Applying to Grad School

FAQs: Applying to join the CARE in Youth Mental Health Lab as a PhD student in Clinical Psychology

Updated July 12, 2022

Why did you make this document?

The clinical psychology PhD application process is an uneven playing field. Applicants without access to strong mentors, or without professional connections, may have less access to the information provided here. By sharing this FAQ document, I hope to help “level the playing field” across applicants to our lab.

Please note that all responses in this document reflect my views and not those of UCLA or other faculty in our clinical psychology program.

Will you be accepting a new PhD student to begin in Fall 2023?

I will be reviewing applications to accept a new PhD student in this upcoming round of admissions.

How do I know if I am a “good fit” for the CARE Lab?

When reviewing prospective students’ applications, I am most interested in the fit between (1) their interests, experiences, and goals, and (2) our lab’s mission, our research focus, and my own capabilities as a mentor.  Applicants tend to be a good fit when they: 

    • Demonstrate commitment to our lab mission (to identify and address the mental needs of underserved ethnic minority youth and families through the deployment of evidence-based practices in community settings). 
    • Want to pursue a career in child/adolescent mental health services,  intervention, and/or implementation research
    • Have accrued mentored independent research experience (e.g., by conducting a thesis, leading an independent project, making a first-authored conference presentation). 

I’m especially interested in recruiting applicants with experience in some or all of the following areas (however, none is required of applicants):

    • Working on randomized clinical trial(s) with children/youth/families 
    • Studying racial/ethnic disparities in mental health and mental health services
    • First hand involvement in community-partnered research with historically marginalized groups
    • Dissemination and Implementation studies in community mental health or school settings

What about the GRE? How important are my scores?

The GRE is no longer required for admission to our program!  Submitting scores is optional, but I do not recommend investing the time and money to prepare and take it unless you must to apply to other programs.  I will not give preferential consideration to applications that have GRE scores included. (Regarding my view on the GRE, please see this article I wrote with Dr. Greg Miller.)

My undergraduate GPA is below 3.5. Will this remove me from consideration?

No. Many factors can influence one’s GPA, including competing commitments (e.g., working part-time while in school), family obligations, and health challenges. Academic achievement is very important, but context is, too. If you believe your GPA does not reflect your potential as a future scientist, please (1) ask one of your recommenders to share more about your circumstances to help me evaluate your academic record in light of relevant contextual factors, or (2) provide this information in your personal statement.

I am an international student. Will this remove me from consideration?

All applications will be reviewed regardless of residency or citizenship.  However, it is important to be aware that there are serious barriers to funding international students in our program.  The Department and program do not have funding to cover the non-resident portion of the tuition incurred by international students and in most cases this prevents admission.  As such, international applicants who are able to receive fellowship funding from their home countries should mention this in their application.  Unfortunately, my lab does not have funding to support international students.

Should I email you to express my interest in applying to your lab?  Can we meet to discuss my interests?

Although I receive many emails from prospective applicants, your decision to email me (or not) will have no impact on your odds of receiving an interview invitation or an offer of admission. Because I cannot equitably accommodate the number of requests for meetings with potential applicants, I do not meet with applicants outside our program’s formal interview process.

What should I include in my personal statement?

I find it helpful when applicants include the following in their Statement of Purpose :

    1. Statement of Purpose
      • A clear statement of your research interests and career goals (even though we all realize this may change over time) and how they relate to the work of our lab.
      • Discussion of your independent research experience(s) and what you learned from them. This should not just be a chronological accounting of your research experiences and responsibilities (this I can get from your CV).  This should be a synthesis of the skills you developed from working on projects and the key insights you have taken away (e.g., interpretations of your findings and how this informed new research ideas or questions, how your knowledge and skills prepare you for specific research you wish to undertake in graduate school)
      • You may include thoughts on the specific projects and research questions you would like to pursue in our lab.
      • Definitely describe if you have genuine interest in more than one lab and advisor in our program.

I am interested in becoming a therapist and/or incorporating clinical practice into my future career. I’ve heard that mentioning this in my application will hurt my admissions chances. Is this true?

I aim to recruit students seeking rigorous training in both clinical science and clinical practice. Both skill-sets inform each other necessarily. I am a clinical supervisor in our program’s training clinic.

Yet it is important to understand the mission of the UCLA clinical psychology program which has a strong clinical science orientation.  Our program is designed to train clinical scientists, and thus students who are happiest in our program tend to want careers that incorporate research. Students interested  in careers in clinical practice would not be best served by our program.

As a mentor, I am best prepared to support students who are interested in careers that involve applied research in mental health disparities, community-based intervention research, and implementation research. This includes a wide variety of career paths, including academic faculty positions (e.g. tenure-track positions in departments of Psychology, Education, Social work, or Public Health);  clinical-research careers (e.g. in academic medical centers); and non-academic careers in applied research, health services administration or policy. 

My own experiences with mental health problems (e.g., my own, a friend’s, or a relative’s) within my culture of origin have shaped my interest in joining your lab. I’ve been told not to mention this in my personal statement. Is this true?

No. Lived experience undoubtedly shapes the interests and goals of all of us. There is nothing wrong with sharing how your personal experiences have informed or inspired your scientific interests and career ambitions.  However, personal/lived experiences should not be the main focus of your personal statement. Your research interests, experiences, goals, and ‘fit’ with our lab are much more helpful to me when reviewing your application.

Is it advantageous to list multiple mentors of interest (or just one) on my application?

There is no inherent advantage to naming multiple mentors of interest on your application. I review all applications on which I am listed as a top-choice mentor.  Listing two potential mentors is appropriate if your interests and goals clearly fit with two faculty members’ research programs (as described in your personal statement).  

I have never had to write a CV—just a regular resume. How should I organize this document?

For guidance please see these resources:

I want to apply, but traveling to UCLA for an on-campus interview would be burdensome. What should I do?

Interviews have been remote via videoconference for the last two years and that will likely remain the case in the future.

I want to apply, but the application fee would create real hardship for me. What should I do?

I understand that applying to graduate school is expensive.  For this reason, I suggest considering carefully whether you are able to demonstrate a good fit with each program to which you are applying.  The UCLA Graduate Division is piloting a process to  make fee waivers available to more applicants, eligibility information will be described in the Slate application.

Where else can I find information and guidance for applying to Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs?

I recommend the following resources:

    • Getting Into Psych Grad School, provided by the Council of University Directors in Clinical Psychology. Fantastic guide from Directors of Clinical Training at Clinical Psychology PhD programs across the country. 
    • Grad School Options for Mental Health Training, provided by our own Blanche Wright who has mentored many undergraduates aspiring to careers in mental health.  Did you know that the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. is only one of many options that might appeal to you?  Check out her decision tool in this powerpoint slide deck!

 

(With thanks to Dr. Jessica Schleider, StonyBrook University, for her FAQ template!)