The Catholic University of America

Preparation for Graduate School in Psychology-Why CUA?

Being well prepared to apply for and enter a graduate program in Psychology is an important goal for many students, and majoring in Psychology at CUA is an excellent stepping-stone to a future career in Psychology. Our faculty teach a range of students, not only undergraduates, but also graduate students in our General M.A. program and our Ph.D. programs in Clinical and Applied-Experimental Psychology. And this has a number of implications for undergraduates:

  • Many of our Psychology faculty are nationally, if not internationally, known experts in their fields with contacts at other graduate programs around the country. When we write letters of recommendation for students to get into graduate school, we are known to the faculty of other programs, which increases our students' chances of acceptance.
  • Our faculty have active research programs and are always eager to encourage the undergraduates to get involved. In fact, we offer a 1-credit course every semester called the "Research Apprenticeship" that allows students to work with our faculty 5-6 hours a week; doing this over three semesters will also count as one course towards graduation. Getting to know the undergraduates in this way (in addition to just having them in class) means faculty letters of recommendation wind up being stronger and more detailed. Students benefit by being able to really learn about a field of psychology first hand. In addition, some paid research assistantships may be available from grant funding. For example, one of our freshmen was invited by the professor of a Psychology class she was taking spring semester to do a 10-hour a week paid research position in his lab for the next 3 years. One of our former students was offered a position as an Assistant Professor at a major university--just 6 years after graduating from CUA and going on to a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology.
  • In addition to the faculty, our doctoral students are available to serve as mentors to the undergraduates and "show them the ropes," so that when they get to grad school themselves they know what to expect. Frequently, undergraduate research assistants participate as part of ongoing research teams, which means they get to know graduate students very well. For example, one of our senior majors who had applied to doctoral programs in Clinical Psychology had been invited to over a half dozen interviews. In addition to consulting with faculty, we put her in touch with several doctoral students here at CUA (who had been through interviews at many different schools themselves just a few years ago) and they told her everything she needed to know and helped her prepare for her interviews. She wound up being admitted to her first choice school-and later helped to pass along her own experience and consult with our current seniors!
  • Faculty who teach in doctoral programs, like those here at CUA, know exactly what students need to do to get into doctoral programs. In our Ph.D. Clinical Psychology program, the faculty spend countless hours every year reading folders, interviewing applicants, and deliberating over which students we want to admit. Over the years, we've learned a lot about what sorts of things are good to do during the 4 years of college in order to be a top candidate for a doctoral program. So our advising for students can be first rate.
  • Finally, we offer the opportunity for upper-level students to earn course credit for Psychology Internships, both during the academic year and over the summer. This real-world experience can be extremely valuable for both building a resume and learning about career directions in Psychology. Summer research internships at NIH are always highly prized, and students also seek out various mental health agencies and programs.
CUA offers a unique education for psychology majors. We have the small-to-medium sized classes and solid liberal arts curriculum of an undergraduate college (for example, we limit our sections of Intro Psych to 35 students each, not one big class like you'd find at many large universities). Yet at the same time we have the faculty and graduate students typical of a top-level research university. We are extremely proud of both our students and our program.