Plan B – What To Do If You Didn’t Get Into Graduate School in Clinical Psychology

Although some of you might be celebrating graduate school acceptances, others may be realizing that they will not be going to graduate school next year. This is the time of the year to start thinking of Plan B.

If you want to apply again next year, it is important to reflect on your application experience.

Did you get many interviews but no offers?This might be a sign that you need to work on your interviewing skills. You can graciously email the people you interviewed with and ask for feedback, which might help you improve your interview skills for next year. Don’t beat yourself up too much though – Clinical Psych interviews are very competitive, and at this stage the process becomes a bit of a crapshoot. Your interviewing skills might not be that bad.

Did you have a hard time getting interviews? If so, you need to figure what it is about your application that is making it hard for you to get interviews.

Are you passing the initial screen? That is, do you have a few years of quality research experience, a decent GPA, and a good enough GRE score. If not, then you need to work on improving these- you should get more experience or improve your GRE score. If your undergraduate GPA is low, you might need to get a Master’s degree to gain admissions to a PhD Program in Clinical Psychology. It is crucial for you to meet the minimum standards for GPA/GRE/Years of Research Experience – otherwise it is likely that your potential mentor is not even reading your application.

If you have a high enough GPA, a high enough GRE, and substantial research experience, then the issue might be with your statement / recommendation letters. Work on improving your personal statement. If you feel that the issue might be with your recommendation letters, try changing your recommendation writers or at the very least have four people write your letters (but still have three writers per school –  so that no one person can determine your fate).

Once you have figured out what your weaknesses are, you have two options on what your next step should be:

  1. If the issue is your GPA, you might want to enter a master’s program. The downside to this route is the cost (although there are a handful of funded master’s programs) and that it will take two years to complete. The upside is that you can make up for a low undergraduate GPA, get plenty of research experience, and even some coursework out of the way.
  2. Get a research job. I recommend that unless you have a low undergraduate GPA or can get into a funded master’s program, you take a research job over a master’s degree. Don’t take out any debt unless absolutely necessary! If you already have a research job, try to do your own project that could lead to a poster or presentation, or get increased responsibilities at your job. You can later talk about these experiences on your statement and in your interview.

Also,don’t forget to continue to evaluate that graduate school is the right choice for you. Given how competitive the application process is, it will be very hard for you to get into graduate school in Clinical Psychology if your heart is not 100% in it.



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