Graduate School

Why Graduate School

Graduate school provides students with application-based education that will give them skills to succeed in their choice of career. Unlike undergraduate studies, graduate-level academics will help students develop competencies that allows them to pursue degrees/licensure, which can advance their careers.

Because of graduate school hosts the potential to advance in a professional career, applying for graduate school can be stressful for a number of reasons: 

  1. Choosing a graduate program is as much a financial decision as it is an academic and professional one,
  2. Applications are typically due at the end of Senior Fall Semester, which limits how much time students have to accumulate skills and internships related to their chosen field, and
  3. Students may be competing with individuals who have already worked in the field and have already gained licensure/degrees in the field. 

Therefore, Gustavus highly encourages students to work closely with their advisors and department faculty to reach their goals.

There are two primary tracks that students typically follow: masters and doctoral. There are other licensed degrees within the field of psychology (e.g. Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)) that requires less than 2 years to complete, but this website will provide information for terminal masters and doctoral programs.

Masters Programs

Students aspiring to attend graduate school will typically elect to enter 2-3 year terminal masters programs. This means that after schooling ends, students will be adequately prepared to be licensed, accredited, certified, etc. for practice in their chosen field. Some examples of careers that students who attend masters programs will take are social work, marriage and family therapy, school counseling, clinical counseling, drug and alcohol counseling, and physical therapy. Numerous Gustavus students have been accepted to and successfully completed their programs.

Masters of Arts vs. Science 

M.A. stands for a masters of arts. This simply means that the curriculum has a more hands on approach. M.S. stands for a masters of science. The curriculum places more emphasis on science.They are equally valued by future employers and advanced degree programs. 

Doctoral Programs

Alternatively, some students desire to earn a doctoral degree (e.g. Ph. D., Psy. D., & M.D.). These programs are generally focused on a specialization within a career field and are highly competitive. Students who are admitted typically have higher GRE or MCAT scores and GPA’s as well as internship/research experiences that single them out as exceptional applicants. Gustavus highly encourages students who are interested in pursuing doctoral degrees to work closely with faculty and staff to fulfill these aspects of admission.

*It should be noted that career goals can be reached in a variety of ways. Students who want licensure at the doctoral level may obtain a masters degree before applying for a doctoral program. On the other hand, some may enter a direct admission program that provides both masters and doctorate degrees within a number of years (typically 5-6).

Basic Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph. D) & Doctorate of Clinical Psychology (Psy. D) Differences

  Ph. D Psy. D
Funding Funding for research Little to no funding for research
Tuition Lower tuition rate (depends on program) Higher tuition rates (e.g. MN range = $80,000 - $133,000 for whole program) 
Financial Assistance Teacher assistantships to aid with tuition Limited teacher assistantships and some financial assistance available 

Program Focus

Research Clinical
General Application Components

Application materials vary from program to program. As previously stated, it is recommended you be in contact with the graduate program you are interested in to clarify such details. However, these are components that you should anticipate being a part of your application process: 

  1. Paper of online application of the institution/program
  2. 2-3 References/Letters of Recommendation
    1. Reference letter guidelines can be found at the end of this webpage
  3. Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose 
  4. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  5. GRE Scores
  6. Official or Unofficial Transcripts
    1. The process to send them may be found here: 
  7. Application Fee
Application Deadlines

Application deadlines are fluid and based entirely on the school and its program. However, they are generally due at the end of Senior Fall Semester. Gustavus suggests that students be in contact with admissions at each of their selected schools and tour, if possible.

Grad School Application Fees

There are a few fees that you will find as you apply to graduate programs. Here is a small list of fees to expect: 

  • GRE Test fee & any other fees that may apply to test needs (e.g. Rescheduling test date & tutors)
  • Sending GRE scores to each program
  • Application fees - These can range from $25 - $160 per application if you are applying internationally. 
    • These typically range from $25 - $80 if domestic
Reference Letter Guidelines

Items to bring to your reference (letter) writers in the Psychological Science Department: 

  1. Cover Letter: You should include a letter that explains the type of program that you are applying to (e.g. Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Educational Psychology, Research Psychology (e.g. cognitive, developmental, social, neuroscience, etc.). In addition, it is helpful to explain why you are applying to that particular program and you should include your research interests. It may be helpful to include your educational and career objectives. If you have conducted a research project and/or presented at a conference include the title of your work and a brief description. Also describe any research apprenticeship or research assistant experiences.
  2. Resume: You should include a resume or list of recent accomplishments and/or employment. Please include your undergraduate GPA as well.
  3. List of Courses: Include a list of courses that you have taken from the professor with the semester and year taken included. You should also include the grade that you received in that course.
  4. List of Graduate Schools, Programs, and Deadlines: It is beneficial to include an organized list of the schools that you are applying to, what the program is (M.A., Ph.D., etc.), and deadline that the school gives. You should also include a column indicating the “instructions” – if the professor should give the letter back to you or send it directly to the school using the provided addressed envelope. On this document, it is most helpful to list the schools in order of when the letters are due. Here is an example of how you may organize this:
    Deadline University Name Program Instructions
    December 15, 2010 University of _______  Social Psychology, Ph.D. Please complete the enclosed forms and send the letter directly to the school via the addressed envelope.
    December 30, 2010 University of _______ Social Psychology, Ph.D. Please complete the enclosed forms, seal and sign the envelope and give the letter back to me.
    January 8, 2010  University of _______ Social Psychology, M.A. Please complete the enclosed forms and send the letter directly to the school via the addressed envelope.
  5. Forms and Access to Information Waiver: Some universities require that your professor fill out a standardized evaluation form in addition to a recommendation letter. Complete the identifying information on the form before giving it to your professor. The school will probably want your name and the program you are applying to. Some forms require that you decide whether to waive access to the information that your professor is providing about you. Choose whichever option you feel comfortable with, but your professor may prefer that any information that he or she provides remain confidential.
  6. Addressed Envelope: Clearly identify if the letter is being sent directly to the university or if it needs to be given back to you. If it is to be given back to you, write the name of the university somewhere on the envelope so you will know which school the envelope should be sent to. Remember that any reference letter that is given to a student recipient is generally required to be in a sealed envelope.
  7. Check Back: It is helpful to check back with the professor one week before the letter is due to make sure that they are going to meet the reference letter deadline.
A Student's Graduate Application Process

This webpage assists with getting basic information about the graduate process. As aforementioned, we highly recommend you involve your professors and advisors in your application process as the process is different for everyone. Here is one student's experience and advice when applying to graduate school: