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  • Graduate school

    Currently, 30%+ of UWL's psychology undergraduates go on to graduate school. The vast majority attend 2-year applied Master's programs. Applying to graduate school takes a lot of time, energy and money. Students should start planning during their junior year (if not earlier!). There is a lot of useful information below. Be sure to read it before seeing your advisor. 

    Every Fall semester in mid-October, UWL hosts a Social Science Graduate School Workshop Night ("Grad Night").  We strongly recommend you attend even if you are just "thinking" about applying to graduate school.  Email announcements are sent by Career Services.

    What are the characteristics sought by graduate schools?

    Graduate schools are looking for strong students with the initiative and ability to do graduate work. In particular, they need to know that YOU know why you want that particular degree. Consequently, the follow criteria play the largest role in admissions. 

    • Objective criteria: grades and GRE scores
    • Non-objective criteria listed in order of importance to doctoral programs:
      • Letters of recommendation
      • Personal statement
      • Interview (if applicable)
      • Research experience
      • Clinically related public service
      • Work experience
      • Extracurricular activity
    Clinically-related graduate programs in the upper Midwest - GPA and course requirements

    GRE information

    • Testing information is also available for the GRE at You can register online to take this computer-based test at a site near you.
    • ETS website has practice/sample questions and students can request/download study materials and practice tests
    • We recommend taking practice tests and several of the preparation books have CD-ROMs included or online access.  
    • Strong GREs can help secure admission; however, mediocre GREs (if offset by other strong records) will not usually harm a student.  Very low GREs can hurt a student.
    • We do not recommend "re-taking" the GRE unless you have strong reason and evidence to believe your score will be substantially better.
    • Students should NOT take the "PSYCH" GRE unless they are applying to a program that requires it.

    Steps involved in applying to graduate school

    There are five major steps involved in applying to graduate school.

    1. Decide whether graduate school in psychology is right for you.
    2. Define the area of concentration and degree that you will pursue.
    3. Research schools and programs and choose a range of places to which you want to apply.
    4. Complete the applications to these programs.
    5. Attend interviews (if applicable) and make a final decision regarding which program you will attend.

    *It is an excellent idea to save copies of strong papers you have written for courses to serve as writing samples that may be requested by graduate schools.

    Letters of Recommendation - what psychology faculty require


    1. Set up a meeting to discuss the recommendation in person.

    2. Provide complete information to the faculty member 2-4 weeks PRIOR to the deadline.  Provide all of the information/forms for each school at one time.

    3.  Student information

    • an unoffical transcript with any/all courses completed with the instructor highlighted.
    • an up-to-date resume
    • a draft or final copy of a sample letter of intent
    • notes regarding anything special you wish for them to note


    4. School information:


    • A table with information about teach school including the name of the school, the type and name of the graduate program, and the due date.  Indicate if the reference is electronic or paper.
    • Make sure to complete the information about the faculty member on each form and sign the waiver provided by the school.


    If you will need letters after graduating, we recommend you provide a short update to your faculty regarding your current and future plans every ~6 months.

    How to find graduate schools?

    Recommended Resources

    BOOKS: The Psychology Department has a copy of each of the following resources.  They cannot be checked out but students can peruse them and see which resources they may wish to secure. 

    • American Psychological Association (2007). Getting in: A step-by-step plan for gaining admission to graduate school in psychology (2nd ed). Washington, D.C.: Author. 
    • Keith-Spiegel, P. & Wiederman, M. W. (2000). The complete guide to graduate school admission: Psychology, counseling and related fields. (2nd ed.) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 
    • Norcross, J.G. & Sayette, M. A. (2014). Insider’s guide to graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology, 2014/2015. New York: Guilford. American. (A new edition is released every other year).
    • Reyes, J. (2002). The social work graduate school applicant's handbook: The complete guide to selecting and applying to MSW programs. Harrisburg, PA: White.
                  For social work - also visit the National Association of Social Workers
    • The American Psychological Association (APA) has a series of 12 videos that takes prospective graduate students step-by-step through the preparation, application, interview and admission processes. The presenters combine decades of advising experience and research findings with evidence-based and anxiety-reducing strategies for mastering each step.
    • Graduate student group associated with APA (APAGS) site has good information overally including a debt infographic.
    • APS (APSSC) also has a graduate student group but with less information about getting into graduate school