Once a student completes their undergraduate degree, for many the next step is to begin the process of applying to graduate training programs. While this process is similar, in some ways, to the process of applying to college, it is a much more competitive marketplace. In some schools the percentage of applications received that are admitted to the program can be as low as 5 percent. Because of this high level of competition, having an attractive application is paramount.
Choosing the Right Undergraduate Program
The first step to being accepted to graduate school is receiving a degree from an undergraduate program. Students with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology (versus another major) have the best chances. Your degree should come from an accredited, regionally or nationally recognized school and your grades should be as high as possible. It is also important to note that building relationships with faculty mentors is important when it comes time to secure letters of recommendation.
Another way to boost your application is by participating in volunteer and unpaid community service. If you can find volunteer work that involves serving those with mental health needs, even better! By showing your potential graduate school that you care about your community, you become a more attractive candidate.
Extra Curricular Activities and Clubs
One more element that graduates programs look for is participation in activities outside of the classroom. Being a member of the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society or being an active participant in a school sponsored Psychology Club are excellent options. It is also helpful to be well-rounded and participate in clubs outside of psychology. Perhaps you are talented in art or music, enrolling in a club in this area shows your potential graduate training program that you are not a “one dimensional” candidate.
Graduate Record Exams
One of the requirements for most graduate Psychology programs is to complete the Graduate Record Exams (GRE’s). These are the standard test for all students (with the exception of medicine and law) entering graduate training. By earning a high score on these tests you heighten your chance of being accepted to grad school. There are a number of in-person, online and self-taught study skills programs that can help you achieve a high score. Some of these are very similar to what many students use to study for the SAT’s before college. Some schools will require that students complete the GRE Subject Test in Psychology. There are study aids for this test as well.
If you know that graduate school is in your future, it is in your best interest to start thinking about building your application as early as possible. You can work with your undergraduate college advisor to take the steps to build a competitive and attractive application. By making the right steps you can create a graduate school application that no school can turn down.