As the application season is now in heat, we decided to work on a project on postgraduate applications to help our readers currently applying to courses. We interviewed six current and former UCL Masters and PhD students in Psychology-related fields about their applications process. In this project, we will cover academic CVs and personal statements, interviews and funding, as well as desirable experience and prospects after graduation. In this opening post, we will introduce our interviewees and provide a glimpse into why they chose their degree programmes.
To set the stage, here is a list of our interviewees and their degree programmes, which we have divided into four major blocks:
Cognitive and Social Psychology:
Yulia Petrina: Yulia is a graduate from MSc Cognitive and Decision Sciences (2015-2016). She came from an undergraduate degree unrelated to Psychology or Biology.
Kunalan Manokara : Kunalan is a graduate from MSc Social Cognition (2015-2016). He completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology and History at Nanyang Technological University and is now working towards a PhD in Social Psychology at The University of Queensland.
Developmental and Educational Psychology:
Maheen Khan: Maheen is now studying MSc Developmental and Educational Psychology (note: it is not BPS accredited). She completed her undergraduate degree in BSc Psychology with Human Resource Management.
Olivia Williams: Olivia is in the middle of her DClinPsy Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (2014-2017). She has set her eyes on a clinical psychology career since sixteen. She recommends applicants to look through the “Clinical Psychology Handbook” before applying (it can be found online): it covers the details and course structure of every DClinPsy course provided in the UK, and has comments from current students on the course.
Alessandro Massazza: Alessandro is now completing a transition course in MSc Research Methods in Psychology, after which he will embark on a PhD in Clinical, Health and Educational Psychology. He came from an undergraduate degree in BSc Anthropology.
Jorina Von Zimmerman: Jorina is doing a PhD in inter-group conflicts (that she created herself) at the department of Experimental Psychology. Upon talking to her supervisor, Daniel Richardson, she wrote a research proposal, applied for funding and got accepted. She came from a Liberal Arts undergraduate programme at the University of Amsterdam and completed her Masters at UCL.
Now, let us move to the nitty-gritty parts…
Why did they choose their degree programme?
Besides interest in their course content, our interviewees also chose their course for a variety of other reasons:
1) UCL’s reputation in the field
Yulia: You pick up any book on cognition, it quotes someone from UCL. It seemed like the best place to study cognitive sciences.
2) The variety of courses and perspectives offered
Yulia: MSc CoDeS is quite widely applicable, with a wide range of subjects and lectures by practitioners from various relevant industries.
3) Opportunities for research experience
Kunalan: The coursework and research experience would be helpful for my future career.
Developmental and Educational Psychology
Maheen liked the researched-oriented aspect of her course, which is a recurring theme in the other courses to follow.
1) Development of both research and clinical skills
Alessandro: MSc Research Methods in Psychology offers a wide range of different skills spanning from computer programming to qualitative data analysis and from statistics to methods in neuroscience.
Olivia: Half of the course is clinical, half research.
2) Diversity of the cohort
Olivia: “The DClinPsy course in UCL is a lot bigger than other universities’, as our cohort has 45-50 people, with a mixture of age range, background and gender. Whereas the one in Oxford only has around 15 places…most of the candidates…were young girls from a middle-class background (like me).”
3) Access to diverse clients
Olivia: “We have different placements every six months, working with clients from different age groups and social backgrounds…UCL’s location in Central London meant access to different specialised national clinical places, and hence a broad range of clients, which would not be the case for other universities not in central London.”
While Jorina was in love with her topic, she felt that she needed more expertise and practice, and having a PhD will allow her to “sell herself” as an expert in the field.
Do they recommend their programme and why?
Cognitive and Social Psychology
Yulia: Yes – but think carefully about your interests as you are exposed to very different subjects and points of view in a very short time. Plus, you have to do a lot of reading, so the programme is very dynamic.
Kunalan: Yes, especially if you are interested in a research career. You will pick up important advice regarding the research process, right from learning how to ask novel and appropriate questions, to analysing your obtained responses in a useful manner.
Developmental and Educational Psychology
Maheen: Yes, it’s very flexible as you have core modules and optional modules, so you have a lot of options.
Alessandro: Absolutely. I am learning [so much] new information that I will be able to apply during my doctoral research. After [learning] SPSS and formulas, I started to appreciate this bizarre way of analysing reality. I now have access to an entire new set of research questions that would have been unthinkable before this course, especially applicable to real-world problems. I am learning how to program, build up evidence from numbers as well as words and experiences, how to design psychological studies and experiments, and all this while learning about different methods in the fields of developmental, cognitive, clinical psychology and neuroscience.
Olivia: Of course I do! Although it was definitely not easy handling such an intense course with placements, lectures, small scale research projects, exams (for the first two years) and a thesis (during the final year), I really enjoyed it for the exposure given.
Jorina: The way I applied was difficult because I was given a scholarship that only covered half of all costs of the research; initially the other half I paid for with some personal funds I had left, but they ran out, and I had to get a teaching job here at UCL to cover the other half. So, if you don’t know where your funding is going to come from when applying, it’s a bit of a gamble and might be quite scary. Of course, there are opportunities out there, and if you’re prepared to fight for funding a little, it’s going to be ok, but it’s a lot safer to apply for a position that’s already out there.
That’s all for today, and we hope that you’ve gained some insight from reading it. Stay tuned for the rest to come!
This article was written by Jessica Pu and edited by Aleya Marzuki. Both of them are members of the Bugle Team.