Nailing your Ph.D. psychology personal statement, from an insider

“It’s not a bad idea to actually have the people who are writing your letter of recommendation read it,” says University of Maryland College Park social psychology Ph.D. candidate, Nadya Teneva. In the final installation of our interview, the 5th year doctoral student shares tips on nailing the Ph.D. personal statement, choosing between academic and non-academic jobs, expected salary ranges, and getting full funding. Don’t forget to first catch up from part 1!

What are the chances of getting into a program like yours? Is there an admit rate?

I don’t think ours has a published rate. I know that the rates for people getting into grad school for psychology are very low, because there’s not a lot of job opportunities with just having an undergrad degree in psychology. It also depends on whether your program is being funded. Usually programs that are not being funded are easier to get into than programs that are because everyone would prefer to not have to pay for their education and also get a stipend.

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How does that work for you to get your program paid for?

My five years are covered and then most are getting some more funding. My first year, I was funded as a research assistant. For the next years, I started being funded as a teaching assistant. That’s the general two ways that people are funded: either as a research assistant or as a teaching assistant. And then there’s also some people who before or after they apply to grad school apply for external funding, like from NIH, the National Institutes of Health, or NSF, the National Science Foundation. They pay them a certain amount of money for the next two or three or four years. You do have to be, I think, a U.S. citizen to apply for them.

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How do you think your experience applying as an international student differs from that of domestic students?

To be honest, I don’t think the application process itself differs too much. There wasn’t anything too different that I needed to do. And visas for graduate students are fairly easy to obtain once you’re accepted. As long as it’s pretty clear to the program you’re applying to, especially if you’re going to present your research and write research papers that you have the communication skills in English given that that’s the language you’re applying to work in. There’s not a huge difference in the application process, other than the fact that, as I said, there’s some research funding methods that don’t apply for everyone.

International students often find that getting and renewing visas can be an obstacle. Do you also experience the immigration difficulty?

Not too much until it’s time to apply for jobs. In my school, if you’re an international student, you have to be full time every semester. So that’s something to note because a lot of times later in their program, students will start taking fewer classes, but you might need to still apply for  dissertation or thesis research credits if you’re an international student to bring it to a full time load.

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Earlier you talked about your personal statement being one of the biggest challenges of the app. Which resources did you use to help you?

I found that having other people read it was the most useful thing, especially if those people actually were in academia. So it’s not a bad idea to actually have the people who are writing your letter of recommendation read it.

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