Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Grad School Rankings

How much do they matter? Who ranks schools reliably? What are typical criteria used to compare programs?

I have the APA publication Graduate Study in Psychology, but even with that it's hard to know where to apply. The schools I'm looking at (for a Social Psychology Ph.D. program) are Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, University of Connecticut, and Claremont Graduate University. Stanford is probably just wishful thinking. I'm thinking that I need to select a couple more (non so highly ranked) programs to apply to to maximize my chances of getting in somewhere.

For those of you already in grad school, do you have any advice to offer? Should I look at programs strictly based on the research interests of their faculty, or should I take the prestige of the university into account? I'm looking for a career in applied social psychology, not a professorship, but still. How much does rank matter?

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Top Five Psych GRE Study Tips

  1. Know the test - be familiar with the format and content of the test so that there are no surprises on exam day.
  2. Look at the big picture - don't get too bogged down in details while you are studying. The GRE psychology subject test is looking for a broad knowledge of the sub-disciplines and history of psychology.
  3. Take practice exams - c'mon, we all know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
  4. Play to your strengths - spend a lot of time studying the areas you are already strong in. You don't want to give away those easy points on the exam!
  5. Plan ahead - the GRE psychology exam is only offered three times per year. Make sure you plan ahead so that you have enough time (at least a few months!) to study before the exam.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Social Psychology Humor

Why did I become a social psychologist?
(Compiled from various sources -- graduate students, post-docs, Dialogue, etc.
NOTE: I received this in an email forward as a psychology undergrad. Enjoy!)
  • "I was forced into it" -- Kurt Lewin
  • "It's such a pain, it must be great" -- Leon Festinger
  • "I just like it, I don't know why" -- Robert Zajonc
  • "We are better than those cognitive people" -- Henri Tajfel
  • "The experimenter made me do it" -- Stanley Milgram
  • "I was sipping a double espresso while someone next to me was reading about social psychology" -- Stan Schacter
  • "Everyone else did" -- Solomon Asch
  • "I watched myself doing it for hours" -- Daryl Bem.
  • "My mom wanted me to be President and I said no. So then she asked..." -- Bob Cialdini
  • "Beats women's work And I like the power" -- Susan Fiske
  • "I'm just the kind of guy who does things like this" -- Lee Ross
  • "Lee does it because he likes it; I do it because of my circumstances" -- Dick Nisbett
  • "They threatened to lock me in my office and rip out my tongue with a pliers" -- Phil Zimbardo
  • "Didn't someone else get a real job?" -- John Darley & Bibb Latane
  • "I just wanted to finish something" -- Arie Kruglanski
  • "A very attractive women made many very persuasive arguments" -- Rich Petty
  • "Damn, I really wish I had" -- Tom Gilovich
  • "There wasn't a better alternative" -- John Thibaut
  • "It was the right thing to do" -- Dan Batson.
  • "My best friend is very bad at it. And everyone in my family likes it!" -- Abe Tesser
  • "It just sort of occurred to me" --Danny Kahneman
  • "It struck me as an interesting possibility" -- Hazel Markus
  • "I was trying to become anything BUT a social psychologist and then I got distracted" -- Dan Wegner
  • "Reasons? Yes, yes. I can think of reasons." -- Tim Wilson
  • "At first I wasn't sure. But then I discussed it with a couple of people and boom -- I loved it! " -- Gene Burnstein
  • "I didn't become a social psychologist. No, really. I didn't. I swear. It was someone else who LOOKS like me. Honest" - -Bella DePaulo
  • "I saw it as an ideal I ought to live up to" -- Tory Higgins
  • "I was at a social psychology conference and it seemed like the best way for me to fit in" -- Mark Snyder
  • "No reason. I really just wanted to and the award was an unexpected surprise!" -- Mark Lepper
  • "Because I needed to make some copies" -- Ellen Langer
  • "Someone called on a sunny day and asked what we thought of social psychology" -- Norbert Schwarz & Jerry Clore
  • "I liked it immediately!" -- John Bargh
  • "It seemed like a really good idea and not at all like a bad idea" -- John Cacioppo
  • "I was talking to a social psychologist one day and realized we had a lot in common" -- Donn Byrne
  • "I thought it would look good on my resume" -- Jim Tedeschi
  • "I knew I could succeed at it" - Al Bandura
  • "I always wanted to join a collective" - Shinobu Kitayama
  • "I stared and stared at it and it just would not go away" -- Phoebe Ellsworth
  • "Chicks dig it" -- David Buss
  • "I must have been drunk" -- Mark Zanna.
  • "Ask Leon" -- Eliot Aronson
  • "I looked in the mirror and saw the face of a social psychologist staring back at me" -- Bob Wicklund
  • "I have a theory about how that happened" -- Michael Ross
  • "The first social psychologist I ever met was a real looker" -- Elaine Hatfield
  • "Some Yankee said I could not do it" -- Dov Cohen
  • "Most of the variance associated with this decision is attributable to my perception of the field, but some is due to the field's perception of me and my perception of that perception" -- Dave Kenny
  • "It made us happy, so how could there be anything wrong with it?" -- Shelley Taylor and Jonathon D. Brown.
  • "It provided meaning and value to my existence and only this was able to prevent me from quivering like a blob of protoplasm at the grim specter of my death" -- Greenberg, Pyszczynski & Solomon.
  • "I had heard a lot of good things about it" -- Postman
  • "Everyone strongly advised me to do otherwise" -- Jack Brehm
  • "I guess there were fewer differences between me and social psychologists than between me and other people in general" -- John Turner
  • "I thought social psychology would complicate my life" -- Patricia Linville
  • "Shit happens" - Paul Rozin
  • "It was a lie I was comfortable living at that particular socio-historic-temporal locality" -- Kenneth Gergen
  • "First, let's define 'social psychologist' " -- Rom Harre

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What is Social Policy Research?

Wikipedia defines social policy as "guidelines for the changing, maintenance or creation of living conditions that are conducive to human welfare. [S]ocial policy is that part of public policy that has to do with social issues."

Organizations such as Social Policy Research Associates, The Urban Institute, MDRC, The Social Policy Research Institute, and numerous University-based research centers analyze public policy issues, evaluate programs, and work to inform the development of community programs. Many (if not most) social policy organizations are non-profit and nonpartisan.

They hire researchers (typically with PhDs) from a number of fields within the Social Sciences. Many organizations support and encourage their researchers in personal research projects and publications in addition to their research for the institute. Entry-level positions often fall into the category of "research assistant/associate," and involve supporting existing research projects through conducting survey research/interviews, analyzing statistical data, and assisting to prepare a project for publication.

Social policy research is an excellent option for those of you who, like me, love to research, but aren't quite so keen on teaching. There are options outside of academia!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Study Schedule - Part 1

Well, to break down my studying into manageable chunks, I'm working on one sub-discipline each week. I start the week by reading the applicable chapters in my Intro to Psych textbook (Psychology by David G. Myers), then I read the applicable chapter in my Kaplan GRE Psychology book. As I progress through those two texts I note key words and concepts (writing them down in a separate notebook). When I have time (and texts) I'm supplementing this with textbooks from my college psychology courses. My first three weeks look like this:

Week 1: Social Psychology
Week 2: Personality Psychology
Week 3: Psychopathology

I'll keep updating this schedule, and I've been researching other study guides, so if I select one of those, I'll post a review.

Monday, January 21, 2008

One year from now...

To tell you a little about myself, I am a 27 year-old administrative assistant at a university in the Central Coast region of California. I graduated from college in 2003 with a BA in Psychology. I am now beginning the process of pursuing a graduate degree. Specifically, I'm aiming for a Ph.D. in Social Psychology. Someday, I would like to conduct research for a social policy research institute. But that's a long way away. This blog will detail my progress as I study for the GREs (Psychology subject test and General), research graduate programs, fill out applications, write personal statements, and hopefully actually start grad school in Fall 2009.

In reading the blogs of other grad students (or grad school applicants), I've noticed that a large group of us are not represented. You may notice from my introductory paragraph above that I received my Bachelor's Degree almost five years ago. What have I been doing since then? Working, exploring my educational options, supporting my partner in finishing her degree. The point is, I did not go straight from an undergraduate to a graduate program. Judging from the blogs out there, I seem to be a rarity. But it seems to me that there must be at least a handful of others out there in the same position. So I'm writing this for all of us. My hope is that others who are in the same position can look here for support and tips on attacking the grad school application process.

So one year from now, if all goes according to plan, I will have submitted my last application, and I'll be watching the mail every day for the acceptance letters that are bound to start pouring in. Grad school here I come!
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