PhD in Clinical Psychology Admissions

PhD Admission Deadlines Application review begins Nov. 1, 2024. Apply by Dec. 1, 2024 for early consideration
Ready to take the next step? Apply Now

The PhD in Clinical Psychology program admits students once a year for the fall term, which starts in September. Applications for fall 2024 will open in early September 2023. 

Admissions Requirements

  • Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally-accredited institution or the international equivalent.
  • In addition to the required prerequisites, we strongly recommend applicants have related volunteer or work experience in the mental health field and experience with research.
  • GRE scores were not required for admission to PAU doctoral degree programs for the 22-23 admissions cycle. Faculty will decide if GREs will be required for the 23-24 admissions cycle by mid summer. 


Doctoral Scholarships and Assistantships Learn More
PhD Scholarships Learn More
General Requirements for All Programs Start your PSYCAS Application PhD Candidate Selection PhD Prerequisites and Information

Application Deadlines

Application review for the fall 2024 cohort begins November 1, 2023.
Apply by December 1, 2023 for early consideration.
Apply by January 7, 2024 for regular consideration.

Applications may be accepted after this date if space is available.

Quick Application Checklist

  • Online Application via PsyCAS
  • Application Fee
  • Official Transcripts
  • Resume or CV
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose

How To Apply

PAU uses the American Psychological Association’s (APA), Psychology Centralized Application Service (PSYCAS). In preparation for applying, you will need a copy of your transcript(s) available for your review. All materials should be submitted through the PSYCAS system, not directly to the PAU Admissions Office.

Application FormToggle Accordion

Complete an application online in the PSYCAS system. The application for fall 2024 will be available in early September 2023.

Start Your PsyCAS Application

Application Fees and WaiversToggle Accordion

The application fee is $80.00 for the first program application in PSYCAS, and $40 for subsequent applications to additional programs. The APA offers a fee waiver opportunity for students who qualify. PAU does not require an additional application fee.

PsyCAS Application Fees and Fee Waivers

Official TranscriptsToggle Accordion

  • All transcripts should be sent to PsyCAS. Applicants do not need to send duplicate transcripts to PAU.
  • PAU can directly accept transcripts. However, PsyCAS will continue to show them as not received. 
  • Classes taken during high school do not need to be entered. However, if you attended a college or university both in high school and in college, those courses will appear on that school’s transcript and be reflected in the GPA calculation. 
  • PsyCAS requires transcripts from all colleges and universities attended post-high school graduation. Even if transfer credit appears on a more recent transcript, this is the case. 
  • All students must complete manual entry of their courses into PsyCAS in addition to sending transcripts. This can take time and is tedious! Please plan ahead. This is required to fairly calculate GPAs for students who attend different schools with different grading scales. 
PsyCAS Transcript Directions 
  • Report all institutions attended regardless of their relevance to the programs you apply to. Failure to report an institution may cause your application to be undelivered. This can significantly delay the processing of your application. Report all institutions attended, including but not limited to:
    • courses taken in high school for college or university credit
    • summer courses
    • community college courses
    • US military academies (note that this does not include courses on SMART or JST transcripts)
    • post-baccalaureate, graduate, and doctoral work
    • study abroad, Canadian, and foreign work, etc. 
  • List all institutions on your application even if the coursework completed there was transferred to another institution.
  • Report each institution only once, regardless of the number of degrees earned or gaps in the dates of attendance.
  • Send official transcripts for each institution.

Transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions attended must be sent directly from the institution, even if a degree was not awarded. Official transcripts should be mailed or electronically delivered by the issuing institution directly to the PSYCAS Transcript Processing Center. Instructions for submitting transcripts can be found on the PSYCAS website.

After enrolling in the program, conditionally admitted students must submit final official transcripts directly to the Office of Admission as soon as possible. Failure to submit final official transcripts by the first day of classes will result in a registration hold. Any student who does not submit final transcripts by the end of the first quarter will be dropped from their courses.

International Applicants

If you attended an institution outside of the US, PAU requires that your transcript be evaluated and, if applicable, translated. You may select any vendor that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Please visit the NACES website for a complete list of members. Your course-by-course evaluation should be sent directly to PSYCAS. More information on submitting foreign coursework to PSYCAS can be found within the application and via the Applicant Help Center.
Palo Alto University has partnered with the following agencies to provide applicants with convenient ordering sites and direct delivery of evaluations to the Office of Admission. If choosing one of these agencies, applicants are encouraged to use the links below. (*Discount available via link.)


Sending Official Transcripts to PsyCAS

Resumes, Curriculum Vitae, and the "Experiences" SectionToggle Accordion

The resume or CV should list professional and academic experience, education, awards, publications, etc.

  • Resumes are generally one page long and do not need to be comprehensive. They should focus on experiences that relate to the degree program to some extent. Folks with more in-depth experience in the field, such as research or publication, may submit a longer document styled as a CV.
  • While it is not required that you also enter work experience, volunteer experience, etc., into PsyCAS, it can be helpful to at least enter the highlights of your experience in this section so admissions committee members can see it at a glance. 
  • Feel free to include unpaid or internship experiences if they are related to your interest in clinical psychology. 


Writing a Good Resume for Grad School - Prep Scholar More About Supporting Information From PsyCAS

Letters of RecommendationToggle Accordion

Letters of recommendation from three academic or professional references are required. Personal references, such as family, friends, therapists or informal mentors, will not be accepted. Whenever possible, they should be faculty members in psychology or practicing professionals in psychology or other mental health discipline. If you have questions about whether a recommender is acceptable, please reach out to your admissions counselor

Letters are requested and submitted through the PSYCAS system. Applicants will electronically submit the names and email addresses of their recommenders who will receive a request to complete the recommendation form. Three letters are required.

  • It is acceptable to request two letters of recommendation from people at the same organization or agency. We encourage you to try and ensure that each recommender can offer a distinct perspective on your personality and performance. 
  • There is no specific format for the letters; however, most are offered on letterhead and written in a formal style. 
  • While letters from psychology faculty are recommended, a broad range of letters is acceptable. They do not need to come from people only in psychology or the behavioral sciences, and recommenders do not require advanced degrees. Individuals with whom you have only a personal relationship (family friend, family member, etc.) are discouraged. 
  • A joint letter (written by two or more people) is acceptable; however, the invitation can only be sent to one email address. Please clarify with your recommenders to whom the email invitation to complete the form should be sent. 
  • Recommenders upload letters directly to PsyCAS. Applicants should enter the email address of their recommender into PsyCAS. PsyCAS will then email the recommender with a link to complete the form and upload the letter. 
  • Letters of recommendation are uploaded to PsyCAS as PDFs or Word documents. Recommenders are also asked to provide standardized ratings, which PsyCAS will prompt.


Submitting Evaluations to PsyCAS

Personal StatementToggle Accordion

The purpose of the personal statement is to provide a sample of the applicant’s ability to write in an academic and professional manner, as well as to learn about any qualifications/life events that were not captured in the application.
Formatting: Double space, and limit to 1,000 words.
  • Provide a brief autobiographical sketch, including what led to your interest in the practice of clinical psychology. 
  • Discuss your future career goals as a clinical psychologist, why you want to become a clinical psychologist, and how the PhD program's clinical and research training will help you reach these goals. 
  • Address your strengths and accomplishments that have prepared you for graduate psychology training. This might include your professional development, including course preparation for research projects; history of publications and presentations at professional conferences; experience with and/or commitment to diverse populations; and/or clinical training or work experience. 
  • Discuss the qualities you possess that you think will be important assets as a practicing clinical psychologist.

The most important advice is to respond to the questions asked in the prompt and adhere to length and style guidelines. Beyond that, the statement of purpose is the primary way for the Admissions Committee to hear your voice. There is no need to rehash your resume – take the opportunity to talk about your passions and interests specific to psychology.

You are welcome to address personal circumstances or hardships in your application if it helps frame your interest in the field. Please remember, however, that your statement of purpose is not a diary entry or a counseling session. Oversharing can raise concerns about boundary issues and personal judgment. If you address a past hardship, we encourage you to provide analysis and self-reflection of the situation rather than just describe what happened. If the situation is too fresh, and you feel you cannot distance yourself enough to provide analysis yet, it may be best to choose another topic for your statement of purpose.

Writing the Personal Statement - Purdue University

TOEFL or IELTSToggle Accordion

For international applicants whose undergraduate studies were in a language other than English, the TOEFL or IELTS exam is required. Scores can be submitted through PSYCAS. However, international students may not need to submit scores from the TOEFL or IELTS. This is often because the student’s native language is English or they attended a college or university with English as the primary language of instruction. Please email the Office of Admissions to discuss and to request a waiver.

Sending TOEFL Scores to PsyCAS

GRE and GRE Subject TestsToggle Accordion

The GRE and GRE Psychology Subject Tests will not be required of applicants for the 2022-23 admissions cycle. Our process will be test-blind: test scores will not be considered by the Admissions Committee even if submitted by the student. 

PhD and PsyD Application Deep Dive

We encourage you to view the recorded Deep Dive below, which walks students through the PsyCAS application process.

I would like to apply to the PhD and PsyD. Should I submit two personal statements?

Yes. Although both programs are committed to training clinical psychologists, the programs have different strengths, training missions, structure, and faculty. You do need to write separate statements of purpose for each program.

To apply to both programs:
1. Start an application for the PsyD program in PsyCAS
2. In the "Program Materials" section, select "yes" to the question that asks, "Would you also like to have your application considered for admission to PAU's PhD in Clinical Psychology program?"
3. In the "Optional Documents" section, upload your additional personal statement specific to the PhD program.

Frequently Asked Questions: PhD Admissions

Recommended GPAToggle Accordion

  • We strongly recommend applicants have at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average.

Applying to PhD LabsToggle Accordion

  • PAU is atypical in terms of how students apply to research labs. Rather than applying directly to a research lab or faculty member, students apply to the PAU PhD program in general. Students can explore the broad range of labs available during the first year and even volunteer in labs. This allows students to make informed decisions about which labs they wish to apply to. Students apply for labs in the Spring of their first year.
  • During the application process, we encourage students to mention a few faculty members with whom they would like to work. However, this is not binding. 


Learn More About Labs

Research and Clinical ExperienceToggle Accordion

  • We strongly recommend applicants have related volunteer or work experience in the mental health field and experience with research.
  • Feel free to include non-psychology research experience.
  • For applicants with no formal research experience, including research conducted within an academic class may be helpful and may be a way to highlight one’s preparation for doctoral-level study.
  • Feel free to include papers or projects underway but not complete at the time of application. 

Prerequisite CoursesToggle Accordion

The following courses are required for entry into the PhD Clinical Psychology program:

  • Biopsychology (e.g. Sensation and Perception, Brain and Behavior)
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Statistics

The four mentioned courses will help ensure that all incoming students have a smooth transition into our rigorous doctoral program. They must be passed with a grade of B or better and completed before the start of classes in the PhD program. Prerequisite courses must be completed before an incoming student starts classes but do not need to be completed before applying. Students can mark that prerequisite courses are “in-progress.” Students with courses in progress or planned for a future term will be offered conditional admission, which will not be lifted until the pre-requisite courses are complete. 

  • These courses can be completed at either the lower or upper-division level and may be completed at a community college or university extension program to save money. 
  • Statistics can be completed in any discipline, not just in Psychology. 
  • There is no statute of limitations on when these courses must have been taken, but we do encourage students who have been out of school for some time to consider whether a refresher course might be helpful. 
  • Students with questions about whether a class will count toward a prerequisite should contact the Office of Admissions. An Admissions Counselor can review the course and determine its acceptability. 
  • Courses graded on a pass/no pass scale are acceptable.
Learn More About PhD Prerequisites

Master’s DegreesToggle Accordion

  • Students are not required to have a master’s degree, and there is no preference given to students with master’s degrees. There is also no penalty for having a master’s degree. 
  • Grades from both the undergraduate and graduate levels are considered in the selection of students. Admissions Committee members do pay attention to trends in grades over time.

Areas of EmphasisToggle Accordion

  • Students indicate their possible area(s) of emphasis on the PsyCAS application; however, this is not a binding choice. 
  • For the PhD, each area of emphasis is distinctive and has differing entry requirements.
Areas of Emphasis

Admissions CommunicationToggle Accordion

  • The primary form of communication in the admissions process is email, and we will use the email address you list on your application. 
  • All students will receive a decision, and we will provide updates as often as possible. 
  • Offers of admissions are made in March. You are always welcome to reach out to the Office of Admissions for an update about your application status. 
  • PhD and PsyD students have until April 15th to accept an offer of admission. This deadline may be extended due to extenuating circumstances.  

Work StudyToggle Accordion

  • Work-study awards are part of the financial aid package. Once awarded work-study, students may apply for any work-study job on the PAU campus. While it is technically possible for students to use their work-study award at Stanford, it is rare. 
  • International students are generally allowed to work on campus but should check with the International Students Office to ensure an on-campus position is permitted based on visa type. 

Transfer CreditToggle Accordion

Graduate Level

Only graduate-level courses are acceptable for transfer credit. A graduate-level course is any course for which a student received graduate credit at their previous institution(s). This may include graduate-level courses the student took as an undergraduate.

Acceptable Grades

A grade of “B” or better is required in a graduate-level course to be acceptable for transfer credit.


Previous graduate work must have been completed at a regionally accredited institution. International coursework must be in English in order to be evaluated for transfer.

Time Limit for Requesting Transfer Credit

Requests for transfer of units must be completed by the posted deadline.

Maximum Units

A maximum of 30 units may be transferred into the PhD program. If a student receives a waiver of courses beyond the transferable units, they must take elective units to meet the total unit requirement for graduation from PAU.

Units Awarded

Any course can only transfer in the number of transfer units equal to the comparable course at Palo Alto University, despite the number of units previously assigned to the course. The number of units of a course the student wishes to transfer must be equal to or greater than the units of the corresponding Palo Alto University course. Palo Alto University operates on quarter academic terms. Semester credits will be converted to quarter units for evaluation using a 1.5 quarter unit per 1.0-semester unit conversion.

Course Obsolescence

Courses must have been completed within five years prior to the time of matriculation at PAU.

Students must provide a syllabus/syllabi for the course(s) they would like to transfer. Course descriptions are not acceptable.


Students must provide a syllabus/syllabi for the course(s) they would like to transfer. Course descriptions are not acceptable.

Appeals and Exceptions

Credit transfer decisions may be appealed in writing to the Curriculum Committee.


Transferable Courses

  • PSYS800 History & Systems

  • PSYS801 Child & Adolescent Development

  • PSYS802 Cognitive Bases of Behavior I 

  • PSYS804 Affective Bases of Behavior I 

  • PSYS805 Biological Psychology

  • PSYS807 Adult Development & Aging 

  • PSYS809 Psychopharmacology

  • PSYS811 Social & Personality Psychology

  • CLIN803 Psychodynamic Psychotherapy I 

  • CLIN806 Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy I

  • CLIN809 Child, Adolescent, & Family Psychotherapy

  • ASMT809 Intellectual Assessment

  • ASMT810 Psychometric Theory

  • ASMT815 Assessment of Personality 

  • ASMT818 Psychopathology & Psychodiagnostics II: Child & Adolescent Disorders

  • ASMT819 Psychopathology & Psychodiagnostics II: Personality Disorders

  • ASMT826 Assessment of Psychopathology 

  • STAT809 Research Methods & Statistics II 

  • STAT810 Research Methods & Statistics III

Students may not receive transfer credit for any additional courses, including electives.
Office of Admissions and Outreach

You may direct general inquiries to: or call 650-417-2039

Please note that due to remote work, our phone line is not staffed live. Please leave us a message and we will return your call shortly.

Admissions Snapshot for Fall 2022 Cohort (as of 1.12.23)
PhD Total Applicants 550
Admit Rate 33.1%
Final Cohort Size 61

Demographic Summary: Fall 2022 Deposited PhD Students

Self-Reported Race (PAU uses IPEDS rules when reporting race and ethnicity)

Hispanic 25.53%
American Indian N/A
Asian 33.33%
Black 3.92%
Pacific Islander N/A
White 37.25%
Two or More Races N/A
No Response 1.96%

Race - Narrative Summary

Hispanic 3
Hispanic - White 6
Hispanic - Black - Pacific Islander 1
Hispanic - Black 2


Asian Indian





Sri Lankan










Black  2
White 19


Male 9.80%
Female 86.27%%
Gender Non-Conforming 1.96%
Not Listed 1.96%


Average Cumulative Undergraduate GPA

Lower Quartile: 2.71 – 3.34
Mean: 3.53
Median: 3.63
Upper Quartile: 3.85 – 4.0

Other Demographics

Average Age at Application 25.01 (Range: 20-33)
US Citizenship


First Generation 43.13%
Native Languages Amharic, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, English, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Punjabi, Spanish, Swedish