Applying to the PhD program in Psychology

We are glad that you are considering our program for your PhD training. We have a group of faculty, students, and staff dedicated to performing rigorous and meaningful research, and are always looking to add engaged new students to our community.  Below you will find some information about our expectations for successful applications, as well as some practicalities of the process itself.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to our Student Affairs Administrator:
Kristi Schonwald
Phone: (773) 702-8861

The deadline for our application to be completed and submitted for consideration is December 1.

The online application can be found here.

Application materials

Required: Transcripts. We require transcripts from your undergraduate, and when applicable, Master's level institutions. Include transcripts of coursework from degree-granting institutions as well as those with transfer and summer courses.

Required: Candidate statement. The candidate statement is your opportunity to tell the department, in your own voice, what your path has been leading to your decision to apply to our PhD program, what your experience has been doing research and how it has shaped your current research interests, and how the training you would receive during your PhD would support your long-term career goals. In evaluating candidates, faculty are interested in a candidate statement that clearly and specifically describes: (1) the candidate's research experiences that have contributed to the candidate's intellectual goals and skills, (2) the candidate's topics of research interest, (3) why the University of Chicago's Department of Psychology is a good fit for the candidate to pursue their research interests, and (4) ways in which the candidate demonstrated the kinds of resilience and resourcefulness in overcoming obstacles that also contribute to success in a PhD program.  Note, while the faculty as a whole evaluate all candidates, ultimately a successful candidate will be picked based on their fit with one or two specific faculty members in the department. Statements that display deep understanding of prior research and relevant background knowledge, and that include experiences that demonstrate authentic desire to undertake the challenge of a research PhD program, tend to be more successful. Statements are typically under 1,000 words.

Required: 3 - 5 letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are a crucial part of your application because they provide insight into your potential to succeed in the challenging and unique setting that is a PhD research program, and can expand on your abilities in ways that can be difficult to extract from a CV, for example, and that can supplement the information in the candidate statement.

Who should you ask? The most meaningful letters will be from faculty members with whom you have done research, as this is closest to the environment you will experience in a PhD program. Sometimes, the person with whom you have had most contact with during a research project is a graduate student or postdoc - it is perfectly okay to have a letter co-signed by that person and the faculty director of the lab so that the most accurate information can be portrayed. Letters from other faculty who know you well, such as from taking small advanced seminar courses or with whom you have interacted with in a science-based student group, are also beneficial in providing insight into your strengths as they relate to graduate programs.

How and when should you ask? Approximately 3 months before applications are due, it is useful to identify faculty members who you believe can write strong and positive letters for you. When asking a faculty member, it is a good idea to ask if they think they could write a "strong letter" on your behalf. It is beneficial to meet with those faculty members to discuss the factors that drive your decision to apply for a PhD in psychology, why our program is a good fit for you, and your future academic and career gaols. Explain to them any research or other relevant experience that perhaps they do not know about, and offer to share drafts of your application materials with them. In-person (or on the phone or video call) is a great way to ask someone for a letter of recommendation, but this exchange can also be done via email. Don't forget to send reminders for the deadline to give the faculty member plenty of time to craft a strong letter for you -- and thank them afterwards.

Required: Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Optional, but recommended: GRE scores. Strong GREs can add important information to an application, and we recommend applicants submit scores from the general GRE exam if possible. However, we recognize the difficulties some applicants have with GRE this year, and we will give full consideration to applications submitted without GRE. We do not require a subject GRE.

Optional: Writing sample. We do not require a writing sample, but you are welcome to submit one. Writing samples (e.g., an undergraduate thesis or scientific manuscript) are a good way to demonstrate your writing skills and/or share an example of your independent research.

If applicable: TOEFL or IELTS test scores if needed to meet the English Language Proficiency Requirement.