Subj: Clinical psychology graduate programs
Dr. Blashfield: I took abnormal psychology with you last year. As a junior psychology major this year, I was thinking of applying to graduate school in order to become a clinical psychologist. I like psychology a lot and think this field is a good fit for me because I don't like math and psychologists don't seem to use much math in their work.
I purchased a book called an INSIDER'S GUIDE TO GRADUATE ADMISSIONS IN CLINICAL AND COUSELING PSYCHOLOGY. There is a large number of psychology programs listed in this book. The entire process seems more difficult than I expected. Can you help me?
Subj: Re: your message
I remember you from abnormal. You were a good student. I am surprised that you don't like math.
I found it interesting that you were reading the INSIDER'S GUIDE. A group of my graduate students and I have been working on a project to look at data about graduate admissions. We used the INSIDER'S GUIDE as one source of information. We randomly selected 42 PhD clinical psychology programs to examine. (Incidentally, the INSIDER'S GUIDE reports summary statistics on all of the programs which it includes).
An important statistic was the percentage of applicants to programs who were actually admitted. The INSIDER'S GUIDE does not report this statistic directly, but the book does report how many students apply each year vs. how many students were admitted. The percentage admitted is simply the ratio of these two numbers.
Across the 42 programs, the average percentage admitted was slightly over 5% (mean was 5.4% with standard deviation of 3.4). What does this number mean to you? Well, remember when you took statistics? You learned that psychologists conventionally set p < 0.05 as indicating that an effect in an experiment is sufficiently strong that it cannot be attributed to chance. The fact that average percentage admitted was about 5% (i.e., p < 0.05) means that, by chance alone, most clinical psychology graduate schools to which you apply are going to reject you.
So, does that indicate that applying to a clinical psychology PhD program is hopeless? No. As an applicant, your best estimate of your chances to gain admission is based on your GRE scores (verbal and quantitative) and your undergraduate GPA.
The means for the programs reporting these statistics were:
mean GRE verbal = 603 (SD = 47.4) (n = 26)
mean GRE quantitative = 658 (SD = 38.5) (n = 26)
mean undergrad GPA = 3.57 (SD = 0.17) (n = 36)
The range of the mean values for the clinical psychology programs were:
Range of GRE verbal = 520 to 715
Range of GRE quantitative = 600 to 736
Range of GPAs = 3.20 to 3.88
What these ranges tell you is that if your GRE scores or GPA is less than the lowest of these values, then the likelihood of being admitted to a clinical psychology graduate program is even less than 5%.
I know that I am reciting statistics to you, but hopefully seeing these numbers will help you make sense of the problems you might face in getting into a PhD clinical psychology program. What were your GRE scores?
I found your response to be upsetting. I thought that my GRE scores were pretty good. My GRE quantitative was 640, but my GRE verbal score was 510. I have a 3.73 undergraduate GPA. When I talked to other psychology students in my classes, my scores looked higher than the scores of my friends. But, compared to the numbers you just told me, apparently my GRE scores and GPA may not be good enough.
Why all the emphasis on the GRE scores anyway? I talked to my GTA in research methods who is a graduate student in your program. Cassandra says that GRE scores do not seem to differentiate between students who do well in graduate school and those who do not. Cassandra thinks that research-oriented programs are the ones that require higher GRE scores. However, she says that she wants to be a clinician, not a researcher, and graduate programs with a clinical emphasis are better given her interests. Is what she is telling me correct?
Subj: An even longer response -- Sorry. Professors cannot shut up.
These are interesting questions that you are asking, Susie. Data can be used to respond to the hypotheses that you have formed.
The issue is whether more research-oriented programs tend to have higher GRE requirements. If you look up a program in the INSIDER'S GUIDE, you will see that each program assigns a rating to itself on a 1 (exclusively clinical orientation) to 4 (equal balance of clinical and research emphasis) to 7 (exclusively research orientation). Interestingly, for the 42 clinical PhD programs, the general tendency was for these programs to see themselves as more research-oriented than clinical-oriented. The number of programs with various ratings were:
|very research oriented ||7 ||n = 2|
|heavily research||6||n = 15|
|more research||5||n = 10|
|split clinical/research||4||n = 13|
|more clinical||3||n = 2|
|heavily clinical||2||n = 0|
|very clinical oriented||1||n = 0|
The percentage of applicants admitted for programs with these ratings were:
|Split clinical/research ||4 ||6.6%||admit|
|More clinical||3||11.8% ||admit|
In terms of GRE scores, a similar pattern arises.
To conclude, Cassandra's ideas do seem to be correct. More research oriented programs are the ones with the most competitive standards and are the schools that tend to reject the largest percentage of applicants.
|Verb ||Quan ||UGPA|
|Very research||7 ||650||730||3.83|
|Split clinical/research ||4||586||639||3.53|