Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program


Information for Applicants

Application Process

Forms and applications can be found on the SMU Graduate Studies website. All applications go through Graduate Studies and are submitted online. The deadline for applications to the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program is December 1. Forms can be found here.

Once applications are received by the Office of Graduate Studies, they are forwarded to the Department of Psychology. The admissions committee, which consists of the Directors of Graduate Studies and several other faculty members, reviews every application. Applicants that appear to be a good "match" with the program are invited to the interview weekend (usually held sometime in February). After the interviews, the admissions committee and faculty make decisions about which applicants will be offered acceptance into the program. Applicants receive information from the Directors of Graduate Studies regarding that decision (acceptance, wait-list, or non-acceptance) shortly after the interviews. All offers of admission are contingent upon the results of a routine criminal background check. Applicants who have been accepted into the program have until April 15 to inform the program of their decision, although they are encouraged to do so as quickly as possible so that applicants on the wait-list may be offered acceptance if slots open.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some questions frequently asked by applicants. Please review these and, if you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

How are admissions decisions made?

We typically have many more candidates apply for admission than we can admit. Admissions decisions are made by a committee, which is comprised of faculty members from the Department of Psychology. The committee considers a number of things in making these decisions, including applicant GRE scores, undergraduate GPA, recommendation letters, applicant interests and goals, and research experience.

Successful candidates are those who appear to be a good "fit" or "match" with the program and with the lab of a specific faculty member who would be the applicant's research mentor during his/her tenure in the program. That is, the interests and goals of the successful candidate will match those of the program and of a potential Faculty Advisor. Similarly, academic qualifications and experiences indicate the likelihood of success in the program and in the research lab of the candidate's likely Faculty Advisor.

You will complete one application to the Ph.D. program, which is sent to the Graduate Office by December 1. In your personal statement within that application, you should identify two faculty members in the department who you perceived as a good fit for your interests and experience. There is no separate application for this "match".

What can I do to determine if the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at SMU is a good match for me?

Prospective applicants should read over the information found on this website. It is especially important to consider whether or not our mission statement matches your training goals and whether the research of at least one of our faculty members matches your own interests.

As indicated in our mission statement, our goal is to provide students with high-quality research and clinical training. Because of our program’s commitment to research training and the extensive research requirements, applicants with little or no interest in developing research skills or conducting research will not find our program a good fit. Similarly, because we are serious about providing students with training in scientifically-based clinical practice skills, applicants with no interest in developing such skills will not find our program a good fit.

"Fit" of interests with a specific faculty member is an important criterion when the program makes admissions decisions. Students in our program are assigned a Faculty Advisor who serves as the student’s research mentor. Many student research activities are completed with the Faculty Advisor. For example, student-directed research projects (e.g., first-year project, thesis, dissertation) are typically conducted on a topic in which the Faculty Advisor has expertise and can help guide the student. Students assist their Faculty Advisors in conducting research and typically co-author papers with their Faculty Advisor, which are presented at conferences and published in professional journals. It is extremely important for prospective applicants to make sure that there is at least one faculty member in our department conducting research in an area that she/he would also like to conduct research.

Is the program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA)?

Our doctoral program in Clinical Psychology has been accredited by the American Psychological Association for a five year period, effective May 19, 2009. The next cycle for APA program review is 2014.

APA Contact Information:

American Psychological Association
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
750 First Street, NE . Washington, DC . 20002-4242
Phone: 202-336-5979 . TDD/TTY: 202-336-6123 . Fax: 202-336-5978

How many students are admitted into the program each year?

We typically admit 4-6 students each year.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The program is designed to take 5-6 years to complete, with the final year being the student's clinical internship.

Is there any financial aid available to students in the program though SMU?

Yes. Students enrolled in the program receive a tuition waiver (i.e., they do not have to pay tuition). Students also receive a 12-month teaching assistantship, renewable for up to four years. The stipend will be $17,000 for the 2014-2015 academic year. Alternatively, students may receive a stipend through a grant or fellowship, either one that they apply for themselves or a grant for a specific research study that has been awarded to their Faculty Advisor.

Which SMU faculty members can serve as my Faculty Advisor?

Any tenured or tenure-track faculty member can serve as a Faculty Advisor, with the exception of Drs. Hampson and Rosenfield, who do not act as the primary research mentor for graduate students. Lecturers, Research Faculty, and Adjunct Faculty do not serve in this role to Ph.D. students at SMU.

It is important to recognize that, for a variety of reasons, not all of our tenured and tenure-track faculty advise new students (admit new students into their research labs each year). If you are interested in working with a particular SMU faculty member, it might be worthwhile to contact that faculty member before you apply and ask if she/he plans to advise an incoming Ph.D. student during the next academic year.

What is the timeline for making admissions decisions?

The application deadline is December 1 for those seeking admission in the fall of the next year. We begin reviewing applications shortly after the deadline and make decisions about which candidates we wish to interview in late January or early February. Interviews are conducted in February, and admissions decisions are made a couple weeks after all of the interviews are complete.

Is the campus interview required?

We strongly recommend that all candidates invited to interviews visit our campus, view our facilities, and meet with potential faculty advisors. We host an “interview weekend” in February, and we believe this is a very helpful experience for applicants in deciding whether SMU is the right place for them. If an applicant cannot visit the campus during interview weekend, we will make arrangements for a visit at another time. Phone interviews can be conducted, but campus visits are strongly recommended.

How important are GRE scores and what GRE scores do I need to get into the program?

GRE scores are important, but as indicated above, many other things also are considered in admissions decisions. In general, higher GRE scores are viewed more favorably than lower GRE scores, but high GRE scores do not guarantee admission. We aim to admit classes with an average GRE score (verbal and quantitative) of at least 1300.

Do I need to take the GRE before I apply?

Yes. Your application will not be evaluated without recent GRE scores (scores from within the last 5 years). The Psychology Subject GRE is not required. If you have taken the GRE more than once, we will consider the highest scores.

How important is my undergraduate GPA and how high does it have to be for me to get in?

The undergraduate GPA is important. However, we recognize that GPAs vary quite a bit depending upon the particular institution attended, the particular courses taken, etc. Undergraduate GPAs are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but our successful candidates typically have very high GPAs (over 3.5 on a 4.0 scale).

Do I need to have an undergraduate degree in Psychology?

While we do not require an undergraduate degree in psychology, some psychology coursework is helpful. In addition, because the program has a strong research emphasis, which includes a quantitative component, college-level math and statistics courses also can be helpful.

Do I need letters of recommendation from psychologists?

Although three letters of recommendation are required for admission, it is not required that you obtain letters of recommendation from psychologists. However, it is highly recommended that at least one letter (if not more) is from a doctoral level psychologist who is conducting research and who can comment knowledgeably about your potential as a researcher.

What is necessary in terms of research experience?

Research experience is extremely important. Successful applicants typically have worked in a psychology research lab (often as a volunteer) for at least two semesters. Some of the students admitted into our program have had extensive research experience and have already co-authored research papers that have been presented at national conferences or published in professional journals. Although presenting/publishing a research paper is not a prerequisite for admission (indeed, most successful applicants have not already published a paper), some research experience is expected.

What do you look for in an applicant's research experience?

This is a difficult question to answer, because different faculty members focus on different things. In general, experience with different aspects of the research process (e.g., participant recruitment, data collection, reviewing the literature, writing up research results) is viewed positively.

Do I have to have research experience with a clinical psychologist?

No. The research experience can be with psychologists in other disciplines (e.g., biopsychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology). It can also be with professionals in disciplines other than psychology (e.g., psychiatry, public health, social work).

Your Mission Statement emphasizes clinical training as well as research training. What is necessary in terms of clinical experience?

We assume that most applicants to our program will not have much formal clinical experience. This is because it is often difficult for undergraduate students to obtain these experiences. It is considered a plus if a candidate has had some exposure to a clinical/help-seeking population prior to applying to graduate school (this may occur through an applicant’s research experience or through volunteer work). It is also considered a plus if a candidate has had some exposure to questionnaires or tests that are sometimes used in clinical practice (or in efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of clinical practice). However, neither of these experiences is required.

Can I be admitted in the spring semester?

No. All admissions decisions are made during the spring semester for students beginning in the fall semester.

Can I be admitted as a part-time student?

No. Our program is for full-time students only.

What if I only want a Master's degree?

You should not apply to the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at SMU if you want a terminal Master’s degree. You will not be qualified to sit for licensing exams for Master’s level counselors (e.g., Licensed Professional Counselor Exam) if you enroll in SMU’s Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, but terminate after the Master’s degree.

Do I need a Master's Degree before I can gain admittance into the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at SMU?

No. Students in the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology can obtain a Master's Degree en route to the Ph.D. Almost all of the candidates accepted into our program are accepted with only a bachelor's degree.

I have completed my Master's Degree at another institution. Will my Master's coursework and thesis count toward my Ph.D. at SMU?

These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and they are made after an individual has been admitted into the program. However, students entering the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology with a Master’s degree should still plan to take approximately 5-6 years to complete the program. This is because much of the time spent in the program is spent on completing the research requirements, and it is unlikely that the department will exempt a student from these.

Where do you expect your graduates to be employed after obtaining their Ph.D.?

We expect graduates from our program to seek employment in a variety of academic and applied settings including universities and colleges, research institutes, hospitals, clinics, private practice, and government organizations.

Where can I found out about graduate programs in psychology in general?

A lot of useful information can be found on the internet about specific doctoral programs in clinical psychology. It might be useful to look at the training emphases of these programs and the research interests of faculty affiliated with these programs. Talk to psychology professors at your university or college and obtain their recommendations about programs and faculty with whom to work. There are books on graduate schools in psychology that can also be helpful (the American Psychological Association publishes books on this topic). If you have focused research interests, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the research literature in that area. This will give you an idea of who is publishing in an area that interests you and who might potentially be a good research mentor for you.