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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    So, You Think You Want to Be A Psychologist?

    Psychology happens to be the second most popular major in the country, second only to Business Administration, according to the Princeton Review.’ This semester, there are an estimated 1,600 psychology majors at Stony Brook, according to the undergraduate advisor for psychology, Carol Carlson. This constitutes nearly 10% of the undergraduate student body.’ Of this group of students, many have plans to go on to graduate school, though much fewer aspire to a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, a feat that is often compared in difficulty and prestige to getting into medical school.

    After speaking with numerous faculty members in the psychology department, applying to anything less than 15 graduate schools is s foolish tactic if your goal is to be accepted by a clinical program in psychology (20 to be on the safe side).’ Dr. Nancy Squires, the chair of the Honors Program in Psychology for the 2007 graduating class remarked that it isn’t unheard of to apply to twice that number to increase your chances.’ If that seems extreme, it is: in comparison, many Sociology majors send out less than a third of that to their respective schools.’ While some programs may offer more attention and funding to its graduate students than others, the bar for all admission is set very high for all schools, with many programs accepting a half dozen students out of 500 applications.’ Dr. George Bouklas, a practicing psychologist for over 20 years, speaks highly of many programs in this country in general.’ ‘There isn’t such a thing as a ‘bad’ clinical psych program,’ he said.

    Given the intense competition in all programs, and the sheer amount of schools with Ph.D. programs in psychology (several hundred and counting), there is no reason to settle for a school that does not provide tuition reimbursement in addition to a stipend for research and teaching.’ Dr. Anne Moyer, Assistant Professor at Stony Brook, agrees, citing that the unnecessary burden of student loans can be easily avoided by focusing on schools that pay their students.’ In addition, programs that only accepts as many students as they have money to pay for, including Stony Brook, often receive large amounts of federal and grant funding.’ These schools often produce more research, garner more respect, and are more prestigious than universities that cannot secure adequate funding.

    When applying to an undergraduate program, people make a point to not burden the admission staffers with any more paperwork than they require. This means keeping resumes short and letters of recommendation to a minimum.’ This is not the case when it comes to psychology graduate programs, however.’ While three is the minimum, it is by no means the maximum.’ It is recommended that you get three letters from faculty affiliated with psychology that know you well, in addition to one or two more letters from other sources.’ There is by no means a rule when it comes to recommendation letters, but five great reviews are better than three in most cases.’ Out of respect for faculty, give them adequate time to write their glowing remarks about you.’ If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to pop in their offices and ask them for a favor.

    One of the most important decisions when striving to become a licensed psychologist is location.’ While there are states with reciprocity agreements, it is up to each state to grant licensure.’ Going to graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin with the expectation of practicing as a licensed psychologist in New York is unrealistic- it often takes years and many legal hurdles to attain licensure in a state different than the one you went to graduate school in.’ This does not affect you ability to use your Ph.D. in psychology in the private sector or in academia, but by law you are not allowed to practice therapy as a psychologist without proper state approval.

    Lastly, research is key.’ Though not essential, having done research as an undergraduate shows admission committees that you are comfortable and familiar with research and are much more likely to fit their research-intensive curricula for the next five to six years.’ If you are currently a senior, it is probably too late to start now.’ If you are a junior or younger, now is the time to start putting in those applications to get into a lab.’ At the very least, you will know fairly quickly if research is for you- if not, you may want to reevaluate your plans to become a clinical psychologist.

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