banner image

Feedback About Deny Decisions

We know that a deny letter is never welcome news, and we appreciate that some students may wish to reapply in a future cycle, or may desire feedback about ways to improve their application. The PAU Office of Admissions team does not have enough staff to provide individual feedback on applications, but we do encourge students to review the charts below for more information about the most common reasons a student may not be admitted to one of our graduate programs.


All Graduate Programs
 Common Reasons Applications Are DeniedRecommendations
Academics and Transcripts
  • Academic history and transcripts were not strong.
  • Grades do not demonstrate preparedness for rigorous graduate-level work.
  • Lack of foundational or pre-requisite courses.
  • Take additional coursework to improve GPA.
  • Speak to the Admissions Counselor about other ways to show academic strength.
Recommendation Letters
  • References were inappropriate: neither professional nor academic.
  • References provided low evaluation scores or did not recommend.
  • Select professional or academic references.
  • Improve professional or academic history to strengthen reference relationships.
Personal Statements
  • Statement contained mechanical errors, lacked clarity, or had weak structure.
  • Statement did not meet the formatting and content criteria.
  • Statement did not address the prompt, was vague or unfocused, or did not demonstrate a basic understanding of the discipline.
  • Take time to self-reflect on why you want to pursue a graduate degree in this field.
  • Consider rewriting with editing assistance from someone else.
Poor Fit
  • Upon review of application materials, the committee determines that the applicant may not be a good fit for this program. This may include clinical or research interests, interpersonal concerns, or community mismatch.
  • Double-check that your goals, skills, and values are a good fit for the program you are applying to.
  • Engage in mock interviews to practice interpersonal and interview skills.
  • Engage in personal counseling to address past trauma or mental health concerns that may need work before you are ready to help others.
Lack of Sensitivity or Knowledge Surrounding Diversity
  • Displaying insensitivity when speaking about diverse populations.
  • Lack of self-awareness around personal biases or lack of willingness to engage in growth in this area.
  • Inability to work with or support fellow students or clients who hold identities different from your own.
  • Educate yourself by reading, taking classes, or attending events focusing on ethnic, minority, or racial groups about which you have limited knowledge.
  • Engage in work to identify your personal biases and consider how these might affect your work as a psychologist or counselor.


Clinical Psychology Doctoral Programs
 Common Reasons Applications Are DeniedRecommendations
Lack of Experience
  • Applicant does not have enough clinical experience or research experience.
  • Applicant has not engaged meaningfully with the field of clinical psychology.
  • Find work or volunteer opportunities to gain clinical experience.
  • Join a research lab to gain research experience.
  • Join a professional organization or attend conferences and webinars on topics relevant to clinical psychology.
Lack of Knowledge about Doctoral Program
  • Inability to clearly explain why they want a PhD or PsyD instead of providing therapy as a master's level licensed counselor.
  • Applicant cannot articulate, even broadly, their research or clinical interests.
  • Research the difference between the programs.
  • Reach out to clarify unanswered questions.
  • Be able to clearly explain how a doctoral degree will lead you to your goals instead of a master's program.
  • Identify at least one or two PAU faculty with whom you would like to conduct research.
Unclear Motivations
  • Applicant cannot identify why they want to pursue a PsyD vs. a PhD, or vice versa.
  • For applicants applying to both programs, students cannot identify the differences between the programs and why each might be a fit.
  • Applicant appears primarily motivated to apply by prestige or brand name.
  • Research the differences between the programs and go beyond the surface level in understanding program design, values, and purpose.