Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by PhD applicants. If you don't see the information you are looking for, please feel free to reach out to our admissions team at admissions@paloaltou.edu

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

Take a step-by-step look at the PhD application with our admissions team.

Frequently Asked Questions: PhD Admissions

GRE ScoresToggle Accordion

GRE scores are not required or expected for the 21-22 admissions cycle. Scores will not be considered even if students submit them. 

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. During the course of the first year, students can explore the broad range of labs available 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 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

Resumes/CVs and the “Experiences” SectionToggle Accordion

  • 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 help 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. 
More About Supporting Information From PsyCAS

Entering Research ExperienceToggle Accordion

  • 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 that are underway, but not complete, at the time of application. 

Statements of PurposeToggle Accordion

  • The most important piece of advice is to respond to the questions asked in the prompt, and to 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 hardship 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 a description of 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.

Letters of RecommendationToggle Accordion

  • 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 need 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 will be prompted by PsyCAS.
More About Letters from PsyCAS

TOEFL and IELTSToggle Accordion

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.

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 will be reflected in the GPA calculation on that transcript. 
  • PsyCAS requires transcripts from all colleges and universities attended post-high school graduation. This is the case even if transfer credit appears on a more recent transcript. 
  • 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 so that we can 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 are applying 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.
International Transcripts
  • PsyCAS required international transcripts to be evaluated – there are several services available. PAU cannot waive this requirement on behalf of PsyCAS. If you are applying only to PAU, you can work with us one-on-one to see if a transcript evaluation can be waived. 
Transcripts for Study Abroad Programs
  • How you enter transcripts for study abroad programs will vary given the nature of the courses and whether you took them from your home institution or another institution. Please read the instructions from PsyCAS (above) carefully to determine how to enter these courses. 
Sending Domestic Transcripts to PsyCAS Sending International Transcripts to PsyCAS Sending Study Abroad Transcripts to PsyCAS

Prerequisite CoursesToggle Accordion

  • Prerequisite courses must be complete before an incoming student starts classes, but do not need to be complete 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 useful. 
  • 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.

Applying to the PhD and PsyDToggle Accordion

  • You are welcome to apply to both the PhD and PsyD concurrently. Your applications will be reviewed separately by the two Admissions Committees, and the processes will run generally independently of each other. There is no penalty for applying to both programs – we do encourage you to be clear about how each program is a good fit for your academic and professional interests. 
  • You should submit two Statements of Purpose which address the distinct reasons for applying to each. 
  • You may apply to both programs one of two ways"
    • Submit two applications in PsyCAS. You will need to pay two application fees.
    • Contact your admissions counselor and request the second program be added to your student file. You can email your additional statment of purpose to us and we will manurally upload it to your file. 

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 level are considered in 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. 
More About 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 provide updates as often as possible. 
  • Offers of admissions are made on a rolling basis, and will vary student to student and year to year. Some students may hear as soon as two weeks after interview, others may take a few months. 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, such as COVID-19.  

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 very rare. 
  • International students are generally allowed to work on campus, but should check with the International Students Office to make sure an on-campus position is allowed based on visa type.