FAQs About Application to CCNL and UCLA Psychology
Applying to graduate school is a very different process than applying to other types of higher education programs such as law school or med school. It can seem like a mysterious, black-box type of system, and not every applicant has access to the same information about it. This is an effort to level the playing field and answer some questions I am commonly asked every year about applying to UCLA and to my lab. This information applies only to my lab, if you have questions about other programs, or other mentors at UCLA, it is best to reach out to them specifically.
Yes! I am hoping to enroll an incoming student to start in Fall 2022.
I primarily accept students who are applying to the UCLA Psychology Program Clinical Area. I have a secondary appointment in the Behavioral Neuroscience Area (BNS), which means I may occasionally be able to accept BNS or CNS students, depending on a number of factors including the number of BNS faculty taking students. I also hope in the near future to be able to take students from the Neuroscience IDP Program, which would include both graduate students and MD-Ph.D. students- if you are applying to this program and are interested in my lab, please contact me.
One of the most important parts of finding a graduate program is finding a mentor that is a “good fit”. In fact, the process of finding programs to apply to should be focused much more on the mentorship and training available in each program and how it fits your goals than on factors like perceived prestige of the university. You may be a wonderful, talented applicant, but if no faculty in a given program work in your area of interest you are unlikely to be accepted. Therefore, doing research on different potential mentors ahead of time is a critical part of the application process.
For my lab, I have a few things that usually indicate someone will be a good fit with the ongoing research, the goals of the lab, and my mentorship. Each applicant may not have all of them, but if none of these sound like you, a different lab may be a better fit.
- A strong interest in major mental illness, including, but not limited to, schizophrenia spectrum disorders. I understand not everyone has the opportunity have research or clinical experiences in this area, but it is important for me to understand why it is of interest to you, and that you are truly interested in working on this topic.
- An interest in neural and cognitive developmental changes across the lifespan, from childhood to young adulthood. Again, even if you have not had the opportunity for specific experience, help me understand your interest in this area of our work.
- Prior research experience is important. This may include undergraduate experience in a research lab, experience in lab courses, or post-bacc research assistant experience. The strongest applicants will have independent research experience– this might be a senior thesis, an undergraduate or post-grad project resulting in a poster or paper or talk, or another experience in which you were able to have a central role in design/analysis/interpretation of a project. Successful applicants to my lab typically have a few years of experience when applying. However, if there are reasons your access to research experience has been limited, please use your personal statement and letters to help me understand your individual interests, potential, and circumstances.
- Interest in a career in research on brain and cognitive function in schizophrenia and related disorders will result in the best match with my mentorship abilities and resources. These research goals may or may not be incorporated with clinical work, and may include a wide range of career paths. However, if your primary interest is in full time clinical work, there are likely to be other mentors who will be better able to support your career development.
While we have a variety of projects both ongoing and in development, our primary areas of focus are on adolescent psychosis, and subclinical psychosis in otherwise healthy individuals. You can read about individual current projects here.
I believe my role as a mentor is to help you develop into an independent scientist. I expect trainees to be able to take initiative and responsibility and an active role in their own learning, but at the same time I strive to be available to my students so I can help and guide them. I meet with students in standing once a week meetings throughout the calendar year, and can meet more or less depending on the ebb and flow of program and research demands. My goal is to create a positive, inclusive laboratory environment. For me, working with students and other trainees is one of favorite parts of my job.
Currently, the UCLA Psychology Graduate Program has made the GRE optional. You may take it, and you may include your scores, but your chances of admission will not change based on whether or not you have decided to send GRE scores. See: https://www.psych.ucla.edu/grads/prospective-students/application-instructions
The Psychology GRE is somewhat more complicated. It is also currently optional. However, once admitted to a Clinical Psych program, the Psychology GRE may be helpful to you, the APA has requirements for coursework that represents breadth across multiple domains of psychology- GRE scores above the 70th percentile can help towards (but are not necessary for) fulfilling those requirements- see UCLA Clinical Area Handbook for more details on this. Some students may therefore elect to take the Psychology GRE while their undergraduate coursework is “fresher”, although if you find it would be helpful for breadth requirements you may also take it after starting graduate school. Regardless, these scores, as with the regular GRE, will not impact admissions decisions.
It is required to include a transcript with your application. While GPA is considered, there is no “cut off”, we strive to consider the applications holistically. If there is some reason your GPA is low either overall or during a particular period of time, and you do not believe it represents your potential, you can address that in your statements or ask your letter writers to discuss it. You can see average GPAs for previous years here: https://ucla.app.box.com/s/1al48o4mrc2ugwa3w0wgv90ueun6f22l
It is very appropriate and important to learn about how funding works at different programs you are considering. You can see general information about funding at UCLA in the departmental admissions materials: https://www.psych.ucla.edu/grads/prospective-students/faq . Students who are US Citizens, permanent residents, DACA or have AB540s are guaranteed funding, either through fellowships or TAships, for all 6 years of the program. In CCNL, most students are funded through a combination of sources. This may include TAships, individual fellowships (such as NIH F31s or NSFs), positions on training grants, or other. There is substantial departmental support for students as they apply for these funding opportunities, including seeing successful applications, and panels about applying.
For international students, the first year of funding is covered through the department, but in the subsequent years, until the student advances to candidacy, the Non Resident Supplemental Tuition must be covered either by the mentor or by fellowships from the students home country. International students are eligible for some fellowships but not for federal funding such as NIH and NSF fellowships. More info here: https://grad.ucla.edu/admissions/international-applicants/
Yes, UCLA follows a Clinical Science training model, it is described here on the Clinical Area’s page https://www.psych.ucla.edu/grads/areas-of-study/clinical-psychology
You also can find more information about different models of clinical training here: https://psychologygradschool.weebly.com/types-of-programs.html
You may email Dr. Karlsgodt prior to applying, however this page is the best source of information about the lab and the program. Your chances of admission will not change based on whether you email ahead of applying.
No, due to the large volume of applications, Dr. Karlsgodt is not able to set up individual phone calls or video conferences with applicants prior to applying. As it is not possible to meet with all applicants, it is important to keep the process transparent and equitable, and not have meetings that are separate from the application process.
Your personal statement should help us get to know you, learn about your research experience, research, and goals, and understand why you would be a good fit for UCLA and CCNL. Things that will help get this across include:
- A clear direct statement of your overall research interests and how they relate to our lab goals and ongoing work
- A clear direct statement of why you are interested in CCNL, and Dr. Karlsgodt as a mentor, in particular. This may be because of research experiences, clinical experiences, your own life experience, or a combination of factors.
- An indication of why a clinical science model is a good match for you
- A discussion of your general career goals (with the understanding that they may change)
- Discussion of your experience with research- including collaborative experiences as well as independent experiences. What did you work on? Who did you work with? What did you learn? In particular, did you learn any skills? What did you enjoy about it? What did you take away from the experience?
- Discussion of any clinical experiences- because of the nature of our work I am interested in both experiences with patient populations as well as with children/adolescents. What populations did you work with and in what capacity? What did you learn? What did you enjoy? What did you take away from the experiences
There are a number of faculty in the Psychology Department and in the Clinical Area who have overlapping areas of research. If, as you learn about the different labs, you think that more than one has a match with your interests, then it is fine and even encouraged to list both mentors that are of interest to you, typically putting the mentor you most strongly interested in first. If you don’t have more than one mentor of interest, then it is also fine just to select one. If you put two mentors that have disparate areas of research in your application, it is important to explain in your personal statement why both were a match for you.
A curriculum vitae or CV is similar to a resume, but usually longer and more in depth. It lists your education, accomplishments, awards, grants, publications, presentations and so on. A CV is typically used in academic settings, rather than a resume. The APA has a nice page on How to Write a Strong CV and University of Nebraska-Lincoln has an example CV for psychology students. There are also numerous other resources on the internet.
There are a few different cases in which applicants may be eligible for fee waivers. One is through participation in special programs including but not limited to McNair Scholars, Gates Millennium Scholars, STAR (UCLA), UC LEADS and other programs. The other is need based fee-waivers, which are available to those currently enrolled in a college or university and who receive need based financial aid. For full details on fee waivers please see this page: https://grad.ucla.edu/admissions/faqs/
- UCLA Graduate Admissions: https://grad.ucla.edu/admissions/
- UCLA Psychology Admissions: https://www.psych.ucla.edu/grads/prospective-students/application-instructions
- UCLA Clinical Area Admissions: https://www.psych.ucla.edu/grads/areas-of-study/clinical-psychology/prospective-clinical-area-applicants
- “Mitch’s Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Psychology”: https://mitch.web.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/4922/2017/02/MitchGradSchoolAdvice.pdf
- Getting into Clinical Psych Grad School: https://clinicalpsychgradschool.org/
- Open Access Tips/Materials for Clinical Applications: https://mallorydobias.medium.com/open-access-tips-materials-for-clinical-psych-phd-applications-e9e81be3d132
- Types of Clinical programs: https://psychologygradschool.weebly.com/types-of-programs.html
- Not formally run by any particular program, and based on individual reports, so your mileage may vary, but many applicants use Grad Cafe: https://www.thegradcafe.com/