Are you OK living where a school is located?
Does a school offer a tuition waiver (i.e., free tuition) and a stipend (i.e., a fixed salary) for all the years you will be in school?
In my mind, you must try your best not to incur any debt when you are in Psychology graduate school. To accomplish this you need to make sure your school will pay your tuition and that you will receive a reasonable stipend for either being a teaching assistant or a research assistant. The latter will never be a huge amount, but it will cover most of your living expenses and keep you relatively debt free; a loan or two may still be necessary. The issue here is that when you graduate with your Ph.D., the salary you will earn for most psychology careers is not going to be huge. To see this more clearly check out the following link that appears on our website that appears on our website. One other point to keep in mind is that a graduate school may not be able to legally promise you tuition and a stipend for multiple years. It may be that you sign a contract each year with the unwritten understanding that if you are in good standing you will receive financial support.
What specific area of research are you interested in?
Who do you plan to work with during graduate school?
It is really a must to have done your homework and determine who you would like to be your mentor if you get accepted. To apply and not have this explicitly stated in your personal statement is to risk a quick exit from the selection process. The issue is really quite simple. A faculty member is more likely to push for selecting a student who has a clear interest in the faculty member’s research being conducted than a student who may look good on paper (e.g., good grades) but who has no clear research direction.
Finding a possible mentor can take two routes. Let’s say you are interested in cognitive psychology. First, you can check recent journals in cognitive psychology and find researchers who are conducting research that you find interesting. Then, go to the websites of these researchers and see if they say they are accepting new students. If there is no information about whether they are taking new graduate students, I think it is fine to send a quick email asking the faculty member what their plans are with regard to taking new students in the future. It might be that they are not accepting new students because their lab is filled or they have stopped being an active researcher (e.g., they plan on retiring). The key point here is that you only want to apply to work with someone if they are an active researcher and are open to taking new students.
The second way you can find a possible mentor is by going to the website of various schools. You can then read what researchers are at a particular school and determine if they are investigating topics you would like to pursue. One problem with taking this route is that it may not be clear if a faculty member is an active researcher. They might have a link to their vita, but you might need to do a little checking on a site like PsycInfo to see if the faculty member has recently published any articles or chapters. Again, you will need to do some checking to see if they are open accepting new graduate students. You can get more insight on these issues of faculty mentors by checking an excellent website on applying to graduate school in psychology here.