Cornell University

Handling Denials

Have A Back-Up Plan

As we have noted, admission to clinical psychology programs is extremely competitive. It is therefore important for you to have a back-up plan in the event you are denied admission the first time around. You have several alternatives:

  • Apply to other graduate psychology programs for the same school year.
  • Reapply to the same programs or apply to other graduate psychology programs for the following school year.
  • Consider alternatives to a graduate degree in psychology.

Evaluate Whether You Set Your Sights Too High

You should first assess your credentials against the admissions requirements of the specific program where you were denied admission and determine whether you set your sights too high. If, in fact, your credentials were very good, it is possible that the competition for this year or for the programs you chose was exceptionally intense.

Investigate Programs With Late Application Dates

You could examine programs that have late application dates and apply to those programs after you've been denied at your original schools. The APA Education Directorate compiles a list each spring of programs that have openings after April 15. The list is available May 15. You may view the list online or contact the American Psychological Association (APA) at 800/374-2721 to receive the list by mail.

Planning to Reapply the Following Year

If you decide to wait and reapply for the following school year, you should first determine whether you should reapply to programs where you were chosen as an alternate but didn't get in, or to programs where you were denied. Programs where you were chosen as an alternate are good bets because they expressed interest in your qualifications. For schools that firmly rejected you, contact them to see if they'd consider another application from you. Try to determine what is needed to strengthen your candidacy and be sure to demonstrate additional qualifications that you may have acquired over the year between applications.

Set Your Sights Appropriately

Prior to reapplication—whether to the same programs or to others—you should be sure to evaluate your credentials against program admission requirements and be sure you're selecting schools that appropriately match your qualifications. The year between applications should be used to improve your qualifications to increase your chances for acceptance. You should consider taking or retaking courses, retaking tests, or obtaining some solid research or clinical experience.

Adapted from Getting In: A Step by Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology (1994) American Psychological Association.