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Preparing for Graduate School

Preparing for Graduate School

Introductory Information for Psychology Majors Interested in Applying to Graduate School

  • An overview of Psychology, it’s subfields, and for some information on the job outlook for undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology.

Important points to remember before deciding to apply to graduate school:

  • You should apply to graduate school once you have decided that the graduate program will prepare you for the job that you would like to have. A listing of some graduate school options for Psychology majors.
  • It is possible to wait a few years between completing your undergraduate degree and starting graduate school. Some thoughts on the pros and cons of going directly into graduate school versus taking some time off.
  • Getting both research experience in a PSY 407 and/or PSY 401 and practical experience through Co-Op, job, or volunteering is a must to be competitive for admission to graduate school.
  • The job markets for careers that require graduate degrees can fluctuate just like all job markets. Always be sure to check out the job market for a degree before you apply to a graduate program. Click on the Career Exploration tab and the Salary tab on the right of the page, as well as on the websites listed on the left side of the page.
  • You can find detailed information about all graduate programs in Psychology in the APA Guide to Graduate Study in Psychology.

Components of the Graduate School Application

This is a general list of the components of a graduate school application. Additional information on each component can be found at the links attached to each section.

Some schools may have different requirements and application deadlines, so be sure to read each application carefully.

You should also research all programs to which you are applying very carefully by (1) reviewing the information available in the APA Guide to Graduate Study in Psychology, (2) carefully reading the graduate program’s web site, and (3) by e-mailing the program director with any additional questions. For additional information on selecting graduate programs click here.

Grades & Transcripts:

  • Undergraduate grades are a very important indicator of how a person is going to do in grad school. If you have good grades, it will be much easier to get in to the schools that you want to go to.
  • Most graduate programs want their students to have a minimum 3.0 – 3.5 GPA.
  • In most cases, transcripts should be sent directly from the EKU Registrar to the graduate program.

Letters of Recommendation:

  • Provide 3 letters from professors or professionals who know you well and can evaluate your work. This is usually someone with whom you have worked closely. Completing a 401 and/or 407 project with a professor, completing a Co-Op, and being an officer in Psi Chi are a few ways to get to know faculty or supervisors well-enough for them to write a strong letter.
  • Prepare a packet for each faculty member or supervisor with any forms to be completed, self-addressed envelopes, and a list of the schools to which you want letter sent.
  • Ask the potential recommender if they would be willing to write a letter for you. Ask them if they would like any additional information about you such as a copy of your resume or personal statement.
  • Take each recommender the packet described above with all requested documents on another day.
  • Give each recommender at least 2 full weeks or 10 working days to write the letters. Do not include holidays or days that EKU is not in session in calculating the number of days.

GRE scores

  • High scores will open doors for you. Use every trick in the book to get a high score.
  • Graduate Programs vary in the GRE scores that they require. Below are some norms, but you should look at the average or median scores of the specific programs to which you are applying in the APA Guide to Graduate Programs. Sometimes, the average or median GRE scores and GPA are also on the program’s website. Master’s/Specialists programs typically accept students with 1000 – 1200. Ph.D./Psy.D. programs typically accept students with a 1200 or higher.
  • The GRE costs approximately $140. All current and previous scores are reported to all schools every time you take this test. So, it is both expensive and potentially damaging to take the GRE multiple times. You would hate for them to see one or two low scores and then a high score, so you want to prepare extensively in the first place!
  • The GRE is offered online only at Prometric Test Center, 2573 Richmond Rd. Ste. 260, Lexington, KY 40509. Log onto the GRE Website to register, for an overview of the test, and for preparation information.
  • Most students at EKU need to prepare for the GRE. Get a study guide (one is not necessarily better than the other). Give yourself 2 – 3 months to prepare. Plan to study 5 – 10 hours a week during that time. Some preparation tips: Work through the study guide and work all problems on the GRE web site. Take all practice tests. Ask the Math Lab or hire a math tutor for help with math problems. Learn all word lists. And, read the New York Times to get additional vocabulary words. Take a practice test given by the Caduceus Club or Psi Chi. The Library has access to From this site, you can take practice GRE tests online for free. You can get to this by clicking on the link below or by going to the Databases that start with L. Once you are on the website, click on the link that says “Graduate School Entrance Exams” on the right side of the screen.
  • You can estimate your GRE score from your ACT scores to help you get a feel for your level of preparedness for the test. ACT 30+ = GRE 1350+ ACT 25 – 30 = GRE 1150 – 1300 ACT 20 – 25 = GRE 950 – 1100 ACT below 19 = GRE below 1000

Statement of Interests/Personal Statement:

  • A well-focused and well-written statement of interests is a "must."
  • Tailor each statement to each school. Do not write just one essay. Schools will often have a question for you to answer in your personal statement. Be sure to read each application carefully for information to be included in the personal statement.
  • Spend a lot of time writing and revising it, and get other people (especially professors) to help you with it. Don’t be shy with this. It can really pay off. Most faculty will be happy to help out.
  • In addition to any specific questions, all graduate programs will want to know that: You have an understanding of the career field for which the graduate program will be preparing you, and you can clearly explain why you want this field to be your career. You have specific experience related to research and applied experience that is at least somewhat related to the field to which you are applying. In most cases, it is not possible for you to have had a job as a professional, but if you are interested in school psychology for example, doing some work with children or in a school system is good. If you are interested in I/O psychology, then some experience working for a business is good. Etc.
  • It is especially important to remain “professional” even though this document is sometimes called a “personal” statement. Refrain from discussing extremely personal issues. Focus only on school and work achievements and activities.
  • A helpful website for writing personal statements is:


  • A resume should be included with your application. Career Services has an outline of information to be included in a resume.

Application fees:

  • Most schools charge an application fee of $50-$100. This is done to ensure that students applying to their program are serious applicants. It is another reason why you want to be certain that you are interested in the program and a viable candidate before you apply!

And, never forget: Your Professors are your #1 resource for graduate school! Ask us for help! Our job is to open doors for you. So, if you want to go to graduate school, it is both our job and our pleasure to help you in any way that we can. We do well if you do well!

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