The information contained here is a culmination of people's suggestions, in particular Naseem Al-Aidroos, and from the Getting In: A Step-by-Step plan for gaining admission to graduate school in psychology book, which I strongly recommend everyone read or at least flip through.
Take a look at the Other Websites section for some Great websites and articles on applying and career exploration!
- Decide to Go to Grad School
- GRE-General & GRE-Psych
- Decide on an Area
- Choose a Topic or Sub-Area
- Letters of Reference
- List of Potential Schools
- Decide on Graduate schools
- Contact Potential Supervisors
- Filling out Applications
- Personal Statements
- When Invited to a School, Go! When phoned, Talk!
Choosing Grad School means:
- you are deciding to spend the next 2-7 years taking courses, doing research, reading articles, and writing papers, practicums (therapy, teaching, working in the sector of interest).
- you have figured out why you want to go to grad school & are thinking about which type of program is best for you (e.g., psychology or something else? area? masters or PhD?
- you know your skills and know whether you are ready to apply as you are OR know where you need to improve before applying
You likely will need:
- letters of reference
- personal statement or description of your interests or experience
- Government (based on location of grad school or Your residence)
- In Ontario: OGS Due in the fall as early as October
- In Canada: NSERC for the "hard" sciences, including some parts of psychology, SSHRC for the social sciences, including the more social and personality side of psychology, CIHR for more health related research. Can only apply to one of these three that make up the tri-council. All are usually due as early as October (see note)
- Note:Deadlines vary by university and by department. If you are currently at a university or recently graduated find out when the dates at your university are for these scholarships. Also their may be different deadlines for the Masters and PhD Scholarships. Also check with any PhD programs you apply to whether they are eligible for the Masters Scholarships from NSERC, SSHRC, or CIHR
- Look at your undergraduate University for Graduation Awards and Scholarships
- Ask your Registrar and/or Undergraduate Advisor
- Latest advisable date to book is Oct 1st
- Best Idea: Write it in the Summer!
- GRE-General = book an appointment for a day and time and location (NOTE: fall fills up quickly, especially weekends)
- GRE-Psych = ONLY 2 day/time in the Fall before December (October and November, usually the first Saturday of those months) & ONLY 1 location in Toronto
- book online at ETS website (the people who designed it). You usually need to register about two months prior to writing.
3 Main Areas of psych:
- Applied Psychology
- Research Psychology
- Clinical Psychology, Counselling, School Psychology (Psychiatry via Medicine)
See our Variety of Careers Section
What's meant by Topic or Sub-area?
- An area within the broad 3 main areas listed in step 4
- For Research, Clinical, and any other PhD program this means: What do you want to research?
- What questions/population/setting etc. are you most interested in?
- Decide by Mid-October, preferably on 1 area or a few areas if a must
- Attend any Career Talks in the area(s) you are interested in that are provided by your department, university or student associations (e.g., PSA at U of T)
- See what Sub-Areas are listed in our Variety of Careers Section
- See what descriptions are available in the Career Paths book
- Check out the Occupational Binders at the U of T Career Centre or your university Career Services
- Ask Professors or Graduate Students or anyone you might know in a related area
- Look at topics that came up in classes you enjoyed
What do I need to do?
- Decide on a list of potential referees who know you well enough to write a good letter & who can write you a relevant letter
- Ask your top 3 choices well in advance (~ 2 months before your first application is due) either in person or via email - ask if they are willing to provide you with reference letters for graduate school
- At least 3 weeks before your first application (for scholarships or graduate school) is due: Give referees who agreed to write your letters the following:
- Any instructions or forms they need to have or fill out (fill out the basic sections about you: your name, the program you are applying to etc.)
- Addressed envelops with stamps (check if canada post is changing rates soon)
- Relevant points you would like them to cover
- Information about yourself (ROSI transcript printout, C.V., objective qualifications from the Applicant Worksheet)
- Information about how you fit with the program, which is the information in your personal statement (Step 12). If already completed the personal statement for that school, send it to your references. For SSHRC and other scholarships there is often a box they check if they have read your statement, it is very important that they do when there is such a box!
Sending Letters Directly Vs. With Package:
- Try as much as possible to do what the university asks
- If the university contradicts itself, email them
- Some professors will ask to send all their letters directly regardless of the program's instructions. Oblige them and provide the necessary addressed envelops and postage. The letters will get there, just include a note or email the program to let them know that the letters are being sent separately. The reason for this extra stress: some students tried to ask for more letters than they actually needed, and peeked at what was written after saying they wouldn't. Thus due to other's lying there is this extra headache.
Some Qs & As:
- Q: Should I ask the graduate student who I know would write a good letter or the supervising professor I know less well but is more well known to write my letter?
A: If you know a graduate student better than the supervising professor, ask if the graduate student is willing to write the reference letter and the professor co-sign it. This means you get a good reference and a known name.
- Q: Who should I ask?
A: Whoever can give you the most relevant and most personal (least generic) letter, and is in an official position
- Q: Does it depend on the program I'm applying to?
A: Yes, as your letter should match the focus of the program you are applying to. First, see what the program specifically asks for. If the program doesn't specify...with the following programs try to have:
- Clinical = research letter, letter showing some work with clinical population(s)
- Applied = research letter, letter showing work in area of interest
- Research = research letter
- Q: What about academic references (e.g., professors of courses)?
A: Some schools ask for them (send one). Others don't specify, and in those cases send one if it is one of your best references and you've already covered as much of the letter types listed above.
2 main ways:
1) Search by Program to get a list of schools
- for when you know the area you are interested in
- www.gradschools.com for US and "outside US"
- A listing of psych programs
- www.prospects.ac.uk for United Kingdom
- APA graduate studies books for Canada and the US. The Index has the most complete list of schools for each area/program for Canada & US
2) Search by Topic
- Best for when you are interested in a specific topic
- Search via Psycinfo on your library website
- Other article search engines you use for essays
- Main journals on the topic which are in the library's current periodicals collection
Fill out the Applicant Worksheet from the Getting In: A Step-by-Step plan for gaining admission to Graduate School in Psychology to help put on paper your goals, needs, strengths and weaknesses
- Specific program of interest
- End Result (e.g., accredited for clinical, PhD etc)
- Faculty listed within your interested area
- Focus of the program & Courses taught in the program
- Entrance Requirements (meet minimums and required courses?)
Narrow Further by:
- Financial considerations
- Faculty of interest is available and taking graduate students (ask via email)
- Entry stats listed in the APA graduate studies books
- Know what their area is before contacting them, look through their recent publications (Psycinfo through your university library) or see their list of representative publications that is often posted on their website
- By email introduce yourself briefly and ask if they will be accepting graduate students for a September 200_ start
- Note: it is best to contact them before you apply, as it allows you to not spend the time and money on an application if none of the faculty of interest there are taking graduate students.
- This step requires that you know the schools & know how many transcripts & what type of transcript each program requires
- Request at least 3 weeks in advance just in case, and minimum 1 week for your sanity
- Check your recent marks online if you have not already, to confirm no errors and all marks are included!
- Note: OFFICIAL COPY means in a sealed, unopened envelop signed by the university!!
- Make sure you do not have any overdue library or tuition fees as many universities withold transcripts until they are paid
Ordering at UofT:
- Request online: www.rosi.utoronto.ca -> sign in -> transcripts -> Request transcripts -> custom recipient (type in address yourself just in case, but double check)
3 Types (and 3 pick-up locations at U of T):
- Pick up at _____ issued to student - means you pick up BUT not in a sealed envelop (not "official")
- Pick up at ____ in sealed envelop - means you pick up an "official" copy to include with application package, Do Not open envelop as opening it makes it "unofficial" and programs may not accept it
- UTTC mail out to recipient - means UofT Transcript centre sends it directly to the school, use for when programs ask for transcripts "to be sent by your institution" (Note: UTTC is on St. George Campus)
Ordering at Wilfrid Laurier University:
- Fill out the online Transcript Request Form available on the Office of the Registrar's transcript webpage
- Save 2 dollars on each additional transcript if you order in bulk!
- Pick up the transcript at 202 Regina Street
- If you transferred within an university and all your marks appear on one Transcript, just send the one
- If you transferred from another school, or took credits at another institution (e.g., over the summer), you will need a separate transcript from that institution. Contact the institution or check out their website.
- It is important to take time to read through the ENTIRE package to see what is required
- Instructions are often the results of many years of additions, so they sometimes contradict themselves. When unsure of what to send/write email and ask whoever they say to ask (usually a Graduate Program or Admissions Staff)
- gather all of your information in an easily accessible way, such as the Applicant Worksheet, your C.V., and a list of your courses and marks in an excel file (easy to compute GPA according to their instructions)
- read ALL instructions, no matter how straightforward it seems (applications are never straight forward)
- refer to your objective criteria from the Applicant Worksheet, your C.V., and a list of your courses and marks (note: check what scale they want your GPA to be calculated in).
- Think about your audience when answering
- Make a rough copy of any paragraph answers
- have someone look over it
- leave time to sleep on your answers
- Fill in the good copy neatly and carefully
- Each application is different so while it can be helpful to use earlier applications for ideas, do NOT simply copy
- tailor your answers to fit with the program, just as you would a resume
- Some Applications are split between the individual departments/programs and a University-wide graduate school
- Double check what gets sent to whom
- Do not assume that just because one has a copy they will automatically share with the other, so if it says send a copy to ___ department and one to ____ Graduate school then send one to each!
- The University of Chicago is nicely honest and nice about this fact (most schools are equally redundant, they just do not say so): "Some departments and programs require applicants to submit an additional page of information. Unfortunately, some of that data is redundant based on other information you will provide online. We apologize for the inconvience"
- Keep your passwords somewhere safe & not lose them
- Write anything longer than a sentence in Word or other text programs and copy/paste it to the online application
- Each setup has different ways of saving, check before you type
- they time out!
- before submitting, double check every line just as you would on a paper application
- What is it? Similar to a resume.
- Focuses on: academic background, achievements, research experience, skills, job history etc.
- Where to get help?
- A good website is: CV Tips
- Ask a graduate student or graduating student you know if you could look at their CV, but before you look be prepared with the recognition that their CV may in the case of graduating and will in the case of graduate students contain more education etc. than yours...but do not be intimidated
- In short, it is a write-up of varying length designed to give you a chance to explain your qualifications, your interests, and the reason you want to be in their program
- They usually state a word limit that is usually very firm so don't go over it
- Some require specific questions are answered (e.g., describe your long term academic and professional goals)
- Others may ask vague questions (e.g., Describe yourself), but no matter the vague question asked of you they want relevant background about you and how this background fits with their program's aims
- Always include answers to the questions they ask, but do not forget these other basic parts
- Intro: Your goals, what area are you interested in, what program you are applying for, mention that it is a continuation of your background
- Your Background: any academic, research, work, volunteering etc experiences and any skills or personal strengths that are relevant to the program
- You & Their Program: What interests you about their faculty's work, Which faculty's research? (mention faculty by full name) What interests you about their program and its focus? How will your goals be facilitated and supported by their program
- Wrap up: basically elaborate on how THEIR program is a great next step for you and how your background and goals make you a great candidate
- The Program wants students that will fit in with their goals and focus
- Note: Be Honest, lying will only get you in trouble (now or later), and after all if you do not like the program then don't apply for it
Transfer Credits from Other Institutions:
Do Not Rush:
University vs Program:
CV (Curriculum Vitae):
It is a part of your application that is so important we have an entire step devoted to it. Some say it is your statement that will get you into graduate school or not when marks etc. are matched with other candidates. So spending quality time on this step is as important as on the application step!
What is a Personal Statment:
What to Cover in a Personal Statement:
Why you want to talk about a Match:
Finding What to Match:
- Matching the Program
- Find the program's statement of goals and focus, it is somewhere on their website
- Search through the program's statement for what goals they have for students (e.g., research and teaching ability), what is their focus (e.g., interdisciplinary), and where their student often go afterwards (e.g., academic posts, consulting)
- Figure out which of their goals match yours, make a list
- Figure out what their focus is, how do your reasons for applying match this
- what are their research interests (their webpage, your email, psychinfo)
- check their webpages for mention of their graduate students, how closely is their work to the faculty?
- Q: What if their ___ and yours don't entirely match?
A: Decide if the differences means you won't like the program (if so don't apply). If the difference doesn't matter to you, then cover on what matches and leave ___ out
Showing a Match & Writing a Great Personal Statement:
- This is about connecting your interests and their interests so they will see a match without being too obvious
- Out of your list of goals, select those that match the program's and stress those goals
- Talk about how the program with its focus on ___ will facilitate your goals (that match their goals)
- Tie in your research ideas with the faculty's research: What about the faculty's research interests you? how does it relate to your own research interests?
- Lastly, no matter how tempting Never lie or pretend you are interested in something you are not, why bother?
It is important to meet your potential supervisors, both to increase your chances of getting in and to make sure you will get along.
Preparing for Phone and In-Person Interviews:
- In short know what they know about you
- Have a binder with:
- your personal statement that you sent to them handy
- your CV, so you don't have to remember dates off the top of your head
- the program's focus and the various faculties interests
Some Questions to ask during Interviews (tailor to your situation):
- In general, it is good to ask:
- Is there a prescribed schedule of when to take which courses?
- What is the typical first year schedule?
- Are courses or employment or research opportunities available in the summer?
- How would you characterize your supervisory style?
- What role do you see yourself playing as a graduate supervisor?
- Do you have any specific expectations of your students?
- Where do you find that your students typically work after graduating?
- For clinical:
- What internships/practicum placements are available?
- Are any of them at specific research-based hospitals?
- For newer programs:
- How well-established do you feel the program is right now?
- Where do you see the program going in the next year?
- For newer Clinical programs that are not yet CPA/APA accredited:
- Where are you in the process of getting CPA accreditation?
- When do you expect to become accredited?
- For Applied programs:
- What practicum placements are available?
- Are students expected to find their own placements or is there a list of options?
- How is emphasis in and outside of the classroom split between research and skills?
Once you are in
- a great article on first year of graduate school