A bachelor’s degree in psychology can prepare you for a surprisingly wide range of occupations (Appleby, 2015), some of which will require you to continue your education in graduate school. If your occupational choice requires a degree beyond the bachelor’s, you will need to accomplish a set of challenging tasks in order to gain admission to a program that will prepare you for your chosen profession (e.g., engaging in undergraduate research, cultivating strong letters of recommendation, creating an impressive transcript and finding a graduate program that is a good “fit”). Many of these tasks require a substantial amount of time to accomplish. Unfortunately, many psychology majors become aware of them too late in their undergraduate careers to complete them in a successful manner. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a set of online resources written specifically for psychology majors who want to prepare themselves in ways that will increase their chances of being admitted to — and then succeeding in — a graduate program that will enable them to achieve their occupational aspirations.
If you have made an occupational choice that is a good fit for you, the next question to ask is if graduate school is your next best step. If you have already answered yes to this question, you may be unsure of how to start. Or, maybe you are in the midst of your application process and have some questions. Wherever you are in your pre-graduate school journey, many resources are available to help you get started and to make your application process as successful as possible. In this article we have compiled a set of useful resources to help you. We have carefully selected and organized resources from Eye on Psi Chi (the official magazine of the International Honor Society in Psychology) that help answer the following questions students often have when applying to graduate school:
- Would graduate school be a wise choice for me at this point in my life, and in what area do I want to study?
- How can I find a graduate program that is a good fit for me?
- What are the components of the graduate school application process?
- How can I obtain at least three strong letters of recommendation?
- What is a personal statement, and how can I write one that is effective?
- What is the Graduate Record Exam, and how can I prepare for it?
- How can I make a successful transition from undergraduate school to graduate school?
Types of interesting graduate programs
As you are thinking about career development and what you want to do when you finish school, it is important to be aware of the variety of subdisciplines of psychology available to you in graduate school. Many undergraduate students are aware of these options at their own institution, but there are many different possibilities you can pursue in graduate school. The following list will provide information about various careers in the field of psychology in which you may have an interest.
- Community Psychology (Goldstein, 1998; Standard, 2010)
- Sport Psychology (Appleby, 2007; Appleby, Appleby, Cook, Christensen, Scorniaenchi, Bastin & DeLion, 2011)
General questions about graduate school and finding your academic fit
One of the most important issues you will face when beginning the application process will be finding schools to which you would like to apply, which can be a challenging task. One critical part of the graduate school application process is finding and applying to those programs that are a strong academic and professional fit for you. A good academic fit can come from a variety of sources (e.g., a faculty member who pursues research in an area of interest for you, types of academic programs available to you at an institution, or even opportunities for practical or research experience a program provides). It is likely that a great program for you will provide multiple sources of good academic fit for your academic and professional needs. The following articles can help answer general questions about the graduate school application process and help you start identifying programs that will be a good fit for you.
Questions about the application process
After you have identified schools that are a good fit for your academic and professional goals, you are ready to start the application process, which can be very complicated and time consuming. While most schools require similar application materials, the submission process will vary from school to school. Despite this arduous task, always remember that your application is your first impression. Your ability to submit an academically strong, professionally appropriate and well-organized application on time and to the correct entities will help you make that positive first impression. The following list of resources provides helpful hints as you prepare your application and advice on how to avoid common mistakes many applicants make so you can put your best (academic) foot forward.