Dr. Lynn Friedman: Clinical Psychologist

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Do you need research experience to get into graduate school in clinical psychology?
When straight A's are not enough

Getting straight A's, having high GRE's, tons of clinical and extracurricular experience is not enough. In order to get into Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology, you musthave clinical research experience.

Students in small but excellent colleges may find themselves in a bit of a bind. Despite outstanding faculty, they may not have research opportunities. Yet, research experience is essential. I had a colleague who had a 4.00 average, 1600's on her boards and ten years of clinical experience and she wasn't not admitted! She was rejected because she had no research experience. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do about this.

Contact the National Science Foundation. Often they have prestigious summer research programs. If accepted, you will have the opportunity to work with faculty on their research. Note, their programs are highly competitive. Also, typically, they do not admit more than one student per school. Therefore, you need to have a plan B.

Is there a local medical school near your university? If so, you should find out whether faculty in the Department of Psychiatry are engaged in ongoing research. Summers are a good time to obtain experience. Surf the web and obtain a listing of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grants. Is there any interesting research going on locally? Is there any interesting research near your summer digs? If so, apply for a summer job. Or, arrange with your university to do a research internship for academic credit.

In fact, if money is not an issue, you may want to contact your favorite researcher and ask him/her if he will accept you as a summer intern. If you have done well and if you have solid grades and excellent course exposure, and if, you write well. I see no reason why many researchers would not be glad to have the free labor. If money is a concern, perhaps your university or its alumni might be willing to support a well-conceived proposal.

For many years, at Carnegie Mellon, I taught a summer course, Research internship in Clinical Psychology. Students were placed in clinical research settings at the local psychiatric hospital. Course work was devoted to helping students to communicate research findings both verbally and in writing and to helping students become familiar with all aspects of the graduate school application process. Every year students come from small schools in order to obtain research opportunities that are not available at their host institutions. I suspect that there are probably other courses like this elsewhere. If you can not obtain a paying position, or you want the academic credit, this kind of course may be something for you to consider.

Here's an article on how to apply for research positions. Finally, to do this you will need to put together a resume and a cover letter. Here's a sample cover letter for a research assistant position

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