Admission and Requirements

Note:  The GRE will no longer be considered for admissions. If you have questions, please email our PhD Program Manager, Kevin Belt (

Below you will find information relevant for applying to the Psychology Department’s Ph.D. program. More general information about our Ph.D. program can be found under the Graduate Program tab on our website. A link to the application submission portal as well as a list of materials required for the application can be found here. We value diversity and inclusion and welcome applications from individuals who are members of groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

If you have questions about admissions and requirements that are not answered here, we encourage you to contact our Ph.D. Program Coordinator, Kevin Belt, at or (608) 262-2079.

About our review process

Once all applications have been received, they are made available to faculty for review. Faculty members consider multiple factors when evaluating applications. Of high importance are: (1) the fit between the applicant’s interests and the interests of the faculty member(s) in the department with whom the applicant would like to work; (2) the applicant’s motivation for research; and (3) the applicant’s likelihood of success in graduate school.

No singular piece of information tells the whole story of an applicant’s potential for graduate school. Thus, we practice holistic review in our admissions process. This means that faculty members consider a range of information including the applicant’s personal statement, letters of recommendation, research experience and work experience, grades, and test scores  TOEFL when relevant).

Although we previously required the GRE, we did not have a minimum standard or “cut-off”. For grades, we abide by UW-Madison’s minimum standard (see below). Most students admitted to our Ph.D. program were psychology majors as undergraduates, but we give full consideration to applicants with undergraduate majors in other relevant areas.

Advice about applying

Given the importance we place on fit between the applicant’s interests and the interests of faculty in the department, you should make yourself aware of faculty members’ research interests. Brief descriptions of Psychology Department faculty members’ interests can be viewed here; some affiliated faculty also review and accept graduate students in our program. You can also consult faculty members’ lab web pages and read their publications.

Each year a subset of faculty do not consider students for admission to their lab. You can see a list of unavailable faculty for the current application cycle at the bottom of this page.

In addition to familiarizing yourself with faculty members’ research interests and availability, you may also find it useful to consult with faculty and advisors at your current or previous academic institutions about the process of applying to graduate school. You can also explore the admissions webpage for the Graduate School at UW-Madison for tips about applying. Note that the Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee grants. You can read more about fee waivers here.

Requirements for admission

The Department of Psychology abides by UW-Madison’s requirements for admission to graduate programs. You can read complete information about those requirements here. The requirements concern acceptable degrees, grades, and English proficiency.

Information about our typical applicant pool

We receive applications from approximately 400 students each year to the Psychology Ph.D. program, of whom around 20 are admitted to the program. We note that the probability of admittance can differ substantially both from year to year (e.g., as a function of how many faculty members are accepting students into their labs in a given year), and from faculty member to faculty member (e.g., some faculty members might regularly have 6 or more graduate students in their lab simultaneously while others rarely have more than 2 or 3).

Sometimes students find themselves wondering about their “chances” of admission to our program. This is not something we can estimate prior to receiving the full set of applications for the year. Further, because we practice holistic review, there is not necessarily a “typical profile” for admitted students. Students have joined our department by following many different paths. Some students have completed undergraduate degrees at large research institutions; other students have completed their undergraduate degrees at smaller liberal arts institutions; others still have completed Master’s degrees prior to applying to our Ph.D. program. Many students’ undergraduate major was psychology. However, majors of other admitted students include linguistics, computer science, philosophy, neuroscience, and biology.

In general, though, students who are admitted to our program have a clear match in research interests with at least one faculty member who is admitting students for the upcoming year and meet several (though not necessarily all) of the following criteria:

* research experience, either past participation in psychology research labs or independent research such as a senior thesis; this can be evidence of motivation for, and likely future success in, research.

* a good academic record

*  good letters of recommendation from people who know the applicant well

Critically, high performance along a single dimension above does not guarantee acceptance. Further, low performance along a single dimension does not rule out acceptance. It is very much the entirety of the application that is considered.

Many of our faculty have provided additional information about how they evaluate prospective graduate students in the links below (if the faculty member has provided additional information, their name is a hyperlink that can be clicked on below). If you’re planning on applying to the program and listing one of those faculty members as your first choice advisor, you are highly encouraged to read through this additional information in order to ensure you are able to put together as strong an application as possible.

What does it mean that a faculty member is/isn’t considering graduate students for next year’s Fall class?

If a faculty member is listed as considering students, it means that they are reviewing applications for students that would start the next Fall.  This does not necessarily guarantee that the given faculty member will accept a student, but they will be considering all applicants.

If a faculty member is listed as not taking students, it means that they are not reviewing applications for students that would start the next Fall. Please DO NOT apply to/indicate a Faculty #1 preference for a faculty member who is listed as not taking students. 

Why does the application ask me to list up to 3 faculty members I’m interested in working with? Will my application be more likely to succeed if I list 3 people even if I’m only interested in 1?

You are allowed to list up to 3 possible faculty members, but you not required to list more than 1 faculty member.  Because our department largely admits by lab, prospective students frequently indicate only one faculty member, representing the single lab that they are hoping to join. Prospective students may want to list more than one faculty member if their research interests bridge 2 different faculty members (and thus they are hoping to be co-advised), or if their interests align very strongly with 2 or 3 independent faculty members.  We strongly suggest only listing those faculty members whose lab you would be strongly motivated to join (and where your applicant materials indicate this fact).


Faculty who ARE considering students for the Fall 2024 admissions cycle are listed below: (if the faculty member’s name is a hyperlink, it means they have provided additional information about how they evaluate prospective students)

Martha Alibali

Brooke Ammerman

Anthony Auger

Joe Austerweil

Craig Berridge

Nick Buttrick 

Richard Davidson

Stephen Ferrigno 

Morton Ann Gernsbacher

Diane Gooding

C. Shawn Green

Robert Hawkins

James Li

Seth Pollak

Brad Postle

Timothy Rogers

Jenny Saffran

Karen Schloss

Kristin Shutts

Kate Walsh


Faculty who ARE NOT considering students for the Fall 2024 admissions cycle are listed below: (please do not select any of these faculty members as your primary advisor choice in an application)

Lyn Abramson

Allyson Bennett

Markus Brauer

John Curtin

Patricia Devine

Demis Glasford

Judy Harackiewicz

Ryan Herringa

Morgan Jerald

Gary Lupyan

Catherine Marler

Paula Niedenthal

Carol Ryff

Yuri Saalmann

Katherine Schaumberg