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Graduate School Preparation

Five Ways to Prepare for Graduate School

1. Gpa

The graduate schools to which you apply may evaluate your GPA in any of three ways: overall GPA; the last 60 credits; or GPA within your major coursework. Of course you will want as high a GPA as possible no matter how it is evaluated, but realize that the latter two aspects may weigh more heavily in admissions considerations than overall GPA. Currently, the overall GPA is provided on BYU applications, though faculty members and admissions committees may choose to focus on one of the other calculations. If your last 60 hours or major GPA are significantly higher than your overall GPA, you might want to point this out in your Personal Statement on your application.

2. GRE Scores

Most schools focus on quantitative and verbal subscales as well as the Psychology subject test. Contact the graduate admissions counselor at the schools you are interested in and ask for their admissions criteria. BYU does not require the Psychology subject test at the present time, though that may change in the near future.

3. Research Experience

When it comes to research experience, the more the better! During your undergraduate years, try to work in the lab of a reputable scholar for at least one year. Ideally, you should focus on learning skills such as literature search and review, data entry, data collection, data analysis, and scholarly writing. Although not essential, publication credit (for posters, paper presentations, chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, etc.) will strengthen your application. Opportunities for publication will increase as you work with your professor. Even if your work is never "officially" published, you ought to have some sort of research writing experience, be it an Honor's Thesis or some other similar project. When looking for research projects in which to participate, do not obsess over finding the ideal project before you will accept a research opportunity; varied experience is a plus. Focus instead on finding a good mentor who will help you acquire a firm foundation in research skills. When you have found a research position, try to work up to a position of responsibility in the lab such as leader of some aspect of the project, or supervisor of other lab members. These positions will look good on your resume. Remember that you will be applying to graduate school in December/January timeframe of your senior year, so you must begin research at the latest during your junior year, to be able to complete a full year before application time. If you can swing it though, getting involved during your sophomore year would be ideal. (BYU's deadline for admissions is December 1.)

4. Clinical Experience

If you are interested in a clinical career, then consider gaining experience in a clinical setting. There may be a number of local agencies (such as a state mental hospital) where these types of opportunities are available, either as a volunteer or a paid employee. While supervised work with a licensed practitioner is preferable, it is not typical for an undergraduate to have direct supervision from a licensed professional as a volunteer. Some type of formal training, such as that provided by a crisis hotline, is a plus. A caution: Do not go overboard with clinical experience at the expense of research experience! You can get into most programs with strong research experience and relatively little clinical experience.

5. Letters of Recommendation

Letters from professionals who have known you personally for an extended period of time (at least one year) will carry the most weight. Try to get letters from at least two professionals who have supervised or mentored your clinical or research work. Letters from professionals who know your work – your reliability, professionalism, conscientiousness, work ethic, and your interpersonal skills – carry the most weight. Letters from professors in whose classes you have done well carry considerably less weight; an exception might be the professor of a small honors course with whom you have had extensive interaction, through which your talents have been evidenced. Professionals who have ties to the faculty of institutions to which you are applying can give you additional leverage (they can make phone calls, write “heads-up” emails, etc.) Professionals who are grateful for your contributions to their labs or clinics will more likely “go the extra mile” for you in this process. Please note that all letters submitted to BYU must be submitted digitally through the application system.

Final Words

Cultivate relationships with these people early, at least one year before applying to graduate school, so that they can keep an eye on you and provide you with opportunities to become a more competitive candidate. Meet with them individually and express to them what your goals are. Ask for help in achieving those goals, then be willing to do your part to get there. Look actively for professionals who are well-respected in their fields that are willing to mentor you. This means that they recognize how important your goals are to you, and that they will provide you with the opportunities, encouragement, and critiquing that you need to develop into a qualified and competitive candidate. In general, strive to make your mentor’s job of writing letters as easy as possible. For example, keep careful records of your research contributions, achievements and skills. You can submit these to your mentor at the time you ask him or her to write your letters. These materials, in combination with your vita, should function as a convenient template for writing your letters.

Gre Test Prep Class

BYU offers a 5-week GRE Test Preparation class several times per year, featuring: Lectures: 8 hours per week in the evenings, divided between two days Test Labs: Saturdays 36 hours of instruction 18 hours of practice testing Top Industry Materials included in price: ETS The Official Guide to the GRE General Test Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides Kaplan GRE Prep Plus For more information or to register for the class, visit BYU GRE Test Prep. Call 801-422-3550 or email for more information.

Writing a Compelling Personal Statement

Click here for information about how to write a compelling personal statement

Helpful Resources for Applying to Grad School

Getting Into Grad School

Applying to Grad School Workshop