

What other factors should you consider when preparing for advanced study in doctoral programs?

Research Experience

Psychology doctoral programs run on an apprenticeship model, meaning that you will likely be admitted with a faculty mentor that shares your research interests. However, more and more graduate programs are expecting that you will walk into the door with prior research experience. How do you get this research experience? Check for flyers around your Psychology Department on campus advertising for research assistants. If you cannot find any, ask a graduate student or even volunteer to work with one of your professors.

Scientific Writing Skills

Do you know the ins and outs of APA style? What about the specific conventions of scientific writing? Lots of people tend to think of the counseling, human practice side of psychology, but one commonality of Ph.D. level doctoral programs is an emphasis on research. You will spend many years as a doctoral student working to develop your own research projects, piloting data, and even submitting manuscripts over to academic journals. As a result, it pays to come into a doctoral degree program with a great understanding on scientific writing

Consider Joining Psi Chi

Psi Chi is an international honor society for psychology. Not only will membership in this organization look good on your resume, but you will be able to network with like-minded students. Think about it: Where are you most likely to interact with other students who are serious about getting into graduate school? Getting involved may give you an insider edge to hearing about promising summer programs designed to give you the tools to develop a competitive edge through the graduate admissions process. And another plus to add to your resume may be leadership skills gained through volunteering and working with such a prestigious organization.