Hello Panthers!

My name is Kayla and I was the Psychology Club Secretary in 2010-2011 and President in 2011-2012. Since graduating from UNI this past May, I have enrolled in the clinicalpsychology doctoral program at the University of South Dakota.  I just started my third week of classes and absolutely love it so far.  I was awarded a graduate assistantship as a TA for three classes and also supervise the oncampus training clinic two nights a week for graduate students who see clientsat night.  I will not see clients thisyear, but will shadow training students this spring and will start my trainingas a clinician next school year.

 Kayla, What do you think people should know about graduate school?

            -Who gets into grad school? 

My class pretty diverse geographically (we are from Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, New Jersey, Arizona, and Singapore), in age (I’m one of the youngest at 22…the oldest of the incoming class is 29), and experiences in terms of research and clinical background (one of my classmates was a licensed social worker for 5 years, and another got her master’s in clinical psychology but worked in a school setting for a year).  But the one thing we all have in common – we all have at least some experience in research, clinical settings, or both.  Getting into grad school is competitive…do yourself a favor and get involved in research and try to volunteer or work at a place that gives you some clinical experience. Remember, a lot of people apply to programs but in proportion to application rates, few get interviews.  Make yourself stand out on paper if you want your application to even be looked at!

            -How is grad school different than undergrad? 

Remember I’ve only been here for three weeks so I still have a lot to learn, but I think the most important things I have learned so far is that you have more responsibility for your learning.  You’ve probably heard, but there is A LOT more reading in grad school…maybe this is because I rarely read as an undergrad, but most likely it’s because you are expected to know (and retain) material beyond what is covered in class.  You may need to cover three chapters before a given class period, but may only discuss one of them in class – you are still expected to know the other two chapters for the exam.

            You are expected to be places on time.  Part of being a developing professional is being accountable for being to meetings, classes, etc.  You may only get the information about a meeting time once and it may be three weeks ahead of time –you may not get a reminder, so write it down, put it in your phone, whatever!  Also, if you miss something, it’s your responsibility to find out what you missed, not anybody else’s!

            The people are different.  What I mean by this, is that everybody is dedicated and super helpful. Your classmates and other students in the program are your lifeline.  They are who you go to for questions on assignments and who you hang out with in your free time.  There are about 30 students in residence in the program right now, so I have a great resource base!

            It’s busy, of course.  Free time doesn’t occur that often, but when it does…cherish it!  I sometimes don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have homework to do, but it’s good to take that time to do things other than schoolwork.  Being busy isn’t as hard of a transition for me that it has been for others because I was involved in a lot in undergrad, but just be aware that you may have more work to do than you are used to.

            Lastly, classes are small, and you don’t get lectured.  I would say about half of my classes are just the first year clinical students, so 6 of us while the other half are the first and second year clinical students as well as the first and second year Human Factors psychology graduate students.  I love the smaller class sizes because it’s more discussion based and because all of us have different backgrounds, you can get several different perspectives on a situation.  But, again, you are responsible for the material assigned for that day.  If you don’t read, the professor will know.

            -Things I Wish I Knew (before coming tograd school): 
It’s expensive. Books are more expensive, and moving is expensive!  Thankfully I didn’t have to move very far, but some of my classmates literally moved here with two suitcases of clothes that they owned and bought everything else.  Thankfully, a lot of places will have assistantship opportunities and tuition waivers, but they don’t exactly make you rich.

            I wish I would have taken a class on substance abuse. Dual diagnosis is quite common, so I wish I would have more background in this area.  I also with I would have gotten more clinical experience because it would have helped me relate things I am learning to things I may have experienced.

Another tidbit: I think Psych students at UNI are lucky to have such an active Psychology Cluband Psi Chi!  Here there is also PsychClub and Psi Chi, but people don’t come!

Kayla Nalan