The Looking Glass

The Looking Glass

The Department of Psychology


Dr. David Perrott

Are you thinking about a career in psychology? Will, you need a Ph.D. from a "real" university or will that school advertised on the match book cover do? Well if you want a career in psychology and you have reason to believe that a Ph.D. from a recognized institute of higher learning is mandatory, then you are in luck, your chances are substantially better here than at most programs, UCLA not excepted. Big words huh?

We once tried to get a complete list of former students who left the Psychology Department at CSLA for "real" Ph.D. programs since the program was first established. That attempt (in the late 1970's) produced a list of approximately 120 names. My own personal list, which includes students that had spent one or more years in the Psychoacoustics Laboratory, is in excess of seventy students. Of those that I have been able to track, 95% have obtained their Ph.D. It is also worth noting that the "schools" represented are among the "best" (UC Berkeley, UCSD, Stanford, UCLA, Michigan, U Chicago, Oxford, Cal Tech, MIT, etc.) along with the just "excellent" (i.e., USC, UC Riverside, U Arizona, UCSB, UCSC, U Florida, Florida State Univ., etc.) and, of course, the "good" (U Georgia, Georgia State, Kent State, etc.). the point of all this is simply that the CSLA Psychology Department has a very successful record in the promotion of students into doctorate programs. How successful? I estimate that a minimum of 300 individuals have gone on - and most have succeeded in obtaining a Ph.D. To put it all in perspective, such numbers would represent 10% of the total national production for 1995 or, more significantly, approximately 1% of all the Ph.D.s in Psychology over the last 30 years. One Percent! Considering the number of colleges and universities in the country with undergraduate programs in psychology, in excess of 3000 schools, 1% of the Ph.D. pool having received part of their training at CSLA is nothing less than remarkable.

" Luck" builds "luck", that is to say Ph.D. program administrators who have been pleased with one of our students are generally "more" likely to consider taking another one. Case in point: My first student to go to Berkeley had an excellent track record (G.P.A. & G.R.E. plus publications), yet getting in was a "bitch". You see, they just didn't know exactly how to evaluate his CSLA record but when he became one of their better doctoral students - ah! The second student proved that the first was not a fluke. The third student had a dismal undergraduate record, indeed he needed a "special admissions waver" just to start our master's program. Ironically, this student with a G.P.A. less than 2.5, gained entrance to Berkeley far more readily than the first one had. The fact that this "late starter" blew the top off their curve (and finished in less than three years) really nailed down our reputation at Berkeley. It is not surprising then that this year yet another of our students has been accepted for doctoral training at Berkeley (alas, his record is so excellent that it wasn't a true test of the hypothesis). How long will this continue? I suspect as long as our graduates continue to do well as doctoral students. You see, institutions have memory and the students who have gone on before you have significantly improved your opportunities in the majority of cases.

How to take advantage of this situation? Well, scratch the idea that applying to Ph.D. programs is like buying a lottery ticket. Fifty applications are really little better than five. Going about it correctly is everything. There is a long list of do's and don'ts, far too many to list here. If your interested in learning more about the process, please feel free to come by my office for a discussion. I must warn you however, such a visit will be neither brief nor will I always say things that you might want to hear. I do not, for example, believe in those "stand alone" professional psychology "schools" like CSPP or the "Wright Institute". Hummm. Well, I can tell that some of you will not be coming after all. For the rest of you, come on by!


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