www.MyPsychMentor.com: For Psych Majors and Enthusiasts

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Volunteer Activities Will Get Me Into Graduate School?

A few of you have written in asking me the question:
"What volunteer activities should I participate in if I want to improve my chances of being accepted to a graduate program in psychology?"

Psychology graduate school admissions committees will most likely look very favorably upon volunteer activities that are either research-related or involve helping others or an organization. These two categories obviously cover a wide array of activities.

So, how to pick?

There may be an even more relevant question that you should be asking yourself that can help you to choose the best option for you;

What do I want to learn or gain from my volunteer position in terms of experience, exposure, and personal fulfillment?

A volunteer or internship position gives you the chance to:

- Try out working in different environments and see if you enjoy working in such settings (e.g., psychologists' office, public health agency, children's home).

-Interact with professionals in a field in which you may be interested. This is priceless! You can learn so much from such professionals about their careers and career paths.

- Expand your horizons by working with a new group of people (e.g., those with substance abuse issues, the elderly, veterans, divorcees). This is important since it can help you figure out what specialization want to have and/or group that you may like to work with as a future clinician.

- Gain research experience. This is critical if you want to enter a graduate program in experimental psychology or Clinical Psychology PhD program.

-Learn valuable skills including communication, writing, analytical, and organizational skills that can help you to do well as a psychology graduate school student and beyond...

You can ask your local Psychology Club (Psi Chi or Psi Beta) for ideas, ask your professors, visit your school's career center to find out about internships, see one of the URLs provided below, and more...

There are so many possibilities out there! In fact, there is an entire chapter about internships and volunteer positions in my book (www.mypsychmentor.com). It includes figures listing many common positions that are well suited to psychology majors, relevant Web resources, tips on how to select and attain your volunteer or internship position, and how to present your volunteer or internship experiences in the best light on your graduate school applications and resumes.

Last, but not least, choose something that will be personally rewarding to you. If you enjoy the activity you choose, you are most likely to stick with it and get the most out of it!

I hope that the ideas and the line of questioning that I have presented above serve as a great tool to help steer you in the right direction!

Here just a few of the online volunteer matching organizations available to you: