What You Need for Graduate School
Competition for acceptance into a graduate program in psychology, especially in clinical psychology, is extremely intense. You will be judged on a number of criteria when you apply, including cumulative grade point average (GPA), undergraduate major GPA, scores on the Graduate Record Examination, general course work, science background, research experience, letters of recommendation, and field work or research experience.
Although requirements differ from program to program, here are the typical requirements to meet when applying for graduate schools in psychology. Check your programs of interest to identify their particular set of requirements.
Grade Point Average
Most graduate schools state that they require a minimum of 3.0 grade point average; however, the actual GPA of accepted applicants is often much higher.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Some programs require the GRE; some don’t. You can obtain information about dates/times for GRE administration and preparation on the web.
Letters of Recommendation
Programs will usually require 2-4 letters of recommendation written by professionals in the field. These letters should come from professors in whose classes you did well and from professors you have conducted research with. It is important that these professors know you well. The more they know you, the better and the stronger their letters will be. Supervisors from work, volunteer activities, and social organizations are also good resources for letters of recommendation as long as they can provide the appropriate information to support your application to graduate programs.
This factor is crucial as it is what will set you aside from other applicants. Much of the work in graduate schools revolves around research. Working in a research lab as an undergraduate will prepare you for what is to come, and will show that you have a good sense of what will be expected of you as a graduate student.
Field Work or Internship Experience
Although not required by most schools, schools will be very impressed by field work in a setting related to their program. This is especially true for clinical and counseling programs, which will prefer that you have prior experience working in mental health settings. A good way to gain field work experience is by volunteering or doing internships at mental health institutions.