“What should I do and how should I do it?” is the question most frequently asked by PsyD applicants. Understandably, PsyD doctoral applicants want to ensure that they are perceived as bright, creative, dedicated to learning, well suited to the program, eager to pursue research that aligns well with the graduate faculty, and well prepared for this rigorous course of study.
Although there is a wealth of information available on “What to do,” there is very little on “What NOT to do” and on the mistakes to avoid when applying to graduate school. Without this information, applicants may unwittingly diminish their probability of acceptance. I divided these mistakes into the following three categories: Statement of Purpose, Letters of Recommendation, and CV/Resumes.
PsyD Statement of Purpose/Personal Essay Mistakes
Here are six mistakes to avoid when writing a compelling PsyD SOP or personal statement:
- Sloppy writing
Poor style, clarity, and writing mechanics really hurt your application. It goes without saying that sloppy work is to be avoided as it sends a negative message to the admissions committee.
- Using negative language
For example, saying “I struggled with obstacles” is negative while stating “I overcame some challenges and learned valuable lessons in the process” is positive. Of course, you would then share the lessons learned.
Avoid TMI (too much information). For example, it’s okay to say that you faced some intermittent health issues and that you are now healthy and well. It is not okay to include a detailed list of symptoms (leaky gut, tremors, frequent vomiting, etc.).
- Exhibiting lack of program knowledge
Not understanding the academic and/or clinical focus of the program and/or the current research interests of the graduate faculty will eliminate you from further consideration. You need to show that you know what the faculty does and that it fits well with your background, research, and clinical area of interest.
- Blaming others for your poor performance
Blaming a professor, a fellow student, or the course content for a less than stellar grade will most probably diminish your chance of acceptance. Take responsibility for poor performance and turn it into a positive.
- Trying too hard to impress
Rather than telling the faculty committee how extraordinary you are, show them by sharing examples of your commitment to excellence: special awards, Dean’s List, scholarships, publications, presentations, etc. Avoid sounding like you are bragging as this will not sit well with the admissions committee.
PsyD Letter of Recommendation Mistakes
When it comes to your LORs, be sure to avoid the following no-nos:
- Using references from less than credible sources
These include family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, your therapist, ministers, and employees.
- Requesting a reference from someone who only knows you for a very short period
These references will not be able to comment on work habits, describe your research projects, or assess how you will handle the rigors of a doctoral program.
- Pushing for the wrong recommendation
When the person appears uncomfortable with the request or says something like, “I don’t think you would benefit from any letter I might write,” then this is a hint that you should ask someone else. Translation: I have nothing good to say or my assessment is mediocre at best.
- Failing to provide a one-sheeter
Don’t forget to remind your reference of your achievements and accomplishments. This is an opportunity to ensure that all of your strengths are highlighted.
PsyD CV/Resume Mistakes
Lastly, be sure to avoid these common CV/resume mistakes:
- Using the wrong resume format
For example, don’t include a detailed description of your job objective when clearly you are not seeking a job. Be sure to follow the format/guidelines of the admissions CV if such instructions are given.
- Burying information that is particularly relevant to doctoral studies
Education should be the very first category on your CV. Include the degree-granting institution, degree, date or expected date of degree conferral, special honors and/or awards, followed by Publications and Presentations.
- Including any GPA under 3.0
Some experts suggest you only list the GPA if it is over 3.5, as anything less is not value added.
- Lumping all your work experience into the same category
It is important to categorize by type of experience: Professional Experience, Clinical Experience, Internships, and Community Service.
- Forgetting to include licenses, certifications, and professional affiliations
Your resume is exactly the place where you should be highlighting these awards or achievements. You likely won’t get another spot in your application to do so.
- Paying little or no attention to aesthetics
A sloppy unorganized presentation with typos, spelling errors, and missing words will decrease the likelihood of further consideration.
For one-on-one assistance on your PsyD application, check out Accepted’s Doctoral Application Packages and Services.By Carol Drummer, Former Hofstra University Dean of Graduate Admissions, who for 10 years reviewed and signed off on over 4500 admissions decisions per year and has taught communications and rhetoric since 1991. Want Carol's help to get you accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Get Your Game On: Prepping For Your Grad School Application, a free guide
• Optimize Your Grad School Application: Grades, Essays, Resume, Activity History, and More, a podcast episode
• 4 Pillars of a Splendid Statement of Purpose, a short video