Admission Advice

General Advice on Graduate Programs

So, you want to go to graduate school.  What do you want to be?  Your first step toward an advanced degree in psychology is determining what type of Psychologist you want to be.  This decision will determine what type of degree you want to pursue.  For example, are you looking to become a therapist?  Typically a Master's Degree in Counseling or in Social Work is the type of degree you are looking for.  Are you looking to become a Clinical Research Psychologist?  Then you should look for accredited Ph.D. programs with a Clinical Science Training concentration.  Below, under Resources, there are a number of websites that can assist you in finding which degree you are seeking based on your ultimate career goals.  Prof. Katie Witkiewitz put together a presentation, Careers in Psychology, that discusses some of these issues.  

Your next step is to research schools that you are interested in attending.  The first thing you need to know about a school is does it offer the type of degree you need.  For any school you are interested in attending make sure they offer the program(s) you are interested in pursuing.  Again, under Resources, we have listed a number of resources that can assist you with your research.

Advice on Gaining Admission to Graduate Ph.D. Programs

How you can improve your chances for graduate admission? How you should prepare for graduate training?

Here are a few tips:

  • A solid background in statistics and methodology is essential. At least PSYC 2510 Statistical Principles, and PSY 302 Psychological Research Techniques should be completed.
  • A strong background in general psychology is very important. Avoid becoming a "specialist" too early in your career. We encourage all majors to take History of Psychology. You should have at least one course in each of these major areas in psychology: Developmental Psychology; Social Psychology; Clinical Psychology; Learning and Cognition ; and Behavioral Neuroscience.
  • Research experience is critical. In addition to the upper-division laboratory courses, you should arrange for individual experience working with at least one faculty member on research.  The strongest applicants for graduate training have participated in the presentation of a paper at a conference, co-authorship of a paper submitted for publication, etc. This level of involvement in research usually begins not later than the junior year.  Here at UNM this can be typically arranged through PSY 499. Consult the list of faculty research interests and then contact faculty with whom you might like to work. (Students in the Honors program automatically become involved in independent research.) 
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test scores are generally required for Ph.D. programs.  The Psychology Subject test is also strongly recommended.  Check with the programs you are applying to and confirm whether they are requiring applicants submit their scores.  Taking GRE practice tests is strongly recommended as a study tool.
  • Letters of recommendation (usually three or more) are an important part of any graduate application. These are best written by faculty who have had direct experience with you beyond the classroom, or in smaller seminar settings.

Each career requires its own special preparation, and the psychology department offers nearly a hundred different courses. You should consult with the Student Advisor early to discuss the courses that you might take, and to design a program of studies that will provide the best preparation for your own future.

Resources for Selecting a Graduate Program


  • Peterson's Graduate Schools in the U.S.  Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.
  • Peters, Robert L., Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or Ph.D. (1997). New York, NY: The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Graduate Study in Psychology.  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Norcross, John C., Michael A. Sayette, Tracy J. Mayne. Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. (2018/2019 edition). New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission To Graduate School in Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Graduate Exams

Contact Information:

If you have general questions concerning the general admission process, or would like to receive further information on our graduate program, please email