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 Graduate School Preparation Timeline 



RESEARCH INDICATES THAT EARLY PLANNING BENEFITS APPLICANTS!  This schedule assumes that you will be starting a graduate program in the Fall semester after you graduate from SRU.  Most graduate programs accept students only in the Fall semester.


  • Take the required Statistics and Experimental Psychology courses.
  • Do your best in all your courses in order to meet the requirements for membership in Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology.  Membership in Psi Chi enhances both graduate school and job application materials. (See the web page at Hunter College which has a good description of Psi Chi, the national site for Psi Chi (PSI CHI), and the department Psi Chi Chapter website).  
  • If possible, get involved in faculty research.  Graduate programs value this evidence of motivation and acquired technical skills.
  • If you haven't done it already, consider joining the Psych Club and/or volunteering at an organization of interest to you.
  • Begin to think about and research the areas in psychology that most interest you. When you apply to graduate school, you must apply to programs in specific areas (clinical, developmental, experimental, social, etc.) so you will need to be clear about your focus. See the web page on "Areas of Specialization in Psychology" and "FIELDS OF PSYCHOLOGY."
  • Plan to take one or more courses from the professors from whom you will want recommendations by the fall term of your senior year.  Also, take time to talk with them outside of class so they can get to know you.  This will ensure that they will be familiar with you and your work before they write letters (typically in November of your junior year).  You will usually need letters of recommendations from three faculty members. See the web page titled "How to Get Good Letters of Recommendation"for more advice.

Fall Semester:

  • During your junior year complete required courses in Statistics, Experimental Psych/Lab, and as many of the Core Electives (social/physiological/developmental/abnormal, etc.) as you can. Graduate schools will look especially closely at your grades in Statistics and Experimental/Lab, so you will want to do very well in these courses. Graduate schools will be evaluating your transcripts in January and February of your senior year so they won't know about your work in your senior year.
  • Consider running for office in the Psychology Club or Psi Chi.
  • Investigate specific graduate programs in the area of specialization you have chosen.  Investigate the section of the Graduate School Information page on Choosing a Graduate Program. 
  • Read about selected occupations in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) published every two years by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. This book is a comprehensive guide to occupations. It includes job descriptions, education and training requirements, salaries, advancement possibilities, and employment outlooks for 250 occupations. This information can also be accessed online at  Dr. Drew Appleby from IUPUI has collected a list of links to occupations of interest to psychology majors from the U.S. Department of Labor (JOB DESCRIPTIONS). These descriptions identify the skills people in these occupations must possess to perform their jobs successfully.
  • Don't forget to visit the websites of the universities you are interested in as part of your search. Here is a site that indexes colleges and universities, an easy way to explore the schools in which you are interested: It may save you time to use the search engine for the specific university’s site after you access its homepage.
  • Peterson’s ( allows you to search for graduate schools and also has good general information regarding graduate work.
  • Check out the graduate student groups associated with APA (APAGS) & APS (APSSC)
  • Don’t forget more career-specific sites such as the National Association of Social Workers homepage ( or the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (

Spring Semester:

  • If you are in the B.S. program begin serious planning for your competency requirement (PSYC 420 Community Service Practicum, PSYC 430 Research Practicum, or PSYC 450 Internship). Developing a competency experience that is related to your graduate school plans will strengthen your application. You can obtain the competency requirement application forms from the department office in 226 VSH. If you are seriously planning on appyling to clinical programs, it is a good idea to complete your competency in the fall of your senior year rather than the spring. This way, you can have one of your supervisors write a letter of recommedation to add to the academic letters you will provide.
  • Attend the Psych Department's Competency requirement/Internship meetings (fliers will be posted all over VSH).
  • Read all or part of the book, The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission: Psychology and Related Fields published by the APA. (SRU students can check this out from the secretary in the Psychology Department Office.)
  • Don't hesitate to talk with your faculty advisor about specific questions that arise.


Use the summer months to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) (and the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) if you need to take it). More than anything else, your admission to graduate school will depend on your scores on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE (not the Subject Test in psychology). To do your best on these exams, you must prepare for them. For additional information, see the page titled, "What Is the GRE?." Do you want to mention that the Psyc department and the library have copies of a GRE study book to be checked out?

Based on your reading of The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission: Psychology and Related Fields review all the possible programs in which you might be interested. Include schools that represent a range of (1) quality and (2) level of degree (doctorate/master's). When you narrow your list down to about 20, you should write to these schools (or web sites) to get their catalogs and the latest, detailed information about their programs and deadlines. The summer is a good time to begin collecting this information. Be sure to request information about and an application for financial aid, if these are not sent with the application materials.

  • When the materials arrive, use the rest of the summer to review the information. Among other things, look at the research interests of faculty members to see if there are some matches with yours. Reduce your list of prospective programs to 10-15.
  • Send in your registration materials and fees for the GRE by late August. Since the registration deadline for the October test will probably be prior to your arrival on campus for the Fall Quarter, you will need to obtain a copy of the GRE Information and Registration Bulletin (which contains the registration form) by writing to: Graduate Record Examinations, Educational Testing Service, P.O Box 6000, Princeton, NJ 08541-6000. You can register online (as well as take sample tests and order review books) at GRE Online. Your scores will automatically be sent to you and to those schools you list on the registration form after you take the exam.

1.    Note: Not all schools require applicants to take the Subject Test in psychology, but if you need to take it, you might consider registering for the verbal and quantitative tests in October of your senior year (it will take all morning to complete these) and registering for the Subject Test in December (given in the afternoon). Splitting the testing will lessen your fatigue and also allow you to use the fall semester to take psychology courses such as PSYC 360 History of Psychology and other upper-division specialized courses (these should enhance your performance on the Test).

2.    Be aware that it takes about six weeks after you have taken the GRE for the scores to be reported to institutions if you take the paper based test but only 10-15 days to report them if you take the computer-based test. If taking any part of the GRE in December means that your application will be incomplete at the time departments are reviewing applications, be forewarned that your application will not be given the same consideration as will complete applications.



Identify the graduate programs you will apply to. Of the 10-15 schools on your list, 1-2 should be programs that are "long shots" (schools whose entrance requirements--GRE and GPA--you don't meet); 2-3 should be "borderline" programs (you meet the GRE requirement, but not the GPA or vice- versa); 3-8 should be "good match" programs (those whose average scores match yours); and 2-3 should be "almost sure bets" (programs whose requirements you clearly exceed). If you haven't taken the GRE by this time, it will be difficult to assess your chances. However, you can take several practice tests and average your scores. Although not a guarantee, this is usually a good indication of how you will do on the real thing.

Once you know the schools to which you will apply, prepare a list or a chart with information on all the schools, the application materials required (application form, GRE scores, autobiographical statement if required, letters of recommendation, etc.), financial aid application information, and all relevant deadlines.

Prepare a draft of your personal/autobiographical statement. Most schools require such a statement as a way to find out about your personal and educational background, your interests in psychology, the reasons you want a graduate degree in psychology, and your career goals. Strive to be honest, objective, and brief (2-3 pages). (See the page titled, "Preparing a Personal Statement.")

Contact faculty members to write recommendations for you. See the web page titled "How to Get Good Letters of Recommendation" for more advice


  • Take the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE. (If you have decided not to take these in October, then register now for the GRE given in December.)
  • Ask faculty members to review the draft of your autobiographical statement. Make revisions as necessary.


  • Give recommendation forms to the faculty who will be writing recommendations for you. Be sure to complete relevant information on the forms provided by universities and sign your name as indicated. Most doctoral programs and many masters programs require you to waive your right to view the letter of recommendation. This is done because these programs are very competitive and it allows your letter writers to be completely honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Although you are free to choose and there will be no problem on the part of the letter writer if you choose not to waive you right, the generally accepted practice is to agree to waive your right to see the letter (be sure to sign on the right line!). Provide a pre-addressed, stamped envelope for each recommendation, a brief resume, and a copy of your personal statement for their perusal. If you are appyling to more than 3 schools, also provide an email or disk copy of the full mailing addresses of each program to which you are applying, and a hard copy list of programs with deadlines.
  • Complete applications with December and January deadlines and mail them with several weeks to spare. Make and use a check sheet to be sure that you have included all necessary information in your envelope: application form, autobiographical statement (if required), application fee, request for financial aid, and a SELF-ADDRESSED POSTCARD FOR VERIFICATION OF RECEIPT OF YOUR MATERIALS. Be sure to: (1) TYPE all application materials, (2) PROOFREAD all materials for grammatical errors and misspellings, and (3) PHOTOCOPY all materials before you send them.
  • Request that transcripts be sent to programs from all colleges attended--it will take SRU's Academic Record's Office about two weeks to send these.


  • Take the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE if you have not done so in October. (If you registered to take the Subject Test in December, take it now.)


  • Call the departments to which you have applied to be sure that they have received your GRE scores and all letters of recommendation. Most schools will not consider incomplete applications.
  • If there are any outstanding letters of recommendation, check with faculty to be sure that they have been sent.
  • Mail any remaining applications.
  • Most schools will notify you of your status (regular acceptance, provisional acceptance, on waiting list, application denied) on or around April 15.
  • Upon receiving notification of acceptance(s), consult with faculty in making your final decision. Once you have notified this school, be sure to tell other schools you will not be coming so they can offer your place to another student.
  • If all of your applications are rejected, consult with faculty about your options. You might: (1) work for a year, prepare for the GRE, and re-apply to psychology programs, (2) enter a master's program in psychology, re-take the GRE, and reapply to doctoral programs, or (3) think about applying to degree programs in fields similar to psychology such as social work (M.S.W.) or education (M.Ed. or Ed.D.) if you have not already explored these options.
  • Adapted freely, and with deep gratitude from the sources that follow.  We are indebted to these professionals and organizations, and on behalf of our students and our department, we thank them for their dedicated work and research.

APA-style reference for this section:

Appleby, D. C.  Descriptions of occupations of interest to psychology majors: From the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. [Online].  Available:    

Lloyd, M. A. (2002, October 15.) What is the GRE (Graduate Record Exam)? [Online]. Available:

Lloyd, M. A. (1997, August 12). Applying to Graduate School -- Strategies and Time-line. [Online]. Available:

Lloyd, M. A. & Dewey, R. A. (1997, July 16). How to get good letters of recommendation. [Online]. Available:

Lloyd, M. A. and Dewey, R. A. (1997, August 28). Areas of specialization in psychology. [Online]. Available:

Lloyd, M. A. (1997, August 28). Applying to graduate school: Preparing a personal statement. [Online].  Available:

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