Field of Science

Interview Daze

First-year graduate students in my program are in charge of organizing interviews for prospective graduate students. We were given notice last Friday; the interviews start this coming Tuesday. So it's been a busy week.

When I applied to PhD programs in Psychology the first time around, I didn't know there were interviews. Most department websites don't mention them, and the only people I knew who had been to graduate school recently were in other fields and didn't do interviews. So I applied to graduate school and went to Spain for the spring, and was very surprised when I started getting invitations to visit schools. A friend of mine recently told she also had no idea interviews would be required. It turns out, in fact, that some schools do interviews and some do not. It is extremely difficult to find out which schools are which.

I bring up this story, because I think it is emblematic of the graduate school admissions process, at least for psychology. Information is scarce, and the procedure varies considerably from school to school. I don't know whether knowing more about the process would help you get into a program, but it seems reasonable to assume so. In that case, there would be a significant advantage for people already on the inside.

To put this into a concrete example, suppose you want to get a PhD in psychology at Harvard. If you are an undergraduate at Stanford or Yale, it's very likely that your professors can tell you a lot about the admissions process at Harvard (which is quite different from that at Stanford or Yale, as it turns out), because there is a lot of cross-talk between those three schools. If you are an undergraduate at a regional public university, it's much less likely you can get access to that kind of information.

Access to information may not translate into access to admissions. I certainly hope it does not. But, on the off-chance that it does, one goal of this blog is to give more information about the admissions processes to the extent that I can. If any aspiring students have questions, you should be sure to ask.

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