Applying to Graduate School


Decide Type of Program:

First, applicants must decide which type of program they would like to apply to.  A variety of both PsyD and PhD programs will provide opportunities in neuropsychology. Generally, the difference between these programs can best be described as follows:

(1) PhD programs are in line with the Boulder Model

  • There is a greater emphasis on research
  • Greater funding opportunities
  • Length of training is slightly longer, on average
  • Class sizes are typically smaller

(2) PsyD programs are in line with the Vail Model

  • There is more of an emphasis on clinical work and courses
  • There are fewer funding opportunities
  • Length of training is slightly shorter, on average
  • Class sizes are typically larger

Compiling a List of Programs:

First, you will want to consider a comprehensive list of programs that might be a good fit for you. There are several resources available that provide information about graduate programs (e.g., Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology by John C. Norcross and Michael A. Sayvette). It will be helpful to start a spreadsheet containing information about programs that are potential matches for your interest.

Narrowing Down Your Programs:

You may wish to consult your list (or spreadsheet if you have created one) and determine which programs are good fits for you. Important things to consider may include the type of research being conducted, degree of emphasis on clinical activities vs. research, theoretical orientation, practicum opportunities, whether the program meets the Houston Conference Guidelines, program outcomes, quality of life, geographic location, size of cohort, and financial assistantship. It can also be helpful to select programs that vary in difficulty or acceptance rates.

Things to consider when evaluating clinical opportunities are as follows:

  1. Are neuropsychological assessment and/or intervention opportunities available?
  2. Do you wish to specialize in pediatric, adult, or geriatric neuropsychology?
  3. Do you wish to ensure you have more generalized neuropsychology training?
  4. Do you wish to have inpatient training in addition to outpatient training?

Things to consider when regarding program outcomes are as follows:

  1. How long students typically take to graduate
  2. Rate of students successfully obtaining internships
  3. Rate of students successfully obtaining APA-accredited internships
  4. Rate of students successfully obtaining internships that meet the Houston Conference Guidelines
  5. Rate of students who are currently licensed

Finally, after you have a list of programs that you are interested in, you may want to contact your potential mentor at each institution. Although this is not necessary, it is important to remember that advisors are not always able to take new students. By emailing a faculty member you can determine whether they are accepting new students. Additionally, this may open a dialogue between you and the faculty member about research (and the program more generally), thereby giving you useful information for determining your final list of schools!


Locate a Testing Site and Date:

Information about the GRE can be found at The earlier you commit to a test date, the more you will be able to set and execute small goals to prepare for the exam. Additionally, you may wish to take the exam early enough so that, if you are dissatisfied with your score, you can retake the exam before applications for graduate programs are due.

Psychology GRE:

Determine whether any of the programs you are applying to require the Psychology GRE. If they do, consider when to schedule a test date for this as well. It is important to note that the Psychology GRE is offered rather infrequently – typically only three times per year – so you will want to plan ahead. If none of your programs require the GRE, you may also wish to take the test and submit your score. This may be helpful in the event that your undergraduate major was not psychology!



Prepare Your CVs:

It is important to focus on your CV early. This will be important because it will give you time to seek feedback from one or two mentors. Additionally, you will want a relatively polished CV to send to letter writers before they write your letters of recommendation. Please see the Pre-Doctoral Student Resources for more information about how to prepare a successful CV.

Personal Statement:

Additional Materials:

Take time to review your list of programs and see if any of these programs require any additional materials. For example, some may wish to see an additional writing sample, and you will want some time to select which writing sample to use. If you have any published manuscripts, these would be an ideal submission. If you do not have any published manuscripts (Don’t worry!) find another writing sample from one of your undergraduate courses – preferably from a psychology course. Finally, you will want to request transcripts from any institutions you have attended (e.g., undergraduate programs or terminal masters programs).

Letters of Recommendation:

Try to request letters as early as possible, but ensure that you have provided your letter writers with at least one month to prepare. When possible, you should provide your letter writers with (1) your transcripts, (2) your CV, (3) a list of the programs you will be applying to, and (4) your personal statement. Your letter writers may not need all of those materials, but the more information you can provide them with, the better (and more focused) their letter of recommendation will be. As the deadline gets closer, you may wish to follow-up with your letter writers to see if they have any questions and to make sure that they are on track to submit your letters in a timely manner.