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For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page
2003 Postbac Program Information

The Postbaccalaureate Program in Psychology is a program designed to help college graduates who did not major in psychology but who wish to pursue graduate training in this field to gain the course and research experience necessary to make them competitive psychology PhD applicants.

Although this program does not guarantee acceptance into the program of your choice, it has been successful in providing motivated students the opportunities that they need to succeed. In Spring 2002, the majority of students who completed the program gained acceptance into their first-choice program, including clinical PhD programs at the University of Georgia, University of California at San Diego (joint program with San Diego State University), the City College of New York, and the State University of New York at Albany. Since its instantiation in Fall 1999, other graduates of our program have entered clinical PhD programs at Fordham University and Teacher's College, as well as Master's Programs in Social Work and Public Health at Columbia University. 

The Postbaccalaureate Program in Psychology is an intensive, 1-2 year program of coursework and research experience, with carefully structured support and advisement at all stages - from selection of coursework and research labs to application to graduate school. The program is appropriate for students interested in graduate study in all areas of Psychology, including clinical, cognitive, personality, social, physiological, and industrial/organizational, as well as cognitive neuroscience. It is geared toward preparing students for admission to Ph.D. or Psy.D. programs , rather than Master's Level programs. 

For information on admission requirements or to download an application, visit Continuing Education's website on the Postbaccalaureate Program in Psychology . If you have questions about the application process, registration, financial aid or housing, please contact Continuing Education and Special Programs at (212) 854-2820.

At this site, students already enrolled in the PostBac Psychology program will find helpful information about program requirements, internships, applying to graduate school, as well as practicalities that can help students have a more positive experience at Columbia. 

Junior and senior undergraduate psychology majors who are considering graduate school may also find some of this information useful.  

For further questions regarding academic advising, research and clinical opportunities, please contact Professor David Krantz, (212) 854-4534,

Course Requirements
Research Experience
Internship Experience
Applying to Graduate School
Useful Websites

For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page

2003 Course Requirements

The courses required for this program are essentially identical to those required for all Psychology majors. They are designed to provide you with a relatively broad undergraduate-level education in psychology. Because most students try to complete all coursework within 1-2 years, it is advisable to start thinking about how you will complete all the requirements at the start of the program. Many courses have pre-requisites and not all courses are offered every year. Careful planning can ensure that you are able to take all the courses that you need and want before applying to graduate school. 

Requirements and Advisement

Each semester, prior to registration, you should arrange to meet with the departmental advisor to discuss your schedule. The PostBac Psychology Requirement Checklist can help you and your advisor plan and keep track of your progress. Please bring your up-to-date checklist with you to your meetings. 

Although course schedules are tailored to the needs of the student, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind regarding the required coursework. 
  • Requirement #1. Science of Psychology: W1001. This introductory psychology course is usually taken during the first semester of the program, unless the student has acceptable transfer credit . Although many upper-division (3000-4000 level) courses have W1001 as a pre-requisite, it can be taken concurrently with many 1000-level and some 2000-level courses. It is usually offered in Fall, Spring and Summer I sessions.
  • Requirement #2. Laboratory. This course can be taken at any point during the program, although it is advisable to take it before applying to graduate school . Some students find that it is best to take statistics (Requirement #3) prior to taking the lab course. Because both statistics and the lab course involve more assignments than the average lower-division course, some students prefer not to take both in a single semester.
  • Requirement #3. Statistics. This course can be taken either in the Statistics department (W1111, W1112) or in the Psychology Department (W1610). It is preferable to take the Psychology course W1610 if it is being offered. It should be taken earlier in the program, rather than later, and should be taken before applying to graduate school .
  • Requirement #4-6. Group I-III Requirements. You can meet these requirements with courses at any level (1000-4000 level). Generally, first you should take the course in the group which corresponds to your area of greatest interest and leave the group that is of less interest for later. Taking a lower-division course in your area of interest early will allow you to advance to upper-division seminars more quickly. If you have already taken a lower-division course in one or more of these areas at your undergraduate institution, you might want to consider taking an upper-division course to fulfill the requirement.
  • Requirement #7. Advanced Seminar. You will need to take at least one advanced (3000-4000 level) seminar. Because these courses often have pre-requisites, they are almost always taken after the first semester. You should choose the seminar that most closely matches your proposed area of graduate study. If you can, take more than one seminar. Besides providing you with more in-depth information on a topic, they most closely represent the type of class interaction that you will experience in graduate school. They also give you more personal interaction with a professor. Most professors are much more amenable to giving letters of recommendation to students in their seminars than in their large lecture courses.
  • Requirement #8. Independent Supervised Research. You must take at least 2 semesters of independent supervised research. You should have at least 1 semester of research experience before applying to graduate school and "the more the better." Generally, students focus on coursework their first semester and start to get involved in research in their second semester, but some get involved as soon as their first semester. See Research Experience for more information on this requirement.


Post Bac students can now pre-register for courses at the same time as Columbia College undergraduates. For questions about registration by phone or your PIN number for registration, contact the Continuing Education office directly or look at the website (see below). 

Transfer Credit

It is possible to transfer up to 9 approved credits from your undergraduate institution. The course must meet the following criteria for approval: 

  • A grade of B- or better
  • Course taken within the past 5 years
  • Comparable Columbia course
  • Approval of curriculum by program advisor
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For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page

2003 Research Experience                                                          ; 

Gaining research experience is a crucial part of preparing for graduate study in Psychology, particularly Ph.D. programs. In addition to taking the required 2 semesters of supervised independent research (W3950), one can also gain experience by volunteering or working as a paid research assistant.

  • Supervised Independent Research (W3950) can be taken for 1-4 credits per semester. Generally, 3 hours of lab work are required per credit and at least some of these hours must be completed during the day (a consideration if you are also working a full- or part-time job). The exact requirements vary from lab to lab so it is a good idea to establish what the requirements are with your supervisor at the beginning of the semester. In some labs you will mainly be working on a project with a graduate student. You can still get very good research experience this way. If lab meetings are held, attend whenever possible. This is a good way to learn about all the ongoing projects in the lab and get some personal contact with the professor. Finally, a general rule is that the longer you work in a lab, the more responsibilities you will be given and the more you can get involved in the research process.
  • Volunteering is an option in some labs. Generally, supervisors still expect that volunteers make a commitment of time to the lab, but the commitment is often less than required for W3950 or a paid position. This can be a good way to get started if the professor doesn't know you very well yet or if you want to start part-way through the semester.
  • Paid research assistant positions are usually advertised at the beginning of the semester. Much of the advertising takes the form of signs posted around the department - so keep your eyes open! Even if the sign has been up for a few days, make a call if you are interested - don't assume the position has been filled. If I receive a notice for a research assistant by email, I will forward it to you. Also, sometimes professors will directly contact students who did very well in their classes.

Choosing a Lab

The first thing you need to do is to find out about the research going on in in the department.

Some labs have websites, particularly those in the cognitive and biopsychology areas. These may be somewhat old and not present the most current research.

Perhaps the best way to learn about current research is to attend the weekly area seminars: Cognitive Lunch, Social Snack and Biopsychology Happy Hour. Professors and graduate students present the hottest topics in their current research. Sometimes outside speakers also present. All are invited and there are no requirements for the attendees except to pay attention. If you find a topic to be very interesting, ask questions during or after the talk, or contact the professor or graduate student afterward to tell him/her of your interest and discuss the possibility of working with them.

The schedule for Cognitive Lunch is posted on the department website. Social and Biopsychology area seminars are sent by email each week.

Here are schedules of the seminars during the Fall and Spring semesters:

Finally, although the quality and quantity of research is very important for getting into graduate school, the topic is less important. It is optimal to find a lab doing research you are really excited about, however it is not necessary to do research on the exact question that you hope to study in graduate school. Because of the small number of labs in this department, you may have to be somewhat flexible about who you work with. In addition, although you must work with a professor in this department for your W3950 requirement, you can work as a paid research assistant or volunteer in labs at Barnard, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Teacher's College or other facilities in the city.

Getting Accepted into a Lab

Some labs tend to be oversubscribed, but some very good ones are undersubscribed. You may have more luck getting into the undersubscribed ones. Also, you often have the opportunity to work more closely with a professor when there are fewer students competing for his/her attention.

In terms of getting in touch with the professor, personal contact is always the best, but start with email. If you aren't having much luck getting a response, try dropping by the lab. If the professor is not around, ask to talk with one of the graduate students. Indeed, for some of the larger labs, you may have more luck contacting the senior graduate student than the professor. Try to be somewhat prepared when you contact the professor. Have some idea of what type of research the he/she does and be able to talk about why are your interested in working with him/her.

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For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page

2003 Internship Experience                                                   ; 

Internships are paid or volunteer positions that can give you hands-on experience in a clinical or clinical-related field. They are particularly useful for students intending to pursue a Psy.D. , but also supplement the clinical Ph.D. graduate application. Although the PostBac program cannot guarantee that you will get an internship, it can help you with the application process.

If you are just starting out, a volunteer position is your best bet. The Department of Volunteer Services at the New York State Psychiatric Institute has a great service whereby they try to match you with a volunteer opportunity that best suits your strengths and interests. 

Paid positions can often be found witihin the deparment or on our website: Barnard College occasionally offers a course that provides field work experience in Psychological Services and Counseling. It is taught by Prof. Sandra Stingle and students must apply for the course during pre-registration. Below is a link to the course website, which also has a link to a list of organizations that have offered volunteer positions in clinical psychology to students in the field work course.

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For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page

2003 Getting into Grad School

It is never too early to start thinking about when and where you intend to apply to graduate school. Applications for a given year are usually due in the Winter of the previous academic year (i.e., applications for Fall 2004 have deadlines of late December 2003 - early March 2004). Design your program of coursework and research so that you have completed your statistics, laboratory, advanced seminar, and at least one semester of research experience by the time you apply (Fall). You should also have taken your GREs before applying. 

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You should have taken your General and Psychology GREs by Fall of the academic year during which you apply and achieved satisfactory scores. 

  • When is the best time to take it? Most students take it during the Fall of that year that they apply. Although the General GRE can be taken at any time, students find that it is best to take the Psychology Subject GRE after they have taken Introductory Psychology and a course in each of the Groups (Group I-III). If you are not able to take a course in one (or more) of the 3 Group areas before you take the Psychology GREs, try to read through an introductory textbook in that area. The practice GRE books are also very helpful.
  • What is a satisfactory score? Graduate programs/schools will often state their GRE cut-off (minimum score), as well as the average score of accepted students, in their school bulletins and catalogues. Use these as guidelines. Sometimes students with below average scores will be considered if the rest of their application is strong.
The General GRE now can only be taken on computer at designated ETS testing sites. The 'up-side' of this is that you can take the test once a month (if necessary) and the testing schedule is fairly flexible. The 'down-side' is that when you are taking the test you can't go back and look over your answers and your maximum score is heavily influenced by your performance on the first few questions. For this reason it is important to get some familiarity with the test format before sitting down to take it, particularly if you don't like working on computers. Make sure to time yourself when you are taking practice tests.

The Psychology Subject GRE is required by most, though not all, graduate schools. It is a good idea to take it on a different day than the General GRE or else you will be exhausted. The Subject GRE is paper-based and is only offered on certain dates. 

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Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a very important part of your application package. Most schools require a minimum of 3 letters. Optimally, these letters will be from research faculty in Psychology. You can supplement these 3 letters with additional letters from professors in areas outside of Psychology or work supervisors (if you have been out of school and working for a long time), but your primary 3 letter should be from faculty or researchers in a Psychology or Psychology-related discipline. 

  • Whom should I ask? The best quality letters come from faculty with whom you have done research or internships . If a graduate student or post-doc is primarily supervising your research or internship, this is not necessarily a problem. Faculty will often sign or co-sign letters written by a trusted graduate student. Furthermore, if you have participated heavily in lab meetings and had some meetings with the professor directly, he or she will often write the letter him/herself (with consultation from the graduate student who may have even more extensive contact). If it looks like you will primarily be working with a graduate student, see if you can arrange to meet the professor once or twice a month, possibly together with the graduate student, to discuss the project. Advanced seminars sometimes also provide the level of personal interaction necessary to get a good letter of recommendation (especially if you get a good grade). Generally, large introductory courses do not and many of these professors will not write letters for you unless you really stood out in class, came to office hours very regularly, had intense philosophical discussions with them, etc.
    NOTE: Ask your professors well in advance of the application deadlines if they are willing to write you a letter - at least 1 month and preferably 2 months in advance. If that person says no, you will have more time to find another person. If that person says yes, it is best for the faculty member if you can prepare all the recommendation materials and given them to him/her at least 1 month in advance of the first deadline. 
  • What do I need to give the recommender? Preparation of the materials means that you have included all recommendation forms with as much of the information on the form filled in as possible (i.e., all names and affiliations, whether you waive your right to see the recommendation) together with an addressed, stamped envelope for each recommendation. If a school does not provide a recommendation form, just include an envelope and instructions that mention there is no form attached. It is also advisable to give your recommender a separate checklist sheet clearly stating the deadline for receipt of each letter. Ask the recommender to notify you when he/she has sent the letters.
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The Psychology Graduate School Application Library

The library, designed to help students in their application process, consists of a binder with tips on the graduate school application process, including Choosing to Apply, Getting Letters of Recommendation, and Selecting Schools, as well as over 50 graduate catalogs from top Psychology programs with a concentration on schools with good clinical programs. This non-lending library is located in a black file cabinet in Schermerhorn 200B.  In addition, books such as the APA's "Getting In" and several GRE prep books are there to peruse at your leisure.

Most universities and psychology departments have websites detailing their program curriculum and the research interests of the faculty. The computers in 200B can be used to access these websites, as well as general websites on the "ins and outs" of getting into graduate programs in psychology.

When you are done with your graduate school search and have applied to your program of choice, please consider donating your used catalogues (in reasonably good condition) to the library. 

Clinical Ph.D. vs. Psy.D. Programs

If you are interested in Clinical Psychology, you will have to decide whether to pursue a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree. Other areas of psychology only have Ph.D. programs. Sometimes you will find that Ph.D. programs are often referred to as "scientifically-oriented" whereas Psy.D. programs are "professionally-oriented." Generally speaking, the Ph.D. program provides training in both clinical research and practice, but may be more heavily weighted toward research. The Psy.D. programs are more oriented toward training students for practice in clinical and other applied professional settings and research is often less emphasized. 

These different orientations are reflected in what these programs are looking for in applicants. Ph.D. programs want to see research experience. Psy.D. programs want to see internship experience. 

In some ways, the Ph.D. degree provides you with maximal flexibility because you can pursue a career either in research or practice, whereas the Psy.D. limits you more to practice. On the other hand, Psy.D. programs are often shorter and provide a broader internship/externship experience. You should choose the program that suits your interests the best. 

For more detailed advice on clinical programs, contact Professors Geraldine Downey (email: ) in the Columbia University Psychology Department or George Bonanno (email: ) at Teacher's College Clinical and Counseling Psychology Program. 

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For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page

2003 Practicalities


Many of you are moving to the Columbia College area and will be in need of housing. Unfortunately, Postbaccalaureate students do not qualify for On-Campus Housing. A link for the Off-Campus Housing Registry is listed below. Good apartments are also often acquired through 'word-of-mouth' or through postings around campus (Broadway @ 116th also seems to have a lot of signs). If you are in need of housing, the departmental advisor can forward your request to the other PostBac students to see if they might know of an opening or are interested in a roommate.

Tuition and Fees

All you need to know and tuition and fees can be found at the Continuing Education website. Note the fees for medical insurance and coverage of dependents.

Financial Aid

PostBac students are eligible for various private and federal (Stafford) loans. The university can also create payment plans to help ease the burden. Paid research assistant and internship positions can provide income while helping you learn. These types of paid positions might pay slightly less than some non-psychology jobs, but can significantly enhance your graduate school application in many ways and usually offer the type of flexible schedules necessary for managing with coursework.


All PostBac students are assigned a university email address (consisting of your initials and a random number). You will need this email address to access certain library resources, like the Science Direct database of journal articles. Some courses also use "bulletin boards" where the professor and students exchange questions. Your CU email is necessary to access these bulletin boards. 

If you prefer to use a non-CU email address for the majority of your email (i.e., hotmail or AOL account), talk to the system administrator at ACIS about getting email from your CU account automatically forwarded to your non-CU account. This way you will not miss out on any important announcements. 

NOTE: Please make sure to give your email address of choice to the dearptmental advisor. She is constantly forwarding messages of interest to the Post-Bac students, including seminar announcements, job opportunities, social opportunities and (slightly) used furniture sales! 

Getting to know other Post-Bac students

At least once a semester, toward the beginning, we will organize a get-together for the PostBac Psychology students so that they can get to know each other. There are about 20-24 students in the program (10-12 per year) with a diverse range of interests, backgrounds and ages. Students with some experience in the program can act as student mentors to those just beginning - giving advice about which are the best courses and other tidbits of wisdom. Getting to know the other PostBac students in your courses can also be great for forming study groups. 

These get-togethers are also an opportunity for a Q&A session with alumni, clinicians, or faculty concerning careers in Psychology. If you have suggestions about people to invite, please contact the departmental advisor.

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For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page

2003 Psychology-Related Books and Websites                           ; 

Some books on "Getting In" that many students rave about...we have 1 or 2 copies available of some of these in the black filing cabinet in 200B. They are also available at a reasonable price from

"Getting In: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology" (APA's Bible for the Graduate School bound student - Highly recommended - $10.47 @ Amazon)

"Grauate Study in Psychology 2002" (Updated APA Guidebook! $15.37 @ Amazon)

"Career Paths in Psychology: Where your Degree can Take You" by R. Sternberg ($13.97 @ Amazon)

"The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission: Psychology, Counseling, and Related Professions"by P. Keith-Spiegel and M. Wiederman ($24.50 @  Amazon)

"Preparing for Graduate Study in Psychology: 101 Questions and Answers" by W. Buskist and T. R. Sherburne ($14.00 @ Amazon)

"Barron's How to Prepare for the Psychology GRE" by E. Palmer and S. Thompson-Shill ($10.47 @ Amazon)

Most universities have websites that detail their programs, faculty and admissions policies. However, the web can be a goldmine of information, or an avalanche. Here are some places to start... 

First and foremost, check out:

Some additional sites: 
  • Social Psychology Network, the largest social psychology database on the Internet. In these pages, you'll find more than 5,000 links to psychology-related resources. This site is excellent -- it has listings of almost all Clinical, Social Psychology programs and links directly to their websites rankings of Ph.D. Psychology programs.

  • The Petersons website has a good list of grad programs and lots of information about graduate school in general, including a free practice test for the GRE

  • This is a main site for Counseling Psychology programs. Lists almost all schools that offer a counseling psych programs

  • This is the official list of all American Psychological Association accredited doctoral programs. This is a great resource for students interested in a professional career in psychology.
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Page created by Jennifer Mangels, Ph.D

Last updated by lep1 on September 4, 2008 .

Links to Current Psychology Pages added by pjj2103 on September 4, 2008

For Recent Information, please see the Postbac section of the Psychology Dept. Home Page