Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school requires that you identify the type of program in which you are interested, select specific schools to which you will apply, and prepare appropriate application materials (tests, recommendations, applications).

Application Process Overview

  1. Determine which schools to apply to (8-10 may sound like a lot, but if you're set on going to grad school you may want to apply to this many!)
  2. Know your deadlines!  Dec 1 is a common deadline for many PhD programs.
  3. Write your personal statement
  4. Request Letters of Recommendation 
  5. Update/Create your Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  6. Request transcript from the Registrar via the Hub
  7. Pay the application fee

Department Resources

Talk to your advisor or any other member of the Department about degrees and programs you might be interested in as well as about specific schools. The Department has a bulletin board in Olin across from Olin 02 which contains information on current graduate programs in various areas of psychology.  There are several reference books that discuss careers and graduate study are available in the student lounge, Olin 107. You can find current lists that rank programs according to various criteria on-line, one example being Ranking of U.S. Psychology Ph.D. Programs by Area. It is useful to review journals and materials from graduate schools to determine what particular faculty members are doing at this time. The APA book, Graduate Study in Psychology, provides current information on programs, requirements, and deadlines that may prove very helpful. Consult it early on in this process.

The DCC has complied a Grad School packet that may be helpful in the preparation and application process. The PDF is attached at the top right of this page.


In general, graduate programs in psychology are highly competitive. Minimal GPAs of 3.0 overall and 3.5 in your major are commonly expected along with strong test scores, certain required courses for particular programs, and letters of recommendation. Like all such generalizations, there are exceptions made on occasion, but quantitative measures and letters are very important. Also, some programs may expect you to have significant research experience, field work, or internship experiences.

Preparing your application materials takes time and effort. Be sure to contact the Career Center early for information on GREs and be certain to sign up for them at the appropriate time. If you are planning on attending graduate school immediately after your senior year, you may wish to take the GREs as early as Spring of your junior year, but definitely by the Fall of your senior year so that scores can be sent by December and January to the schools to which you are applying (note: most graduate program application deadlines are due in December-February). Some programs may require you to take the GRE psychology subject test in addition to the standard GRE. You may want to review a few texts in preparation for the psychology subject test. The Career Center has a copy of "Practicing to Take the GRE Psychology Test. " Once you have selected the schools to which you are interested in applying, contact each school to receive application materials. They are usually available by early Fall. When they arrive, be sure to budget time for filling out applications completely and carefully, and pay particular attention to your personal statement or essay. Have someone (like a faculty advisor) discuss and review yours with you. Concise descriptions of your career plans as you see them now, a statement of your research interests, and an indication of how a particular program addresses your goals give admissions committees a good sense of the fit between you and potential advisors.

Funding Your Education

PhD programs are often funded through Teaching Assistant positions or Research Assistantships through the school or a faculty grant.  Master's programs are typically not funded.  You can apply for your own funding here: