Restructuring Helps Pull in Top Psychology PhD Students

Posted: June 16, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

As the admissions season for graduate programs concludes, the Psychology Department has assembled its strongest PhD class ever. Psychology traditionally receives the greatest surplus of applicants over the number of slots available. Last year, the department admitted the top 14 percent of its applicants, and it was even more selective this year.

“In prior years, the stipends Mason offers have been so much lower than our competitors that we had many turndowns and had to admit many students from our waitlists,” says Bob Smith, department chair. “This year, we restructured our financial aid. By relying heavily on our grants, restructuring our teaching to have more advanced PhD students teaching courses, and adding some much-appreciated fellowship money from the provost to ‘top off’ offers to the strongest students, we had very few admitted students turn down our offers.”

Last year, the department had to go down its priority list to number 28 in order to fill the 9 available slots. This year, with the better financial offers, the department admitted its 9 students by number 11 on its list, says Jerome Short of the clinical program. “The students are great—our average verbal GREs are at the 90th percentile,” he says. “We admitted the very best 6 percent of our applicants, and they come from such strong schools as Amherst, Brown, and [the University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill.”

According to Lois Tetrick, director of the PhD in Industrial/

Organizational Psychology program, “Our program is very strong—it’s ranked number 8 in the nation, and very strong students want to come here. We have managed to remove some of the strong financial disincentive, and the strength of our program is attracting first-rate students. This year, we were successful in filling our incoming class from our first choices.”

“It’s both impressive and gratifying that a department can develop strength to attract students this good, especially in view of Mason’s limited budget,” says Daniele Struppa, College of Arts and Sciences dean.

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