Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to take the GRE?
The GRE general test (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing) is optional for all applicants for the 2020 application deadline. The Advanced test in Psychology or a related field is recommended but not required. TOEFL scores are suggested for international applicants only.
Do I need to take specific courses before applying to the doctoral program?
We do not require applicants to have taken specific courses or to have pursued particular majors before applying. However, part of the evaluation of readiness for graduate school is whether the applicant has the undergraduate background appropriate for their intended area of study. While many of our graduate students have an undergraduate major in psychology, many others have undergraduate majors in cognitive science, neuroscience, biological science, or computer science.
Do you offer a Masters Degree?
The Department of Psychology and Human Development offers a Masters of Education in Child Studies. The doctoral program in Psychological Sciences admits students who intend to earn a Ph.D. Some students in the program do attain a Masters Degree on the way to earning the Ph.D. However, students who are only interested in a Masters Degree should not apply to Psychological Sciences.
Do you have a Counseling Psychology program?
Psychological Sciences has a doctoral program in Clinical Science only. The Department of Human and Organizational Development at Peabody College has a Masters program in Human Development Counseling with specialization in community counseling and school counseling (http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/x3676.xml).
What is the difference between the Neuroscience area in the Psychological Science Graduate Program and the Neuroscience Graduate Program?
Vanderbilt offers two graduate pathways for those interested in studying neuroscience. The Psychological Science graduate program includes a Neuroscience area with faculty who use nonhuman primate animal models.
The Neuroscience Graduate program (https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/brain-institute/) consists of two cohorts of students. One cohort that is interested in cognitive and systems level questions is admitted directly into the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Many of these graduate students are mentored by faculty in the Department of Psychology. The second cohort that is interested in cellular and molecular level questions is admitted by the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/igp/faculty-currently-accepting-students-open-lab-list). Nearly all of these graduate students are mentored by faculty in the School of Medicine or Department of Biological Sciences.
You can apply to both the Psychological Science graduate program and the Neuroscience Graduate program, but you can be admitted to only one program. Nearly all of the faculty in the Department of Psychology are mentors in the Neuroscience Graduate Program, so you can work with our faculty through either graduate program. Here is the list of faculty mentors in the Neuroscience Graduate Program: https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/brain-institute/people/vbi-training-faculty.
Key differences between the Psychological Science graduate program and the Neuroscience Graduate program include the following:
- Duration and sources of stipends
- In the Neuroscience Graduate Program students are supported for only 2 years before they must complete their qualifying examination and transition to support by a faculty mentor.
- In the Psychological Science Graduate program students can be supported for up to 5 years through teaching assistantships. Most students transition to individual fellowships for research grant support.
- Qualifying examination structure
- The Neuroscience Graduate Program administers the qualifying exam after 2 years. It consists of a very brief survey of the research domain and an oral test administered by a committee that does not include your mentor and may not include any member of the your dissertation committee.
- The Psychological Science Graduate program administers the qualifying exam after 3 years. It consists of a substantive literature review and an oral examination by your dissertation committee that includes your mentor.
- Laboratory Rotations
- The Neuroscience Graduate Program expects but does not require laboratory rotations during the first year.
- The Psychological Science Graduate program expects students to begin research in the mentor’s laboratory in the first year.
- Teaching experience
- The Neuroscience Graduate Program offers limited teaching experiences. Graduate students who are supported by University funds are required to serve as a TA for one semester.
- The Psychological Sciences Graduate Program offers more teaching experiences. All graduate students are required to serve as a TA for at least 2 semesters, and many serve more depending on the student’s goals and laboratory.
Where does Educational Neuroscience fit in all this?
Educational Neuroscience is a branch of the Neuroscience graduate program focused in the Peabody College of Education. So, if you are interested in the application of Neuroscience techniques to education you should consider this program. Faculty from the Psychology program, along with the medical school and other departments at Peabody College such as special education participate in this program. For more information: https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/brain-institute/educational-neuroscience and http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/research/pro/vanderbilt_research/educational_neuroscience.php
Where does Law and Neuroscience fit in all this?
Select students can earn a joint JD/PhD degree. They must be admitted independently to the Vanderbilt Law School and to the Neuroscience Graduate Program. More information is available at this website: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/neurolaw/jdphd.php
I see that Psychological Sciences is a joint program between two departments, the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Science and the Department of Psychology and Human Development in Peabody College. Do I need to apply to a specific department?
Students apply to the joint doctoral program in Psychological Sciences.
Am I admitted to work with a specific professor?
Officially, students are admitted into the doctoral program in Psychological Sciences and by a specific department. However, we weigh heavily the match between applicant interests and those of members of the faculty. Applicants should discuss their areas of research interest in their statement of purpose. Applicants are encouraged to identify particular faculty they might be interested in working with.
What factors determine whether I will be admitted?
Several factors weigh heavily into admissions decisions: (1) undergraduate GPA, (2) GRE scores, (3) the undergraduate institution, (4) letters of recommendation, (5) prior relevant research experience, (5) match between interests of the student and members of the faculty, and (6) whether those faculty are currently admitting new students into their laboratories.
Will I have an opportunity to visit?
After our initial review of applications, we typically invite in for visits those applicants whom we have decided to admit or are strongly considering for admission. Such visits give the applicant time to meet with faculty and graduate students, view the research facilities, and see the Vanderbilt campus and the city of Nashville. Visits typically take place between early February and early March. We recognize that international applicants may not be able to visit, in which case we have numerous email and telephone exchanges with the applicant. With the exception of international students, it is unlikely that we would admit someone who had not been invited for a visit.
Why might good students not be admitted?
Unfortunately, each year many good applicants are not admitted to our program for a variety of reasons. We often have more qualified applicants than we have admission slots. Sometimes the research interests of the applicant do not match those of our faculty. Other times, faculty who might have matching research interests are not currently taking new graduate students.
Do you offer financial aid?
Every student is admitted with funding that includes a 9 month stipend, tuition remission, and health insurance. Funding sources include fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, training grants, and individual predoctoral fellowships. Students are often funded from a variety of sources during their graduate careers. Students who remain in good standing are guaranteed funding for five years. While summer support is not guaranteed, most graduate students receive some kind of support during the summer months. We also strongly encourage all graduate students to apply for their own external support from NSF, NIH, NSRC, and other agencies.