Graduate School Preparation
Students should be prepared to do most, if not all, of the legwork for investigating their options for graduate school in Psychology. There are simply too many graduate programs in Psychology across North America for the Undergraduate Office to be able to answer specific questions.
First determine whether you want to stay within the city, the province, or the country. Find out what psychology programs are offered in the area(s) you would like to attend for grad school. Call or e-mail the schools you are interested in and ask them questions. Ask for information to be sent to you, or check out their web sites. The following information provided below is only a basic guide to assist you in getting started. The rest is up to you!
Tips on How to Prepare
Students who intend to apply to graduate schools and to pursue a career in psychology will require a B or B+ average and in some cases an A- average or higher throughout their academic career. Other important factors include standardized test scores, reference letters, relevant volunteer or paid positions, and research experience.
Some of our previous graduate students have also kindly provided some personal tips on applying to graduate school. In addition, the Psychology Students' Association (PSA) holds seminars on applying and getting into graduate school at least once or twice per academic year. Please check their web site calendar for up and coming seminars. The PSA may also have some useful books available for student consultation in their office (Sidney Smith Hall, room 509). These could include "Career Paths in Psychology", "Getting In" , and the APA's "Graduate Study in Psychology". You may want to contact them to see if these are still available. Here are some other tips from a past PSA seminar on graduate school.
One source of information available is the website http://psych.eudaimonia.ca/. This website and its content was created by Carolyn Hoessler, a former President of the Psychology Students' Association, to help undergraduate students apply to graduate schools in Psychology. The advice posted has been gather from professors, graduate students, career advisors, and others.
Another source, which is highly recommended by our department, is a book by Dr. Dave G. Mumby (Professor of Psychology, Concordia) called "Graduate School: Winning Strategies For Getting In." Check for it at your local bookstore or library or, for more information, visit his companion website and blog at www.mygraduateschool.com. A copy is available for short-term loan for students at the Undergraduate Office (Sid Smith, room 4014).
Undergraduate Course Selection
Students should aim for a well-rounded undergraduate program which includes a broad scope of courses both within and outside of their core psychology program. Rather than pursuing a narrow specialization in the area of primary interest, students should become acquainted with problems and methods in a variety of areas dealing with both human and animal behaviour and from diverse approaches, e.g. physiological, developmental, cognitive, etc.
Graduate schools normally require a four-year (Honours) Bachelor's degree or its equivalent which has included courses in introductory psychology, statistics, and some laboratory or research work in psychology. In our department, you can fulfill the statistics requirement by taking either PSY201H and PSY202H or STA220H and STA221H. You can fulfill the laboratory requirement by taking one of PSY319H, 329H, 339H, 379H, 389H, or 399H. Beyond these minimal requirements, students should consider taking additional advanced-level courses related to their area of interest and experimental or research courses. Seminar courses at the 400-level provide excellent pre-graduate school experience.
Specific courses may be of particular interest. The History of Psychology (PSY 450H1) provides an overview of the field of psychology and some understanding of how contemporary approaches and current issues have emerged. Students who intend to enter the human service areas of psychology (e.g., counselling or clinical psychology) might consider taking Psychometrics (PSY 330H) or any other course on psychological testing. Some graduate schools may expect such courses to be part of a student's background.
Preparing for Standardized Tests
Many graduate schools require that applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some schools, usually in the U.S., also require the Millers Analogies Test (MAT). The results from these tests can sometimes be as important as grades in determining admission.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE): The GRE is comprised of two different types of tests: a General Aptitude Test (which has both a verbal and quantitative component) and an Advanced Test (which is more specific to the relevant subject area of graduate study, e.g., psychology).
GRE General Aptitude Test: For practice exercises relating to this portion of the GRE one may purchase books at the U of T Bookstore as well as local bookstores. An exercise book of this sort can provide insight into the format, length, and types of questions involved. Several private companies offer GRE prep courses (e.g. Kaplan, Richardson, Princeton) as well.
While the quantitative section of the aptitude test does not entail advanced mathematics, most recommend a review of basic algebra and geometry. For the verbal section of the aptitude test, a review of basic English grammar and composition is recommended. Last minute studying (cramming) for the verbal section is not particularly helpful, as the verbal section measures ability that has been developed over a long time.
GRE Advanced Test in Psychology: Students may prepare for this portion of the exam, which covers a variety of areas in psychology, by reviewing their notes and reading from undergraduate PSY courses. For this purpose an intensive review of a good introductory textbook may be particularly helpful. Not all graduate schools require that applicants write the Psychology GRE, though, so make sure that you check with each university you plan to apply to.
An information booklet on the GRE is typically available from the School of Graduate Studies, 63 St. George Street. This booklet provides information about the nature of the examination, indicates where and how to register to take the test, and includes sample questions.
One of the most important credentials a student can develop in addition to their GPA and breadth of course work is training and experience in research. One may develop research experience by (a) arranging to take PSY 299Y with a faculty member, while in the second year, (b) being a research assistant to a faculty member or (c) conducting one's own research under a faculty member's supervision, such as with an Individual Project or Thesis (PSY 405H or 406H or 400Y).
Research experience can also be valuable in obtaining informed letters of recommendation from faculty members. Graduate School applications require at least two letters of recommendation from faculty members, sometimes three. Students may also request a letter of recommendation from their instructor of a 300-level Laboratory course, or a 400-level seminar course.
For any type of research project, one should make contacts with faculty members no later than the spring session of one's third year. Since one will usually need letters of recommendation to graduate schools in the fall of fourth year, one should have contacts well-established by this time.
Human Service Experience
Students who intend to apply to areas of psychology related to human service (e.g., counselling, clinical psychology) will find it beneficial to gain some experience and training in the helping professions. Information about volunteer opportunities is available through local mental health care facilities and hospitals, as well as other agencies. Opportunities also exist through part-time and summer employment (camp counsellors for disabled children; psychiatric aides at hospitals; etc.). It is not advantageous, however, to concentrate on gaining relevant work experience at the expense of maintaining a good academic record.
Students should take advantage of the opportunities that arise for faculty-student interaction through departmental colloquia, undergraduate psychology conventions, and involvement in the Psychology Students' Association (PSA) and their seminars and other events. These opportunities allow students to share common concerns with fellow students, graduate students and professors, and to enhance their appreciation for, and knowledge of, the field of psychology.
For More Information...
Several resources exist which provide additional information on graduate study in psychology:
- The CPA publishes their Graduate Guide online which describes the programs and entrance requirements for psychology graduate schools in Canada. Usually available for loan from the Career Centre Library is the book "Graduate Study in Psychology" (published by the American Psychology Association), which describes the programs and entrance requirements for graduate schools in the U.S.A. In addition to this a guide to getting in to graduate school in psychology, Getting In, is also published.
- Many departments also have web pages. Good launching points are visiting the section for students at the Canadian Psychological Association website and the American Psychological Association's home page.
- The National Research Council (NRC) of the United States conducts a survey to rank various graduate programs. There is a website which has compiled a ranked list of American Universities offering Experimental Psychology programs and a separate site with a ranked list of Canadian and American Universities offering Clinical Psychology programs.
- The College of Psychologists of Ontario has a website which provides information about becoming a "Registered Psychologist" or "Registered Psychological Associate".
- Calendars for various Canadian, American, and foreign universities may be available at Robarts Library and at the Career Counselling and Placement Centre (Koffler Centre).
- The Career Centre offers a wide variety of programs and services to meet the career planning and employment needs of students and recent graduates. To access these programs and services, students are encouraged to register with the Career Centre web site at www.careers.utoronto.ca.
Students should also note that professors and graduate students are willing to help with questions and sometimes to share some of their own undergraduate and graduate school experiences.
Scholarships are available to provide financial assistance to graduate students:
- NSERC: www.nserc.gc.ca
- OGS: http://osap.gov.on.ca/eng/not_secure/ogs.htm
- SSHRC: www.sshrc.ca
- CIHR: www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca
These web sites provide all the information you will need in order to apply and also include application forms for download. Note that most application deadlines are early in the academic year (October/November). You can enquire about these scholarships in the Undergraduate Office (SS 4014) or find out more information, including deadlines here.