Applying to graduate school can be stressful. Hopefully these 5 tips can demystify the process and make your experience easier!
1. Start early! Work on your list and finalize it the summer before your applications are due! Also, meet with your advisor so they can look at your list with you. When I was applying to schools, my advisor told me which schools on my list were out of my reach, and which ones were safer prospects. Although this feedback was not easy to hear, it saved me money and helped ensure that I would find a good fit in the end.
2. Use the "Insiders Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology" book. This book lists all the graduate programs in clinical and counseling (including Psy.D programs) and rates their focus on clinical work or research. Make a large list of schools from this book. Then go online and look at the faculty from each school. See if their research interests match your interests. Once you have narrowed down your list of schools... Email the professor that you are interested in working with to see if they are accepting students this year.
3. Be organized! It was helpful for me to use a color coded spreadsheet for my list of schools. I probably went a bit overboard with the organization on this list, but it helped me remain calm while applying. I felt calmer knowing that all the essential information that I needed was in one place on a spreadsheet. I tracked the school names, deadlines, professor that I wanted to work with, their email address, whether the application was online or paper, if they had received my GRE scores, addresses for each program, other notes (fees, weird requirements, etc.), and a to do list for each school.
4. Write your personal statements! Have friends and faculty members look over your list for you. Family and friends are great for basic proofreading (typos/grammar problems). If your family and friends can clear out simple proofreading problems, your faculty advisor/s will have much more time to give feedback on the content of your statement. I found this site helpful when writing my statement. It provided helpful input on what NOT to include in your personal statements.
5. Ask faculty members to write your letters of recommendation early! As you probably know, faculty members are VERY busy. This does not mean that they are not grateful for the long tedious hours that you have spent working in their lab. This just means that you will need to ask them to write you a letter early on in the process AND frequently remind them of the due dates. I thought it was nice to put together a folder for each faculty member with the instructions for each school. If the letter was online, then I listed the URL. If the letter was to be mailed, I provided the instructions and an addressed and stamped envelope. Anything you can do to make the process as easy as possible will increase the chances that it will get done. Finally, check and make sure that each university receives your letter of recommendation! You do not want to be denied from a school because they did not get your 3rd letter!
Applying to graduate school is stressful, but if you plan ahead and stay organized it is do-able! Feel free to ask any of the graduate students around about their experience! Don't forget to engage in self-care and enjoy yourself some throughout the process!