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Queen's University
 

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Important Issues for Applicants

to Graduate Studies in Psychology

Deadline for Applications: DECEMBER 1st 

NOTE:  The General GRE scores are mandatory for all applications.  As of October 21, 2010 the Psychology Subject score is mandatory for ONLY the applicants who do NOT have an honours undergraduate degree in Psychology. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Being Accepted at Queen's

Reasonable GRE's and Grades

Refusal

Graduate Funding

Clinical Prerequisites

Grades from Around the World

No or Little Background in Psychology?

International Students

Queen's-Trent Agreement

For information about application procedures:
http://www.queensu.ca/sgs/prospective-students/application-process

For information about psychology graduate programs via the department's web page:
http://www.queensu.ca/psychology/Graduate.html

Further questions about specific programs can be addressed to the chairs of those programs (see web for incumbent chairs and their email addresses).

All aspects of the Queen's application procedure (unless otherwise specified) are completed via the web. If you require assistance with technical issues (how to navigate the application procedures), contact the graduate assistant for the department at: psycgrad@queensu.ca

The remainder of this document discusses the actual decision making process that leads to students being accepted into graduate programs at Queen's and addresses some frequently asked questions or ambiguities about application.

NOTE: As of 1 September 2008 the Department of Psychology at Queen's University no longer awards MA degrees. All master's degrees are now MSc. This change does not alter our acceptance criteria nor the content of our programs. In particular, we DO NOT require a BSc for entrance into the program. All students with honours degrees in psychology are equally eligible.

Being Accepted at Queen's

We do not admit students directly from undergraduate program into the PhD program. One would apply as an MSc student unless you will have completed a masters elsewhere before coming to Queen's.

Acceptance into the psychology programs at Queen's is governed by a series of decisions. Students apply to one of four programs (Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science; Clinical; Developmental; or Social-Personality). Note that there is no forensic program at Queen's, it was dropped many years ago! Applicants also indicate faculty members with whom they may wish to work. Both of these are indicated on the application form. The decision making process is as follows:

  • 1. Applications are reviewed by faculty members who decide if they are interested in supervising the applicants. This is why you are (or will be) asked to indicate potential supervisors on the application. If no faculty member is interested in the applicant as a potential student, the application is not considered further. Thus, to be admitted to any of the programs at Queen's, first you must have a faculty member willing to supervise you. For this reason, we recommend that prospective students carefully examine the faculty in the department and have a clear idea of the person (or people) they would be interested in working with. Contacting these people via email can be useful to determine if the faculty member is planning to take students and if the faculty member continues to work in areas of interest to the applicant. However, you can not expect to get a commitment before the deadline for application - people will normally want to examine the files of all students who express an interest in working with them before committing to take students. All that can be determined by contact prior to the deadline is whether or not the faculty member is a reasonable person for you to list as a potential supervisor.

  • 2. Once a supervisor is interested, a request is made to the graduate committee to recommend acceptance of the student into the program. The Graduate Committee acts to ensure that supervisors' selections are reasonable (the student meets university and department standards with regard to academic background, grades, GREs, etc). The graduate committee also considers program restrictions (e.g., the Clinical program has limited ability to accept students due to the requirement for practicum and internship placements). Generally speaking, the graduate committee only rejects applicants if there is a problem. Supervisors can not commit to a student prior to the Graduate Committee approving the applicant and this only happens after the closing date for applications (so that all prospective candidates can be given fair consideration).

  • 3. The School of Graduate Studies and Research technically accepts applicants on the recommendation of the department (Graduate Committee). This again tends to be automatic unless the student fails to meet minimum standards. I am not aware of any applicant being approved by our department and then rejected at this last step.

Reasonable GREs and Grades

The mean and median GREs of students recently accepted into the graduate program in psychology at Queen's are as follows (compiled over several years).

            Mean raw          Mean percentile             Median Percentile

V                584                       77                                  84

Q                704                       66                                  70

A                5.3                        78                                  78

P                749                       92                                  96

Note: If one (or more) of your GRE scores is low, rewriting the GRE may be useful as a higher score the second time will often be interpreted as indicating that you just had an "off" day the first time. Of course, a similar or lower score would just confirm an apparent weakness.

Grades have almost always reflected an A average (at least in the last 2 years of study and in psychology courses).

Note:

•1.     An A average does not guarantee acceptance.

•2.     Meeting or exceeding the mean or median GREs does not guarantee acceptance.

•3.     On the other hand, the GREs presented are mean and median values and thus many accepted students have had lower grades and GREs and most have at least one GRE below these values.

The relative weight given to grades, GREs, and letters of reference are a subjective factor that each faculty member must decide for him-or-herself. As a result, it is impossible to state that one is more or less important than the others. Exceptional circumstances such as illnesses can be described when applying and faculty members may (or may not) take them into account. Once again, since the acceptance decision always starts with the supervisor, considerable variance is the norm! Finally, competition to get into the clinical program is much greater than the other three programs such that the mean and median values described may be low for clinical and high for other programs.

For further information on GRE testing please go to the following link : ETS: Educational Testing Service

Refusal

The reason for a failure to be accepted into the program (as indicated on departmental decision letters) almost always is either "program full" or "no supervisor available." Program full applies frequently to the Clinical program because of the absolute limit on the number of students the program can accept. No supervisor available means that no faculty member was willing to accept the student. Students often mistakenly believe that this means that they were not perceived as good enough. Other factors are more likely to be the problem, for example: 1. The potential supervisors listed already had as many students as they were willing to supervise. 2. The competition was very good such that the rejected student easily met the minimum standard but was considered less positively than other applicants. 3. The research interests as expressed by the student did not fit with the research plans of the potential supervisor. Whatever the reason or reasons, if no faculty member wants to accept the student to work with them, then the student will not be accepted.

Graduate Funding

Funds Available: Support for graduate students comes from three primary sources: external awards such as CGS, SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR, and OGS awards; internal funds (QGA or Queen's Graduate Awards) from tuition and government support based on the number of "fundable" students enrolled in our programs (students are fundable if they are in MSc1, MSc2, PhD1, PhD2, PhD3, or PhD4); and TA money from the faculty of Arts and Sciences. Additional support occasionally is available through research grants (extra commitment to lab time) and teaching fellowships (filling in for faculty who are on leave, available only for senior PhD students).

Top up: We provide minimum guaranteed funding to all fundable students. Often, when many of our students are successful at winning external support, effectively, there is "extra" money in the system because we must cover the guaranteed minimum even if no external awards are received. When this occurs, the graduate coordinator disburses "top up" money early in the winter term, essentially distributing the remaining QGA funds (which must be spent on graduate support) to graduate students in the program. The university also gives awards to students for a variety of other reasons. There are many internal scholarships and recently, there has been an award of $5,000 to each of the two top incoming graduate students.

Real Support: As a result of the additional sources, our graduate students often have a higher level of support than the guaranteed minimum. For example, in 2009-2010 the average for all fundable students in the program was slightly over $26,000. For 2010-2011 the average for all fundable students was approximately $27,500.


Clinical Prerequisites

Candidates applying for the Clinical program are expected to have completed course work in history and systems, the biological, cognitive-affective, social bases of behaviour, and in abnormal psychology or its equivalent. The Graduate Committee reserves the right to request successful applicants to demonstrate proficiency in these areas. Students may be accepted without one, but generally not more than one, of the prerequisites as these must be made up prior to completion of the Master's degree. As the course load is heavy at the Master's level, the additional course work could affect a student's progress and their eligibility for funding which could influence the student's acceptability to potential supervisors. If a student is accepted without all prerequisites, normally the student will be required to make up the prerequisite during their first two years in the program.

Grades from Around the World

Students (whether Canadian or International) sometimes have completed their undergraduate training outside of North America (or at relatively unknown institutions in North America) and are concerned that grades from the system they were in do not translate easily or accurately into our system (e.g., a 70% is mediocre here but exceptional elsewhere; an 80% is an A here but 75% or 90% is considered an A elsewhere) or may not be accepted as comparable for other reasons. First, there is room in the application process for you to write about yourself (background, interests, etc). You should include comments there about this issue. Second, you will need to submit transcripts of your undergraduate achievements. Will they contain information about class averages or rankings? Many do. If so, that goes a long way to clarifying the situation. Third, your letters of reference presumably will include people who know you from your undergraduate program and who are aware of the standards. You should ask those people to make a point of evaluating your grades in the context of marks in that system such that you are being backed up by external (to you) sources on the quality of your undergraduate performance. Finally, we are aware that grades differ dramatically from place to place (even in Canada) and would always make an effort to understand the grades submitted in the context of the school they come from if there is any question about accepting a student. Try to do your part (seeking appropriate letters, describing your perception of the quality of your grades in the system you come from) and we will try to do our job by evaluating your application within the context of your educational background. Finally, GREs may take on greater importance when grades are harder to evaluate.

No or Little Background in Psychology?

Students often ask if they can apply to our programs even though they do (will) not have an honours degree in psychology. The relevant question is not whether you can apply but whether you would be accepted. The current departmental policy is that students admitted to graduate programs in psychology are expected to have an honours degree in psychology, preferably with a thesis or major research project as part of that undergraduate degree. If you apply despite not meeting this criterion, at the very least you will be at a competitive disadvantage. Unlike the procedure described above wherein the supervisor selects the student and the graduate committee simply assesses whether or not the student is a good student, in this situation the graduate committee may require that the supervisor justify taking the student no matter how good the grades, letters of reference, and GREs may be. It may be that the committee can not be convinced. This is particularly likely if the supervisor had other applicants with a psychology background or if an alternative program (e.g., neuroscience) was available that does not require the psychology background and would accept the background that the student has.

International Students

International students are welcome at Queen's and enrich our program. However, the number of international students that we accept is limited. Tuition for non-Canadians (i.e., neither citizens nor landed immigrants) is more than double that for domestic students. The university provides our Department with a limited number of tuition awards for international students (reducing tuition to approximately the same amount paid by Canadian students). Most students accepted into our graduate programs are guaranteed a minimum level of support regardless of their origins or citizenship but this generally is not sufficient to live on if they have to pay the full international tuition without a tuition award. As a result, our intake of International students normally is limited and varies from year to year. Note that these students will always have the guaranteed minimum plus a tuition award.

International students may apply for Ontario Graduate Scholarships if they meet the minimum academic requirement; however, it is our experience that international students are very rarely successful in that competition. 

If the first language is not English, students are required to submit scores on a test of English proficiency. Our department requires the TOEFL.   To maintain a consistent standard, we do not accept any substitutes for the TOEFL.You may access the web addresses provided below for more details including minimum acceptable scores. Yes, having a score below the minimum stated value will at least impair your chances and could lead to rejection of your application. But also note:

The following can be found on the School of Graduate Studies website
http://www.queensu.ca/sgs/forstudents/InternationalStudents/admissionreqs.html

'Any applicant who has recently studied for at least one complete year at a university where English is the official language of instruction may be exempt from the English language proficiency test. An applicant requesting a waiver of the English language proficiency test for this reason should do so in writing and submit it with the application. The Registrar of the School of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the department, will make determinations in these cases. It should be noted that, in order to maintain a high academic standard, very few waivers are granted. Therefore, it is recommended that all applicants for whom English is not their first language submit an English language proficiency test with their application.'

Comparability of courses and programs also can be an issue for international students. There is no set answer to whether the program you have taken is adequate other than you need an undergraduate honours degree in psychology. If the standards for obtaining such a degree differ where you are or come from, this certainly may influence the likelihood that a potential supervisor will be willing to work with you. On the other hand, if a faculty member wants to supervise you, such differences may only matter if you do not meet minimum university standards (check with the School of Graduate Studies).

Queen's-Trent Agreement

The Queen's-Trent Agreement permits students to apply to and be accepted into graduate programs in Psychology at Queen's even though they will be co-supervised by and work primarily with a faculty member at Trent University. Students should approach the prospective supervisor at Trent to ensure that this connection is secure before applying. It is extremely unlikely that a student (to date, zero) would be admitted to the clinical program under the Queen's-Trent agreement due to the heavy course and practicum commitments of the clinical program in Kingston.

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Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000