Cara Mulhall '13
earning PhD in School Psychology,
Indiana State University
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For the GRE, or any test you need to take for grad school, study in the summer! It is much easier to study two hours a day during the summer than it is during your senior year at Hanover. Leave enough time for yourself between your test date and the time you need to have the test so you can retake the GRE if need be. Also, work on personal statements in the summer and have it ready to go for the first day of school so you can have several professors read over it and give their input. I had around 10 drafts of my statement, so this isn't something you want to rush.
If your program does not interview as a part of admissions, go visit the schools you are applying to! When I interviewed at the schools, I realized which ones were the best fit for me and which faculty members I wanted to work with. I am glad I interviewed at programs, because I realized which people I wanted to spend the next five years with! Working on a PhD is a big commitment, so you want to make sure you will be able to work with the people you will be around.
If you are applying to PhD programs, I would apply to at least 10. I applied to 8 and felt like that was on the low side. If you want a lot of options for what schools you get accepted to, apply to as many as possible.
You really need to think about how you are going to pay for your education as soon as you start researching graduate schools! I looked at schools where some programs found funding for you, some had you apply for it, and some made you find it yourself. You don't want to go to a program without funding if you can have funding (and tuition remission) at another school. I was very lucky and received full tuition remission and a stipend as a part of my admissions offer, but I made sure I applied to schools were funding was common.
When researching graduate programs, look at what current graduates from the program do after graduation. For example, a school I interviewed at had a 90% rate of students working in hospitals, which I do not want to do, so I knew this was not a good fit for me. Also, look at attrition rates. I almost went to a school where it takes their students an average of nine years to complete just their PhD (the 9 years was not including master's degrees). The average for my program is five.