Year-by-Year Self-Care for Graduate Students: Part 4 of 4

Posted in Advice, APA, Graduate School, Self Care

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of a four-part series written by doctoral student David Jeffries. View part 1, dedicated to the first-year graduate school experience, part 2, dedicated to the second year, and part 3, dedicated to the third year.

mortarboardStart your fourth year in the summer.

The summer between your third and fourth year is a good time to assess where you are in accordance with the trusty handbook you took the time to read and get to know in the earlier years of your graduate program (see part one). By this point it is likely that you are approaching a period where you may advance to candidacy (!) so checking in with program expectations can be a good idea throughout this year.

During the summer between your third and fourth year, talk through concerns around your graduation timetable and your funding with your advisor. Regardless of what relationship you have with your advisor, by this point in your graduate work you undoubtedly have been communicating with faculty. Continue to do so in a way that serves your programmatic interests and highlights your accomplishments. By having these conversations with faculty, and reviewing what is left for you to tackle before your fourth year starts, you can re-establish a commitment to your doctoral program, while also recommitting to a sense of self-preservation and self-care by looking out for new opportunities.

To recap, in your rising fourth-year summer, look towards your dissertation, look into funding for future years, and consider your timetable.

As you become a more seasoned graduate student, you'll know when to step away from your work. (Source: "Studies" by Flickr user lindztrom. Some rights reserved.)

As you become a more seasoned graduate student, you’ll know when and how to step away from your work. (Source: “Studies” by Flickr user lindztrom. Some rights reserved.)

Treat graduate school like a job.

By the time you begin your fourth year it is likely that the majority of your coursework is behind you. This likens you more to that of a professional with a 9-to-5 schedule. To that end, care for yourself by beginning to increasingly treat graduate school like a job. This means you can make it your priority to set up times when you do work, and times when you absolutely do not work. In earlier years your schedule may fluctuate too much or rely on late hours of studying, but with most of your coursework out of the way, it is time to recommit yourself to setting limits.

With most of your coursework out of the way, it is time to recommit yourself to setting limits.

When you go into your lab or office at the start of a day, have a plan. In realizing that plan, take purposeful breaks and work efficiently. Once the evening comes around, however, give yourself permission to leave your work at work. Go home or go out, but either way do not convince yourself that you can or should be working all the time.

More seasoned graduate students often confess that doctoral programs become easier once they become more comfortable with the truth of always having a to-do list that never really gets done. The key is, that is totally okay. Like someone with a 40-week job, graduate students will always have more than 40 hours worth of work to do. So do what you can, when you can, but do not lose sight that this is a choice you’ve made in pursuit of your own future happiness.

If working too hard causes your doctoral program to become a source of consistent discontent, it is important to be able to reflect on what you can change in the service of being happier. Always commit to things that are in your best interest, and leave your work at work!

Deadline Extended to Join APAGS Leadership!

Posted in APA
Pictured are members of the 2014-2015 APAGS Committee, and staff liaisons

You could be here! Pictured are members of the 2014-2015 APAGS Committee, and staff liaisons.

Great news: Are you interested in joining APAGS leadership? The APAGS Committee is still accepting applications for a Member-at-Large position. This position would focus on a number of issues affecting APAGS members, and in particular serve as the point person for Membership Recruitment and Retention issues.

Timeline: If you apply and get slated for this position, you’ll run an election during the month of April by trying to get the online vote of fellow APAGS members. Your term of service would begin this August and you’d serve for two years, through August 2018. You must be in school through at least Spring 2017 to be eligible.

Next steps: For information on eligibility and application materials, please go to our website. All applications must be submitted to by 11:59PM EST on 2/15/16.

Graduate Students Have Rights. APAGS Just Spelled Them Out.

Posted in Advice, Advocacy, Graduate School, Training Issues
What rights should psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

What rights should psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a graduate student in psychology discuss aspects of their training or education that seemed inequitable, I could pay back all my loans.

Too often in graduate school, students come across situations in which they believe their rights have been infringed upon in some way. When this occurs, many students feel at a loss for how to advocate for themselves and what they can or should be able to reasonably advocate for. The result for many students is dissatisfaction, frustration, and occasionally leaving a training program or experience.

The APAGS Committee has honed in on this student concern over the past year and opted to move forward with creating a student “bill of rights.” This was a very detailed process that included a literature review of various student right documents from across the world, drafting lists of rights based on this literature and our own experiences, and completing many revisions with input from APAGS leaders and many outside resources.

At long last, the APAGS Committee voted in December to approve a document titled, “Position Statement on the Rights of Psychology Graduate Students.” The Committee is planning to distribute these rights across various platforms and to a variety of constituents. The Committee is even considering bringing the document to APA’s Council of Representatives for consideration as an official policy document! That’s a huge step, and we will keep you posted.

In the meantime, we hope that students, programs, and other interested parties can use this document to their benefit. Use it to advocate for your own rights and thereby create a program or training experience of the highest caliber. If you have other ideas and reactions, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Here now is the text of our position statement, which is also available on our website.

Position Statement on the Rights of Psychology Graduate Students


The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) deems the rights described in this document to be indispensable to the fair, equitable and respectful treatment of every psychology graduate student throughout their education and training. The protection of these rights fosters the highest quality graduate training experience. APAGS considers these rights essential, not aspirational, and we urge graduate programs to implement these rights in their unique settings and training environments. We encourage current and prospective students to utilize these rights in making informed graduate program selections and in advocating for themselves as issues arise.

1. Institutional Environment

1.1 Right to respectful treatment by faculty members, colleagues, staff, and peers.

1.2 Right to have professional and personal information handled in a sensitive and respectful manner such that personal information is only disclosed when it is deemed necessary for educational or training purposes, and that students are informed prior to any such disclosure (See Ethical Standard 7.04).

1.3 Right to affordable insurance inclusive of health, vision, dental, and mental health care coverage.

2. Program Policies

2.1 Right to publicly available, accurate, and up-to-date descriptions of costs, the availability of financial support, and the likelihood of ongoing support throughout training (e.g., percent of students with full and partial financial support during year one, year two, etc.; available funding options), to be provided prior to or immediately following the program’s interviews for prospective students (See Ethical Standard 7.02).

2.2 Right to accurate and up-to-date information from research advisors and thesis/dissertation committee members on professional factors that could impact student training, career development, and timely program completion.

2.3 Right to access and exercise formal written policies regarding leave and accommodations as they pertain to pregnancy, parenting/caregiving, bereavement, medical or mental illness, and disability.

2.4 Right to access and exercise formal written policies and procedures regarding academic and placement/internship requirements, administrative procedures, evaluation, advisement, retention, average “time to degree,” and termination (See Ethical Standard 7.02).

2.5 Right to express opinions and have representation on campus committees relevant to professional development, with voting privileges where appropriate.

2.6 Right to exemption from new graduation or program requirements, developed after admission, that might result in a delay of graduation.

3. Professional and Educational Training Opportunities

3.1 Right to appropriate professional training (e.g., teaching, research, clinical practice) in the current standards and practices of the discipline and specialty area (See Ethical Standard 7.01).

3.2 Right to be evaluated by faculty consistent with current ethical practices in employment, progression through the program, and grading, solely on the basis of academic performance, professional qualifications, and/or conduct (See Ethical Standard 7.06).

3.3 Right to quality mentorship.

3.4 Right to change advisors and committee members for professional and personal needs.

3.5 Right to receive timely, ongoing feedback on all areas of trainee competency and the opportunity to address growth areas with support from faculty.

3.6 Right to co-authorship in publications when the student has made significant contributions of ideas or research work (See Ethical Standards 8.11 and 8.12 a-c).

3.7 Right to freely communicate and collaborate with other academic colleagues.

3.8 Right to lead, assemble, and participate in organizations and activities outside the academic program.

3.9 Right to engage in self care as a routine practice throughout training (See Ethical Standards 3.05 and 3.06).

4. Work Environment

4.1 Right to fair compensation for services provided during training (e.g., graduate, teaching, and research assistantships).

4.2 Right for students providing services during training (e.g., teaching, research, clinical, and administrative graduate assistantships) to enjoy the recognitions, rights, privileges, and protections afforded to employees under state, provincial, territorial, and national labor laws.

4.3 Right to study and work in an environment free of exploitation, intimidation, harassment, or discrimination based on one’s student status, race, ethnicity, skin color, national origin, religion, political beliefs, economic status, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy or parental status, disability, medical or mental health conditions, ancestry, citizenship, military veteran status, or any other identity salient to the individual in admissions and throughout education, employment, and placement (See Principle E and Ethical Standards 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, 3.08).

4.4 Right to work under clearly expressed and mutually agreed-upon job descriptions and work or training conditions.

4.5 Right to perform only those tasks that relate to academic program requirements, professional development, and/or job duties.

4.6 Right to provide constructive and professional feedback to supervisors, directors, administrators, and staff concerning the quality and content of supervision

5. Appeals and Grievances

5.1 Right to clearly defined official grievance procedures and informal complaint procedures.

5.2 Right to whistleblower protection for exposing professional, ethical, or legal violations (See Ethical Standard 1.08).

5.3 Right to due process for any accusation of violation or infraction.

5.4 Right to be free of reprisals for exercising the rights contained in this document (See Ethical Standard 1.08).

Repost: I thought there would be a parade…Life after doctoral study

Posted in Graduate School

From PSYCH LEARNING CURVE – Where Psychology and Education Connect, a new blog by the APA Education Directorate.

January 25, 2016 * by Daniel Michalski, PhD

After nearly five years of hard work, frustration, setbacks, and anxiety, I completed the final requirement to earning my PhD by defending my dissertation in July 2014. The moment I had been simultaneously anticipating and dreading played out in less than an hour as I confidently presented my research and addressed questions from my committee and the attendees. Beyond the obvious realization that the journey was over, I was struck by how solitary the experience truly was at that moment; what had consumed my life for several years transpired while life went on for others and my achievement was mine alone. I suppose I thought that life would pause for everyone and there would be a parade in my honor. Unfortunately, there was no parade (not even balloons) and I was now faced with moving on and identifying new opportunities and learning experiences.

For me, the primary attraction of pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology was its versatility and utility in work settings outside of academe. In 2009, approximately one in five recent psychology doctoral recipients was working in a non-academic or non-direct human service position. As one of those individuals neither pursuing an academic job nor a career requiring postdoctoral training for licensure, there was an abruptness to the end of graduate study and entry to the professional world inspired anxiety demanding the development of skills to manage the transition. With fewer  psychology tenure-track positions available and growing breadth of options for non-academic careers, my story and experience is one most likely shared by other recent psychology doctorate recipients.

Continue reading to find out Dr. Michalski’s top 5 recommendations for transition from doctoral study to career.

A Few Good Reasons Why the Internship Crisis Might Get (Slightly) Better

Posted in Advocacy, APA, Graduate School

Internship is stressful, so let us bask in some good news for a moment.

For the past 18 years, APPIC has produced forward-looking best-case scenarios about the internship match for doctoral students in clinical, counseling, and school psychology using a point-in-time profile of applicants, doctoral internship sites, and open spots on New Year’s Eve.

APPIC predicts that the imbalance between the number of applicants and positions — what APAGS and others call a crisis — will continue to improve, as it has in 2015 and 2014.

Here is what APPIC shared recently* with the psychology education and training community:

  • There are currently only 148 more registered applicants than available positions (compared to a difference of 498 last year and 1,148 only four years ago)
  • Approximately 200 students withdraw from the Match each year after registering (for a variety of reasons, such as not having received any interview offers, deciding to delay their internship another year, seeking or obtaining a position outside the APPIC Match, etc). This suggests that the number of positions in the 2016 Match could equal, or even slightly exceed, the number of students who submit a Rank Order List. “Please note, however, that this does not mean that all applicants will get placed, nor will all positions get filled.”
  • As a result, the 2016 APPIC Match will likely show the closest balance between applicants and positions of any APPIC Match to date.
  • The number of accredited positions, while significantly improved this year, is far lower than the number of registered applicants. (APAGS reported on match rates using just data from the APA Commission on Accreditation on match day 2015).

APPIC reminds us that it has provided a snapshot as of December 31, 2015, and that numbers change each day.**

APPIC’s optimism is corroborated by Robert Hatcher’s new article in APPIC’s academic journal. Hatcher predicts that “even if the internship growth rate slowed to less than 1%, match rates would be in the mid-90% range by 2018” (2015). The article does paint some complications that we’ll be paying attention to.

Crave even more good news this week? APA just announced that “psychology graduate students now have access to 55 new APA-accredited internship slots, thanks to the accreditation of 11 internship programs that received funds from APA’s internship stimulus package. The new slots were created after APA’s Commission on Accreditation was able to accredit 17 internship programs in October. Eleven of those programs were internship stimulus grantees and the additional six programs will also provide a number of internship slots, but those numbers are not yet available.”

APAGS is well aware that while we have some optimistic news before us, not all qualified doctoral students who desire an internship will receive one, and not all doctoral programs and types are matching their students to accredited programs at comparable rates. APAGS has committed substantial resources to address these concerns, and we’ll continue to see that other groups do the same, until the crisis is effectively ended.

If you want to help address the internship crisis as an advocate, go to to learn how.


*All APPIC information presented here, and much of the verbiage, was provided by APPIC in listserv announcements in January 2016.

**For numbers wonks: As of December 31, 2015, the total numbers of applicants and internship sites registered to participate in the 2016 APPIC Match were: 3,940 registered applicants, 3,792 positions offered by 786 registered internship sites (744 of these registered sites are APPIC members).  Compared to last year at this time, these numbers reflect a decrease of 223 applicants, an increase of 127 positions, and an increase of 14 internship sites.  Furthermore, the number of APA- and CPA-accredited positions has increased by 231. Compared to four years ago at this time, which was the year of the worst imbalance between applicants and positions: The number of registered applicants has decreased by 418 (4,358 to 3,940); The number of registered positions has increased by 582 (3,210 to 3,792); The difference between the numbers of registered positions and applicants has decreased by 1,000 (1,148 to 148); The number of registered APA- or CPA-accredited positions has increased by 590 (2,366 to 2,956); The number of registered internship sites has increased by 74 (712 to 786); The number of registered APPIC-member internship sites has increased by 77 (667 to 744).