The Application Process

Selecting a Program

In addition to identifying the area of psychology that you would like to study, you will also need to think about the level and type of degree that you wish to obtain. The following resources explore the differences between the MA, MS, MEd, MSW, PhD, PsyD, and EdD degrees, discuss the distinctions between clinical and counseling programs, and the meaning of APA accreditation.

APA Online student page

Graduate School Options for Psychology Majors from Marky Lloyd's Careers in Psychology Page on Psych Web

Writing the Personal Statement

The personal statement may be the only sample of your writing submitted to the selection committee, so take the time to do several drafts and get feedback from others. Helpful ideas on writing your personal statement are available from:

Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process in Teaching of Psychology

Marky Lloyd's Careers in Psychology Page on Psych Web

Your GPA

Strive to do your best academic work. Many graduate schools are very competitive, and your GPA offers selection committees a simple criterion to consider or exclude your for admittance. Competitive programs usually look for GPAs around 3.5 or higher. Less competitive programs may accept a GPA of 3.0 or slightly lower.

Taking the GRE

The majority of graduate schools require you to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Some schools require you to take both the GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test in Psychology, so make sure to check the requirements of the programs you are applying to. The GRE General Test has three components: Verbal Abilities, Quantitative Abilities, and Analytical Writing Abilities. The GRE Subject Test in psychology has 220 multiple-choice questions drawn from the basic core courses that are usually offered to undergraduate psychology majors. The General Test is given year-round at a large number of computer-based testing centers.

The Subject Test is only offered a few times each year and only as a pencil and paper test. Visit for more information regarding registration, test dates and locations, fees, content, and preparation.

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a very important component of your application materials. Be sure to choose faculty who know you well and provide them with plenty of time in which to write your letter. It is very helpful to provide your referees with a resume, information about the programs to which you are applying, due dates for each program, a copy of your application essay, and a stamped envelope addressed to the graduate program. Even if you plan to take some time off before applying to graduate school, request letters of recommendation before you graduate. This will allow faculty to write about you while your performance is still fresh in their minds. You might suggest that the faculty members keep a copy of the letter and that you send them an updated resume when you are ready to apply.

Read Psych Web's How to Get Good Letters of Recommendation and Advice for Letters of Recommendation for additional tips

Financial Aid

Costs and financial aid will vary widely across graduate programs. If you need financial aid, find out if the programs that interest you offer teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or fellowships. These opportunities are more likely to be available through larger universities and doctoral programs than through regional universities or Master's level programs. Explore the following links for additional information on financial aid.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Apply for federal student financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study.

The Online Psychology Career Center of the Social Psychology Network

Peterson's Education Portal

Funding Your Psychology Degree

Additional Resources

American Psychological Association. (1997). Getting in: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

American Psychological Association. (2000). Graduate Study in Psychology, 2019. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Buskist, W., and Mixon, A. (1998). Allyn and Bacon Guide to Master's Programs in Psychology and Counseling Psychology . Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Buskist, W., and Sherburne, T.R. (1996). Preparing for Graduate Study in Psychology: 101 Questions and Answers . Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Keith-Spiegal, P., and Widerman, M.W. ( 2000). The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission: Psychology, Counseling, and Related Professions. (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sternberg, R.J. (1997). Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Yake You. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

So You Want To Go To Grad School In Psychology

APA online: Applying to Graduate School at

Pursuing Psychology Graduate School Information Page at at

Advice for Letters of Recommendation at

Tips for preparing for the GRE at