The Best Way to Network as a PhD Applicant

The Professor Is In recently wrote an article about Networking as a Postac, which inspired this post.

One of the best things you could do as a graduate applicant is to find a list of the major conferences in your area (ei – ABCT) in the fall. Then look at the abstracts, and pick one in which a lot of the mentors with whom you are applying to work with will be attending. Invest the $ (perhaps you can share a room with someone, or crash with a friend) and attend this conference. 

During the conference, you should attend the presentations given by your potential future mentors. After each presentation is over, go up the potential mentor and introduce yourself. Mention that you will be applying to work with them. Many will ask you to email them your CV. If your CV is otherwise good, this will express interest in the program and general initiative, as well as ensure that your potential mentor looks out for your application. 

Funded Psychology Masters Programs

If you did not get accepted into a Clinical Psychology PhD program and are interested in trying again, you are probably looking for research positions or potentially considering applying to a Master’s program. I am a big believer in avoiding debt, and because of this I usually suggest people do not go to Masters programs unless they were a non-Psychology major or had a poor GPA. However, there is an exception – Funded Masters Programs.

Fully funded masters programs are rare. Usually, Experimental Psychology programs are most likely to be funded. However, if you are geographically flexible, there are some programs that have been known to offer very generous funding:

  • Augusta State University
  • Ball State University – partial tuition remission and stipend
  • Bucknell University
  • Boston College
  • Central Connecticut State University
  • Central Washington University
  • Claremont Graduate University
  • College of William and Mary – fully funded
  • Connecticut College
  • Eastern Washington University
  • Georgia Southern
  • Idaho State University
  • Indiana State University
  • Illinois State University – full tuition remission and halftime GAs
  • Missouri State University – tuition remission and stipend
  • Montana State University
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Omaha – tuition remission and stipend
  • San Diego State University
  • Towson University
  • University of Chicago (MAPSS) – some students receive scholarships
  • University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Hartford
  • University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth – tuition is waived completely
  • University of North Carolina, Wilmington
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • University of the Pacific
  • University of South Alabama
  • University of Texas San Antonio
  • University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
  • Villanova – tuition remission and stipends for some of the class
  • Wake Forest University- partially funded
  • Western Carolina University
  • Western Illinois University – full tuition
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Western Washington University

A Book Everyone Applying to Clinical Psychology Programs Should Get

Last week, the new edition of Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology was released. This book helps you pick Clinical and Counseling Psychology PhD programs to apply to based on your research interests. It is a book that was invaluable in helping me pick programs that would maximize not only my chances of getting in, but also my probability of success/happiness as a graduate student.

As many of you are starting to think of what programs to apply to in the next application cycle, I strongly suggest you get this book. It may be the best $20 you spent in the application process.

Psychiatry vs. Psychology

Psychology vs. Psychiatry – What is the Difference?

The difference between psychology and psychiatry begins with credentials. While (as I am sure all of you know by now) a psychologist has a PhD in Psychology, a Psychiatrist has a medical degree. Unlike a psychologist, a psychiatrist can prescribe medications (although there has been a recent push for psychologist to prescribe medications, and psychologists in NM and LA can now prescribe medications after completion of a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology).

Psychology PhDs are research degrees,

The Nature of the Job

A psychologist is a researcher first, while a psychiatrist is a doctor first. As a psychiatrist, you can expect most of your job to entail medication management. As a psychologist, you can expect most of your job to entail assessment/therapy/research.

If you focus on therapy, you will see patients for 45 minutes – 60 minutes as a psychologists, but only 15-20 minutes as a psychiatrist.

The Competition

Although Psychology is a difficult path to travel, Psychiatry is far less competitive. As long as you can get into medical school, you will be all set for psychiatry as the competition is not very tough once you are in medical school. Psychiatry is one of the easiest residencies to match for. This is not the case with  Psychology, with many hoops to jump through at every stage

The Education

If you want to be a psychiatrist, you will have to ace your pre-medical courses – biology, chemistry, physics, calculus. After that, you can expect a four year medical education.

If you want to be a psychologist, you should probably be a psychology major (taking courses like research methods, statistics, abnormal psychology, social psychology, etc) and do lots of research as an undergraduate. After you get into graduate school, you can expect  to take courses such as psychopathology, research methods, statistics, and the history of psychology for your first couple of years in graduate school. You will also be most likely required to TA, see patients starting your second year, and do research.

Education Cost

While most PhDs are free and even pay a small stipend, medical degrees are very expensive, costing around $200,000

Education Timeline

The education timeline is very similar. To get a Psychology PhD, you must spend 4-5 years in graduate school, 1 year on internships, and 2 years as a postdoc. So you can expect to spend 7-8 years in school. To become a Psychiatrist, you must spend 4 years in medical school and four years in residency. So you can expect 8 years in school.

Salary

We have already discussed how much psychologists make. Psychiatrist make about twice as much. However, don’t forget that most psychiatrist have lots of medical school debt to pay back.

 

How to Save Money in Graduate School

One of the easiest ways to save money in graduate school is to track how you spend your money. Just like people track what they eat lose weight or what they spend time on to save time, you absolutely need to track how you spend your money to spend less. This will be a good skill to have in the long run, as psychologists don’t make a lot of money until much later in their careers. You can easily do it using excel (I prefer to use this method), but if you are not good at excel there are websites like Mint that automate it for you.

Once you have done this for at least three months, you can split your spending into several different categories:

1. Fixed Expenses: 

  a. Wants: This includes things like a gym membership, cable, data-heavy cell phone plans, etc

  b. Needs: This includes things like rent, internet, etc.

2. Variable Expected Monthly Expenses

  a. Wants: Ei – Going out to eat

  b. Needs: This includes things like gas and groceries

3. Unexpected Monthly Expenses

  a. Wants: Ei – Vacations, weddings, presents

  b. Needs: Ei – car repairs

After you do this, start by cutting out or reducing as many of the wanted fixed expenses. as possible. This may be the most painless way to save money, as you will automatically save money each month. Do you really need to have cable? What about that expensive gym membership fee? You may be able to reduce some fixed needs as well, perhaps by switching to a cheaper electricity provider or by moving to a cheaper apartment when your lease runs out. Check out this website for ways to cut bills. 

If you can bear it, you can then cut out some of the variable wants. But remember that it tends to be much more effective to cut out the variable expected monthly expenses. Some ideas include:

  • You probably heard this one before, but don’t buy $5.00 lattes regularly. If you absolutely must spend money on coffee, buy drip coffee or cafe au lait’s, which tend to be much cheaper
  • Don’t spend too much money when you go out. Drink at home and only buy one drink out. When you drink at home, buy $4.00 wines from Trader Joe’s and make sangria (I promise you won’t notice that the wine costs less than $4.00)
  • Instead of going out to eat with friends, consider hosting a potluck. I am sure other poor graduate students will appreciate it!

You can also cut some variable needs. The biggest item that comes to mind is groceries. I used to spend an obscene amount of money on groceries when I was working, but I later learned that there are many easy ways to eat delicious healthy food on a budget. Some ideas include:

  • Planning your meals. This is HUGE. It will help you avoid wasting groceries / going on grocery trips more often than once a week and wasting time and money. You should only go to grocery stores with a list, and only once a week. Check out Cook Smarts , Wandering Scientist, and  Eat at Home for quick meals and efficient meal plans
  • Make as much from scratch as you can. If you plan efficiently, you can meal prep on the weekends and cook what you need (ei – rice / beans / etc)
  • Eat less meat. Meat is expensive and not very good for you
  • Cook things that freeze well in bulk (e.g. chilli, lasagna) and freeze them! This saves time and money, two things that graduate students lack. Check out this website for freezer friendly recipes. 
  • Shop sales. If you get a sales flyer, plan your meals according to what is on sale that week
  • Stick what’s in season (it tends to be cheaper)
  • Get a free-trial membership to amazon prime, as many items are much cheaper in amazon than in a grocery store. You can also buy in bulk, which saves a lot of money. I am not sure if the full-price membership is worth it – I pay for it because I have a kid and a spouse who works crazy hours, so I need to save time as well as money, but it may not be worth the money for everyone. You need to do the math.
  • Oatmeal for breakfast is your friend. It is cheap, delicious, and healthy. Check out this website for ways to make oatmeal taste delicious. You can buy oatmeal in bulk online, too.

After that, you can cut out unexpected monthly expenses. These are hard to cut out because they are so unpredictable, but they are many ways to cut the most common unexpected expenses:

  • At this age, weddings are a big one. You don’t have to go to all invited weddings. If you do go, try to save money by buying flights well in advance and staying with a friend in the area or sharing a room with other friends
  • A big unexpected expensive monthly expense is car maintenance. Learn about cheaper quality car repairs in you area (hint: ask older graduate students) and practice basic car maintenance
  • Buy cheaper thoughtful gifts. Check out pinterest for ideas!

After you figure out what you can cut out, make a budget and STICK TO IT. From my experience, this is the only way to save money. Just saying you will spend less does not tend to cut it. Even though you are a graduate student, you should still save at least 10% of your income for emergencies as well as for major things like APA internship interviews.

Adding a Bit of Flavor in your Graduate Application

Clinical Psychology graduate applicants are becoming more similar to each other over their years. They have stellar applications. But at the same time, many applications have become flavorless. Much like undergraduate applicants, graduate applicants follow a cookie-cutter formula for admission success: a psychology major, several years of research experience, perhaps an honors thesis or a presentation, a 4.0 GPA, a stellar GRE score, and an undergraduate degree at a top undergraduate institution. 

Of course professor want to recruit students who have achieved the conventional successes described above. But at the same time, graduate professors want someone who has engaged in something that was not stepping stone towards success in academia. Perhaps one applicant has left a successful corporate law job to pursue his or her passion for clinical psychology, despite a decrease in earning potential and social status challenges.

Professors not only look for the stellar student, but also someone they would like to grab a beer with at happy hour. Such people are generally interesting, curious, risk takers, passionate, have intrinsic motivation and social courage. 

The Risk of Failure Should Not be THE Reason to Avoid Clinical Psychology

“Kids, you tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” –  Homer Simpson

 

You want to go to graduate school in Clinical Psychology, with the goal of becoming a college professor. You know that most PhDs don’t achieve their tenure-track goals. You know about the grim possibility of becoming an adjunct. What do you do?

You could ignore your dreams, and do something more practical (accounting, perhaps?). Most PhD don’t actually become college professors. There are 100 reasons to not get a PhD, and very few reasons to get one.

Or you could take a calculated risk. You could go to a program that will maximize your chances of success. You could work hard and smart, knowing that the odds are against you.  You could remind yourself, when the risk of failure puts you down, that by getting a Clinical Psychology PhD, there’s always the possibility of becoming a therapist if being a professor does not workout. 

Unlike with the rest of our society, it has become common to tell aspiring PhDs to give up on their academic goals. 

And maybe this is for the best. Maybe it is better if aspiring academics are told to not pursue the goals, so that only the ones that truly want the academic path go for it, despite the odds being stacked against them. After all, there are far easier ways to make a living.

But at the same time, the risk of failure should not be the reason not to try. It should certainly be reason, but not the reason. You should certainly become informed about your odds of success, and what success looks like. You don’t tells someone, “Don’t get a PhD, because most PhDs fail to get a tenure-track job and become adjuncts.” You say, “You realize that only roughly 25% of Clinical Psychology PhDs get tenure-track jobs. What are you going to do to make sure you are part of that 25%?” No one lives an average live.