The best preparation that you can do comes long before it is time for you to actually apply.
The Sooner the Better
-- Excel in your course work, get to know your professors (good letters of recommendation are a must!), and above all, research, research, research.
-- Start looking at schools early so you can narrow your choices. Many schools even have Web sites that you can access.
-- Look for specific faculty members with whom you would like to work. If no one has the same research interests as you, you are probably not right for that program.
-- Call or visit before interview day. Really get to know your top choices.
-- Know what you're getting into: What kind of program is it
(research oriented, etc.)? What is expected of you?
-- Make your letter of intent specific (e.g., make sure it is clear what area of research interests you and why, and what some of the research questions you would like to pursue in that area are).
-- Give your professors plenty of time, let them read your letters of intent, and help with any editing that may need to be done.
-- Make sure you submit the specific information that each particular school requests; all applications are not created equal.
-- Have specific questions prepared for the interview (e.g., things you want to ask them about their program).
-- Talk to current students in the program.
-- Don't assume that everyone you talk to during the interview has thoroughly read your application. Make sure they know why you would be an asset to their program, but don't be overbearing.
-- Talk to the professors; try to get a feeling for how the faculty members get along. If your major professor is at war with another professor, you can get stuck in the middle. Ask the professors, then ask the students to make sure facts are accurately presented!
If Problems Arise
-- Be persistent, but always polite.
-- Always be nice to the secretaries; they don't make the decision but they do take the messages!
-- If you have the luxury of being accepted at more than one place, weigh your options carefully.
-- Congratulate yourself, you have definitely earned it!
Carla Strassle earned her BS in psychology in May 1996 from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she served as reporter for the Psi Chi chapter in 1995-96. Also in 1996, she won fourth place in the Psi Chi/Allyn & Bacon Undergraduate Research Award competition for her honors thesis, "Teacher Effectiveness and Student Learning Motivations." She gathered firsthand experience in applying to and accepting offers from graduate school programs when she underwent the application process for admission into doctoral programs in clinical psychology. She is currently in her third year of training at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she is providing psychological services through various agencies and teaching undergraduates at the University of Tennessee. Her contact with undergraduates allows her to continue to encourage active research and scholarly participation for those students who are planning to apply to graduate school in the future.
[This article was presented by Carla Strassle, graduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as part of a Psi Chi Panel Discussion titled "Applying to Graduate School: Maximizing Your Chances for Success" (Peter Giordano, chair) at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Atlanta, GA, April 5, 1997.]
Fall 1998 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 31), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 1998, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.