Preparing for Grad School

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1 Department of Psychology Preparing for Grad School University of California, Davis 2012 Advising: 141 Young Hall

2 Which degree? Which grad school? Adapted from a piece by Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Professor Eamonn Callan, SUSE. August 2011 Deciding to attend graduate school is a momentous decision in anyone's life. You want to choose the right degree and the right program. Someone admitted to a Ph.D. who comes to realize that she is better suited to a Master s program may have wasted much time and money before she comes to the realization. By the same token, one can choose the right degree but the wrong program at that level, and here again, a bad decision can be very costly. Is a doctoral or Master s degree the best choice for you? Master s degrees are not inferior versions of doctorates. They are primarily intended for people who wish to return to the labor market after a short, intensive period of study, and thus they have a more explicitly vocational orientation than Ph.Ds. Doctoral programs are intended to train individuals to make an original contribution to research in a specific field, and that training takes many years if it is to be done well, anywhere from 5 to 7. In an effort to help you find the best fit, here are few tips. Prospective masters students should read the websites devoted to different programs very carefully. Pay close attention to program requirements, student profiles, and the expertise of faculty associated with the program. That will help you find the best fit between your academic interests and career goals on the one hand and the program to which you apply on the other. If you are admitted to a particular program and later decide that a different Master s program would better suit you, many schools will not be able to accommodate a change of program for you. For doctoral applicants, previous graduate level work (i.e., a Master s degree) is not required, though it can be advantageous. What is necessary is a well-focused research interest. You should know what kind of research you hope to pursue in depth. Each applicant will want to find one or two faculty (or more) associated with the universities at which they intend to apply to with whom they want to work to pursue their research questions. Finding a faculty member whose current research complements the research questions the applicant brings to the program is critical at the doctoral level. To start the search for a potential doctoral advisor, read the faculty profiles. Some faculty have shifted their research interests over the years, so it is important to look at what they are working on now. If you find faculty with whom you think you share research interests, go online or to a library and look up their most current publications. This research can be labor intensive, but is worthwhile! This will help you understand their interests and help you decide if yours match. Sometimes applicants want to contact faculty directly to find out more about them and their possible interest in working with new students. Before doing so, know that not all of them welcome contact with prospective students before reviewing applications. Some of them prefer to wait until they ve reviewed all applicants before communicating with any of them in order to avoid any personal bias. Still, some faculty are willing to talk to prospective students before any application is submitted. In order to make the most of your conversation, do research on the faculty s current work before contacting them. This will help give you reference points for the discussion.

3 Some prospective students who are sure they wish to pursue doctoral study are not at the point where they can identify a specific area of research that they d like to pursue intensively. In that case, we recommend considering a Master s program. A Master s program can help to clarify and deepen your research interests, and thus it can be a useful preparation for doctoral study, even when the program is not intended as such. SOME TIPS ON APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL IN PSYCHOLOGY Pre-graduate school advising is located in South Hall through The Internship and Career Center (ICC). The process involves the following stages: Selecting the appropriate school Preparing for and taking the G.R.E. Writing the statement of purpose Requesting letters of recommendation Sending the application The G.R.E. Find out whether the schools you are applying to require the G.R.E. The GRE is required by most universities in the United States. It is used not only for purposes of admission, but sometimes also (in conjunction with other criteria) to award fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. The General GRE exam tests you in three areas: VERBAL (analogies, antonyms, sentence completion, reading comprehension), QUANTITATIVE (arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis, quantitative comparison, problem solving) and ANALYTICAL WRITING. The exam is computer-based and is offered in various locations throughout California. The closest Prometric testing center to UC Davis is in Fair Oaks. At this location the GRE is offered six days a week, year round. For more detailed information, please review the handout How to Prepare for the GRE. The GRE Subject Test is required by some graduate programs, but certainly not all. Check with the programs to which you re applying to see if it is required. The Subject Test is paper-based and offered three times a year (November, December and April). Free downloadable preparation materials and a sample exam are available at For the G.R.E. subject test in Psychology, we suggest reviewing your Psychology 1 textbook. You may also want to brush up on the major psychological theoreticians. Check the G.R.E. information on ets.org to see exactly what areas will be covered on the exam. Writing the Statement of Purpose Make sure to include what is unique about you since each school is interested in different aspects of one s life, work, schooling, etc. Attempt to briefly convey a convincing picture of yourself and your abilities. We suggest including your related experiences (internships, etc.), your areas of interest, why the school s program is attractive to you (including reference to particular faculty members research) and your future goals and

4 aspirations. The pre-grad school advisers at the Internship and Career Center have excellent handouts on writing the statement of purpose and will critique your statement of purpose for you. Have friends or professors in your area of interest read before you write the final draft. What may seem obvious to you may not be clear to others. Writing the essay may take a considerable amount of time and thinking. Do not let yourself get discouraged. Try to write the best statement you can. It is one of the most important aspects of your application. Letters of Recommendation Asking a professor to write a recommendation letter may seem a daunting task, but it would be worth your while to overcome any personal inhibitions and drop in to see professors early in fall quarter of your senior year. Suggested Tips Ask three professors to write letters for you. If in clinical, request a letter from your field setting also. When you go to professors to request a letter, it might help if you provide them with copies of your transcripts, your statement of purpose, the list of schools to which you intend to apply, and a solid Psychology term paper you have written. Professors appreciate this kind of information. Did you take a seminar, 199, 198, or 194H from that professor or were you just an anonymous student in a huge class in which the professor didn t even know you were present? Don t forget that the professors might have difficulty writing you a letter if they don t know who you are. A graduate letter service is available for purchase through Interfolio, UC Davis no longer offers this service to students free of charge. Sending the application Useful things to consider: Cost of applying Matching your interests with those of the faculty members in your chosen school as well as with the general orientation of the program. Requesting transcripts. It might be helpful to keep the receipts of your transcript requests; irregularities and extra-pays for lost forms are not uncommon. Organize your correspondence. Keeping a separate file in which copies of all correspondence with the schools (include dates) are recorded might help you in clearing up confusion as well as in meeting the requirements of your selected schools. Apply to more than one school. Although it may seem unnecessary to apply to ten schools, it may be well worth it when you get the acceptance notices. It reduces the risk of not being accepted, as well as provides an opportunity for you to later choose the best one of the schools that accepts you. Send a good paper, a research proposal, or any written work that you are proud of along with your application - if required. Sending the application

5 Institutional: Typically these awards consist of research and teaching assistantships, tuition fee waivers, and fellowships. Awards are usually based upon merit rather than financial need and are instrumental in recruiting candidates. The application process is usually included as part of the admissions application. The deadline to apply for these awards, however, is often much earlier than program deadlines. Federal and State: Applying for this assistance is a separate process in addition to applying for admission. At some schools, applying for federal aid and institutional support are combined. In all instances, you will be required to complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. You will only need to complete one FAFSA as there is a section you can use to have the data sent to multiple institutions. The application deadline is usually in early March. Some schools may require a supplemental application. This will usually occur when schools combine the awarding of federal and institutional aid. This may not be a free service, so check with each school to make sure it is required. External: This encompasses local, national and international organizations, foundations, and corporations. Funds are available to support graduate education in a number of ways. Fellowships primarily provide for living expenses and, in some instances, payment of tuition and fees. Recipients are usually free to use them at the university of their choice. Application deadlines vary, so start your investigation early. A good place to start is at the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies, which provides extensive information on external funding opportunities. Not sure what you want to do with your Psychology major? Below is a VERY brief list of options, there are many more positions and their descriptions available on the American Psychological Association s (APA) website: MASTERS LEVEL MA in Psychology MS in Psychology Master of Social Work (MSW) Master of Education (M Ed) MA in Educational Psychology MA in Counseling Psychology MA in Industrial & Organizational Psychology LICENSED SPECIALTIES Psychologist Psychologists assess and treat people's mental and emotional disorders. They emphasize the understanding, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals in psychological distress focusing attention on psychological and personality variables as they impact on an individual person.

6 Qualifications a) Must possess an earned doctorate in psychology, education psychology, and education with the field of specialization in counseling psychology or educational psychology or possess an earned doctorate degree deemed equivalent by the Board. Such degree or training must be from an accredited institution as approved by the Board. b) Must have engaged for at least two years (3000 hours) in supervised professional experience under the direction of a licensed psychologist, at least one year of which shall be after being awarded the doctorate in psychology. c) Take and pass the exam required by the Board. d) Show that he or she has completed training in the detection and treatment of alcohol and other chemical substance dependency, human sexuality and child abuse assessment and reporting. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) Clinical Social Workers help people cope with stress stemming from interpersonal or social problems while simultaneously enhancing society's responsiveness to those in need. They apply and provide knowledge of social resources, human capabilities and the part that unconscious motivation plays in determining behavior to help people to achieve more adequate, satisfying and productive social adjustments. They provide counseling of a non-medical nature to individuals, families or groups; provide information or referral services; and help communities to organize, provide, or improve existing social or health services. Qualifications a) Must possess a master's degree from an accredited school of social work. b) Must have 2 years (3200 hours) of postmaster's supervised experience. c) Have completed adequate instruction and training in the subject of alcoholism and substance abuse dependency, human sexuality and child abuse. d) Must take and pass exam required by the Board. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) Marriage and Family Therapists provide counseling to families and individuals experiencing difficulty and distress, and are in need of effective counseling in order to enable them to improve and maintain healthy family relationships. Interpersonal relationships are examined for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying, and productive marriage and family adjustments. Qualifications a) Must possess a doctor's or master's degree in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling, marital or family therapy, psychology, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, counseling with an emphasis in marriage, family and child counseling or social work with an emphasis in clinical social work, obtained from an accredited school, college, or university. b) Must have at least 2 years (3000 hours) supervised experience, one half of which must be post master's experience. c) Must complete coursework or training in human sexuality, child abuse assessment and reporting and alcoholism

7 and other chemical substance dependencies. d) Must take and pass exam required by Board. Licensed Educational Psychologist Educational Psychologists provide educational evaluation, diagnosis and test interpretation limited to assessment of academic ability, learning patterns, achievement, motivation, and personality factors directly related to academic learning problems. They also provide counseling services for children or adults for amelioration of academic learning problems and provide educational consultation, research and direct educational services. Qualifications a) Must possess at least a master's degree in psychology, educational psychology, school psychology or counseling and guidance or equivalent degree as determined by the Board of Behavior Science Examiners. b) Must have successfully completed 60 semester hours of postgraduate work devoted to pupil personnel services. c) Must furnish proof of 3 years of full-time experience as a credential school psychologist in the public schools. d) Furnish written statements from 2 sponsors having personal knowledge of his/her professional competence. Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs) are very similar to MFTs. While MFTs were not recognized in all states until just recently, LPCCs have been recognized as the most common form of therapist or counselor in the United States. In order to become licensed, individuals will need the same amount of education and supervised experience as that of an MFT. LPCCs generally have more vocational counseling and rehabilitation experience and less child and family counseling experience, which will change the scope of practice they have. This mostly depends on the curriculum they have while earning their Master s degree and is not going to be necessarily true for each practitioner. Professional clinical counseling seeks to empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior and make well-informed, rational decisions. Defined thus, it would seem the terrain of professional counseling might already be fully occupied by MFTs and LCSWs. However, the LPCC Act stipulates that professional clinical counseling does not include the assessment or treatment of couples or families unless the counselor has completed additional training and education. Other Careers to Consider Art Therapy Environmental Psychology Engineering Psychology Community Psychology

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