Psi Chi Honor Society
Department of Psychological
& Brain Sciences:
Applying: Timeline, Resources, Personal Statement, Resume & CV, Interviews
Applying to graduate school is time-consuming and expensive. Your graduate school application packets will likely include application forms, a personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a resume and/or curriculum vitae, and financial aid forms.
If you are applying to a competitive graduate program in psychology or neuroscience the entire process in which you select schools, take entrance exams, and prepare application packets will take about one year - starting the second semester of your junior year.
It's very helpful if you'll get started early and get organized!
Download our Timeline for Applying to Graduate School which contains critical information about all stages of the application process!!
Network - you'll want to seek information, advice, and support throughout the process. Who should you ask for advice?
Read a comprehensive guidebook:
- If you're interested in attending a psychology graduate program, the Academic Advising Resource Library includes excellent guidebooks such as Getting In: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology, the Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology, and more.
- If you're interested in attending graduate school or a professional program in another field, you might start looking for graduate school guidebooks in the Wells Career Reference Collection or in the IU Libraries.
Virtually all graduate programs will ask you to submit a personal statement. Your statement should address your experience, skills, and abilities relevant to succeeding in the graduate program of your choice. It should reveal your ultimate career goals and should also address the quality of fit between you and the specific graduate program to which the statement is being addressed.
Personal statements for psychology graduate programs:
- Organizing Your Personal Statement: An Outline to Get You Started. Very, very helpful! (Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2009)
- Writing a Compelling Statement - length, writing style, tone, content. (Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 1999)
- How to Avoid the Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process. Very important! (Eye on Psi Chi: Spring 2007)
- Applications That Make the Schools You Want, Want You - consider your audience and target your statement for each school to which you are applying. (Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 1998)
General advice for all types of graduate programs:
- Writing the Personal Statement - suggestions regarding content and style.
Your personal statement may be the most important brief essay you ever write, so don't skimp on revisions! Have professors and professionals who are working in the career field in which you are interested read your personal statement and comment. Take it to Writing Tutorial Services to get help with organizing and expressing your ideas clearly and for a grammar/word usage/spelling check. If you are applying to a highly competitive program, you may want to check out Essay Edge - an online essay editing service. See before & after samples here.
You'll need to send official transcripts from all of the colleges you've attended to each graduate school. Be sure to request them early. Access unofficial transcripts and order official transcripts from the Student Central on Union.
Reflect on what you've done as student, a volunteer, and employee and then turn those experiences into accomplishment statements to create a resume targeted for the graduate program in which you are interested. Include volunteer positions, student & professional groups, part-time jobs or internship experiences, scholarships or other honors you've received, and a description of any study abroad programs in which you've participated.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
A CV is a resume of your academic successes and research experience.
If your goal is to attend to a research-oriented graduate program, then it's great if you can to begin participating in a research lab early enough in your college years that you will have co-authored posters, presentations, or papers - these become the key content of your CV.
If you've participated in a research lab, but don't have sufficient material for a CV, you can put your research experience on your resume. Important - provide the name of the faculty member in whose lab you worked, information about the specific research project on which you worked, and what you accomplished.
- Writing the Curriculum Vitae - for all types of graduate programs.
- The Curriculum Vita: A Student's Guide to Preparation - specific to psychology. (Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2005)
- Tips on Creating an Academic Vita and a sample vita - specific to psychology. (I'd skip the section on personal information for a graduate school application.)
Some schools require interviews and others just some request them. Some programs are fine with phone interviews and others prefer or require on site interviews. Most schools that request interviews rate them as being very important in determining whether students will be accepted.
Interviews for graduate schools are typically held in February, March or April. You can start preparing for these interviews early. Read:
- Applying to Graduate School: The Interview Process. (Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2007)
- Graduate School Preparation - The Interview.
- Check out these phone interview tips.
- Meet with a career advisor for a mock interview. Call the Career Development Center ahead of time to set up an appointment. The CDC's number is (812) 855-5234. Once you're assigned an advisor, send your graduate school applciation materials - links to the gradaute program to which you are applying and resume & personal statement - ahead of time for the best practice interview.