Fall 2009
Volume 3, Issue 1
Eye on the Future Research Focus
Class Choices and their Impact on Graduate School Admission
By Denise F. Donatien-Coder

Many students know that in order to get into graduate school they need to maintain good grades, do well on the GREs, and exhibit qualities that are characteristic of graduate students. But there also exists an unspoken advantage in getting into graduate school: your class choices. In fact, choosing undergraduate classes is just as important as choosing graduate programs. Furthermore, depending on the school, class choices can determine the fate of a potential candidates acceptance into a graduate school. Many students are unaware of the possible consequences that could prolong the fulfillment of their academic objectives. What professors dont readily divulge is that the last two years of an undergraduates career are the most important, and it is during these years that such classes are taken that enable acceptance into a graduate program.

I have always chosen my classes based on how much they would make me grow as a person, not fully comprehending what the outcome would be for me when it came time to apply for graduate school. Last year, during my junior year, I began my painstaking quest for graduate programs and discovered that I needed to take a few required courses before I began applying to clinical psychology programs. This unearthing (so to speak) can be an earth shattering revelation for any student. Those who find themselves in a similar situation should fear not, as there are many paths that can lead to graduate school.

If youve found that you need take more classes that are prerequisites for the programs that you are applying to, you may want to consider one of three options. First, you can take all of the required courses before you start applying, which is the easiest solution. Also, you can take some of the required courses and apply at any rate. Though this option could put you at greater risk of not gaining acceptance, graduate programs rate admission criteria differently. For more information, request information from the school or speak with their graduate coordinator directly. Last, you can apply to masters programs before continuing on for your Ph.D. To some people, this option sounds the least appealing, but you never know what you could gain from the experience. Remember-- it is the journey, not the destination, that is significant.

Choosing classes allows students to take control of their future. Dr. Carol Vzquez, my Psychology of Learning professor, said it best when she told me students are responsible for their own education. We, as undergraduates, have the power to choose our own classes and, in turn, are responsible for our own academic fates. For some, this information can be a hard pill to swallow, while for others it can evoke independence and empowerment. If you want to ensure that you are receiving the best possible education, then sit down with your academic advisor or undergraduate coordinator and discuss with them your career plans. Afterwards, start researching schools and learning what the prerequisites are. In no time you will be armed with knowledge that will make you stand out as a serious candidate- something graduate schools will notice. It is with my best hopes and intentions that each and every student reading this article will take the initiative of thoughtfully choosing their classes and, ultimately, gain acceptance into a graduate program of their choice.

Author Note:

Denise F. Donatien-Coder is a senior majoring in Psychology with a concentration in Psychobiology at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She will graduate next May and will enter graduate school next fall to pursue a career in Clinical Neuropsychology with a specialization in Alzheimers disease research.
Editor: Molly Petersen - Associate Editor: Peter M. Vernig