Psychology majors: Addressing your academic weaknesses

This article, “Psychology majors: Addressing your academic weaknesses in your graduate applications,” was previously published in my Carnegie Mellon University blog.

You are a psychology major deeply ensconced in writing your graduate school applications.  It’s daunting. These programs are highly competitive. You wish you were perfect but you aren’t. And, in fact, you are worried about areas of weaknesses in your academic record. Most people hit some bumps in the road. The key here is not to ignore them but to quietly, succinctly, address them.

Psychology majors: graduate applications, academic weaknesses

Excellent credentials – but, low Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores

What if your grades are terrific, your research experience impressive, your graduate essay articulate and your faculty references superb – but, you have low GRE’s? What if you’ve taken the Stanley Kaplan course or the Princeton Review but to no avail. What should you do? Should you set your sights on less competitive degrees? Or, is there a strategy that you could use?

It’s unfortunate that psychologists place such a premium on these tests, but they do. However, if you have a superb record and you write well. Don’t give up hope. Here are a few possible strategies that you might want to consider.

Decide which graduate school is your very top choice

One possible strategy is to carefully decide which school is your very top choice. Once you have decided, contact faculty at that school and seek a summer research assistant position. After obtaining a position, work as hard as you can. Establish your credibility. Impress the faculty person with your intellect and tenacity. Tell them that you want to be their graduate student and solicit their help in the application process.

Work with a renown clinical researcher

A second possible strategy is to take a few years off, work with a renowned clinical researcher. Make it your goal to publish several articles, preferably with at least one first authorship. If your position is at a university, then you can take courses for free. Continue to take courses in statistics. Ask your boss to help you to gain entry into graduate level courses, preferably in the clinical program. Work hard and do well. Seek admission within that program and/or ask the faculty, (who you will impress by out-performing their graduate students) for references.

Apply to schools that do not have GRE cut-offs

A third possible strategy is to find out which schools do not have cut-offs and apply to them.

Establish an ongoing relationship with faculty at your top choice school

A fourth strategy, is to use email to establish ongoing contact with faculty at your top choice school of interest. Specifically, you may want to establish a dialogue around a mutual research interest. After establishing a relationship with this faculty person seek their advice on your graduate plans.

Talk with your faculty advisor or research mentor

They know you–your strengths and limitations– seek their guidance.

Washington DC Psychologist and Career Counselor

If you are interested in a consultation, feel free to call me at: 301.656.9650.

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D. (c) 2019

This material is copyrighted. However, Psychology Departments, Psi Chi Chapters, Psychology Clubs and University and College Career Centers may republish this column, free-of-charge as long as it is reprinted in its entirety and without alteration. Also, along with this column, copyright and the following byline must be attached: Dr. Lynn Friedman is a Washington DC Psychologist, psychoanalyst and executive coach. She is on the associate faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Web site: She can be reached at: (301) 656-9650.

Dr. Lynn Friedman

Dr. Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., FABP, is a Clinical Psychologist, a Supervising and Training Analyst, and a Clinical Supervisor in full-time, private practice. She provides evaluation, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as supervision to psychoanalysts-in-training and other mental health professionals. Beyond this, she is a board certified, psychoanalyst who teaches at Johns Hopkins University and the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis.

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