Graduate School Tip of the Month: Do you need to take the GRE subject test?

This tip of the month is very timely with a Friday deadline (TODAY!).  If you are applying to graduate school now, you should figure out if you will need to take the GRE psychology subject test (in addition to the GRE General Test).  Some schools require the psychology subject test, and some schools don’t.  The subject test is in paper and pencil form, so it is only offered 3 dates a year.  If you are interested in taking a subject test this year, you must register by Friday (10/15) at the latest. 

Graduate School Tip of the Month: Earning a Great Letter of Recommendation

We’ll send you an issue with many of our favorite recycled news stories in just a few short weeks once registration starts gearing up.  Here’s another oldie, but a goodie: How do you get good letters of recommendation?  We’ve broken this down based on where you are in the grad school process.  It’s never too early to start thinking about letters of recommendation!

Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors:

  • Maximize your effort and performance in your classes. Grades matter, and so do specific skills. Faculty members will be asked to rate your critical thinking skills, writing skills, oral communication skills, and so on.
  • Don’t count on grades alone. If you earn “As” in a faculty member’s classes, but he/she has never had an extended conversation with you or heard you express an opinion in class, the resulting letter may be relatively short and generic.
  • Participate in individualized instruction experiences. Professors will have more specific and detailed comments to make about your performance and potential if they have worked with you in a research or teaching assistantship, independent study, internship, or honors project.
  • Be aware of your classroom demeanor and what you communicate in your interactions with students and professors. Letter writers are often asked to fill out forms that rate such things as students’ maturity, initiative, interpersonal skills, ability to deal with stress, responsibility, time management, and emotional stability. Asking questions, being a leader in group work, submitting work on time, and attending department events communicate one set of messages. Texting during class, chronic lateness, repeated requests for extensions, and having difficulty negotiating relationships with group members communicate another.

Students Currently Applying to Graduate School:

  • Think about how you make the letter of recommendation request. Ask in person, and genuinely ask. Do not simply assume a professor will write a letter for you.
  • Give your potential recommender plenty of notice. Writing letters takes a great deal of time and effort, and you are not the only student asking for a letter. You should have all materials ready for the faculty member one month in advance, and you should think about the timing of your request. If you have an application due date of January 1st, December 1st may not be enough notice. Think about all of the things going on in December (end of classes, finals, commencement) – and how far in advance the letter would likely need to be mailed to arrive by January 1st (giving the professor far less than a month).
  • Be organized. Think about what you communicate if you do not provide the requested supporting materials to your professor, or if you have to make several return trips to the person’s office with bits and pieces of information. Then think about what you communicate by delivering a well-organized packet of information with neatly completed documents, addressed envelopes, and so on. This interaction is likely the last one you have with the faculty member before he/she writes the letter – make that most recent impression a favorable one!
  • Be careful when completing on-line applications that ask for a list of recommenders. More and more schools are using web-based letter of recommendation sites where faculty directly upload their letters, and once students enter the recommender’s name, an automated email request is sent to that individual. You do not want your faculty member receiving an email request for a letter before you have even asked if he/she would be willing to write for you.
  • Thank your letter writers, and let them know what happens. Professors want to know what happens in your graduate school search, so let them know where you are accepted and what school you decide to attend.

To learn more about letters of recommendation and the process of requesting one, refer to the Human Development website.

Did You Know…?

Welcome to our new feature where we share with you a small piece of information designed to help you in some area of your academic career.  It won’t always be pleasant, and you won’t always like it, but we promise that our little facts are designed to help. 

So, without further ado, Did you know… that most students applying to graduate school or doing a thorough job search report that the time commitment is equivalent to taking a 3-credit class?  That means that you need to plan on having some significant extra time for that sort of thing during your last couple of semesters.

P/HD Club News: A Message from the President, Kaitlyn Florer

The Psychology and Human Development (P/HD) Club is an organization here on campus designed to bring together students who are majoring or minoring in Psychology or Human Development or those who are just interested in the events!  We have a host of fun events planned for the coming semester, and we hope you will join us! 

 Here is what we have planned so far:

  • First Meetings:  September 22nd @ 7 pm in the 1965 Room or September 23rd @ 5 pm in the Wequiok Room (the same information will be covered at both meetings, so you only need to attend one).
  • Club Meeting:  October 4th @ 5 pm in the 1965 Room or October 5th @ 5 pm in the 1965 Room (again, the same information will be covered at both meetings).
  • Movie Night:  October 6th @ 6:30 pm in MAC 210 - the movie is Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia.
  • Graduate School Series
    • September 30th @ 5 pm in MAC 208:  General Graduate School Info (open to everyone, but particularly targeted at first and second year students who want to know more about graduate school, what it takes to get in, why they should go, etc.).
    • October 12th @ 5 pm in MAC 206:  Writing Your Personal Statement (again, open to everyone, but targeted at students who are in the midst of the application process or just starting the process). 

If you have any questions about the club or want to join our mailing list, contact me at florkj22@uwgb.edu

Graduate School Tip of the Month: Attend One of Our GRE Information Sessions

Most of you know that if you are planning on going to graduate school you likely need to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).  For those of you who are not familiar with the GRE, its similar to the ACT in that many (but not all) graduate schools require it as part of their admissions process (i.e., the GRE is to graduate school as the ACT is to college). The content of the GRE, however, is quite different, and we strongly encourage anyone planning to take it to study for it!

This time of year, a lot of questions come up for students regarding the GRE. They want to know when the best time is to take it, what the best way is to study for it, and so on. To find out the answers to these questions, we encourage you to attend one of the GRE Information Sessions held by HUD/PSYCH faculty members in April. At these sessions, we will describe the test for you, give you information about signing up for it, discuss some study tips, and introduce you to some other students who are also planning to take the GRE soon (you may be able to use this time to set up some informal study groups). The Information Sessions will be on Tuesday, April 20th from 5:00-6:00 p.m. and Monday, April 26th from 4:00-5:00 p.m. Both meetings will be the same, so you only need to attend one, and both will be held in MAC 210.

Grad School Tip of the Month: Juniors – Get Ready!

For those of you who didn’t know, you typically apply to graduate school almost a full year before you intend to begin. In other words, if you hope to begin graduate school in the Fall of 2011, you may have to submit your first applications in November of 2010 – just a few short months away. For those of you who will be seniors next year, here are a few things to be doing or thinking about in the coming weeks and months.

  1. Identifying Programs and Schools: The first thing you need to do is decide what type of graduate program you hope to attend (e.g., counseling, developmental, social work, law school). Then, you have to identify the specific schools to which to apply. This second step is particularly important, as different schools will have different levels of competitiveness for admission, different application requirements (e.g., GRE, MAT), different application deadlines (anywhere from November to March), and different courses and experiences they hope to see in applicants.   
  2. The GRE: We usually encourage students to take the GRE General Test (if it is required by their schools) in late summer before their senior year. We plan to hold a GRE information session this semester (probably in late April), so watch for that. It’s never too early to find prep materials and begin studying!
  3. Maximize your Record & Think about Timing: Graduate schools are not only looking for students who have good grades. In addition to an excellent GPA, schools typically want to see (depending on the type of program) significant research, applied, and leadership experience. Because you do apply to graduate school well in advance of graduation, it is important to carefully consider the timing of these different experiences in your undergraduate career. For example, it is typically not wise to put off internships, research assistantships, or honors projects until your very last semester. Why? Well, because if you have an application due in November, and you won’t even begin your internship or RA experience until the spring semester (January), all you can do is talk about what you plan to do, rather than what you’ve done. You also lose the opportunity to have research or internship supervisors write strong letters of recommendation about the work you did under their direction. Now, if it’s a choice between doing something like this during the last semester of your senior year or not doing it at all – certainly, go ahead and enroll in the experience. If, however, you can arrange to complete at least some of this type of work prior to that final semester, do it!

Grad School Tip of the Month: Attend the Graduate School Series

The Psychology and Human Development Club is again hosting the Graduate School series, which includes three events on the first three Mondays of November (the 2nd, 9th, and 16th) from 5:00 to 6:00 – all in MAC 210.  We encourage you to attend any or all of these meetings to learn more about the graduate school process, get answers to important questions and start thinking about what you can do to make yourself competitive for graduate school. 

General Information Session: On November 2nd, the presentation will feature Drs. Burns and Martin and focus on providing general information about graduate school and the application process. This will be helpful for all students, from first-year to super-senior, thinking about graduate school.

Writing Your Personal Statement: Drs. Bartell and Vespia will be featured at the November 9th meeting and will be presenting on writing a great personal statement that will help you get noticed (in a good way) by the graduate school admissions committee.  Again, this is open to all but will be most valuable to those who are in the midst of putting together their applications and writing that pesky personal statement. 

Resume/Vita Writing: Finally, the November 16th presentation will be on resume/vita writing and will feature a speaker from Career Services.  Whether planning on going to graduate school or entering the workforce, this should help you learn how best to showcase your experiences and get noticed.

Help with Graduate School Applications and Finding a Good Match

From Robin Howard at the Council of Undergraduate Research: “The Council on Undergraduate Research hosts a Registry of Undergraduate Researchers which helps matchmaking between undergraduates who have research experience with graduate schools seeking high quality students who are well-prepared for research.  Any undergraduate may go to www.cur.org/ugreg/ to fill out a simple curriculum vitae form.  There is no charge to the student and records will be made available to Graduate Schools that contract with CUR for this service. Graduate School representatives may contact students to invite applications or visits to the campus and laboratory, or to share information about their research programs and financial support opportunities. CUR believes that this service will be a great benefit for both students and graduate schools by narrowing the search for the right match. So if you are interested in graduate school, please take a moment to register now.  Be sure to include a statement of your research interests, as this will be important for making the match.”

Grad School Tip of the Month: When to Do What

Fall is not only the time for colorful leaves and cooler weather; it’s also the time to get cracking on those grad school applications!  Here’s a timeline to help you get organized for the fall. We realize some of these dates will vary depending on the due dates of your specific schools; this schedule assumes December and January application due dates.  

September of your Senior Year:

  • Sign up to take the GREs if you haven’t done so already.  Determine if you will need to take a subject test.  The subject test is only offered three times a year.
  • Decide who you will ask to write letters of recommendation (usually need 3) and start prepping your information packet for them.  Letter writers will likely ask for a resume, undergraduate transcript, and draft of your personal statement.

October:

  • Finalize the schools to which you will be applying. One rule of thumb might be to apply to 4-7 masters programs or 7-12 doctoral programs, but those numbers could vary depending on the specific schools to which you are applying, their competitiveness, and the number of spots available in the programs. Those interested in doctoral programs might also consider applying to a masters program or two. If you have added any schools at the last minute, double check whether you will need to request additional GRE score reports. 
  • Ask faculty for letters of recommendation (see http://www.uwgb.edu/humdev/careers/recommendation.asp).
  • Begin filling out application and financial aid forms. Note that many schools will require more than one application (general graduate school plus departmental application).
  • Write first drafts of personal statement and have several people read these over.
  • Think about what you could use as a writing sample (if necessary for the application).

November:

  • Send transcripts to the schools to which you are applying. These will often need to be official transcripts sent from the University itself, and you may need to send official transcripts from every institution you have attended (e.g., if you are a transfer student). Note that there are typically fees associated with obtaining transcripts.
  • Finalize applications, financial aid forms, writing sample (if necessary), and personal statements. Make sure you answer the specific questions for each school in your personal statements.
  • Give your letter of recommendation writers an organized list of schools, deadlines, and forms (online or paper). You should provide at least two week’s notice and more (e.g., a month), if possible. Keep in mind that faculty members are writing letters for many students at the same time.

December:

  • Submit your applications! If you are submitting a paper copy, xerox a copy of your application for your records.

Graduate School Tip of the Month: Help Dealing with Admission Decisions

With the passing of February 1st, many of you now have nothing to do but wait when it comes to your graduate school future. The applications are in, and you watch your mail and email boxes hoping to hear some word about your fate. Here are our answers to some frequently asked questions during this time.

My application has been in for a month, and I haven’t heard anything. What does that mean?

Honestly, we don’t know. Often, though, applications must go through the graduate school before they can be forwarded to the department for consideration, so this process can take time. In addition, if you had a December 1st deadline, those applications might not have even been looked at until well after the end of the fall semester. Not hearing anything could mean that a decision has not yet been made. It could mean that you are on an alternate list, and they are waiting to hear from candidates ahead of you on the accepted list, and it could mean that your application is no longer under consideration. Ultimately, you should be informed by the school no matter what their final decision.

I’ve been accepted to one school, and I have to make a decision about going there before I will hear whether I have been accepted at my first-choice school. What should I do?

Consult with your advisor. This is a difficult situation, but it is also one that happens fairly frequently. Schools make decisions at different points, and they will want a commitment from you as soon as possible after extending an admission offer. If you don’t want that offer, they want to give it to the next most qualified student before they lose that person to another school. Individual consultations with your advisor and other professionals are probably your best route with this one. 

I’ve been accepted to more than one school. How do I decide?

People obviously vary in their preferred method for making big decisions like this one. Often, though, it can be very helpful to talk with current graduate students in that program after you have been accepted. The person in charge of admissions should be able to give you the email address of at least one student, and sometimes student contacts are even listed on the department website. Another thing that can be very beneficial is visiting the programs to which you have been accepted. A happy and successful graduate school experience involves finding a good “fit” between you and a program. There are many things you simply cannot assess based simply on a website and admission materials. A school you were not very excited about on paper can turn out to be wonderful when you visit (and vice versa), so if you have the time and resources, an in-person visit is usually advisable.

I didn’t get into graduate school. What should I do?

First of all, don’t panic. We realize that’s easier said than done, but this is an extremely competitive process. Many very qualified students are not admitted each year, and it is nothing to feel embarrassed about. The best thing you can do it talk with your advisor and other professionals on campus (e.g., Career Services) so they can help you as you formulate alternative plans. Remember that many students who are not accepted one year end up with multiple acceptances in a subsequent year. Others find wonderful work or alternative educational plans. All of us, even your professors, have dealt with educational or professional disappointment at some time, and we really do want to help.

What’s New? Jobs, Volunteer Opportunities, and More on the HUD/PSYCH Bulletin Board

We are not quite sure why we have been asked to include this item given you have an amazing blog to bring you all the news you could ever need, but we have been informed that there’s a great HUD/PSYCH Bulletin Board in the 3rd floor hallway of MAC, just outside the C Wing. Some job, volunteer, internship, and graduate school opportunities, breaking news announcements, faculty publications, and more are posted as received. Apparently, our once-a-month-or-so blog isn’t enough to keep up with all the breaking news, so please visit the bulletin board when you have the chance.

Graduate School Tip of the Month: Earning a Great Letter of Recommendation

“Can you write me a strong letter of recommendation?” This question is being heard frequently in the halls of MAC right now as students begin to request letters of support for their graduate school applications. What may surprise students, however, is that the answer to that question is largely dependent on them. What steps can you take to increase your chances of a earning a great letter from your professor? Read on!

Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors:

  • Maximize your effort and performance in your classes. Grades matter, and so do specific skills. Faculty members will be asked to rate your critical thinking skills, writing skills, oral communication skills, and so on.

  • Don’t count on grades alone. If you earn “As” across a faculty member’s classes, but he/she has never had an extended conversation with you or heard you express an opinion in class, the resulting letter may be relatively short and generic.

  • Participate in individualized instruction experiences. Professors will have more specific and detailed comments to make about your performance and potential if they have worked with you in a research or teaching assistantship, independent study, internship, or honors project.

  • Be aware of your classroom demeanor and what you communicate in your interactions with students and professors. Letter writers are often asked to fill out forms that rate such things as students’ maturity, initiative, interpersonal skills, ability to deal with stress, responsibility, time management, and emotional stability. Asking questions, being a leader in group work, submitting work on time, and attending department events communicate one set of messages. Texting during class, chronic lateness, repeated requests for extensions, and having difficulty negotiating relationships with group members communicate another.

Students Currently Applying to Graduate School:

  • Think about how you make the letter of recommendation request. Ask in person, and genuinely ask. Do not simply assume a professor will write a letter for you.

  • Give your potential recommender plenty of notice. Writing letters takes a great deal of time and effort, and you are not the only student asking for a letter. You should have all materials ready for the faculty member one month in advance, and you should think about the timing of your request. If you have an application due date of January 1st, December 1st may not be enough notice. Think about all of the things going on in December (end of classes, finals, commencement) – and how far in advance the letter would likely need to be mailed to arrive by January 1st (giving the professor far less than a month).

  • Be organized. Think about what you communicate if you do not provide the requested supporting materials to your professor, or if you have to make several return trips to the person’s office with bits and pieces of information. Then think about what you communicate by delivering a well-organized packet of information with neatly completed documents, addressed envelopes, and so on. This interaction is likely the last one you have with the faculty member before he/she writes the letter – make that most recent impression a favorable one!

  • Be careful when completing on-line applications that ask for a list of recommenders. More and more schools are using web-based letter of recommendation sites where faculty directly upload their letters, and once students enter the recommender’s name, an automated email request is sent to that individual. You do not want your faculty member receiving an email request for a letter before you have even asked if he/she would be willing to write for you.

  • Thank your letter writers, and let them know what happens. Professors want to know what happens in your graduate school search, so let them know where you are accepted and what school you decide to attend.

To learn more about letters of recommendation and the process of requesting one, refer to the Human Development website (http://www.uwgb.edu/humdev/careers/recommendation.asp).