How to Get into a Clinical Psychology PhD Program

So you want to get a PhD in Clinical Psychology?

Some people in the field think I should stop you. But if you really know this is exactly what you want to do, I will teach you how to do it in a few (hard) steps.

1. Understand the game

2. Craft your story

3. Write a killer CV

4. Ace your Interviews


1. Understand the Game

First, understand that graduate school admissions are very different from undergraduate admissions.  Graduate schools care about GPA/GRE scores to an extent but the #1 thing that will get you in is your research experience.

PhD programs have a strong preference for candidates with well-defined research interests and lots of research experience. They also prefer to hire people with presentations and hopefully a publication. And they would love to hire someone who has worked with a well-known investigator.

2. Craft your Story

One of the most important part of your graduate school applications is your story (also known as your statement of purpose). Your SOP needs to convince faculty that you will excel as a graduate student and that you will be a much better student than anyone else.

You need to craft your story around 5 points:

1.  The “Beginning”: what made you interested in Psychology and your particular research area. Do not even think of mentioning any history of mental illness

2. Your growing interest: how did your interest grow and/or change throughout your lifetime

3. Your research experience: you should mentioned the research you worked on, your particular tasks, and what you learned from them

4. Why you are applying to graduate school: for most programs, you should say that you are interested in being an academic at an R1 school 

5. What you want to accomplish in graduate school:  what do you want to research in graduate school and why this program/mentor is THE perfect one for you

3. Write a Killer CV

Now that you have gotten your story straight, you will need a CV. I have made this easy for you with a CV template

You need to make sure you lay out anything and everything research related that you worked on. Mention any grant writing, budget, IRB experience. Graduate school mentors are looking for people who have been involved in all aspects of the research process. 

4. Ace your Interviews

If you are lucky enough to get interviews, you are close to the prize. These are the most important traits that you need to demonstrate in your interviews.

1. You have thought through why you want to go to a PhD program and you want to be an academic more than anything else

2. You have a very close research match to your mentor

3. You understand the research process and you are familiar with your research area



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