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 before the end of the of the previous academic; usually December, 1 or March, 1. 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.


GREs

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

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.

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.


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Clinical Ph.D. versus Psy.D.

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.  Finances are also a concern for many students.  Ph.D. programs tend to provide funding for their graduate students while Psy.D. programs tend not to provide funding.  Finally, Ph.D. programs tend to be somewhat more competitive than Psy.D. programs.  You should choose the program that best suits your needs and interests.  Practically speaking, many clinically oriented students apply to both Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs.  


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