Open Access Tips/Materials for Clinical Psych PhD Applications
Now: Clinical Psychology PhD Student, Stony Brook University
Previously: Research Coordinator at University of Texas at Austin
Updated: July 2021
Why I’m Writing This: This document was originally written during my time as a post-bacc research coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin — right after receiving my acceptance to Stony Brook University’s Clinical Psychology PhD program. I wanted to put together these resources as someone who had literally just finished applying to research-focused PhD programs in clinical psychology. I figured then would be the time — while it was fresh in my memory, I still remembered all of the wonderful tips I’ve received from current students/faculty, and none of my materials had been lost to the ether (yet). I have since made updates to this document as a third-year graduate student, but the majority of these materials were created in the spring of 2019.
A Big Thank You To: Christopher Beevers, Michael Mullarkey, Molly McNamara, and Jolene Jacquart for contributing to the materials below (and for mentorship throughout this process). To Shellie Stewart, Jocelyn Labrada, and Kayla Caffey for being part of the wonderful WHOA LAB, and all of the support they’ve provided (more below).
One Last Spoiler Alert: There are SO MANY ways applicants can get into graduate programs. Hopefully, the resources below will help increase your chances of getting in (and not be just another set of unsolicited opinions that stress you out about creating the “perfect application” to grad school — as there is no one such thing). I want to acknowledge up front this is just ONE account of how to do things… there are many, many ways to be successful here; my goal for posting these resources is simply to make this lengthy, opaque process more transparent.
Lastly, give yourself permission to celebrate every time you complete a step of this process. It’s challenging, and you deserve it. Finally, I’ll start talking resources…
Below, I discuss:
- General resources for applying
- GRE preparation
- Creating a graduate school spreadsheet (plus free template!)
- Requesting letters of recommendation (plus free email/organization templates!)
- Reaching out to faculty you’d like to work with (plus free email templates!)
- Writing a statement of purpose (plus free examples!)
- Developing your CV (plus free template!)
- Requesting transcripts
- Submitting online applications
- Preparing for interviews (plus free example questions!)
- Writing thank you emails (plus free email templates!)
- I highly recommend this resource: Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology
- The above book contains a comprehensive list of all Clinical/Counseling PhD programs in the US (they come out with a new one each year, this is the one for 2018/2019)
- If you have a supportive group of folks around you who are also applying to grad school, consider forming a “grad school applications” club. Our club was called Women Helping each Other Achieve Like A Boss (WHOA LAB). We came up with a syllabus, and held each other accountable each week for deadlines/progress on applications/professional development. Whether or not you have a cool acronym, it was really nice to have a source of social support throughout the process
- If you would like to join an online community of other applicants to PhD programs in psychology, check out PsychinOut — a group of fellow applicants who meet to share resources, receive mentorship, and offer solidarity throughout the application process (link to Twitter page; link to website; link to Slack; link to their resource hub)
- Here’s a link to another set of very helpful, free online resources for PhD applications
- Lastly, here’s a project link containing online files of the complete materials I’ll be covering in detail below (specific materials referenced + directly linked to throughout the following sections)
- Timeline: test scores good for 5 years leading up to your application date
- Good news: you can schedule the date you take the GRE! This means: give yourself enough time to study when booking a date. Also, maybe don’t book your test to be right after you take your finals… (I learned this the hard way)
- I highly recommend the Kaplan general GRE test prep book. Take a diagnostic practice test to figure out what areas you may need to focus on while studying. Take lots of practice tests to practice/monitor progress. (The above link is for an older edition; after reading reviews, it looks like this edition has a larger group of online resources)
- If you aren’t really feeling the Kaplan version, there are other good resources out there (like Manhattan Prep). They have highly rated, specific prep books/flash cards for a more in-depth coverage of the particular math or verbal portions of the GRE. They also have a 5lb book of practice problems if you really just want to practice practice practice (though I definitely recommend setting time limits for yourself on practice problems that aren’t done online and automatically timed — timing is a big part of doing well on the exam)
- I used Quizlet to create flashcards of the Kaplan GRE math rules/vocab words, and used the mobile Quizlet app on my phone to study (Quizlet is free!). This meant I could literally sit by the pool in the sun while studying my roots/vocab words. Highly recommended. If you want another app option, there is also the McGoosh GRE Vocab app, with pre-made flash cards
- Know your institution codes to send GRE scores from ETS to your program sites once you’ve taken your tests (tip: be sure to double check each program’s website, they sometimes have specific instructions on which institution code to use)
- Note: Some programs require the Psychology Subject Test GRE. Unlike the general GRE, the psychology subject test is only offered on specific dates. It can take ~6 weeks for your exam to be scored + additional time for your scores to be sent to your institutions of choice. If you plan to take this exam, look up the dates this test is offered sooner rather than later. To ensure my scores made it to my application sites by the December 1 deadline, I had to take the test as early as September 15. Find offered test dates here.
- If you do end up taking the psych GRE subject test, here’s an equivalent Kaplan resource for that exam: Kaplan psychology subject test prep
Grad School Spreadsheet
- Timeline: spring — fall of the year you apply
- Again, there are a ton of ways you can do this (find the way that works for you)
- Tip: spend more time gathering information for this spreadsheet than making this spreadsheet ~ aesthetically pleasing ~ (a lesson I definitely learned = you can spend lots of time procrastinating by adjusting column width and font size… it’s not worth it)
- Here’s a link to a full template version of the spreadsheet I used
- Here’s a list of columns included in my spreadsheet, so you get a sense of how my sheet was organized:
Rank (my personal ranking of top vs. last choice school)
State (I sorted my list by state, but you can organize by rank or whatever else)
Faculty Mentor (PI)
Program (type of program: Clinical PhD, Counseling PhD, etc.)
Accreditation (whether the program is accredited by the APA/PCSAS)
Research Tier (highest to lowest on extent to research: R1, R2, or R3 — can find your schools here)
Recruiting for Fall 2019? (whether that faculty mentor was actually recruiting a student that year)
Mentor Website (I found it helpful to have these links handy and organized in one place)
Mentor Information Page
Mentor Specialty (I took notes here on particular projects/areas of focus that overlapped with mine)
Graduate Office Contact (email/phone for graduate contact, in case of application questions)
Email Draft? (have I completed a draft email?)
Email? (did I send that email?)
Follow-Up Email? (if I haven’t received a response yet, have I sent a follow-up email?)
App Fee (these also varied widely, ranging anywhere from $60 — $105 per application. One good thing to note: these fees can sometimes be waived for those who might be experiencing particular financial strain)
Submitted App? (have I submitted the application?)
App Requirements (what materials are required within the application? Usually a good place to distinguish official vs. unofficial transcripts, whether there are additional essays due… e.g. a diversity essay, etc.)
Statement? (have I completed a version of my statement for this program?)
SOP Word Limit? (is there a word limit for this statement? Heads up, these can vary drastically between programs: I had anywhere between 500 words, to 2–3 pages, to no limit).
Address for Transcript/Letters (where to mail hard copies of letters/transcripts; I would recommend electronic versions wherever possible)
Online Address for Transcript/Letters (where to email/send electronic copies of letters/transcripts; I would recommend electronic versions wherever possible)
Institution #1 Transcript (have I ordered transcripts for each institution I have attended?)
Institution #2 Transcript
Institution #3 Transcript
Letter Instructions (there was a lot of variation in how schools asked for letters of recommendation; this is where I would make note of any specific instructions/things to keep in mind for submission. Some applications contained questions within the application itself that would automatically send emails to your letter writers… other applications required opening an account on some third-party document-sharing platform to upload documents… e.g. Interfolio)
Requested Letters? (have I submitted a formal request for letters from my letter writers? Usually this happens via automated email from whatever application platform the program uses)
Submitted Letters? (have my letter writers all submitted a letter? For some programs, you can track this in real time within your application, or you even receive an email notification when it is submitted. For other programs, you’ll need to use a separate “check-list” service they provide)
Psych GRE? (does this program require the psych subject test? 1–2 of the programs I applied to required it, and a few more required the test “before admission” — meaning I’d have to take it only once I’d received and accepted an offer to that program)
Institution Code (specific to each program/institution)
GRE Scores Sent? (have I officially sent my scores to institutions via ETS?)
Psychology GRE Scores Sent? (have I official sent my subject test scores via ETS?)
Funding (~ $ stipend amount for each program)
Practicum Options (whether or not on-site clinical practicum options are available)
Other Links (any other helpful links for each program)
Letters of Recommendation
- Timeline: summer — fall the year you apply
- Most apps I encountered required at least 3 recommendations
- I confirmed my letter writers early-mid summer before I applied, and sent emails to them with my materials in October (check in with your letter writers if they have any specific time constraints ahead of time). A general rule of thumb is to ask all of your letter writers AT LEAST 3 months before the first deadline
- Confirm in-person (whenever possible) that these individuals are “comfortable writing you a strong letter of recommendation for graduate school”. “Strong” is important to say here, because you need a strong letter from someone who knows you well enough to provide details of exactly how awesome you are/why you are awesome. If they can’t write you a strong letter, it’s always better to know that up front. For better or worse, “adequate” letters are probably negative points against you in the application process
- Once you have a confirmation from your 3 letter writers, put together an online folder (I used google drive) of all of the materials they will need to write your letter. I did a separate folder for each of my 3 letter writers. I sent each letter writer an email describing their materials
- Here’s an example of an email I sent to one of my letter writers (with links to templates for the specific documents I describe):
I hope this email finds you well! I just finished uploading all of your letter writing materials into a google drive folder (shared with your utexas.edu email; here is the folder link). A brief outline of what to expect from each document:
Dobias_Beevers_Instructions. This document outlines unique experiences you have with me/my work that you will be able to speak to best (of my 3 faculty recommenders).
Dobias_List of Schools. This document outlines my schools of interest (organized by due date; first due date December 1st), faculty names, faculty interests, and specific method of letter submission required. I will use my online applications to send you “request for recommendation” emails over the next few weeks. You will find these in your utexas.edu email inbox.
Dobias CV — Sept 21 2018. My most recent CV.
Dobias_Statement of Purpose — Oct 20. My statement of purpose (for my top school choice). Some of the faculty I am applying to have different interests than ones I’ve outlined in this document/tailored for this specific statement. To see interests of other faculty members, see my list of schools.
I will check back in with you to confirm you have received all letter requests. In the meantime, thank you again + please let me know if you have any questions!
- Keep track of when your writers have submitted letters for each program! Consider sending a reminder email 1 week out from your first deadline if they haven’t submitted your letter by that point
- Waiving rights: On each of your applications, there will be a question on whether or not you want to waive the rights to view your letters after the application process is completed. ALWAYS do this! It is somewhat of an unspoken rule that allows faculty to better trust your letter writers are sending an honest account of you/your work
Interest Emails to Faculty
- Timeline: late September — early October of the year you apply
- Sending emails to faculty is becoming more of an expectation during the application season
- There are many ways to do it, with some helpful examples online
- Suggested timelines vary, but I’ve heard sending in late September works well. Before that point, faculty are still determining whether or not they’ll have the funds to take on new students
- Check the faculty’s info page before you send the emails; you will send a slightly different email to faculty who have confirmed online they are taking a student vs. faculty who haven’t confirmed online that they’ll be accepting a student for the next application cycle
- Some people prefer really detailed emails. I liked to keep things as brief/concise as possible, as I know faculty have TONS of emails to read. Up to you on what you think will work best!
- Here’s an example of an email I sent to someone whose webpage did not confirm if they were taking a student:
Subject Line: First-Year Graduate Student Interest
Good afternoon Dr. XXX,
My name is Mallory Dobias, and I am currently a research and clinic coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin. I am reaching out to introduce myself and express my interest in working under your mentorship as a clinical psychology PhD graduate student.
Having been a research coordinator for adolescent, school-based mental health interventions and a community clinic coordinator, I am especially interested in your work on implementing evidence-based practices/interventions within youth community samples. Recently, I have become interested in examining treatment mechanisms using symptom-level analysis.
I noticed your website does not confirm if you plan to take a first year student for the coming cycle. Will you be accepting applicants for the 2019–2020 school year? If so, I have attached my CV. I hope you will consider my application if you are accepting a student this round.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!
- Here’s an example of an email I sent to someone whose webpage did confirm if they were taking a student:
Good afternoon Dr. XXX,
My name is Mallory Dobias, and I am currently a research and clinic coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin. I see on your website that you will be accepting graduate applications for the 2019–2020 school year. I am reaching out to introduce myself and express my interest in working under your mentorship as a clinical psychology PhD graduate student.
Having been a research coordinator for adolescent, school-based mental health interventions and a community clinic coordinator, I am especially interested in your work on identifying and targeting risk factors for youth ideation and self-harm. Recently, I have been interested in using symptom-level analysis to better predict and target ideation and self-harm behaviors.
I have attached my CV here. I hope you will consider my application later this fall.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!
Statement of Purpose
- Timeline: summer — fall the year you apply
- You’ll notice I didn’t link to a final version of my statement in the example letter writer email I provided above. This is because I *highly recommend* not reading a finished statement until you’ve attempted to write a version of your own. It’s tempting to search for examples, especially with well-intentioned folks sending you their final versions left and right. However, I found it was so easy to read a perfect, polished statement (that has been edited and re-edited a million times), and become so intimidated that I never even got a word on the page. Your first version will not be a good version. No one’s first version is a good version. The important thing at first is getting over the initial hurdle of literally writing any words down at all. You know what works best for you, but here’s a strategy that worked for me…
- I’d recommend writing a first version of your statement as a letter to a trusted friend or family member. What are you trying to say to these schools (in simple language)? Write about why the heck you’re applying to graduate school, what makes you passionate, and what makes you such an awesome candidate/human that a faculty member would be missing out if they didn’t accept you
- Do what you can to take some of the pressure off of yourself. Make your first attempt casual if it helps get you writing. Tell yourself jokes, if you want. Do whatever it takes to get your fingers typing
- For example, here’s an excerpt of a section I wrote when I was first getting words on paper:
I continued my work in depression by completing a senior thesis in a collaboration across two labs — Dr. Chris Beevers’ lab and Dr. Caryn Carlson’s Well-Being in Context Lab. This collaboration allowed me to target outcomes I cared about while using creative and non-traditional forms of intervention. I did my own project… single session intervention…(heck yeah, a buzzword!) got a research grant from LAH… more about the hardcore skills I’ve developed here aslkdfaksdys… If only I could do work like this on a larger scale…
I got my wish! I learned how to run a large-scale project (when I became project coordinator of an R01 school-based intervention project for adolescent internalizing symptoms…)
- Other general tip I’ve heard from great mentors: “show, don’t tell”. Don’t just say you’re interested in a certain thing (e.g. “I’m really interested in the accessibility of treatment”). Demonstrate how you came about your research question from your environment (e.g. “After doing X number of phone screens for our research studies, I started to wonder if treatment was truly accessible to such a large number of people”). Don’t just say you have a certain skill (e.g. “I’m good at coding/statistics”). Demonstrate you’ve applied that skill on a concrete project (e.g. “This question fueled my development of an independent research project on… In a senior honors thesis, I used R to analyze X variables to find Y result”)
- Get a second opinion: give yourself enough time for several rounds of edits/feedback from a trusted mentor!
- Here’s a link to a FIRST draft of my statement of purpose (notice how many edits/comments are all over it! Note: you have to download the file to view comments) This will give you a good sense of the feedback I received after my initial attempt at writing this thing
- Here’s a link to a FINAL draft of my statement of purpose (again, I cannot recommend enough that you don’t look at this until you’ve tried to write a version of your own)
- Bonus Tip: Doing a good job with your personal statement = setting yourself up really well for the rest of the application process. Thinking ahead of time about 1) how your interests fit within the lab you’re applying to 2) what sorts of projects you might be interested in pursuing 3) how work history has set you up to be a good researcher, will improve your statement AND your interview skills. When faculty ask these questions, you will have already thought about them a good deal and fleshed them out. It is a lot less daunting to face the question “How do your interests intersect with this lab?” on interviews if you’ve been mulling this from the beginning of the application process
- Disclosure of lived experience with mental illness in personal statements (updated July 2021): While applying to psychology PhD programs, I received advice from multiple mentors to avoid referencing my desire to be a clinician, my broader desire to “help people”, or any personal or family history of mental illness as part of my rationale for pursuing a career as a clinical scientist. This “focus on the research only” perspective is deeply flawed, stigmatizing, and dehumanizing to the >80% of clinical, counseling, and school psychology faculty and trainees who have experienced mental health difficulties within their lifetime (Victor, Devendorf, Lewis, Rottenburg, Muehlenkamp, Stage, & Miller, 2021). As someone who has lived experience of mental illness myself (who had plenty of very personal reasons for wanting to pursue this particular career path), I followed this advice — and I am not proud to admit that I’ve repeated it to others. Rather than continue to perpetuate this cycle of harm, I’d like to do better; there are many faculty and trainees out there who are actively fighting for a shift in how our field hears and values lived experience with mental illness among psychologists (see Victor, Schleider, Ammerman, Bradford, Devendorf, Gunaydin, Hallion, Kaufman, Lewis, & Stage, 2021 for an overview of considerations related to the disclosure of lived experience). I say all of this to let you know that — if you or someone close to you does have lived experience with mental illness, and this informed your decision to apply to clinical PhD programs — you are not alone. Your experiences matter, and personal connections to this work can be considerable strength. Please don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.
- Timeline: summer — fall the year you apply
- There are infinite ways you can put together your CV. Here’s a link to mine as just one example
- If you have submitted manuscripts under review, you can link to any paper preprints posted on Open Science Framework (OSF), an online platform promoting the open source sharing of materials/collaboration in scientific research. This means: 1) faculty can click on the link and immediately see your hard work (even if the paper hasn’t been published yet), and 2) faculty know there is an actual, existing product (and it isn’t just a line on your CV added for padding or “fluff”)
- Quantify experiences where you can (if it makes sense); e.g. if you’ve got hundreds of hours of field research on the books, tell people!
- No fluffing: include relevant skills, but don’t add stuff for the sake of adding it. I’d recommend a second pair of eyes to help you strike this balance. In general, brag on yourself/your experiences, but concise is better
- Timeline: early fall (September/October) the year you apply
- All programs will likely require a transcript from each educational institution you’ve attended. The cost for these will vary (mine were between $0 — $20 each)
- Some programs require official transcripts only (you’ll likely need to mail hard copies directly to these schools). Other programs allow you to upload unofficial pdf versions of transcripts within the online application
- Tip: order an official transcript sent to you/your address, then scan it, save the pdf, and use it to upload to the applications that don’t require an official hard copy right off the bat
- For the programs that require official, mailed copies: transcripts can also take a while to be mailed/processed by your programs, so be sure to get these out early to allow weeks for processing (that way, if something goes wrong/a program doesn’t receive your transcript, you might have time to send a new one before the deadline)
- Timeline: fall (October — December) the year you apply
- Most clinical psych PhD applications don’t open until early October, and will be due mid-November — mid-December
- Tip: give yourself some time to complete the online apps themselves. They can actually take a while to fill out (different programs ask for different ways to calculate GPA, different programs might ask for elaboration of research ideas, etc.). There are a lot of ways these apps can take longer to fill out than expected, so build in some time to upload all of your materials and answer the specific questions for each one
- Bonus tip: at least one of my applications didn’t send out letter request emails to my letter writers until I actually submitted the online application. I would look to see if any of your programs has an application like this toward the beginning of application season, so you can make sure to finish those/send requests to your letter writers with enough time for them to upload your letters
- Timeline: December — March after your applications are submitted
- Yes, timelines for when you hear back from programs vary A LOT (basically anytime between early December — mid February… though this varies as well)
- It is relatively common for faculty members to arrange a phone/Skype interview prior to extending invites for in-person interviews. This can happen basically as soon as the application deadline for that program has passed, so be sure you put your up-to-date contact information in the application and be ready for phone calls/emails
- In anticipation of phone calls from faculty, make sure you have a professional voicemail recording
- Tip: if you receive a call from an unknown number after you’ve turned in your apps, it’s ok to let it go to voicemail; listen to your voicemail and call that faculty back within the same day. This gives you a few minutes to breathe, relax, and find a private place to call them back from
- For skype/phone interviews, I organized a short “cheat sheet” for each faculty member I would be speaking with (here’s an example). These sheets included info on several recent, exciting papers from each faculty member, answers to the big why do you want to work with me? question, project ideas I had relating to their work, and questions I wanted to ask them. If possible, it was helpful to have this open during my phone/skype interviews — not for reading off of verbatim, but for tracking where I might want to steer the conversation next
- In-person interviews can happen anytime between mid-January to late March (applicants are required to decide on offers by April)
- Programs don’t tend to send out rejection emails if you haven’t been accepted. Generally, if you haven’t heard anything from a program by mid-late February, it’s likely you won’t hear from them. That being said, changes do happen as some students decline offers in favor of other offers… you might be bumped up from a waitlist to getting an interview invite!
- There are lots of online forums that try to track which schools/faculty have sent out invites. I *highly* recommend you stay off of these forums, if possible — they are not always accurate, and they tend to cause more harm/stress than they are worth
- Here’s a list of example questions you might be asked on interviews, with bolded questions = questions that people have confirmed they’ve been asked on interviews (this list is by no means exhaustive, but does provide a sense of what you’ll want to be thinking about before interview day):
1. Why do you want to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology? (other derivations: why clinical psych versus a more basic science program? Why PhD versus another type of program? Why a clinical science program?)
2. Why our program, specifically?
3. Why should we choose you for the position over someone else?
4. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years / 10 years?
6. What experiences have you had in working with groups/team science? What was your role?
7. What are your research interests? What research questions would you like to answer?
8. How would your professors and mentors describe you?
9. What are your hobbies?
10. Explain a difficult ethical dilemma you’ve faced and how you handled it.
11. Why do you want to work with me?
12. What have you learned from previous research experiences?
13. What have you learned from previous clinical experience?
14. What are your professional goals?
15. Describe an experience, in your personal or professional life, that has impacted the way you consider culture and its importance to clinical work.
16. If you could start a project right now, what would it be?
17. What would it be like for you to be a therapist? Are there any populations you’d like to work with in practicum? Are there any you think you’d have a hard time working with?
18. If you had all the grant money in the world, what would you want to research and what questions would you want to ask?”
19. What kind of lab environment could you work well in/NOT work well in?
20. Tell me about a study that you have worked on where you were involved in the methodology…can you critique it?
21. Tell me about a moment in your life that set you on your current path.
22. What type of leader are you?
23. What will you do if you don’t get in this year?
24. How do you handle feedback? How do you like to receive feedback?
25. How do you respond to stressful situations? Can you give me an example of a stressful situation you were in and how you reacted?
26. What do you do to manage stress in your life?
27. What do you foresee would be the most difficult aspect of being a doctoral student in psychology?
28. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement or conflict with someone and how you handled it?
29. What characteristics do you think a graduate student needs to be successful?
- Here’s a list of example questions you might want to consider asking faculty (definitely have plenty of these in your back pocket to ask on interview day… most faculty do ask if you have any questions):
1. Are there any ongoing or upcoming projects that you envision a graduate student working on in the coming year?
2. What’s something you haven’t had a chance to work on yet that you would really like to?
3. What are some of the biggest issues in our field today that you would like to see change over the next 10 years? How do you see yourself contributing to that change?
4. Are there any processes in place to help support graduate student publication (e.g. deadlines, lab meetings, other motivations)?
5. Some faculty prefer mentoring via with weekly meetings, other faculty meet with their graduate students as needed. What is your preferred mentorship style?
6. What are statistical consultation resources like on campus? Where would I go if I had questions about analyses?
7. How are students typically funded? Is it typically through teaching or a research assistantship?
8. Do students typically apply for/receive grant funding? What type? (NSFs, NRSAs)
9. Are there any questions I should be asking faculty/graduate students?
10. What is the IRB like here?
- Here’s a list of example questions you might consider asking graduate students:
1. What is one thing you are really proud of/like best about X’s program? What is the thing you dislike most/you feel could use some improvement?
2. What is clinical practicum like here at X? (What is the typical caseload, when do you start your clinical work, is it on campus or external?)
3. Is it possible to live comfortably on stipend in the area?
4. How competitive/collaborative are the clinical student cohorts?
5. How many classes are typically offered to graduate students in (statistics, methods, therapeutic techniques, etc.) each semester/year?
6. What are faculty/student relations like? What’s the general climate of the clinical division and department
7. What do you do for fun outside of work/school? Are there particular local activities/hobbies you would recommend?
- Still nervous about the interview? Here’s a link to another online resource that talks through a few of these top questions in a bit more detail
- Tip: Consider asking a trusted mentor to run through a practice interview with you 1–2 weeks before your first interview date–it might help identify things you could use some brushing up on (this is not necessary, but might be helpful if you’re feeling particularly concerned about interviews)
Thank You Emails
- Timeline: within 24 hours after completing each interview
- After you’ve finished interviewing at one program, you’ll want to follow up with a “thank you!” email to the faculty member/graduate students you emailed with ASAP
- Here’s an example of what one of these emails might look like:
Dear Dr. XXX,
I wanted to send a note of thanks for being so generous with your time on my [UNIVERSITY NAME] visit. I loved the opportunity to share my experiences [DOING X], and to share some of my ideas and interests in [Y]. [I really love the work your lab is doing and I feel like I would learn so much from all of the current members, including yourself! Your favorite qualities of labmates also made me very excited about the culture of the lab.]
I was so impressed by the strength of the program across the board and truly believe doctoral training at [SCHOOL] would make a world of difference in my academic career. Not only did I hear positive things from the faculty and students I met on interview day, but in discussing my experience, others outside the program have corroborated what I gleaned from my visit. I felt I received an excellent sense of what it would be like to be a member of Dr. [XXX]’s lab, and I am [beyond thrilled]** by that prospect!
I truly hope to receive your consideration in the admissions process and will be eagerly awaiting the decision!
With much gratitude,
- A few notes about the above example: **can change to the level of enthusiasm you have for that program — this note was to my top choice so I used “beyond thrilled”; other places I said “excited” or “very excited”
- If the thank-you is to the advisor you’re applying to, you might add a little more. If it’s to someone you only interview with for 15 minutes, maybe a little less. The grad student who hosted you might slightly be less formal.
- [In the first paragraph in the section in brackets], I wrote a little bit about what we discussed in our interview. I think this is helpful for a few reasons. One, it allows you to remind the interviewer what you discussed and re-associate a name with the person they interviewed. Two, if you were asked a question and didn’t love the response you gave, you can say something to the effect of, “I thought more about X and thought another way to go about solving that issue might be…” Don’t go overboard though — if you include this, try to keep it to a line or two!
- If you’re looking for a more detailed outline of specific parts of the application process, here is another cool resource that goes into a bit more detail
These are all of my resources and tips for now! Hopefully you find them useful. Feel free to email with questions/suggestions (firstname.lastname@example.org), or to reach out via twitter: @MalloryDobias