Preparing for Graduate School in Psychology

These resources are designed to help you understand how to prepare for and locate graduate programs in psychology.  

General resources

Getting in: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology--very useful book!
APA resources on getting into graduate school
Info from Rider University
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

How difficult is it to get into graduate school?

What should I be doing to prepare for graduate school?

If you are a High School student visiting our website, the most important thing you can do now is succeed in your high school classes. In particular, develop your math skills, verbal skills, and critical thinking skills. Take Algebra and Geometry courses in high school and learn the material well, because this information will be used again in Psychology courses like Behavioral Statistics and on the ACT, SAT and GRE. Also, learn to write well and communicate with others. This is important for a career in psychology (and for the SAT, ACT, and GRE!).
If you are an undergraduate student, see this Timetable for Graduate School Admission, which explains what you should be doing from your freshman to senior years of college in order to prepare for graduate school. See also the requirements for graduate school, a description of criteria that graduate schools use for making admissions decisions.  If you are currently in a master's program but considering a doctoral program, see this timetable.

How do I locate a graduate program that is right for me?

The first step is to decide what type of career you want. See our careers page for assistance with this.
Next, locate graduate programs that are the type you want to attend. Graduate schools generally have information about their programs online, so a Google search for types of programs or names of programs should be helpful.  Another approach is to research specific people who are doing the kind of research or work that interests you and then determine if they teach in a program you might consider. Finally, see also the websites below:

Decide which programs are best for you. There are a number of things you should consider:

  • Does the program prepare students for the type of career you want? There are many types of counseling careers (school counseling, marriage & family therapy, mental health counseling, psychologist) and all require a different type of license. Make sure the program will adequately prepare you for licensure in the state where you plan to practice. This does not apply if you are planning a career in teaching or research; there is no specific licensure for researchers or college teachers.
  • If it is a doctoral program in Clinical or Counseling Psychology, is it accredited by the APA? Programs usually tell you if they are, because it gives them a higher status. You can find more info about this on the APA website.
  • Are there faculty members in the department whose interests are compatible with your own? If you want to work with adolescents and the faculty all specialize in treatment of young children, this program would not be a good fit for you.
  • Is it in an acceptable geographic location? If you got accepted, would you be willing to move there?
  • Are the classes offered at a time and in a format that is acceptable to you? Some programs require that you be a full-time student and only offer classes during the day. Others offer evening, weekend, and/or online classes and cater to students with full-time jobs.
  • Can you afford it? If not, do they offer financial assistance?
  • What is the reputation of the program?
  • Rankings of psychology programs (from the National Research Council)
  • Rankings of graduate schools (from U.S. News and World Report)
  • Is it reasonable to believe that you can gain admission, given the typical GRE/GPA profile of the students accepted into the program? This information is available from the APA graduate school database, and some programs will provide this information in their application materials

Finally, apply to lots of programs to maximize your chances of getting accepted. Don’t just apply to your first choices—think about a few “Plan B” schools.