Social Work

Take the right courses, besides typical PSY courses (Intro, Research Methods, Stats)
  • Personality
  • Clinical
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Lab course in Clinical
  • Seminar in Clinical (Child Psychopathology, Measurement, Adult Psychopathology)
  • Often graduate schools will also like to see that you took challenging courses (e.g., math and science course).
It is critical to do well in your courses.
  • Overall GPA.
  • Psychology GPA minor (if you have one).
  • GPA last two years in college GPA.
  • Maintaining a high GPA from your freshman year on
  • If you do not get an A or B in a course you should probably repeat the course, especially if it was a Psychology course.
Get involved in research.
  • Get research experience and to show you are motivated to conduct research.
  • The research experience you get does not have to be in the exact area as that which you hope to be involved in graduate school.
  • Get even more involved in research by doing a Senior Honors thesis or some other research where you can get your name on a conference presentation or journal publication. This kind of recognition is rare for an undergraduate and will really boost your standing when you apply to graduate school.
  • You can get involved in research as part of Independent study course and thus earn credit hours and possibly increase your GPA if it counts as a graded course or volunteer.
  • An advantage to working in a lab is that you get to know a faculty member who can write you a strong letter of recommendation when you are ready to apply to graduate school. Given you need more than one letter of recommendation, it is probably best to work in two different labs as an undergraduate.
Do an internship.
  • By doing an internship you can again show your high level of motivation for social work.
  • This internship can be with an on-campus clinic/organization or off-campus clinic/organization dealing with mental health. 
Develop critical skills.
  • There are a number of skills you can develop in addition to what you learn in classes and by conducting research-- computers, writing, and oral communication skills.
  • This internship can be with an on-campus clinic/organization or off-campus clinic/organization dealing with mental health.
Be active in Psychology organizations.
  • This can include Psi Chi (the National Honor Society In Psychology) or any Psychology club on campus.
  • Once again, this involvement demonstrates a high level of motivation and interest in Psychology. Any involvement just adds to your overall record and makes you a more competitive applicant.
Get involved in extracurricular activities where you are working with others.
  • Among others, you can volunteer at a medical hospital, psychiatric hospital, group home, clinic, after-school program for children, or a research setting that involves clinical or child participants.
  • This involvement demonstrates a high level of motivation and interest in Psychology.
Get work experience in a clinical context if you can
  • It is not critical that you are employed in a clinical context, but if you can job experience is a real bonus.
Interact with your Professors.
  • It is very important that you start to interact with Professors right away. This can occur by making contributions in class or just going up to your Professors and having a conversation about issues in the field.
  • These interactions can lead to being able to work in a Professor’s research lab, hearing about job opening that may be available in the Psychology department, and letters of recommendations for graduate school.
  • Remember, if a faculty member does not really know you or had you in one class, there is a lower likelihood that the Professor will agree to write a letter for you or knows you well enough to write a letter.
  • There are two important things to keep in mind with regard to letters of recommendation. First, a short letter of recommendation from a faculty member who does not know you well can sometimes be worse than no letter at all. Second, it is almost always better to have a letter of recommendation from a full-time Professor than an Instructor. For better or worse, the former simply has higher status than the latter.