Grad School

Information for Students Applying
to Psychology Graduate Programs

Students planning (or even thinking about) applying to graduate school will find this information helpful:


Freshman and Sophomore Years

  • Take the Introduction to the Major (PSY 101) course to learn more about careers in psychology, graduate program offerings, etc.
  • Visit Career Services on campus ( and ask to talk with a counselor about your interests, strengths, etc. and how these might translate to different careers in psychology. Career services can also help you identify the kinds of graduate programs you might need to consider given your career goals.
  • Speak with your advisor about your interest in attending graduate school. Find out what GPA you should be aiming for, and what experiences you should be getting in addition to your coursework to be prepared for graduate school (i.e., research assistantships, internships, etc). Start doing some research on graduate programs and the general requirements of the kind of programs you are interested in.

Junior Year

  • Begin preparing to take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Psychology GRE (if applicable). Almost all graduate programs require the general GRE, and some also require the Psych GRE. Learn about the GRE General test at and download a practice book at If your graduate program requires the GRE Psychology test, learn about the test at and download a practice book at
  • Sign up for and take the Mock GRE (sponsored by Psi Chi in the fall) to find out your baseline score. This will help you gauge how much you need to prepare to get the GRE scores you need to apply to graduate schools.
  • Start getting experiences that will strengthen your graduate school application. These may include a Research Assistantship (particularly if you are applying to Ph.D. programs), Internship, or Independent Study.
  • Try to do an Internship that is in the kind of setting that you would like to eventually work in (or where people have the kinds of graduate training that you would like to get). Now is the time to find out whether you really like that kind of setting.
  • Make sure that you are getting to know your professors. You will need letters of recommendation from faculty who know you well.
  • Begin preparing to take the GREs in the spring of your junior year.

Summer After Junior Year

  • Take the general GREs and prepare to take the fall Psych GREs, if applicable.
  • Do more in depth research and start making a list of the graduate programs you will apply to. Do research on how competitive each program is and make sure you are selecting programs wisely.
  • Begin putting together information on the application requirements for each program you will be applying to.
  • Begin to draft a general personal statement and a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Career Services can help with a resume, and see your advisor or other faculty member for help with a CV.

Fall of Senior Year

  • Finalize the list of graduate programs you will apply to. Make sure you know the deadline for each program so that you can get the materials sent to them in time! Keep in mind that some elements of your materials need some lead time (i.e., GRE score reports, transcripts, letters of recommendation). Seek consultation from your advisor or other faculty members as you finalize your list.
  • For graduate programs with fall deadlines (these include almost all Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs), complete your applications, allowing time for you to ask your advisor and/or other faculty members to look over your personal statements, CV, etc, and give you feedback.
  • Ask faculty to write letters of recommendations for you (see Tips for Letters of Recommendation below) Give your recommenders 4-6 weeks lead time to write these letters!
  • Make sure to request that your GRE scores be sent ahead of time.

Winter/Spring of Senior Year

  • Most master’s degree programs have application deadlines in the winter or spring (or have rolling admissions), so you may have some applications to complete in the winter and spring.
  • For graduate programs that require interviews, be prepared to go on these interviews in the winter and spring.

Tips for Letters of Recommendation

Here are some guidelines for getting good letters of recommendation for graduate school.

1. Get to know the psychology department faculty.

The best letters of recommendation come from faculty who know you well. Get involved in the department; join Psi Chi and/or the Psychology Club and attend faculty socials, talk to your professors in their office hours, ask about opportunities to do research or teaching assistantships or independent studies.

2. Do a psychology internship.

Another great potential source for a letter is an internship supervisor. The PSY 496 Psychology Internship course is offered every semester and gives you the opportunity to earn course credit for getting experience in the field. Do a stellar job, and you can also get a great letter of recommendation out of it.

3. Ask for letters earlier rather than later.

Plan to ask your potential letter writers to write you letters about 6 weeks before the actual graduate program deadline. Most graduate programs require three letters of recommendation.

4. Ask the right people.

Make sure you are asking people who can write you strong letters of recommendation. The strongest letters come from faculty or people in the field who have direct experience with you. Strong faculty letters come from faculty that you have both taken classes with and have interacted with outside of the classroom. When you ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation, ask if they think they can write you a strong letter. If the answer is “no,” consider whether there is someone else you can ask. Do not ask for letters from family members, friends, or someone who is not in the field (i.e., your boss at the ice cream shop).

5. Make the procedures crystal clear for your letter writers.

Once someone has agreed to write you a letter of recommendation, give him or her the following things so that the process will be easy for them. The easier it is for the letter writers, the less likely they will be to make mistakes. Also, you will seem well-prepared and conscientious, which will perhaps make your letter even more favorable.

  • A list of the graduate programs you are applying to. Include in this list:
    • The type of program it is (i.e., Masters in School Psychology)
    • What is the deadline for the application?
    • Will the letter be submitted electronically or as a hard copy?
    • If the letter will be submitted as a hard copy, are there any forms that need to go with it and where does it need to go (i.e., Does it need to be returned to you? Or mailed directly to the graduate program?)
    • Any other special instructions (i.e., “Seal the envelope and sign it across the flap”).
  • For any letters that need to be submitted as hard copies, include:
    • Hard copies of any forms that need to be submitted with the letter
    • A stamped envelope that is addressed to wherever the letter needs to go.
  • A personal statement of your career goals and interests (this can be a draft of a personal statement that you will be including in your applications).
  • A copy of your resume or curriculum vitae (CV).

Write a “thank you” note.

Good letters of recommendation require considerable effort. Acknowledging that effort with a simple thank you note after the letters have been submitted goes a long way.