Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Prospective Students

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Prospective Students

General Questions

The Psychology Department does not offer a terminal master’s degree program at the University Park campus. We seek applicants whose objective is the Ph.D, although students are commonly awarded an M.S. degree en route to the Ph.D. The Harrisburg Penn State campus offers a Master of Arts in Applied Clinical Psychology as well as a Master of Arts in Applied Psychological Research.

Yes. Decisions about whether a Master’s Degree and coursework from another university will be accepted at Penn State are only made after admission.

No. The graduate program is designed for full-time students working toward the doctor of philosophy degree.

You may apply to only one doctoral program at a time (cognitive, child clinical, adult clinical, developmental, social, or industrial/organizational). However, during a given admission cycle, you may request to change the program to which you are applying within psychology. If you are denied admission from a specific program, you may request to be considered by another program by contacting the Graduate Administrative Assistant.

As a department, we highly value collaboration across areas. However, in the admissions process, it is important to select at least two faculty from the area in which you are applying (cognitive, child clinical, adult clinical, developmental, social, or industrial/organizational). Your third faculty choice can be from a different area or from the area in which you are applying.

Faculty recruitment of students changes from year to year. You can check to see if a faculty member is recruiting by going to the faculty interests page and click “more” under the faculty member you are interested in working with.

Questions about Admission Requirements

Most of our incoming students have earned an undergraduate degree in psychology; however, students from other majors are admitted. It is expected that applicants will have a background in psychology before applying.

The GRE is not required for Fall 2023 admission. Training areas in the department will consider submitted GRE scores in different ways when evaluating applications. The developmental and social areas will not consider GRE scores, even if submitted. Submission of GRE scores is optional for the cognitive and clinical areas (if you include them, they will be considered; if you do not include them, there is no penalty), though the clinical area strongly recommends submission of GRE scores.

Students admitted to the clinical training area are required to take the GRE Psychology Subject Test before, or soon after beginning, the program to demonstrate foundational knowledge.

The TOEFL/IELTS exam is required for international students except for those applicants who have received a baccalaureate or a master’s degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States and Wales.

IELTS should be sent to:

The Pennsylvania State University
Graduate Enrollment Services
114 Kern Building
University Park, PA 16802

All international students admitted to Penn State University, regardless of where they have obtained their baccalaureate or master’s degree, will be required to take the English Proficiency Exam upon arrival at the Penn State campus.

To have your scores sent to Penn State, choose Penn State University or the institutional code of 2660. It is not necessary to use the Departmental code.

There is no minimum score required for the GREs or a minimum GPA. However, click here to see average scores from past entering classes.

A full paper that reflects your writing ability should be submitted. Examples include, but are not limited to, an honor’s thesis, a research proposal, or a term paper for a class. A research-based paper in the psychology field is preferable, but not required.  Papers should be sole authored (or first authored if submitting a co-authored published manuscript or a conference submission). There is no page limit.

The statement of purpose should communicate your motivation for pursuing a doctoral degree at Penn State, your academic and research background, as well as your career goals. Please indicate the specific area in which you would like to study and the professors whose work is aligned with your research interests. There is not a strict page limit, but a typical length is two pages.

Questions about the Application and Application Forms

The application is opened for submissions at the beginning of September each year for the following Fall admissions cycle.


December 1 is the deadline for all five areas of Psychology at Penn State: Clinical, Cognitive, Developmental, Industrial/Organizational and Social. All applications materials need to be uploaded to your application no later than December 1. No materials are to be sent directly to Psychology.

Because of the high volume of applications we receive, we cannot respond to phone calls and/or emails regarding the completion of your application. Please carefully follow our instructions concerning uploading required application materials and check the online admissions portal to see if your application is complete.


Admission decisions are generally made by April 15th.

Application fees can pose a financial barrier to many applying to graduate school. We recognize this burden and understand how this has limited many in their application process. Students who have participated in the BIG10 SROP can email the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs (ogee@psu.edu) directly for a fee waiver.  Please include a letter from the BIG10 institution SROP program director certifying that you completed your research experience at their institution. Ronald McNair scholars should initiate their fee waiver via the McNair program director at their school. If you have not participated in either of these programs but face financial constraints paying the application fee and have a clear fit to the department’s academic focus areas, an application fee waiver may be available. Please fill out the form here  by November 10, 2023 (5pm EST). We have limited funds but hope to provide support to as many applicants as we can. There are limited funds, but we would like to help as many as we can.

Questions about Funding

No, there is no separate form. All applicants offered admission are automatically considered for available assistantships or fellowships.

Admitted students generally receive a monthly stipend as well as a full waiver of tuition and fees. Because we do our best to fund all of our incoming students, we can only admit a limited number of applicants each year.


Questions about the Clinical Program


Interviews are required and granted at our invitation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these interviews will take place remotely, typically via Zoom.