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Seniors and After Graduation


What's After Graduation? Work or Graduate School?


To make good decisions about whether to work at a bachelor's level or go to graduate school, look here to learn more about:

  • A great overview of helping-related professions from clinical and counseling psychology to speech pathology. This resource is offered through the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology (OTRP).

  • The job outlook for psychologists. As you might guess, the outlook is best for those entering applied fields and earning more education, but...

  • Bachelor's-level jobs in psychology. While I would strongly advise graduate study if you plan to do something "psychological" after graduating, there are other career opportunities for you.

  • Pennsylvania Civil Service exams, including positions and, sometimes, salaries. Social Service positions in many Pennsylvnia counties are civil service positions and, as such, require an exam for employment.


Or Graduate School?

If you are considering graduate school, start early, be realistic, and be prepared. Psych Web offers the following timeline to guide you in planning for graduate school. William Buskist offers these ideas about preparing a successful application. Marky Lloyd's career page on Psych Web is excellent! John Suler, of Rider University, offers this guide to getting in graduate school and to careers in psychology.

Applying for graduate school can be very confusing. Look here for a list of useful books on graduate school for various areas within psychology as well as related disciplines. Do you want to know the difference between clinical and counseling programs? Between Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs? APA's Education Directorate has answers to these and other frequently asked questions about education and training in psychology.


Regardless of which school you look at you will need:

  • Good grades (about 3.0 or above for a master's, at least 3.5 for a doctorate). Look at Mayne, T. J., Norcross, J. C., & Sayette, M. A. (1994) and Norcross, J. C., Mayne, T. J., & Sayette, M. A. (1996), both in American Psychologist, for more information.

  • Good GRE scores— for doctoral programs at least 1100 on the verbal and quantitative parts combined is necessary to even be considered by many programs. Scores in the 1200-1300 range are more the "norm" for most programs. Lower scores are acceptable for many masters programs. The best early predictor of your score on the GREs is your performance on the SATs. Look at Mayne et al. (1994) and Norcross et al. (1996) for more on this.    

Princeton Review has excellent suggestions on a range of graduate school issues, but I especially like their suggestions on preparing for the GREs. These include information on the format of the exams, strategies for taking the computerized version of the GRE (GRE CAT), and even the particulars of past exam


This is also a useful set of sites for preparing for the GREs put out by Test Prep Center. Here are their suggestions for approaching this test.

        Look here for help from PsychWeb in preparing for the GREs.

        Look here to improve your verbal score on the GREs -- one day at a time with Wordsmith.Org's A.Word.A.Day

  • The Psychology Advanced test for the GREs, required by approximately 70 percent of strong graduate programs. This is Kaplan's statement about the advanced test.

  • Strong letters of recommendation. Look here for Psych Web's and Kirsten Rewey's views on getting a good letter. This is what I suggest if you want to request a letter from Dr. Slattery.


Often schools ask questions to structure this statement, but regardless of the specific questions, they are generally asking you:

  • to put your life and experiences in some sort of context,

  • to demonstrate that you can write clearly and cogently,

  • to help them see why they should choose you rather than one of the hundreds of other applicants out there—Sell yourself!

  • While you may not be able to make up for poor grades and GREs with your personal statement, you can sell yourself here or shoot yourself in the foot. Have yours be a finely tuned, well-thought out and presented statement. Look also at this description from a recent survey of employers to get a feeling for what employers (and by extension graduate schools) want. Ask your advisor or mentor to look at your statement.

Many clinically oriented programs may also ask you for a pre-admission interview. Here you will need to sell yourself, but they will also try to sell themselves to you! Sell them on who you are, why they want you -- but be yourself. Ask them about their program. What is the atmosphere of the program like? Do faculty support students? Do students make it through? What special benefits do students gain (mentoring, research opportunities, publications, presentations, internships, funding, etc.) during their stay?

One of the most important parts of your interview is your conversations with current students. What do they say about the atmosphere of the department? How does this match your own needs? Some people will do better with more support, others need more challenge. It's best to recognize this need ahead of time and make your choices accordingly.

To give you something to make your job easier (and your letter writers), do something that will make you Stand out! Get some clinical or applied experience if you are planning on going in an applied direction. Do research if you want to get into a doctoral program—whether you plan on a basic or applied program.

These are frequently asked questions about graduate school. If you have a question, please feel free to ask Jean Slattery.


Finally. . .

For a little reality testing from the Teaching in Psychology bulletin board read this. Be brave of heart as you do so.

On the other hand, try this article recently published in the Psi Chi Newsletter on how to get into graduate school—from someone who was rejected the first time. Randy Hofer, also in the Psi Chi Newsletter, writes about the habits of successful graduate applicants.

And, when you get in, look here for what Appleby says characterizes those graduate students described as superstars. From my experience the same things generally apply to undergraduate "superstars."