Diversifying Psychology: A Sneak Peek for Graduate School
The UW Psychology Diversity Steering Committee is putting on their third virtual recruitment event on September 19th at 3:00 pm. This event is a great opportunity for anyone who is considering a PhD in psychology, to learn more about the UW psychology program (including the different areas of research, funding, and admissions), and participate in a Q&A session with current graduate students and faculty. The event will last two hours and is open to all, especially students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.
To register for the live zoom event or to receive the recording, please sign up at this link: REGISTER HERE
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Frequently Asked Questions
Applying to Graduate School
Also check out the department FAQ page for more information about the application process.
This will vary from faculty to faculty. Generally, faculty will evaluate an application along multiple criteria such as grades from relevant undergraduate courses, the extent of your research experience, your motivations for pursuing a Ph.D., your research interests, letters of recommendation, and contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusivity.
Research experience is important, which can take the form of research assistantships, independent research projects, honor’s theses, or summer research fellowships. Faculty want someone who is aligned with their research area of interest, is able to fit well within the program and lab environment, and demonstrates potential to become a skilled researcher. While research experience and fit are major components of an application, they are not the only criterion an application is evaluated for.
Clinical experience comes in many different forms, and may differ depending on your career goals. Getting experience in a lab where you have the opportunity to interact with a clinical population of interest is one way to gain this exposure and more intimate knowledge about a specific group. Anything other than data entry would be advantageous for either clinical or research-oriented grad programs. There are also volunteer opportunities at suicide hotlines/crisis centers that provide to training for people to provide emergency assistance. Pre-graduate clinical experience doesn't necessarily mean treating anyone (as there are few opportunities for that, before graduate school), it can also mean doing intakes/screening or participant recruitment where you work with participants of a study.
The department faculty page lists each faculty member whether or not they are accepting new graduate students for the upcoming academic year. To get a sense of what projects faculty are currently working on, you can also check out the active research grants page. This is not an exhaustive list of our faculty’s research interests but it will give you an idea of what topics are currently being investigated.
First, check the advisors webpage on the department website to see if they are accepting new graduate students. If they are, some faculty may also specify on their webpage if they request that students do or do not contact them in advance to express interest. Those that do not communicate with students prior to reading applications typically do so to avoid favoring students who have received more advice about the application process.
If the advisor has expressed interest in student contact, it is highly encouraged for you to send a brief email to them. Be specific about your research interests and how it relates to their work. This template from the First-Gen Guide is a good place to start. Do not be discouraged if you don’t get a response! Some faculty simply are not able to respond to every email.
Here are some suggestions for things you might look for:
- Mentoring style: Do you want someone who is more hands-on or hands-off? Someone who will hand you projects to execute, or someone who wants you to nurture your own research ideas?
- Funding sources: How are other students in the lab currently funded? Will you be expected to take on TAships or RAships for most of your graduate schooling? Are there grants you are expected to apply for to receive external funding?
- Research productivity: Have there been recent publications from the lab with grad students as co-authors? What are the research expectations the advisors have of you (e.g., must publish a first author paper within the first 3 years of graduate school)?
- Work-life balance: Are you expected to be in the office from 9-5? Can you work remotely from home? Are you expected to be working and responsive to emails in the evenings?
- Job placement: Where are graduates of the lab now? What career paths does the lab encourage both in and out of academia? How will your advisor help you reach your career goals (i.e., networking, references, help with applications)?
Besides talking to advisors directly, asking current and former grad students of the lab is a great way to get to know the lab culture.
Coursework and Milestones
Courses are meant to provide students with foundational knowledge and quantitative skills so graduate students can conduct independent research. Clinical students have more required courses and less flexibility in their schedules whereas non-clinical areas are typically able to tailor their coursework to meet their own academic goals. Most students finish their requirements in the first two to three years.
All students are required to take at least three statistics courses and a combination of seminars, foundational courses (i.e., breadth, “core concepts”), and specialized courses (i.e., depth, “advances”). Again, clinical students have more mandated clinical courses but have some flexibility to meet their breadth requirements. Some examples of courses that students can choose from are:
Core Concepts in Social Psychology
Core Concepts in Cognitive Development
Core Concepts in Behavioral Neuroscience
Core Concepts in Systems of Psychotherapy
Advances (very flexible!):
Practical Methods for Behavioral Research
Values & Bias in Public Policy: A Psychological Perspective
All students are required to complete a first and second year project. For experimental (non-clinical) students, this entails a presentation and writing submission in the first year, and a writing submission the second year. For clinical students, this includes a project proposal in the first year, and a presentation and writing submission in the second year.
The subsequent milestones are more flexible in their timing due to an individuals' training progress within the program. The next milestone is the general exams (written and oral) that are typically completed in the third or fourth year. Finally, the dissertation (written and oral) is typically completed within 5 - 6 years for all students.
See the Overview of the Psychology Ph.D. program section and Milestones subsection of the Graduate Student Manual for details.
All incoming graduate students are guaranteed 5 years of funding from when they start graduate school. Most students are supported by departmental TA’s/RA’s or RA’s on advisors’ grants (at 220 hours/quarter). The stipend for students who have not taken their generals yet is $2698/month pre-tax. Students who have completed generals receive a pay bump and receive $2899/month pre-tax. This funding does NOT cover the summer quarter so most students either TA for a summer course, find an RA position, or apply to summer internships. Students with external fellowships are usually covered in the summer. Each advisor also receives a one quarter departmentally-supported RA position to distribute to a first year student in their lab to help students transition into the program.
Yes! The department has funding for each grad student to get reimbursed for up to $700 for one in-person conference OR two virtual conferences (up to $350 total for both conferences combined) each year while we are working remotely. There’s also other conference funding competitions through the Graduate & Professional Student Senate and The Graduate School.
Students often apply for grants and fellowships early in graduate school (i.e., first or second year) so that the funding can support them for as long as possible. Grant applications often ask how many years of support the funding should allot for, so applying early has the potential to fund a student’s entire graduate schooling. The most common fellowships that students apply to early are the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, Ford Predoctoral Fellowship, and NIH National Research Service Award (F31). Students can also apply for the diversity supplement alongside NIH grants with their advisors.
UW has an Office of Fellowships & Awards and Graduate Funding Information Service which are both great resources that can help you find and apply for funding opportunities. Lab mates, grad student peers, and faculty are all good people to talk to as well.
To help cover research-related costs, students can apply for the Bolles Fellowship which supports up to $1250 for dissertation work. This is typically for students who have completed their general exams. The department also has a Diversity Fund which can be used to support student research, or to match external diversity related grants when needed. Clinical students can also receive funding from the Fujita Fund and Wagner Fund for conference travel. The larger UW Graduate School also has dissertation fellowships and diversity fellowships.
In addition, the department has several awards that fund student effort, rather than the cost of the research itself. Some examples include the Sarason Fellowship, Pigott Fellowship, Alcor Award, and the Hunt Award (see pg 9). Each award has slightly different eligibility criteria which you can learn more about by clicking on each link. There are additional fellowships and awards that can be used to fund a graduate student and resources can be requested from the department.