Does anyone have any tips for getting into graduate school? I’m trying to get into a clinical psychology master’s degree program. Has anyone been through the whole process? What do graduate admission people look for in a potential student? My only weakness is math. What should I study in order to do well on the math section on the GRE? Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Depending on your field, grad schools look for very different qualities in potential students.
Perhaps the number one piece of advice I can give you for looking at graduate schools is to gain an understanding of what your potential advisors do in the field or in their labs and select potential advisors that will complement your interest and potential projects. For example, I went to grad school in biology and because of my interest in estuaries, I selected an advisor whose work included large salt marsh restoration projects, which then became excellent ground for my work on infaunal colonization of estuaries. There were definitely some differences: he was a botanist and mathematical ecologist, and I was far more interested in animals and field ecology, but I think we complemented each others’ interests well.
It might be very different in psychology, I don’t know. But I would recommend spending some time at the workplace in potential schools so you can get a feel for what they do and what the academic community there is like. Volunteering to help out on a project is also a good way to get an introduction.
I also can’t recommend enough the importance of good letters of recommendation from people the faculty at the school you’re applying to will know, either personally or by reputation. In my experience, this is far more important than grades.
As far as the GRE goes, I last took it 7 years ago, so I can’t for the life of me remember what was on the math section, but I don’t believe I had any difficulty with it, and I didn’t do a lot of studying and prep. I think there are prep books out there for the GRE so you can practice. Try checking amazon.com.
General Questions is for questions with factual answers, IMHO is for opinions and polls.
Off to IMHO.
DrMatrix - GQ Moderator
I don’t know what I was thinking. I thought I had a bunch of specific questions to ask and I don’t. :replies to email:
I was also wondering about the clinical psychology degree. I’ll have a J.D. by the end of next year and a Ph.d is something I’ve been vaguely considering (will probably work but it’s nice to have options). The problem is that I have a political science background from undergrad but I know I could probably test well on the GRE. Does it make a difference or are they really looking for Psychology BAs? I also have a lot of Health Law classes from lawschool-including Law & Psych.
Do I actually have to interact with professors and participate in class for a letter of recommendation? Or is it okay to ask for one based on my grades in their class?
I would make sure that professors who wrote me letters were ones I interacted with. You won’t have a good idea of what people who you haven’t spoken with much will say. They really won’t be very helpful if to them you’re just a series of scores in their gradebook program.
Keep in mind that it’s not unreasonable to go to people and ask what they would say in a letter, or even help them compose it.
I cannot believe this, wevets. I just finished a doctoral thesis on epifaunal colonization on salt marsh vegetation (except on the east coast). We have very similar interests and I’ve bet we’ve attended the same meetings. Estuarine biologists unite!
The math section on the GRE was easier (IMHO) than the math SAT. Get a Barron’s guide and practice all of the problems over and over again. My problem wasn’t really the math…it was the analytical section (which I believe they have changed).
I took the exam about 6 years ago. My advice would be to study as hard as possible the month before you take it. If you have self-discipline, don’t bother with Kaplan or anything. Just get a book of sample exams from the library and practice. I studied my titties off and it paid off.
(I took the exam twice. The first time, I showed up to the test center an hour late because I got lost, and I was very stressed out. As a result, my score was embarrassingly low. A month later, I took the test again. My score went up 400 points. Eating breakfast and showing up in the right frame of mind can make all the difference.)
I wouldn’t worry about getting an outstanding math score if your verbal and analytical skills are strong. I imagine psychology is sort of like the biological sciences, which places an emphasis on the analytical as well as the math section.
I would go for ones that know your name, at least. If you were just one of a 500 faces in an introductory physics lecture, a letter from that professor won’t be very good, even if they try their hardest.
Make sure you go to a professor who knows your abilities and can say something besides “MercutioM is a very hard worker who always came to see me for extra assistance”. Find someone who can say, “MercutioM regularly produced outstanding work and I could depend on him/her to keep class discussions lively.” You want a letter that makes you seem as special as possible.
You have to take a minimum number of credits/hours of relevant coursework for most grad programs. So even though you don’t have to have a Bachelor’s in psych to enter a grad program in psych, you’d still have to take a bunch of undergrad psych classes (as well as calculus, chemistry, physics, etc.).
In some ways, it’s harder starting out in a Master’s program than in a Ph.D program. For a Master’s student, there isn’t much time to figure out what you want to do your research on. You’re expected to know what you want to do and get to work immediately. A Ph.D student has at least two years to figure stuff out, and if they goof up–oh well, there’s always next month (or next growing season, as in my case). There isn’t much “goof up” time for a Master’s student, because they are expected to finish their project within a short period of time. That’s pressure, especially if you’re never conducted research before.
Holy simoleons, monstro! Another estuarine ecologist on the board! I really would never have guessed. It’s good to see folks represent the Spartina mafia at the hippest place on the net, tho.
For me, taking the GRE in 1997, I greatly improved my math score by practicing simultaneous linear equations.
“The sum of the digits of a two digit number is 15. If the digits are reversed, the number is decreased by 27. Find the number.”
“How many pounds each of 60% and 81% copper alloy must be used to obtain one ton of 75% copper alloy?”
When I took the test, they were usually presented as word problems.