Graduate School in Psychology Application Process

For general info about the application process, see here:

Getting in: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology--very useful book!
What are your chances? Probabilities of Admission in to Grad School
APA resources on getting into graduate school
Info from Rider University
Article: Applying to Grad School: A Professor's Perspective
Article: Graduate School Preparation Tips
Article: Avoid Pitfalls in Planning for Graduate School
Article: Applying for Graduate Programs in Psychology: Recommendations for the Next Generation of Psychologists
Article: An Apocryphal Email Exchange About Admission to Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs
Article: Getting In: Finding Your Fit in a Graduate Program Graduate School
Article: Kisses of Death in the Grad School Application Process

Summarized below are the components of a graduate school application. It is important that you think about how to look your best on each of these components as early as possible in your academic program. A competitive graduate school application should reflect years of preparation. Specific graduate programs will have their own requirements for how to apply, and most of these instructions can be found on the program website. Generally programs will ask for the following things:

1. GRE: Most graduate programs require that you take the GRE general test. Some also require the subject test in Psychology. You should plan to take the GRE in the summer or early fall of the year prior to starting graduate school. Allow plenty of time prior to that for preparation. The scores must be sent by ETS (the company that administers the GRE) directly to the graduate programs where you are applying. They will ask you where to send them when you register for the test. See below for info about the GRE and how to prepare:

2. College Transcripts. Schools will want official copies of transcripts from any college you have attended. By federal law, a university cannot disclose your transcript to someone without your written permission, which means your request will need to be made in writing to the registrar’s office. Click here to get further instructions from Lipscomb's Registrar's office .  

  • Which courses should you take? Many programs will require that you have taken certain undergraduate courses in Psychology. If you will be completing the Psychology major at Lipscomb, you will have the classes that you would need for most psychology graduate programs. If you are a psychology minor, we recommend that you take "Introduction to Psychological Research" and "Behavioral Statistics" as your two electives.  

3. Letters of recommendation. Schools have different preferences for how your letters should be given to them, so make sure you read the instructions they provide. For example, some schools prefer letters be mailed directly to them, others have a website where writers can submit letters, while others want you to collect the letters send them in a package with your application. Also, some schools have rating forms for letter-writers to fill out. Graduate schools weigh letters very heavily. This is why it is important to get to know faculty members and care what they think of you! For tips on getting good letters, see the following articles….

4. Statement of Purpose. Many programs will have you write a statement of purpose. They will use this to evaluate whether you are a good fit for their program, so take it very seriously! Allow time for others to read it and make suggestions.  

5.  Vita or other documentation of involvement in research or internships. Some may ask you to list this on the application form. Others expect it to be included in your statement of purpose. Others will request a vita. For admission to doctoral programs, getting research experience is essential. Internships and practical experience is also important (but often not as important as research). 

How to prepare the vita:

About research experience:

6. Interview. Many programs require an interview prior to offering you admission. This is a good way to meet the faculty, find out what the school is like, etc. If you turn down an interview, they are not likely to offer you admission. Remember that you are there to make a good impression. Dress professionally, be knowledgeable about the school and program, be prepared to discuss your career goals, research interests, etc.  Be courteous and professional with EVERYONE, not just the person giving you the interview. That person will ask the departmental staff about you (did he/she arrive on time? Show good manners? Have they driven you nuts with questions and problems that they could've figured out themselves?) They will ask the current students about your behavior, if you have conversations with them! Here is a useful article relating to interviews: Applying to Graduate School: The Interview Process  And another: Acing the Graduate School Interview Process 

7. Application form. Make sure you print clearly or type the information. If they can’t read your address, they can’t offer you admission! Also, if you look sloppy this will make a poor first impression. Don’t leave anything out; it will make it appear that you aren’t careful and detail-oriented. Another thing that can make a poor impression is an unprofessional email address ( or a phone number with an embarrassing answering voice mail message (in case they call for an interview).

8.  Finally, prepare for the possibility of a graduate school doing a Google search of you to learn things that aren't covered in your application!  So, Google yourself and see what is there.  If there is something that can embarrass you or make you look bad, try to find a way to remove it.  Review your Facebook profile as the general public sees it, and remove anything that could paint you in a negative light. Graduate schools obviously expect your Facebook page to not be a work page but a reflection of your personal life, so it isn't necessary to make it "professional". Just make yourself seem like a likable, respectable, intelligent sort of person.