Thinking About Graduate School?
While many careers are available to those with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology (case manager, social worker, career counselor, rehabilitation specialist, to name a few), post-baccalauriate training is required for students interested in other professional careers. A Master's degree is needed for work in areas such as industrial/organizational psychology, marriage and family counseling, or school psychology and guidance counseling. A doctoral degree is needed for working as a psychotherapist or counseling psychologist, a research psychologist, a college-level psychology teacher, or a professor.
Post-baccalaureate Programs in Psychology
A career as a practicing professional psychologist requires specialized graduate training beyond the Bachelor's degree. A growing number of our Bachelor's and Master's degree graduates are continuing on to Master's and doctoral degree programs in psychology. Others continue their education at postgraduate professional schools such as law school. Faculty advisors assist students in preparing and applying for graduate study.
Post-baccalaureate Programs at UW-Whitewater
UW-Whitewater is home to several graduate programs for which a Bachelor's degree in psychology is appropriate. The department of psychology offers a Master of Science program in Education and Education Specialist (or School Psychology), which prepares students for employment as school psychologists. Upon completion of a post-certification internship, Education Specalist Degree (Ed.S.) graduates may obtain Nationally Certified Psychologist status. More information about the UW-Whitewater graduate program in school psychology can be found here. Also, please visit the Our Voices page to see what students think about the program.
In addition to the graduate program in school psychology, UW-Whitewater also offers a variety of psychology related graduate programs and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Programs, including Communication Sciences and Disorders, Special Eduction, Autism Specialist, Community Counseling, Human Resource Management, and more. In addition, students can earn specialized skills through one of many certificate programs offered on campus. See below for a sampling of graduate and certificate programs offered on campus.
Degree Programs at UW-W
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Programs at UW-W
A complete listing of UW-W degree programs and certificates can be found at the School of Graduate Studies degree programs webpage.
How can I prepare for graduate school as an undergraduate?
Students often wonder how they can make themselves more competitive for graduate school admissions during their undergraduate careers. The following suggestions provide general guidance about how students can make the most out of their undergraduate career so that they will stand out to an admissions committee and be prepared for graduate school. Please keep in mind that while every component of a graduate school application is important, performance in any one of these areas will not be the sole determinant of the outcome of a student's application or reflect their preparedness for graduate school.
Maintain a high cummulative GPA and an even higher Psychology GPA
While GPA is not the sole predictor of admission, it is still a vital part of a graduate school application. Many graduate schools require at least a 3.00 GPA, however, to be competitive a 3.50 GPA is recommended. Students majoring in psychology should have a high major GPA, as the student's performance in undergraduate psychology courses can be a predictor on how the student will perform in psychology courses at the graduate level. Doing well in psychology courses as an undergraduate creates a strong foundation in which to build upon during graduate study. Nevertheless, a high GPA is not as important for many graduate schools as is research experience, strong letters of recommendation, good GRE scores, and excellent grades in challenging courses.
Perform well on the GRE
The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is just as important, if not more important than GPA. Scoring exceptionally well on the GRE can make up for a sub-par GPA. Although there are many products and programs designed to help students prepare for taking the GRE, the GRE is designed to reflect a lifetime of learning rather than a few months of practicing. Nevertheless, gains can be made by taking practice tests.
Write a strong personal statement
A personal statement should explain your goals and interests in the field, as well as your skills and experiences (personal or professional) that will help you succeed in graduate school. Having research and/or career interests that match those of one or more faculty members of the program that you are applying to is also considered by the admissions committee, and the personal statement is a good place to articulate this match. Avoid using the personal statement to list your extracurricular activities, or to descsribe personal hardships, and instead focus on how you have internalized your experiences to align your values with those of your chosen discipline. For example, graduate programs in clinical psychology will want to see how you've developed interpersonsal competence and multicultural sensitivity, while science programs will be interested in how you've developed your curiosity and an empirical attitude. In all cases, graduate programs are interested in students who embrace, rather than avoid, intellectual and academic challenges, and who do what is needed to meet them successfully.
Obtain experience in the field through research, volunteering, and/or employment
Gaining field experience is weighted very heavily by graduate school admissions, as it shows the level of preparation for graduate studies. These experiences can also help students determine which field of psychology is right for them. For instance, a student may find that he or she prefers research to clinical work upon working in a research lab and volunteering at a mental health clinic. Doing research at the undergraduate level may result in a poster presentation and/or a publication, which would greatly impress a graduate school committee. Field experience can allow students to gain real-world experience in the field of psychology and explore different career options. Possibly, research experience is the single most important factor in graduate admissions because it demonstrates skill in the empirical basis for knowledge that sets psychologists apart from other helping professions, like social work. Students can speak of these experiences in their personal statements. Please see the Experiential Courses and Research Opportunities pages of this website to see how UW-Whitewater students can gain these experiences.
Obtain strong and personal letters of recommendations from faculty who know you well
Letters of recommendation are a critical aspect of a graduate school application. Getting to know faculty members on a personal level not only produces an excellent letter of recommendation, but allows for networking opportunities. More information on letters of recommendation is provided below.
Information on Letters of Recommendation
A common question concerns letters of recommendation. Because students and faculty must collaborate on this aspect of the graduate school application process, it is vital that both parties are adaquately informed on the letter writing process to ensure the best outcome for both applicants and recommenders. This is not an exhaustive list, and individual recommenders may ask for specific information. Make sure that you include all information requested, so the recommender can write you the best letter possible.
Who should I ask for letters of recommendation?
You should choose your recommender carefully, to ensure the strongest possible expression of support for your admittance. The best recommendations come from professors with whom students have worked closely (on a one-on-one basis) and over a substantial period of time (two or more semesters), because this gives your recommender the opportunity to speak to your strengths and skills. The best letters come not from professors in whose courses you got high grades, but from faculty who have gotten to know you well outside of the classroom. When writing letters of recommendation, professors comment on your potential for future success, and on the impressions you've made as a person.
What other information does my recommender need?
It is important to provide all the materials needed to write the letter. Many schools have a recommendation form that the recommender needs to fill out. Please provide that form for your recommender to use. Your recommender may have questions, so be certain to provide your contact information—particularly if you are not available through UW-W during the period your recommender is working on your letter.
Recommendations are either mailed directly to the school/employer or are returned to you to mail with your application. In either case, the letter must be sealed in an envelope. Please provide all envelopes with the correct mailing information and indicate the intended recipient (i.e., the college, university, etc.). If the envelope is to be mailed, please make sure that you include postage on the envelope. If you need the letter submitted back to you, please let your recommender know, so he or she can sign the envelope across the seal. This indicates that the letter has not been altered in any way. Self-stamp the envelope if you will be away from campus when you need the letter for your application.
What should I do about the section on the recommendation form about waiving rights to view the recommendation?
You will be asked whether you wish to waive your rights to view your letters of recommendation. Students have the right to choose whether to do so or not. However, opinions differ on how to respond to this question. To be safe, you should check the with the recommender as to his or her preferences. Some feel that the recommendation is not valid unless the recommender can be completely honest about an applicant in private. No matter what you decide, remember to sign the form to indicate that you were the person who made the decision about waiving your rights.
Should I remind my recommender of impending deadlines?
You should remind the recommender about a week before the letter is due.
What should I do after the letters have been sent?
Always write your recommender a note of thanks. Writing letters of recommendation is a time consuming task, and it is important to show your appreciation. Also, once you have heard back from the school or employer, let your recommender know the outcome.
UW-W psychology student featured in video
Anthony Chan is an international student from Hong Kong majoring in music and psychology. He describes his experiences at UW-Whitewater in a video, which can be found here.