Considering graduate school?
Requesting a letter of reference
Serafin Young Scholar Award
Psychology Student Journal
The Psychology Club is open to any psychology major or minor.
The Club meets every other week. Club activities include, but are not limited to: guest speakers,
volunteer activities, games, and activities with psychology faculty. The Club offers a good
balance between fun and academics!
Are you considering graduate school?
Many areas of Psychology do not allow you to practice your skills professionally without further education beyond
your undergraduate degree. For these areas, graduate school is required. Depending on the program you wish to enter,
graduate school can take two years to complete, or upwards of five or six years including an internship.
Acceptance to these programs can range from fairly easy to extremely difficult, depending on how competitive they are.
Regardless, it is in your best interest to be fully prepared to help you get accepted in to the program that fits you
best, or at least, as close to is as possible. Most programs have the same requirements to get accepted, but just in
different degrees. That is to say, one program may look at academic achievement more than other areas of your undergraduate
career, while others will focus more on work experience than your academics. It all depends on the program.
Keep in mind, there is more than one way to get to your desired destination in Psychology. For instance, many students will go straight from their B.A. in to a Ph.D. program, whereas other will need to stop off and get their M.A. first. Others will not be accepted to any program, and may need to take a year or two off to gain experience in the world of Psychology, often by volunteering their time with research, or getting a job within the field of Psychology.
First, we'll take a look at what most graduate schools are looking for specifically, then, we'll move in to a general layout of when each step should be accomplished in order to effectively achieve all of your goals. At the end, we'll conclude with a few suggestions to make yourself more marketable. Note, there is no one perfect way to accomplish all of these requirements, this is to serve merely as a guide to get in to graduate school and can be adjusted to meet your personal preferences and circumstances and in no way will guarantee acceptance in to a program.
What Graduate Schools Require
GPA. Graduate schools will most likely have a minimum GPA that is required to enter their program. This can vary greatly depending on the program you wish to enter. Most programs would like to see GPAs of no less than a 3.0, and a 3.5 and above is required if you wish to try for competitive schools. Also, pay attention to what aspect of your GPA the school will look at, some will require a 3.0 overall, and a 3.5 in your Psychology courses.
GRE. Think of the GRE as college's answer to the ACT or the SAT. The GRE is split in to two tests, the General, and the Subject Specific.
Many colleges do not require the Subject Specific test, which is designed for people wishing to enter fields such as Psychology, Mathematics, and Physics to name a few. So look closely and make sure they don't. If, however, one of your schools you're interested in requires it, do take it. If you get a good score on it, it doesn't hurt to send it those schools that don't require it.
The General test is split up in to three sections; Analytical Writing, Verbal, and Quantitative. It is important to familiarize yourself with all three areas before attempting to take this test. Please see the GRE page for further help with this. Do Not Take This Test Without Practice!!!! Most schools set cutoff scores that you must get if you wish to attend their school.
Letters of Recommendation. Letters of recommendation are vital to getting in to graduate school. There are a couple of huge advantages that letters of recommendation have that the other requirements lack. First, they allow the school to get an understanding of who you are as a Psychologist through the eyes of a professional. Secondly, if properly written, letters of recommendation can actually make up for low GPA or GRE scores. Because of this, you need to think very carefully of who you choose to write your letters of recommendation. Typically, you need three letters of recommendation, at least two from professors, and maybe one from an outside source who knows you well and is not a family member.
Research Experience. Research experience can come from many sources. One way to gain research experience is to volunteer to help professors with current research projects. Try looking through the faculty pages and seeing if any faculty research interests match up with yours. This will be a great way to gain experience, and it could also help round out a letter of recommendation if you really connect with this professor. Another way to gain research experience is to contact psychologists around the area who are looking for research assistants. Clinics are a great place to find this resource. If you have a research idea of your own, try to conduct your study through an independent study course. If at all possible, try to get your research published, or try to present a poster at a conference. Both of these would look outstanding on an application to graduate school.
If you are interested in or are currently conducting research here at WSU, be sure to look at the WSU Grants Page which can help with the expenses of conducting research and even pay for you to travel to conferences to present your research. Be sure to read all materials carefully and note that these are not to serve as stipends for research, but only to assist in the costs.
Work Experience. The importance of work experience can vary greatly from school to school, but the basic idea remains: Work experience is an asset to you, if you can, try to get it. The best idea is to get in to something closely related to your interests, such as research experience for experimental psychology hopefuls, or aiding with developmentally challenged children for future clinicians.
Personal Statement. The personal statement is your chance to really connect with the school of your choice. This is your chance to let them know your interests match up with theirs. Be sure to mention specific faculty members you would like to work with, or current research being done that you would like to hopefully partake in. On top of this, you can really show your interest in their programs by stating why you chose their school and why you would become an asset to them. Be specific in your examples, try to avoid general statements. Let them know specifically who you are and why you want to pursue a career in psychology.
Interview. If you are invited to partake in an interview, you will be required to travel to the school. If travel is not possible, many schools will allow phone interviews to take place, although a personal interview is preferred. Interviews can be either one on one with several professors and graduate students, or in a group interview setting. This is a great opportunity to show everyone at your school of choice that you are a confident, eager, knowledgeable candidate for their program.
Freshman & Sophomore Years
- Take entry level courses in Psychology (Psy 210)
- Begin understanding all the different areas in Psychology
- Attend Psychology Club meetings and familiarize yourself with your classmates
- If you have not done so already, work on completing Statistics (Psy 231), Experimental Psych (Psy 308) and Testing and Measurements
- Continue working on electives
- Begin working on who you will ask for a letter of recommendation from. Will you need to take another course from this professor so they can know you and your abilities better? If so, do it now.
- Look in to Psi Chi, the national honor society for Psychologists
- Review books on career choices for Psychologists. The department library has several titles available.
- Later in the year, look the the APA Graduate Study In Psychology book which is available in the department library. The book provides information on Psychological programs offered throughout the nation including costs, financial aid, requirements, and more.
- Select roughly 20 schools you wish to pursue
Summer Before Senior Year
- Use this time to send for information from your schools of choice
- Study for the GRE
- Apply to take the GRE in the fall
Early Senior Year
- Continue finishing required courses, including History and Systems (Psy 434)
- Begin to ask faculty members for letters of recommendation (Provide information you want included and pre-addressed stamped envelopes)
- Work on your Statement of Purpose
- Request transcripts
- Send off all materials before their deadlines (usually in January)
Late Senior Year
- Wait for notification of acceptance!
Requesting a Letter of Reference from a Professor
WHEN YOU ARE ASKING FOR A REFERENCE
Ask a potential reference if he/she is able to write a reference for you. Always give a professor you are asking for a recommendation or reference a month to prepare it.&; If you are asking at a 'crunch time' (one is around November&nbps;- December), there may be delays, and the letter may not be finished before semester break. Professors may differ in the details of what they would like you to provide. For example, one professor may ask for a particular item as a hardcopy and another may ask for it to be provided electronically. What follows is a good general guide. It is critical that you follow the each professor's directions carefully. Professors often put a significant amount of time into writing references, and your preparation of the information packet indicates how important this is to you.
WHAT YOU SHOULD OFFER TO PROVIDE
For ALL reference requests:
Bring or mail your packet in a large manila envelope that includes the following:
1. Your most recent transcript (does not have to be an official one). Highlight the courses you took from the professor who is writing the reference.
2. If you have significant transfer credits from another institution, please send a copy of the transfer sheet filled out for you when you transferred here. If it was updated later, include that also.
3. A resume or a list including a) any relevant jobs, volunteer activities, achievements, and other activities (since you started college), with dates and specific tasks, accomplishments, and honors listed and b) what you think your best qualities/accomplishments have been.
4. A statement of your educational or career goals or the letter of intent some schools request from you.
For GRADUATE SCHOOL applications:
1. A list of the graduate schools you are applying to on one sheet of paper, including:
- what items the professor is to send (a form, a reference letter),
- what items are included for the specific program you are applying to (forms, envelopes, etc.),
- due date in BOLD,
- any special instructions (signature on back of envelope, letter on university letterhead, etc.),
- to whom the materials are to be sent.
An example of an item included in this list would look like this:
"University of Wisconsin- LaCrosse: School psychology program.
Deadline for receipt of materials: February 15, 2005.
A recommendation form is provided in the packet. Please put the form in the envelope provided with your signature on the seal. Put it in the self-addressed, stamped envelope included and return it to me."
2. A copy of each recommendation form.
3. An addressed stamped envelope for each school, paper clipped to the form.
4. GRE scores unless not required for any program to which you are applying, along with any explanation you have for scores that are below the average for that program. You may need to talk to the professor about this one.
5. Make sure you sign the waiver on most graduate school forms. You are generally best off to say you waive your rights, since schools give more consideration to that reference. It is probably not worth your time or the professor's to maintain your rights to see the recommendations. If you have questions about this, talk to the professor.
(Do not forget the items on the "For ALL references" list above).
For JOB REFERENCES:
Provide the following:
1. list of the jobs for which you have applied,
2. the position for each job (customer complaints representative, case manager, etc.,
3. type of work you will be doing there,
4. whether it will be a phone or other contact and who it is that will call if it is a phone contact.
(Do not forget the items on the 'For ALL references' list above).
Ardis Serafin Young Scholar Award
A $3000.00 scholarship has been established in recognition of Ardis Serafin's
life-long dedication to scholarship in psychology, particularly in human health and
well-being. In alternate academic years, beginning in 2010-2011, the award will be given
to a WSU junior or senior Psychology major to support a year-long independent undergraduate
research project. The project may involve any area of psychology, though preference is
given to research that matches Ms. Serafin's interests in health-related issues
This endowment has been graciously funded by the philanthropy of Ardis Serafin to
recognize students who exhibit a strong commitment to research in psychology.
The scholarship will be in even-numbered academic years. Interested students
are strongly encouraged to think about this opportunity and discuss ideas with members
of our faculty.
Applications will be due early in the fall semester of even-numbered years.
Further details about the application process will be made available early in the fall semester of the years in which the scholarship is available.
WSU Student Psychology Journal
The WSU Student Psychology Journal
is designed to be a place to highlight research done by Winona State Psychology students. The journal contains papers written by students, under the supervision of faculty sponsors. The journal is edited by Professor Carrie Fried working with advanced psychology students. All Winona State psychology students are welcome to submit papers and share them with peers, colleagues, other faculty, or graduate schools. Those interested in the research of our students are welcome to view the journal and read the papers.