An Advising Series for CMU Global Psychology Majors:  Graduate School

Welcome and Introduction

On behalf of the psychology faculty at Central Michigan University, I wish to congratulate you on selecting psychology as your major! You have joined a growing and lively community of psychology majors, both on- and off- campus. Psychology is an exceedingly interesting and relevant area of study, as it is focused upon discovering the nature of behavior and mental processes.


I am an Assistant Professor of psychology at CMU. In addition to teaching core courses online and at CMU Global sites in the Metro Detroit area, I advise CMU Global psychology majors on significant decisions related to the following: completion of degree requirements, career goals, and graduate school plans.


This particular page is focused upon the latter topic – graduate school planning. As you read on, you will find helpful information about graduate school in general in addition to handy planning tips. This brochure is by no means exhaustive; nonetheless, I am confident that it will speak to some of your most basic questions and concerns about graduate school.


It is my sincere hope that you enjoy your academic experiences at CMU and that we effectively support you in making informed decisions about graduate education.

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Holly L. Ketterer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Central Michigan University

What is Graduate School and Why?

If you haven’t yet earned your bachelor’s degree, you are considered an “undergraduate.” Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, you are considered a “graduate.” Graduates, if they choose, may continue their education by attending graduate school. Graduate schools most frequently award advanced degrees, such as “master’s” and “doctoral” degrees.  Most psychology graduates who decide to attend graduate school do so because their desired profession requires advanced degrees.


The PhD Track. As a general rule, a person who wishes to call themselves a “psychologist” of any kind must obtain a doctoral degree (PhD). For example, to become a clinical psychologist (one who is qualified to assess, diagnose, treat, and assist in the prevention of psychological disorders), one must possess a PhD in clinical psychology. In terms of training, this course of education requires completion of approximately 4-6 years of post-graduate training in addition to 1-2 years of supervised clinical experience to obtain licensure. Not all psychologists treat and understand psychological disorders. The number of various types of psychologists may shock you! One may become an experimental psychologist, developmental psychologist, child psychologist, social psychologist, etc.; all of these careers require PhDs.


Most PhD graduate programs require that students not only excel in their coursework, but also that they conduct scientific research; this is why it is particularly important to value and excel in the required research and statistics courses in your major. This research is generally supervised by a faculty member in the psychology department who shares similar research interests.


The Master’s Track. Many of CMU’s psychology majors who choose to continue their education beyond their undergraduate degree elect to attend master’s programs in counseling or social work. A counseling master’s program is designed to prepare you for a career as a professional counselor in a variety of settings; examples include schools, community agencies, and private practices.


We are happy to announce that CMU Global currently offers a face-to- face Master of Arts (MA) degree in counseling with available concentrations in professional counseling and school counseling at three centers in Michigan. If you are interested in this program, contact the East Lansing (517- 337-8360), Livonia (734-464-5904), or Warren centers (586-558-4300).


A master’s degree in social work (MSW) prepares you for a career in the human services. Degree programs tend to offer a variety of specializations, including community organization, social policy, and mental health.


If you have your heart set on a particular psychology-related career, do your research to determine what educational requirements you must meet. Some psychology graduates choose not to attend graduate school for many reasons, one of these being that they can accomplish their career goals without advanced training.

How Do I Apply?

Applying to graduate school requires a great deal of patience, organization, and motivation. The application process can be overwhelming at times, but it may all be worth it if you earn the opportunity to pursue your ideal career or educational goals!  Typically, application submission deadlines fall in the late months (October, November, or December), though some programs accept applications on a rolling basis. Seniors might consider planning for the application process starting in the summer season before their final fall semester. Graduate schools vary with regard to (1) the types of application materials they require, and (2) the expected level of excellence demonstrated in one’s academic career. Despite these differences, the most common requirements include:


An Application: Applicants must complete a program- specific application (often online) in which they report personal information, characteristics, accomplishments, educational experiences, etc. Generally, an application fee is also required.


A Personal Statement: Applicants may be asked to write a personal statement (or statement of purpose) to outline why the program is a good fit for them, why/how they plan to be successful in the program and beyond, why they have selected the career path they have, etc.


Test Scores: If you are applying to a graduate program in psychology, you may be required to take an entrance exam. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE®) is a common requirement for PhD and master’s programs. The GRE® is a standardized graduate school entrance exam which assesses verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. Learn more about the GRE® here.  The Psychology version of the GRE® is required by some schools to assess your discipline- specific knowledge. Learn more about the Psychology GRE® here.  Finally, if you are applying to a master’s program in counseling, you may have to take the Miller Analogies Test (MAT®). The MAT® is a standardized test designed to assess your logical and analytical reasoning. Learn more about the MAT® here.  


A Résumé or Curriculum Vitae (CV): You may have to submit your résumé, which typically outlines one’s work, educational, and service experiences, and/or a CV, which is essentially an academic-specific résumé.


Transcripts: Applicants are typically required to send official transcripts to all prospective institutions to provide evidence of a bachelor’s degree earned as well as academic success (grades in courses, overall GPA, major GPA). You may contact the Office of the Registrar to have official transcripts sent.


Recommendation Letters: Programs tend to ask for two or more letters of recommendation to support your application. Examples of suitable letter writers include professors, academic advisors, and internship supervisors. It is generally poor practice to request letters from family members, friends, or any individuals who have had little experience with you in an academic or discipline-relevant context.

Asking for Letters of Recommendation

The institutions to which you apply will likely require two or more letters of recommendation to support your graduate school application. Individuals who know your potential and have worked closely with you in a discipline-relevant context are probably the most appropriate individuals to ask. These individuals may include psychology faculty members at your undergraduate institution, internship supervisors, managers/bosses, or academic advisors. It might be a good idea to choose referees who can speak to your capabilities in different capacities. For example, your research methods professor can discuss your technical skills and ability to think critically, while your boss or internship supervisor  may be better suited to address your responsibility, leadership, and warm demeanor.


Once you’ve identified who you’d like to ask for letters, you should approach the individuals (in-person, ideally) and ask kindly if they would be willing to write a letter of support on your behalf. Before this meeting, prepare a few things:


List of Institutions: If you are applying to more than one graduate program, it benefits your referees if they have a list of the programs to which you are applying that includes each department/program address, due dates for letters, and how the letters should be delivered. This shows organization and responsibility (which may add to their impression of you)!


Application Materials: It might benefit your referees to have access to some of the materials you are submitting with your application, including your personal statement and résumé or CV. By reviewing these materials, they can better address your experiences and how they relate to your educational and career goals. If you haven’t yet prepared your application materials, you can still provide your referees with a bulleted list of some of your major accomplishments and future educational and career goals.

Building a Quality Application

A typical graduate school application includes many components. Those who make admissions decisions consider all materials, not just one or two, when making their decision. Also, the weight any given institution places on an application component (e.g., GRE® scores or MAT® scores) is not exactly predictable or consistent. Thus, the best applicants are those who are all- around impressive! This is why it is essential to do the following, in addition to excelling in your coursework.


Study for the GRE®, MAT®, or other Examinations:There are tons of GRE® and MAT® preparation resources available, including classes, practice books, and online practice tests. If you are required to complete an exam other than these, browse around for study resources;; you’re sure to find some. Do some research and use the resource that is best suited for your studying style.


Get Involved in Your Discipline: Admissions committees like to see that you have been involved in the discipline in some capacity. Examples of involvement might include  contribution to research or membership (or leadership) in discipline-relevant clubs or honor societies.


Gain Some Research Experience: Conducting research is an important component of one’s graduate school career, especially PhD programs. Thus it is very desirable for applicants to have gained research experience. Working hard to obtain high marks in your core research courses, including PSY211 (or equivalent), PSY285, and PSY385, is a good way to impress admissions committees, but it may not be valued as highly as playing a unique role in a research project. If you are interested in gaining research experience (e.g., literature searching, writing, data collection, data analysis), feel free to contact me at kette1hl@cmich.edu and I will try to assist you in making a connection with a CMU psychology faculty member who shares your interests.


Join Clubs or Honor Societies: Although you may not be an on-campus student, you may still get involved in groups that originate on campus. For example, if you qualify for Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, you will have access to meetings in audio format and may also attend the Honor society banquet at the end of the school year! More on this later. You might also consider becoming a member of CMU's Global's Psychology Club, which is in its beginning stages of development!   The goal of the club is to plan academic, non-academic, professional development, and service activities to enrich the educational and social lives of involved psychology students.  Feel free to contact the club's primary student organizer to express your interest: Adam Kresmery (kresm1a@cmich.edu).

Getting Involved: Psi Chi Honor Society

Psi Chi is the International Honor Society in Psychology. The purpose of Psi Chi, as stated on www.psichi.org, is to “produce a well-educated, ethical, and socially responsible member committed to contributing to the science and profession of psychology and to society in general.”  CMU has its very own chapter of Psi Chi. The honor society is operated by student officers who are supervised by a faculty member on campus.


Currently, the faculty supervisor of the CMU chapter of Psi Chi is Dr. Kyle Scherr, pictured right.  His email address is scher1kc@cmich.edu.


If you meet several minimum requirements, you can become a member of Psi Chi.  If you are interested in learning more about Psi Chi – purpose, requirements, benefits of membership, application deadlines – or would like to obtain an application packet, feel free to contact the CMU chapter student-president at psichi@cmich.edu. Do not wait to express interest as Psi Chi does have application deadlines!

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Kyle Scherr, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Psi Chi  Faculty Advisor

Graduate Programs at CMU

CMU offers several graduate programs that may be of interest to psychology majors. All psychology graduate programs are offered exclusively on the Mt. Pleasant CMU campus.


These include graduate programs in clinical psychology (PhD), experimental psychology (Master’s and PhD), industrial/organizational psychology (Master’s and PhD), and school psychology (Specialist and PhD). Information about each of these psychology graduate programs can be found here.


CMU Mt. Pleasant also offers an interdisciplinary neuroscience graduate program (Master’s and PhD) for students who are interested in neuroscience. Information about this Mt. Pleasant based program can be found here.


CMU’s Global campus is now offering a face-to-face Master of Arts (MA) degree in counseling with available concentrations in professional counseling and school counseling at three centers in Michigan, including East Lansing, Livonia, and Warren. Further information about this program can be found here.

Choosing a Graduate Program

Students elect to attend particular graduate programs for a multitude of reasons, and these reasons vary significantly from applicant to applicant. You may choose a graduate school to work with a particular faculty member who shares your research interests, while another person may choose a program that is affordable. Here are some common considerations for students who are choosing a graduate program:


Affordability: Can I afford to pay for an education at this school?


Financial support: Does this program have funding opportunities for students, such as fellowships or research/teaching assistantships?


Program reputation: Is this program accredited?  Reputable?


Faculty research interests: Do the research interests of one or more faculty members align with my own?


Personal fit: Is the culture of the school one that is suitable for me? Will I fit in there?


Geographic location: Is the school located somewhere safe, or enjoyable? Is it close to people that I love or support?


There is no “right” reason to select a graduate program. Only you (and perhaps some trusted mentors) can decide what is most important to you in deciding where to and/or if to attend graduate school.

A Final Note

On behalf of the psychology faculty at CMU, I wish you the best of luck in your academic and career endeavors! If you have any questions about graduate school that are not provided in this informational brochure, do not hesitate to ask questions! The Global Campus staff, your professors, and your academic advisor are available to assist you!


The very best to you and yours, Holly L. Ketterer, Ph.D.


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