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GRADUATE SCHOOL READINESS IN PSYCHOLOGY: A NATIONAL STUDY
GEOFFREY A. LEE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Geoffrey A. Lee
I extend a special thanks to all of my friends and family for their constant love and
support during this process. I could not have completed this thesis project without the
guidance of my exceptional supervisor, Dr. Greg Neimeyer.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... .................................................................................... iii
L IST O F T A B L E S .............................................................................................. v
ABSTRACT .............. ......................................... vi
1 IN TRODU CTION ................................................. ...... .................
2 M E TH O D S .................................................................7
P participants ............................................................. . 7
Instrum ents .............................................................. . 8
Grad Prep Quiz ...................................................................... ............ ....8...............8
Demographic and Self-Evaluation Instrument ............... ......... .................9
P ro c e d u re ....................................................................................................... 1 0
3 R E SU L T S .................................................. ............. ........ 12
G graduate P reparation L evels.......................................... ....................................... 12
Psi Chi M em bership ........................................ .... ....... .... ........ 13
Post H oc A analyses ................................................... ............. .. ...... 14
Effects of G graduate D egree Program ................................... .................................... 15
Correlations A m ong V ariables .............................................. ......................... 16
Descriptive Statistics Regarding Preparation .................................. ............... 17
4 D ISCU SSION ...................................................................... .......... 20
A SO L IC ITA TIO N LE TTER .............................................................. .....................24
B INFORMED CONSENT, DEMOGRAPHIC AND SELF EVALUATION
INSTRUMENT, AND GRADUATE PREPARATION SURVEY .........................26
L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S ....................................................................... ... ................... 32
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................34
LIST OF TABLES
2-1 Participation by U university ........... ......... .. ............. .. ........................ ............... 7
3-1 Means and Standard Deviations for Efficacy and Knowledge Scores by Year in
C o lle g e ..............................................................................1 3
3-2 Graduate Preparation Activity Percent Involvement by Degree ..............................16
3-3 Intercorrelations Between Graduate Preparation Activities and Criteria .................. 17
3-4 Student Responses to Graduate Preparation Activities ............................................18
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
GRADUATE SCHOOL READINESS IN PSYCHOLOGY: A NATIONAL STUDY
Geoffrey A. Lee
Chair: Greg J. Neimeyer
Major Department: Psychology
The increased demand for admissions into graduate school in psychology programs
has placed greater pressure on undergraduate programs to provide informed and effective
graduate school guidance and preparation. Previous studies have begun to identify the
limited knowledge that students have about the requirements, procedures, and
components of a graduate school application. The present study provides a multi-site
assessment of graduate preparation. A total of 590 undergraduate psychology majors
across the United States reported the mechanisms they used to prepare themselves for
their graduate school applications, and their overall levels of self-efficacy and knowledge
concerning the graduate school application process, using the Grad Prep Quiz. Results
examine the nature and patterns of graduate school preparation over the course of
undergraduate education in psychology
The number of undergraduates graduating with a degree in psychology has
increased 93% in the last three decades (National Center for Education and Statistics,
2001) with 59% of this increase occurring since the mid 80's (McDonald, 1997). This
significant increase has translated into a growing interest in graduate training in the field,
as well. Overall, the number of master's degrees in psychology has increased 166% over
this period of time (National Center for Education and Statistics, 2001) with the number
of doctoral degrees conferred having increased by more than 60% (A National
Organization for Research at University of Chicago, 2001). This substantial increase in
interest in graduate training is accompanied by a growing demand for information and
guidance regarding graduate study in the discipline. However, traditional mechanisms
for providing this information (e.g., faculty mentoring; informal contact with psychology
faculty; "getting into graduate school" meetings) have not adequately supported this
burgeoning demand, leaving many aspiring graduate students poorly informed or
prepared in relation to the understanding and development of their graduate school
applications (Neimeyer, Lee, Saferstein and Pickett, 2004).
Research attention has only recently turned towards understanding the extent of
undergraduates' knowledge and preparation regarding graduate study and graduate
admissions procedures. In one such study Cashin and Landrum (1991) found that while
97% of the students they surveyed recognized overall GPA as important criteria for
admission into graduate school, little more than 50% of the respondents mentioned the
importance of letters of recommendation and GRE scores. In addition, less than a third
(30%) identified research experience as an important consideration, and an even fewer
(11%) recognized the personal statement as an important criteria in graduate school
admissions. Cashin and Landrum (1991) concluded that while students may be familiar
with the marquee, numerical graduate admissions' indicators, they generally
underestimate the relative importance of the wide range of secondary criteria that are
often critical to successful graduate admissions. Subsequent work supported their claim
by indicating the importance placed on these secondary indicators by a wide range of
graduate programs that are forced to make distinctions among applicants who are
increasingly strong along primary indicators such as GPA and GRE scores (Landrun,
Jeglum & Cashin, 1994).
Given the weight of these second-order criteria in graduate admission decisions,
Keith-Spiegel, Tabachnick, and Spiegel (1994) developed a 31-item survey to explore the
relative importance of many of the other variables used by doctoral program selection
committees in making acceptance decisions. Results indicated that published research
experience was ranked highest, on average, followed by the match between student and
program, and then professional paper presentations. Other top variables were faculty
interest in working with the student, and the clarity and focus of the student's letter of
purpose, in addition to experience as a research assistant. Together with the earlier
findings of Landrum et al. (1994), these results highlight the value of students' awareness
of the full range of graduate admissions' criteria, beyond GPA and GRE scores.
This work is further supported by the recent efforts of Briihl (2001) who offered
additional evidence regarding undergraduates' lack of adequate graduate school
knowledge. Consistent with earlier work (Cashin and Landrum, 1991; Landrum et al.,
1994), Briihl (2001) found that while students perceived the importance of objective
criteria for gaining admission to graduate school, such as GPA and GRE, they often were
unaware of the specific values that graduate schools were looking for in relation to these
criteria, as well as a range of other qualitative indicators of probable graduate school
success. For example, when asked about what GRE scores might be needed for graduate
admission, 63% of the sophomores and juniors responded with "don't know" or left the
question blank. In addition, students in Briihl's (2001) study underestimated the
importance of the graduate interview, while overestimating the importance of
undergraduate internships, relative to research experience, letters of recommendation and
personal statements. The overall pattern ofBriihl's (2001) findings supports the earlier
conclusion of Landrum et al. (1994): "While students may have some awareness of the
quantitative and qualitative factors used in the process, most are probably unaware of the
situational factors (e.g. match between student and faculty research interests, student
competitiveness for fellowships/scholarships) that govern decision making"(p. 246).
Recent work by Neimeyer et al. (2004) suggests the scope of this problem. In the process
of developing a standardized measure of graduate school preparation, The Grad Prep
Quiz, Neimeyer et al. (2004) found that 67% of the 248 psychology students in their
sample were unaware of the average GPA of applicants who were successfully admitted
into doctoral study in the discipline, and 82% could not identify the GRE scores of
successful applicants to graduate programs.
Given the developing consensus in the field regarding the lack of adequate
knowledge regarding graduate applications in psychology, it appears that students would
benefit from additional resources and guidance in this regard. Johanson and Fried (2002)
have noted that both students and alumni have reported their interest in having more
opportunities and assistance in the preparation and planning of their careers (Ogletree,
1999; Sheehan, 1994; Sheehan and Granrud, 1995). In attempting to build mechanisms
to help bridge this gap in graduate school knowledge, Briihl (2001) has suggested that
faculty begin developing career education courses, create graduate information handouts
and websites, and encourage students to visit career resource centers, career advisors, or
psychology club meetings. Likewise, Buskist (1999) and Arnold and Horrigan (2002)
have suggested that involvement in psychology organizations such as Psi Chi can be a
critical part of graduate school preparation, given that Psi Chi provides networking with
others of similar interests and can be helpful in supporting the process of graduate school
preparation and selection.
While useful, the value of these recommendations can be best gauged against a
clear understanding of what students currently do to prepare themselves for the process of
graduate application. Relatively little attention has been directed to this topic, with a few
notable exceptions. For example, Sheehan and Granrud (1995) surveyed undergraduate
psychology students and alumni regarding their overall satisfaction with their
undergraduate education. Results revealed that students and alumni both reported high
satisfaction with advisor availability and helpfulness, although they rated faculty
assistance in planning a postgraduate career and the opportunity to participate in faculty
members' research least favorably. In addition, the most frequently suggested
improvements by alumni and seniors in the study were to provide more advising on
careers and graduate school, a result that is supported by related findings by Neimeyer et
Perhaps the most detailed assessment to date regarding the resources students
utilize to inform themselves about graduate school applications comes from the work of
Ogletree (1999). Ogletree (1999) mailed questionnaires to recent psychology graduates to
assess the use and perceived value of various sources of career guidance and information.
Results indicated that 29% of the students utilized their departmental faculty; 25% used
the "Guide for Psychology Majors" (an office booklet); 22% used the departmental
advisor; and 20% used career services. A smaller proportion of students made use of
other services such as attending programs by Psi Chi (13%), a Careers in Psychology
Alumni Speaker series (13%), or career advising sessions (13%). Overall, these various
resources were viewed as quite helpful, though the majority of students did not report
accessing any of these resources. In concluding this work, Ogletree (1999) noted that
"providing opportunities for career information does not guarantee that students will take
advantage of available resources" (p. 44). Greater publicity and faculty support of
career-related programs are vital to their success and to their utilization, and Ogletree
(1999) recommended more concerted departmental marketing as a means to maximize
the value and impact of available graduate school preparation services.
The present study builds on the collective efforts of earlier work in this area by
attempting to identify the range of resources students currently access in preparing their
applications for graduate study in psychology within the context of a large-scale, national
sample. In addition, by utilizing a standardized measure of graduate preparation, the Grad
Prep Quiz, we hope to be able to identify national norms and to explore changes in
graduate preparation over the course of undergraduate training. Identifying the resources
that students utilize, and tracking their preparation over the course of their undergraduate
training, could provide useful insights into mechanisms of potential intervention, as well
as the ideal times to provide those interventions. The purpose of this study then, was to
provide a large-scale, multi-site assessment of graduate school preparation in psychology
and the resources utilized in support of that preparation.
A total of 590 undergraduate psychology majors (489 females and 101 males)
from 41 universities completed an online graduate preparation survey (See Appendix B.).
Of the undergraduates who provided their year in college status, 33 were freshmen, 115
were sophomores, 184 were juniors, and 251 were seniors. The majority of the
participants were Caucasian (N= 490, 83.2 %) followed by Hispanic (N= 30, 5.1 %),
Asian American (N = 25, 4.3 %), African American (N= 19, 3.2 %), and other (N= 25,
4.3 %). The mean age for the students was 21.98 (SD = 4.43). For the number of
participants by university (See Table 1).
Table 2-1 Participation by University
Albertson College 4
American University 28
Barry University 7
Bridgewater College 7
California State University 19
Catholic University of America 11
Drury University 8
Emory and Henry College 5
Eckerd College 8
Georgia Tech 5
Immaculata University 6
Iowa State University 54
Lehman College- CUNY 8
Davidson College 7
Loyola College 42
Maryville College 10
Minnesota State University 10
New Mexico State University 14
Table 2-1 Continued
Park University 8
Saint Joseph's University 17
Saint Bonaventure University 18
Samford University 21
Santa Clara University 28
Stephens College 4
Southwest Baptist University 17
Southwest Minnesota State 7
Susquehanna University 21
Southern Louisiana University 5
Texas Tech 31
University of Akron 5
University of Alabama 13
University of Colorado 9
University of Delaware 4
University of Hawaii Manoa 6
University of Minnesota 20
University of Pittsburg 5
University of Texas 27
Vassar College 12
Washington and Lee University 8
Wayne State University 6
Wright State University 3
Participants completed the Grad Prep Quiz and a demographic and self-evaluation
Grad Prep Quiz
The Grad Prep Quiz (Neimeyer et al. 2003) consists of a 25-item self-report
measure assessing an individual's degree of knowledge and preparedness regarding
graduate study in psychology. The instrument includes items designed to assess self-
efficacy and knowledge. The 10 self-efficacy questions are recorded on a scale of l(not
confident) to 5 (highly confident) e.g., "I know how to assess my strengths and to find the
best graduate program for my particular interest." The 15 knowledge questions are
presented in a multiple-choice format, e.g., "Which of the following best describes the
differences) between a PhD and a PsyD? a) the PhD is a research degree and a PsyD is a
practice degree, b) a PhD program can be APA-approved whereas a PsyD cannot, c) a
PhD can be licensed to practice psychology but a PsyD cannot, d) all of the above. The
Grad Prep Quiz generates two separate subscale scores, one for self-efficacy and one for
knowledge. The first score is the sum of the responses to the 10 self-efficacy questions,
(possible range 10-50), with higher scores indicating stronger confidence in one's
graduate preparation. The second score is the sum of the correct responses to the 15
multiple-choice knowledge items. Scores can range from 0 to 15, with higher scores
reflecting higher levels of graduate school knowledge and preparedness (See Appendix
Demographic and Self-Evaluation Instrument
The participants' demographic and self-evaluation instrument included general
demographic items such as age, gender, ethnicity, major, year in school, university
attended and overall GPA, as well as questions intended to gain information about
participants' interest in and experiences related to graduate school preparation. Some of
these questions tapped into graduate school plans like; including whether they were
planning to go to graduate school in psychology, the degree they planned to pursue (e.g.
M.A. or M.S., Ph. D, Psy. D), and their intended area of study (e.g. Clinical). Other
questions addressed the mechanisms students utilized in their graduate school
preparation, such as whether or not they had taken a graduate preparation course,
seminar, or preparation meeting, what kind of services they had utilized in preparing for
graduate school in psychology (e.g. talked to a professor). The last few questions dealt
with activities undergraduates might be involved in to improve their chances of
admission such as, whether or not they were involved in Psi Chi or psychology club, how
many semesters of research had they completed, whether they had volunteered in the
community, any publications, senior thesis plans, conference presentations, etc. To
examine the nature of student involvement in graduate preparation activities, we
developed a preparation activities variable. This variable was the sum of student
responses to questions from the demographic sheet about 13 graduate preparation
activities (e.g., whether they had completed a graduate preparation course, attended
getting into graduate school seminar, talked with departmental advisors, utilized a
graduate school preparation book (e.g., Graduate Study in Psychology), talked with their
professors about graduate school, visited the Career Resource Center, had an ongoing
mentor, involvement in Psychology club, conducted research, volunteered in the
community, authorship on publications, conference presentations, and writing a senior
thesis). The scores for this variable can range from 0-14, with higher scores indicating
more involvement in graduate preparation activities. To examine career clarity,
participants completed a likert-scale question addressing how clear they felt their career
goals were in relation to postgraduate plans in psychology, using a scale of l(very
unclear) to 5 (very clear) (See Appendix B).
We solicited participation by contacting all Psi Chi chapters in the country through
the National Psi Chi chapter email list. Of the 41 chapters that agreed to participate (4%),
we asked each chapter coordinator to obtain approval to distribute our Graduate
Preparation Survey materials to the psychology list-serv (See Appendix A and B).
Undergraduate psychology students on the list-serv were invited to participate in a study
of "Graduate School Readiness in Psychology" and given a short description and a link to
the survey (See Appendix A). Once students accessed the website, they read and
electronically signed an informed consent, completed a short demographics section, and
then the Grad Prep Quiz. At the end of the survey students submitted their answers
electronically to our online database. Participation took approximately 20 minutes.
In order to explore the levels of graduate preparation, the nature of graduate school
preparation, and the relationship between them, three sets of analyses were conducted.
The first set addressed overall Grad Prep scores (self-efficacy and knowledge), and
possible changes in these over the course of undergraduate training. The second
addressed an account of the particular graduate preparation resources and mechanisms
students used to prepare themselves for their graduate applications. And finally, the third
set of analyses addressed the relationships among these variables.
Graduate Preparation Levels
This set of analyses examined whether undergraduates would exhibit significantly
higher Grad Prep Quiz scores on both domains (efficacy and knowledge) of graduate
preparation as they approached graduation. A between subjects ANOVA was conducted
with Grad Prep Quiz Efficacy as the dependent variable and year in college as the
independent variable. A second between subjects ANOVA was conducted with Grad
Prep Quiz Knowledge as dependent variable and year in college as the independent
The first ANOVA revealed a significant main effect of year in college for efficacy
F(3, 578) = 14.21, p < .001, 12 = .069. To examine the location of the differences,
Bonferroni corrected Post Hoc pairwise comparisons were conducted and revealed a
significant difference between seniors and all other groups. An examination of the
marginal means revealed the direction of the differences, with Seniors (M = 31.03)
reporting significantly higher efficacy scores than freshmen (M = 25.97), sophomores (M
= 26.27) or juniors (M = 27.48). All other groups did not differ significantly from one
The second ANOVA revealed a significant main effect of year in college for
knowledge F(3,578) = 2.676, p < .001, rl2 = .014. To examine the location of the
differences, Bonferroni corrected Post Hoc pairwise comparisons were conducted and
revealed a significant difference between seniors and sophomores for knowledge. An
examination of the marginal means revealed the direction of the differences, with seniors
(M = 7.62) exhibiting significantly higher knowledge scores than sophomores (M =
6.91). All other groups did not differ significantly from one another. For a collective
representative of means and standard deviations (See Table 3-1).
Table 3-1 Means and Standard Deviations for Efficacy and Knowledge Scores by Year in
Year in College M SD M SD N
Freshmen 25.96 6.45 6.48 6.38 33
Sophomore 26.26 7.73 6.13 3.71 115
Junior 27.48 7.64 6.91 4.32 184
Senior 31.03 7.97 7.62 4.91 250
Psi Chi Membership
This analyses examined whether undergraduates who were members of Psi Chi
would exhibit significantly higher Grad Prep Quiz scores on both domains (efficacy and
knowledge) of graduate preparation, than would non-members. The MANCOVA was
conducted with Grad Prep Quiz Efficacy and Knowledge subscales as dependent
variables and membership in Psi Chi as the independent variable. Given the relationship
between membership in Psi Chi and year in college, Chi Square (3, 560) = 72.59, p <
.001, year in college was then utilized as a covariate. This analysis revealed a significant
effect for Psi Chi membership F(2, 556) = 5.36, p = .005, r12 = .019. The partial eta
squared coefficient suggests a small effect of the predictor.
We conducted follow-up univariate ANOVAs to examine the location of
significant effects. A significant main effect of Psi Chi membership was found for
efficacy F(1, 557) = 6.48, p = .011, 12 = .012. Bonferroni corrected Post Hoc pairwise
comparisons were conducted and an examination of the marginal means revealed the
direction of the differences. For efficacy, Psi Chi members (M = 29.68) reported
significantly higher efficacy scores than non members (M = 27.89).
A significant main effect of Psi Chi membership was also found for Knowledge
F(1, 557) = 3.99, p = .046, r12 = .007. Bonferroni corrected Post Hoc pairwise
comparisons were conducted and an examination of the marginal means revealed the
direction of the differences. For knowledge, Psi Chi members (M = 7.53) had
significantly higher knowledge scores than non members (M = 6.65).
Post Hoc Analyses
Related analyses examined whether Psi Chi membership would be associated with
involvement in a significantly higher number of graduate preparation activities. In
addition, we also examined whether members would have greater clarity of goals. The
MANOVA was conducted with preparation activities (e.g., taking a graduate preparation
course) and clarity of goals as dependent variables and degree, as the independent
variable. This analysis revealed a significant multivariate effect for Psi Chi Membership
F(2, 562) = 37.77, p < .001, 12 = .118. The partial eta squared coefficient suggests a small
effect of the predictor.
We conducted follow-up univariate ANOVAs to examine the location of
significant effects. A significant main effect of Psi Chi membership was found for
preparation activities F(1, 563) = 73.35, p < .001, l2 = .115. Bonferroni corrected Post
Hoc pairwise comparisons were conducted and an examination of the marginal means
revealed the direction of the differences. For preparation activities, Psi Chi members
were involved in significantly more activities (M = 5.55) than nonmembers (M = 3.85).
A significant main effect of Psi Chi membership was also found for clarity of goals
F(1, 563) = 16.81, p < .001, r12 = .029. Bonferroni corrected Post Hoc pairwise
comparisons were conducted and an examination of the marginal means revealed the
direction of the differences. For clarity of goals, Psi Chi members reported significantly
higher clarity (M = 3.52) than students not involved in Psi Chi (M = 3.13).
Effects of Graduate Degree Program
This set of analyses examined whether differences in the anticipated degree
program would predict the number of preparation activities students were involved with
and clarity of their goals. The MANOVA was conducted with preparation activities and
clarity of goals as dependent variables and planned degree, as the independent variable.
This analysis revealed a significant multivariate effect for planned degree F(4, 1044) =
6.79, p < .001, r12 = .025. We conducted follow-up univariate ANOVAs to examine the
location of significant effects. A significant main effect of planned degree was found for
preparation activities F(2, 522) = 11.79, p < .001, r12 = .043. Bonferroni corrected Post
Hoc pairwise comparisons were conducted and revealed significant differences between
students planning to pursue a master's and students planning to pursue a Ph. D. After
examining the marginal means, the direction of the differences indicated students who
planned to pursue a Ph. D (M = 5.90) were involved in significantly more activities than
students who planned to pursue a Master's (M = 4.77). Students planning to pursue a Psy.
D (M = 4.38) did not differ significantly from either group.
A significant main effect of planned degree was also found for clarity of goals F(2,
522) = 5.716, p = .004, r12 = .021. Bonferroni corrected Post Hoc pairwise comparisons
were conducted and again revealed significant differences between students planning to
pursue a master's and students planning to pursue a Ph. D. After examining the marginal
means, the direction of the differences indicated students who planned to pursue a Ph. D
(M = 3.51) exhibited significantly more clarity of goals than students planning to pursue
a Master's (M = 3.16). Students planning to pursue a Psy. D (M = 3.30) did not differ
significantly from either group. In addition to examining differences in the number of
preparation activities students were involved in by degree, we also examined the
percentage of students involved in each preparation activity by degree (See Table 3-2).
Table 3-2 Graduate Preparation Activity Percent Involvement by Degree
Activities Masters Psy. D Ph. D
(n = 208) (n = 52) (n = 265)
Research 67% 61% 72%
Volunteer 26% 35% 33%
Senior Thesis 38% 39% 53%
Journal Publication 2% 0% 7%
Conference Presentation 12% 8% 25%
Correlations Among Variables
To assess the relationship between students' clarity of goals and Grad Prep Quiz
efficacy and knowledge scores, Pearson Product Moment correlations were conducted.
Results revealed a significant correlation between students' clarity of goals and self-
efficacy scores (r = .479, p < .001), but not the correlation between students' clarity of
goals and knowledge scores (r = -.008, p = .847). Additional Pearson correlation
coefficients were conducted to assess the relationship between students' clarity of goals
and the utilization of an ongoing faculty mentoring relationship. Results revealed a
significant correlation (r = .237, p < .001). Results also revealed a significant correlation
between having an ongoing faculty mentor and students' self-efficacy scores (r = .323, p
We additionally conducted a Pearson Product Moment correlation to examine the
relationship between student involvement in graduate preparation activities and Grad
Prep Quiz efficacy and knowledge scores. Results revealed a significant correlation
between student involvement in graduate preparation activities and self-efficacy scores (r
= .406, p < .001), although the correlation between student involvement in graduate
preparation activities and knowledge scores was not significant (r = .057, p = .165).
Additional correlations can be seen in Table 3-3.
Table 3-3 Intercorrelations Between Graduate Preparation Activities and Criteria
Preparation Clarity of
activities Efficacy Knowledge GPA Goals
Knowledge 0.06 0.02
GPA 0.33** 0.15** 0.08*
Clarity of Goals 0.35** 0.48** -0.01 0.13*
Descriptive Statistics Regarding Preparation
To assess student utilization of graduate preparation resources, given previous
research indicating student interest in additional guidance (Ogletree, 1999; Sheehan,
1994; Sheehan & Granrud, 1995) and the need for alternative mechanisms of guidance
(Buskist, 1999; Dodson, Chastain and Landrum, 1996, Neimeyer et al. 2004), we
conducted item analyses to examine student usage in our sample. Results revealed that
students interested in obtaining graduate school guidance were most likely to visit a
psychology department academic advisor or talk to a faculty professor (69%).
Approximately 50% of students in the current study had developed an ongoing
relationship with a faculty mentor and 41% had utilized a graduate preparation book to
gain information about graduate school preparation and application. Roughly 25% of
students in the sample had visited their university Career Resource Center or attended a
seminar or "getting into graduate school meeting". Less than 5% percent of students had
taken a graduate preparation course.
We also examined student membership and involvement in extracurricular graduate
school related preparation activities. Results indicated more than 68% of students had
completed at least one semester of research and 45% of students indicated they had or
planned to write a senior thesis, although only 17% of students had presented at a
conferences and less than 5% had been an author on a publication. In relation to student
involvement in psychology organizations, 51% of students indicated that they were
involved in Psi Chi and 36% were involved in the Psychology Club. Lastly, 29% of
students indicated they were involved in volunteering in the mental health community.
For a collective representation of these results see Table 3-4.
Table 3-4 Student Responses to Graduate Preparation Activities
Graduate Preparation Activities N Percentage of students
Visited your psychology department 590 69.5
Talked to your professors a few times 590 68.6
Developed an ongoing relationship 590 50.3
with a faculty advisor or mentor
Table 3-4 Continued
Graduate Preparation Activities
Read books on preparing for graduate
school in psychology
Visited your University Career
Have you taken or attended a seminar
or getting into graduate school
Have you taken or attended a
graduate preparation course?
Memberships and Qualifications
Have you been involved in at least
one semester of research?
Are you a member of Psi Chi?
Do you plan on writing a senior
Are you a member of the Psychology
Are you involved in volunteering in
the mental health community?
Have you presented at any
Do you have any publications?
N Percentage of students
The purpose of this study was to address the need for research examining
undergraduates' confidence and knowledge regarding graduate school preparation and
application, and the kinds of services students utilize to gain this information in a diverse
undergraduate psychology population. Consistent with previous research (Cashin &
Landrum 1991; Briihl 2001; Neimeyer et al. 2004) we found support for findings
suggesting undergraduates have widely variable levels of information regarding graduate
school preparation and application. Also consistent with Neimeyer et al. (2004), findings
indicated that this knowledge increases gradually as undergraduates approach graduation.
Findings from the current study also revealed that, consistent with higher levels of
knowledge, as undergraduates approach graduation they have higher levels of self-
reported confidence in relation to graduate school preparation and application. While the
current findings imply longitudinal changes in undergraduates' knowledge and
confidence in relation to the graduate school preparation process, a cautionary note must
be made when interpreting the results, given the cross-sectional nature of the current
In addition to finding general support for undergraduates' lack of adequate graduate
school knowledge, a number of additional findings emerged. First, findings indicated the
potential benefits of involvement in psychology-related extra curricular activities such as
Psi Chi. Student members not only felt significantly more efficacious in relation to
graduate school preparation and application, but also had significantly higher levels of
graduate preparation knowledge than students that were not involved in such activities.
One possible explanation for these findings is Psi Chi's commitment to making students
aware of the importance of getting involved with volunteer and research opportunities,
and making connections with graduate students and faculty (e.g. graduate student/faculty
talks, getting into graduate school seminars). Thus, these findings provide potential
support for having psychology departments encourage student involvement in such
Another interesting finding emerged in relation to clarity of goals. Findings
indicated that students' involvement in groups such as Psi Chi and Psychology club were
related to significant differences in students' clarity of goals. Members in these groups
were significantly more clear in their goals in relation to graduate school and careers in
psychology, again providing support for the potential benefits of membership in these
clubs. Additional findings supported the benefit of ongoing relationships with department
faculty. Findings indicated that having an ongoing relationship with psychology faculty
was significantly positively correlated with not only students' clarity of goals, but levels
of efficacy regarding graduate school preparation and application. These results support
the importance of opportunities for undergraduates to be involved in activities that
provide continuity regarding graduate school guidance, rather than the piecemeal fashion
of traditional methods (e.g. getting into graduate school meetings, isolated informal
contact with faculty) (Neimeyer et al. 2004).
Overall, the current study adds to the literature examining what undergraduates
know in relation to graduate school preparation and application, and the services they
utilize to gain this information, although limitations must be considered when examining
these results. Foremost among these limitations are the nature of the sampling procedure,
the self-report nature of the data, and the essentially correlational nature of the study.
A major limitation of the current investigation's sampling procedure is a lack of
published research on the process of online data collection and support for its validity and
reliability, in addition to the psychometric implications of changing a survey from
traditional paper-and pencil to an electronic format. Additionally, researchers have raised
concerns regarding the representativeness of the sample and the potential for selection
bias (e.g., only participants who have regular access to a computer). Lastly, participants
may not all be equally computer literate or have access to investigators for clarification of
confusing material, leaving questions open to interpretation and incorrect responding.
Investigators must also consider the issues of self-report in their interpretation of
the current study's results. One consideration is the evaluative nature of graduate
preparation, which may cause participants to present themselves as more efficacious,
prepared or involved in graduate preparation activities. This has the potential to distort
the actual nature of graduate preparation and involvement, and consequently the results
of our study. Lastly, while the correlational nature of the current study's findings suggest
possible relationships among preparation activities, clarity of goals and graduate
preparation efficacy and knowledge, they do not provide direct evidence of improved
graduate application materials or increased acceptance into graduate programs of choice.
Future research may benefit from examining graduate preparation in the context of more
behavioral indicators of success (e.g. admission offers).
Within the context of these limitations, the goal of this study has been to clarify the
nature of current graduate school preparation activities among undergraduate psychology
majors, to assess the relationship among graduate preparation variables, and to support
further work in this area. As interest in graduate work in psychology continues to
increase, the value of a better understanding of the processes and procedures of graduate
preparation will increase, as well. The current work hopes to draw attention to this issue
and encourage further work along these lines.
University of Florida
Department of Psychology
PO Box 112250
Gainesville, FL 32611
April 21, 2004
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Geoffrey Lee and I am a first year counseling student in the counseling
psychology doctoral program at the University of Florida. I am currently conducting a
study of graduate preparation under the supervision of Dr. Greg Neimeyer. Given the
competitiveness of graduate school admissions in psychology, it is becoming increasingly
important for students to be adequately prepared. As students face the preparation process
for graduate school, they are often uninformed about where to begin to develop an effective
application package and how to get into the graduate program of their choice. Related to
these concerns, the current study's goal is to assess the national levels of readiness among
undergraduates for graduate study in psychology. We would like to offer students the
opportunity to participate in our study. If interested, they can complete the "Grad Prep
Quiz," a 15-minute online survey assessing graduate school readiness. At the completion of
the study, they will have an opportunity to view the answers to the multiple-choice section
of the quiz and see how much they know in relation to graduate school in psychology. In an
effort to ensure student privacy, all participant information will be collected and coded in
manner both confidential and anonymous. We hope to utilize the information we receive
from students to offer new methods for providing adequate information and guidance for
undergraduate psychology majors as they prepare for graduate study and careers in the
Enclosed, as an attachment to this letter is a message we would like you to send out to your
university's psychology student listserv so that we might offer students a chance to
participate. If you feel this is a worthwhile project, your support of our project would be
greatly appreciated. Our study has been IRB approved by the University of Florida
Institutional Review Board. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you for your time and consideration.
INFORMED CONSENT, DEMOGRAPHIC AND SELF EVALUATION
INSTRUMENT, AND GRADUATE PREPARATION SURVEY
This is a study conducted by Geoff Lee, a graduate student from the Department of
Psychology at the University of Florida. As a part of a research project under the
supervision of Dr. Greg Neimeyer, I am conducting a study about undergraduate
psychology majors in relation to their interest in, and preparation regarding, application to
graduate study in psychology.
The procedure will entail the completion of a survey assessing student's knowledge base
regarding the graduate school application process and the different components
involved in graduate study in psychology, the financial aspects, acceptance criteria, and
distinctions between different graduate programs in psychology.
Participants must be at least 18 years old to participate in this study.
The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Participation in this research
project is voluntary. You do not have to answer any questions you do not wish to answer,
and you are free to withdraw your consent and to discontinue your participation at any time
There are no anticipated risks or direct benefits from your participation in this study, apart
from reflecting on your experience. The measures will be kept secure and only accessible
to GeoffLee and his supervisor, Greg J. Neimeyer, Ph.D. Individual scores will be kept
confidential to the extent provided by law through a numerical coding system. Individual
data will not be shared and completed questionnaires will be kept in a password protected
computer file in the Psychology Department at the University of Florida.
This study has been approved by the University of Florida Institutional Review
Board IRB # 2004-U-269.
Questions concerning your rights as a research participant can be directed to the UFIRB,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611-2250.
If you have any questions about this study please contact Geoff Lee,
Graduate Preparation Survey
Age Sex: M F
Ethnicity African American Asian Hispanic Caucasian Other
If you classify yourself as other, please explain
Year in School Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Overall GPA: (e.g. 3.50)
Are you planning to go to graduate school in psychology?
Yes No Undecided
If yes, are you considering pursuing a
Masters degree M.S. or M.A. or Doctoral Degree Ph. D Psy. D
If yes, what are of study are you planning to do graduate work in?
If no, what do you plan to do after graduating with your B.S.
Have you taken or attended a graduate preparation course Yes No
Have you taken or attended a seminar or getting into graduate school meeting?
If yes, please explain
In preparing for graduate school in psychology, which of the following have you
done? Check all that apply.
Visited your psychology department academic advisor
Read books on preparing for graduate school in psychology
Talked to your professors a few times
Visited your University Career Resource center
Have an ongoing relationship with a faculty advisor or mentor
Are you a member of Psi Chi or the Psychology Club at your University?
Psi Chi Yes No
Psychology Club Yes No
How semesters of research have you completed?
Are you involved in volunteering in the mental health community?
Do you plan on writing a senior thesis? Yes No
Do you have any publications? Yes No
If yes, how many ?
Have you presented at any conferences? Yes No
If yes, how many ?
How clear are your career goals in relation to your post graduate plans in
very unclear 1 2 3 4 5 very clear
For the first ten items, please rate how confident you are in relation to each of the
following aspects of graduate school preparation and application.
Not Confident 1 2 3 4 5 Highly
1. Are you confident that you can write an effective personal statement for your
application to graduate school?
2. Do you know what information your resume' should contain?
3. Do you know who to ask for letters of recommendation, and the kind of information
those letters should contain?
4. Do you know how to get to the "interview" stage in the graduate admission's
5. Have you ever been interviewed over the telephone?
6. Can you identify at least five questions you will likely be asked during
7. Do you know how to assess your strengths and to find the best graduate program for
8. Do you know how to find out about various funding options, like graduate
assistantships, fellowships or scholarships?
9. Can you identify three or more things you can do after you submit your applications that
can substantially improve your chances of getting admitted?
10. Can you identify three or more differences between clinical and counseling
11. Which of the following best describes the differences) between a Ph.D., and a Psy.D.?
a. a Ph.D. is a research degree and a Psy.D. is a practice degree
b. a Ph.D. program can be APA-approved whereas a Psy.D. cannot
c. a Ph.D. can be licensed to practice psychology but a Psy.D. cannot
d. all of the above
12. Which of the following is the most likely starting salary for a beginning professor in
a. $45,000 b. $55,000
c. $65,000 d. $75,000
13. Approximately what percentage of undergraduates in psychology go on
to complete a graduate degree in the field?
a. 10% b. 20%
c. 33% d. 50%
14. On average, doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology accept what
percentage of their overall applicant pool in any given year?
a. roughly 3% b. roughly 10%
c. roughly 30% d. roughly 60%
15. The average GPA of all incoming doctoral students in all areas of psychology is
a. 3.3 b. 3.5
c. 3.7 d. 3.9
16. What percentage of clinical and counseling psychologists go into private practice?
a. 25% b. 40%
c. 65% d. 80%
17. Which of the following courses is required by the greatest number of doctoral
programs in clinical psychology prior to applying for graduate study?
a. statistics b. experimental methods/research design
c. abnormal psychology/psychopathology d. history and systems in psychology
18. For doctoral programs in clinical psychology, which of the following factors is viewed
as the most important type of undergraduate preparation
a. computer knowledge and skills b. human service experience
c. research experience d. Psi Chi membership
19. Out of all the doctoral degrees in psychology awarded each year, Social Psychology,
Developmental Psychology, and Experimental Psychology each generate about the same
percentage; what percentage is that?
a. 3% b. 7%
c. 15% d. 20%
20. The average GRE scores of first-year graduate students in psychology in master's
program are whereas the average scores for doctoral programs are
a. 880; 1290 b. 1010; 1340
d. 1033; 1206
21. On average, APA-approved doctoral programs in clinical psychology receive about
applications per year
a. 85 b. 135
22. Which of the following types of programs has the strongest demonstrated commitment
to multicultural issues?
a. clinical psychology
c. school psychology
b. counseling psychology
d. cognitive psychology
23. Regarding financial aid, approximately percent of Psy.D. students receive
assistantship or fellowship support, compared to roughly percent of Ph.D. students
a. 35%; 90%
b. 50%; 50%
c. 50%; 70% d. 60%; 40%
24. If you wanted to become licensed to practice psychology you could you complete your
degree in all of the following areas except
a. Psy.D. in clinical psychology
c. Ph.D. in industrial/organizational
b. Ph.D. in school psychology
d. In any of these areas
25. The average amount of time it takes to complete a doctoral degree in psychology, after
completing the bachelor's degree, is approximately
26. If the Department of Psychology were to offer a special "Grad Track" program as part
of your undergraduate degree that was specifically designed to help prepare you for
graduate study in psychology, would you be interested in it taking it?
Very Uninterested 1
c. 1196; 1278
5 Very Interested
LIST OF REFERENCES
Arnold, K. & Horrigan, K. L., (2002) Gaining admission into the graduate program of
your choice. Eye on Psi Chi, 7, 30-33.
Briihl, D. S. (2001). Life after college: Psychology students' perceptions of salary,
business hiring criteria, and graduate admission criteria. North American Journal
ofPsychology, 3, 321-330.
Buskist, W. (1999). Teaching an undergraduate course in preparing for graduate study in
psychology. Teaching ofPsychology, 26, 286-288.
Cashin, J. R., & Landrum, R. E. (1991). Undergraduate students' perceptions of graduate
admissions criteria in psychology. PsychologicalReports, 69, 1107-1110.
Johanson, J. C., & Fried, C. B. (2002). Job training versus graduate school preparation:
Are separate educational tracks warranted? Teaching ofPsychology, 29, 241-243.
Keith-Spiegel, P., Tabachnick, B.G., & Spiegel, G. B. (1994). When demand exceeds
supply: Second-order criteria used by graduate school selection. Teaching of
Psychology, 21, 79-81.
Landrum, R. E., Jeglum, E. B., & Cashin, J. R. (1994). The decision-making processes of
graduate admission committees in psychology. Journal of Social Behavior and
Personality, 9, 239-248.
McDonald, D. G. (1997). Psychology's surge in undergraduate majors. Teaching of
Psychology, 24, 22-26.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2001). Digest of education statistics. Chap. 3.
Retrieved April 28, 2004, from
A National Organization for Research at University of Chicago. (2001). The survey of
earned doctorates (SED). Retrieved July 14, 2004, from
Neimeyer, G. J. (2003). The GradPrep Quiz. Unpublished manuscript, University of
Florida at Gainesville, FL.
Neimeyer, G. J., Lee, G. A., Saferstein, J. & Pickett, Y. (2004). Effects of a graduate
preparation program on undergraduate psychology majors. Teaching of
Psychology, 31, 247-252.
Olgetree, S. M. (1999). Improving career advising: Responding to alumni surveys.
Journal ofInstructional Psychology, 26, 42-45.
Sheehan, E. P. (1994). A multimethod assessment of the psychology major. Teaching of
Psychology, 21, 74-78.
Sheehan, E. P., & Granrud, C. E. (1995). Assessment of student outcomes: Evaluating an
undergraduate psychology program. Journal ofInstructional Psychology, 22, 366-
I was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 15, 1981. I have lived in Seattle,
Washington; Las Vegas, Nevada; and more recently, the Florida Keys. I lived in the
Florida Keys until I went to the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. I graduated
in August of 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. After graduation, I
remained in Gainesville and continued my education as a post-baccalaureate student in
the Department of Psychology conducting research and taking graduate coursework. I
also worked as the coordinator of a multi-site study investigating the quality of life of
caregivers of bone marrow transplant survivors for the Department of Hematology and
Oncology in Shands Hospital at the University of Florida.
I began my graduate education in the Department of Psychology at the University
of Florida as a counseling graduate student in August of 2004. I completed my Master of
Science degree in August of 2005.