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Applying to Clinical Psych program before undergrad
April 27, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know if you can apply to a clinical psychology Phd program before finishing your undergrad, or do you need to have experience before applying? Also what can you do to best guarantee your chances of acceptance?
posted by Genco_Olive_Oil to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Undergraduate research experience is always helpful. I imagine that solid recommendations from psych professors you have worked closely with would be extremely helpful.
posted by ladypants at 2:18 PM on April 27, 2009


My sister recently finished her undergrad in clinical psych, Kum Laude, and had trouble getting into a Phd program (15+ applications). I'm definitely not trying to nay-say your wishes, but you may want to at *least* wait til' you're finished.
posted by alcoth at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2009


You can apply as an undergrad, but you'll need to have research experience and good letters of recommendation in addition to grades and test scores. Be forewarned that, statistically speaking, it's more difficult to get into a Clinical Psych PhD program than med school. Good luck!
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:47 PM on April 27, 2009


My girlfriend is currently a first-year psychology Ph. D. in a developmental/clinical program. She applied during her senior year of college, to a large number of different schools. So, you can do it!

On the other hand, it was very difficult, and she found that very few of the other applicants were still undergraduates: most had been out of school for a few years. Applying to schools also doesn't come without a cost: not only will you spend tremendous amounts of time writing personal statements, pestering profs for recommendations, etc., you will also have to pay application fees and, should you get interviews, pay to attend them.

There's nothing you can do to guarantee your chances of acceptance: no matter what you do, you will have a very small chance of getting in to any given program. Just make sure your application materials are top-notch, try to get good recs, have some research experience under your belt, study for your GREs, and go for it. Make sure you choose the right schools for you, not necessarily the highest-ranked ones: Ph.D. programs will look for fit as well as talent.

Also, try and get as much advice as possible from within your department. All of the Ph. D. students, postdocs, and professors you know had to go through the same thing, so they can help you out.

It's hard to get into a Ph. D. program, especially straight from undergrad and especially in clinical psych, everyone will tell you that and (according to my girlfriend) they're all right. But if you know this is what you want to do, why wait? Good luck!
posted by goingonit at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2009


Your posting history indicates that you're a Master's student. Why would you be worried about finishing undergrad if you're in a Master's program already?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:09 PM on April 27, 2009


As far as I know, there are no undergraduate programs in clinical psychology, so I'm not sure what alcoth's sister was doing.

Anyway, I'm a first year clinical psych Ph.D. student at a top 15 research university, and I'd say the answer depends on several factors.

1. Are you interested in a competitive, research clinical program or on a professional school (much more expensive, much less competitive)?

2. Do you currently have any research experience?

3. Do you currently have anything that could qualify as clinical experience? This could include volunteer work in homeless shelters or with troubled populations, conflict resolution counseling, etc.

In my program, we are 9 students, and all but 2 took at least one year off and researched. The other two had research experience from undergrad, and one is from an underprivileged minority background (ugh, I debate mentioning it, but there it is anyway).
posted by namesarehard at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2009


^1 solipsophistocracy, it's highly competitive because of the small programs. An applicant needs outstanding test scores in addition to the clinical experience. Yes, test scores aren't everything, but in clinical psych (as in med school), they can afford to cull based on scores and still have an excellent crop of students to choose from.

I imagine one of the most important things you can do is apply widely-- increasing your odds in a luck-influenced process.
posted by parkerjackson at 4:49 PM on April 27, 2009


And, if you decide not to apply right now, still get those references while your professors still remember you!

I am in another field (social work) but one of my professors suggested that we do that with any of our professors if we were considering grad school in the future, and it was great advice. Even two years out, he would barely have remembered me. Having him write it immediately after finishing my classes with him meant that he was able to be specific, which made a huge difference.
posted by iliketolaughalot at 5:34 PM on April 27, 2009


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