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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (GRE; TOEFL when relevant).
Although we require the GRE, we do 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
* good GRE scores; here note that (1) no members of our department utilize a strict GRE cut-off, and (2) there is substantial variation across faculty members in the extent and way in which GRE scores are used as part of the evaluation of applications.
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.
List of faculty who are not considering students for the upcoming admissions cycle