6. FAQs for prospective PhD applicants

1. Will you be reviewing applications for a student to begin Fall 2024? Yep!

2. Should I email you to express interest in applying to your lab? You do not need to email me just to let me know you’re applying to my lab. Those emails are stressful for you to send but won’t have an impact on how I review your application. Save yourself the stress. However, if you have questions that would determine whether you’d like to apply and that weren’t answered elsewhere on my website, feel free to reach out to me and/or my current/previous mentees.

3. Is UO’s program fully funded? Yes! Funding is guaranteed for the first four years. Funding in the fifth and sixth year may be available (has been available for many, many years but is not officially guaranteed). Funding is provided through graduate employment (GE) positions, which cover tuition and 95% of fees, and provide a stipend.

4. What should I highlight in my personal statement? I think the most effective personal statements show rather than tell. For instance, I noted in my “Who is a good fit” document (#3 in this series) that people who have relevant experience are a good fit for me. In your personal statement, just saying “I did a senior thesis” or “I know how to follow a protocol” won’t help me understand where you’re coming from, what skills you have, how you think, or what you know. Instead, show me that you did that stuff. Walk me through what you did, why you did it, what you learned, how you stumbled and recovered, etc.

5. Pro tip for personalizing a personal statement to a professor. Effectively personalizing your personal statement to a professor is hard. Here are some quick thoughts on sentiments that are less vs. more effective.

Less effective: The examples below are less effective because they’re essentially pre-requisites for someone applying to a given lab. I would expect that anyone who is applying to work with me is interested in and/or passionate about the topics I study. Therefore, answers like those below won’t distinguish you from other applicants applying to the lab. These examples also don’t show PIs how you (specifically) think. I would love for your personal statement to give me a preview of how you think, because I love chatting with, learning from, and working with people who think about things in unique ways, who think critically, who think systematically, who see things from angles I haven’t considered, etc.

  • “I’m applying to X professor because our research interests align.”
  • “I’m applying to X lab because I’m passionate about Y topic.”

More effective: Ask yourself some or all of the following questions. Your answers are things you may want to use to communicate a clear and distinguishing explanation for why you’re applying to a specific lab.

  • What types of specific questions or topics might you want to ask or study in this lab specifically? Why are these questions interesting? How are they innovative? What excites you about them?
  • What types of skills might you want to learn in this lab specifically? Why do you want to learn them? How might these skills prepare you for your next steps post-PhD?
  • Is there training in a particular type of intervention that you’d get? If so, why do you care about that and why is it interesting to you specifically? (although I’m not currently doing intervention work [though plan to in the future], this Q might be good to ask yourself for labs that are doing intervention work)
  • How does this lab align with and/or expand on what you’ve done before? How might your previous experiences bring a new perspective to the lab and expand the lab’s research?

6. How much do you care about publications? I don’t care about publications per se. What I care about is the experiences you’ve had that prepared you for doctoral-level study in a research-heavy environment. Publications can be a way to document your preparation, but they’re not the only way.

There are hundreds of details and decisions that go into completing a study and writing a manuscript. A non-exhaustive list of these details includes things like:

  • coordinating a study administratively (IRBs, progress reports)
  • managing participant progress through a study
  • collecting data (whether it’s self-report, interviews, psychophys, salivary samples, etc. etc. etc.)
  • recoding variables
  • structuring/managing data
  • checking assumptions for statistical tests
  • handling missing data
  • conducting statistical analyses
  • creating compelling data visualizations and/or tables
  • conceptualizing a study idea
  • conducting a literature review
  • developing a coherent argument for a study
  • writing clearly and succinctly
  • recognizing the strengths and limitations of your study/data
  • etc. etc. etc. (the list goes on)

In the vein of showing vs. telling, if you’ve had publications by the time of applying, please don’t just tell me you’ve published X number of papers. I want you to also explain your experience with some of the above elements that go into writing a paper. Did you come up with the study idea? If so, how? What motivated it? Were you involved in data cleaning/management and/or running analyses? What specifically did you do?

If you haven’t had publications by the time of applying, please tell me about your experience with any/some of the above elements that go into writing a paper–even if they haven’t culminated in you participating in or completing the paper-writing process yet.

Whether you have publications or not, I will be looking for students whose personal statements convey the experiences and skills that show that they’re well-prepared for this next stage of training, which will involve lots of involvement with writing and research (especially lots of involvement with managing and analyzing data…so if you have these experiences/skills, definitely highlight them!).

7. Do I need to have research and/or clinical experience related to eating disorders and/or suicide in order to apply? No. If you do have these experiences, amazing–please tell me about them! If you don’t have these experiences, no worries. Your skills and knowledge from other relevant experiences will probably translate to my topic areas. However, it will be important for you to explain in your personal statement why you’re interested in specializing in eating disorders and/or suicide. How did you become interested in either or both of these topics? What interests you specifically about these topics? What types of questions do you want to study related to these topics?

8. Do I need to take the GRE? Nope. UO does not require the GRE.

9. Pro tips. There are lots of resources out there to help guide you through effectively applying to clinical psychology PhD programs. Here’s a few:

Lauren Forrest, PhD
Lauren Forrest, PhD
Assistant Professor