Timetable for Doctoral Program Admissions
First semester of your master's program:
- Begin identifying doctoral programs that match with your interests, goals, etc. (most of this info is online)
- Determine the profile of the typical student that they admit and whether you have a chance of matching that profile in the next couple of years (if not, start changing/refining goals)
- Work with advisor to develop a plan for how to become a competitive applicant for your programs. This plan would likely include:
- Building a record of relevant job experience
- Building a record of research involvement in addition to your thesis experience
- Joining relevant professional organizations and attending conferences and other professional meetings
- Addressing any deficiencies in your GRE scores
- Begin getting to know your professors (they will be writing your letters of recommendation)
- Make good grades and keep up your GPA
- Write (and keep up-to-date) a vita to document your activities
- Start thinking of thesis topics that you will explore in the following semester
Summer prior to beginning a doctoral program:
- Set aside money for the application process (application fees, GRE fees, travel money for interviews)
- Take the GRE General Exam in the summer, which will allow time for a 2nd chance in early fall if you are not happy with your score
- Take the GRE Psychology Exam if it is required by programs you wish to attend
Fall prior to beginning a doctoral program:
- Make final decisions about where you will apply. I recommend that you create a spreadsheet of info about each program, with all requirements listed, due dates, and a way to keep track of whether you have done each thing yet.
- Confirm the application deadlines for all schools (doctoral programs generally have late fall deadlines).
- Put together packets of information for those writing letters of recommendation. It is inconsiderate to give forms to teachers one at a time, scattered throughout the semester, and expect them to keep track of everything. Your professionalism and attention to detail can get you better letters! You should:
- Give them a complete list of each school that you want them to write a letter for. This list should tell them (1) what type of program it is (e.g., a research oriented counseling program), (2) the due date for their letter, (3) how to provide the letter to each grad program (online link, mail to x address, give to you, etc.), and (4) any special instructions from the graduate program (e.g., seal and sign the back, send more than one copy of the letter, etc.). This will ensure that everything arrives on time with minimal frustration.
- Provide them with any relevant forms they need to fill out. Make sure you put your name on them and fill out everything on the form that is on the student's part (your name, SSN, program name, signature, etc.). This will ensure that your application is filled out correctly and your letter-writers aren't doing your portion AND theirs.
- Provide a copy of your vita and any relevant info about you that you'd like them to remember and include (e.g., I was in x class in Spring 2013, I made an A, I was in your research team in Fall 2012 and did x for the group, etc.). This will help us formulate a good letter with detailed info that we might've forgotten.
- Ask faculty for letters of recommendations at least a month in advance
- Request that GRE scores be sent to all schools to which you are applying at least a month in advance
- Request that all undergraduate and graduate transcripts be sent to schools to which you are applying, at least two weeks in advance
- Write statement of purpose or other essays required by the schools (allow plenty of time for feedback and revisions)
- Send in financial aid forms
- Send in application forms
Winter and spring prior to beginning a doctoral program:
- Call schools to confirm that your completed applications and recommendation letters were received.
- Attend any interviews to which you are invited
- Accept/decline offers.
- After accepting an offer, start working out all the details (registering, paying bills, moving, etc.)
Written by Shanna D. Ray, Department of Psychology, Lipscomb University