Applying to graduate studies in Psychology

Details on this website is general information. It is your responsibility to check the admission criteria, application instructions, application deadlines, etc. for the specific school/programs that you are interested in applying to.

Examples of graduate degrees in Psychology:

  • Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology
  • Master of Science (MS) in Psychology
  • Master of Applied Science (MASc) in Psychology
  • Master of Education (MEd) in Counselling Psychology
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

(Graduate programs available at the University of Waterloo)

The Canadian Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies all provide useful information regarding the application/admission process for graduate studies, the graduate school years, and careers.

The application process begins a year in advance of going to graduate school. Review the requirements for admission to specific graduate programs during second and third year so that you will have sufficient time to obtain all of the necessary background for admission including academic and applied experience.

Graduate schools typically evaluate applicants' preparedness for graduate studies based on the application form, personal statements regarding background for the intended area of study, scores on the Graduate Record Exam, academic standing, letters of recommendation, and finally, the match of interests between the student and potential faculty supervisor(s). Some schools may require an interview. Explore this website for further details.

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Seek advice about graduate school plans

Please consult with the following people:

  • the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs: Stephanie Denison
  • your Honours Thesis (PSYCH 499A/B/C) supervisor
  • faculty members whose labs you have worked or volunteered
  • faculty members who attended the school that you are interested in applying to (see the Undergraduate calendar)
  • faculty members who have interests that relate to your future plans (see faculty profiles)

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Choose a graduate program

Researching graduate programs will be very time consuming and should not be left until the start of fourth year.

Insight into the programs offered and the academic environment at a particular school can be obtained from the websites for the universities as well as by making appointments to visit the schools to talk directly to the faculty members and graduate students.

When reviewing graduate programs, seek answers to the following questions:

  • Is the program research or applied in orientation?
  • How many faculty members are associated with the program and what are their research interests?
  • Is there more than one faculty member whose interests you share?
  • What are the recent publications of potential supervisors?
  • How many students are there currently in the program?
  • What types of financial support can students expect and how much?
  • What are the library, computer, laboratory, and office resources like?
  • What is the employment success of graduates?
  • Is the institution accredited and by whom?
  • For professional Psychology programs (e.g., clinical psychology, counselling psychology, school psychology), is the program accredited and by whom?

Those graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Waterloo are not given special consideration with respect to admission to graduate studies in Psychology at UWaterloo. However, UWaterloo students have the advantage of networking with faculty throughout their undergraduate studies. Thus reviewers of applications will be more familiar with the research interests and aptitude for conducting research of UWaterloo students than other applicants.

You should do the Bachelor's degree and graduate degree at different schools in order to be exposed to a variety of perspectives. However, it is not uncommon for a small number of UWaterloo Psychology alumni to stay at UWaterloo for graduate studies because of a good match between a faculty member's and a student's interests.

Program accreditation and licensing requirements to practice psychology in Canada

Accreditation for professional Psychology programs:

The Canadian Psychological Association provides advice regarding the training and licensing requirements to practice psychology in Canada.

Searching for graduate programs

Psychology Departments in Canada

Universities Canada: search academic programs in Canada at all levels and types

Canadian Higher Education and Career Guide

If looking in particular for online programs (Bachelor's, Master's, PhD, certificate, diploma), we suggest you do a search for Canadian online university programs. 

For Counselling Psychology, check for programs within Psychology Departments as well as in Master's of Education programs.

For Forensic Psychology, do key word searches for 'criminology' and 'forensic' to capture programs within Psychology Departments as well as Sociology Departments.

If looking for graduate programs for human factors and ergonomics, begin your search with departments of Psychology (e.g., Cognitive Psychology), Engineering (e.g., System Design or Management Science), and Kinesiology.

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Graduate school applications

It is your responsibility to obtain all of the necessary application information, application forms, scholarship applications, etc.

Start early because the application process is very time consuming and deadlines vary.

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Scholarship applications

Deadlines for applying for scholarships are firm and could be as early as the third week of September.

If you are planning to apply for graduate studies at any Canadian university, then you are strongly encouraged to apply for scholarships during your fourth year. Note that your prospects for admission to many graduate programs may depend on whether or not you've applied for scholarship funding.

Funding and awards for graduate studies in Psychology at UWaterloo

Scholarships applications typically require an overall average of at least 80%, particularly for the last two full years of study. Some requirements stipulate at least 80% in each of the last two years of study.

Applying for scholarships:

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Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Many graduate schools require applicants to submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores for the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Test. These two tests cannot be written at the same time.

The official description of the GRE, registration information, test dates and centres, deadlines for applying to write the tests, fees, answers to FAQ (e.g., how the test is scored), free test preparation materials, etc. are available from the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Practice books for the GRE are available at the UWaterloo Bookstore.

Talk to senior Honours students and current graduate students who have written the GRE about what to expect on the test and the amount of preparation required.

See the EST website for further details about the GRE Psychology Test including practice questions, test dates, registration deadlines, etc.

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Letters of recommendation (also called reference letters)

Typically 2 or 3 letters of recommendation will be required for each application for admission as well as for each scholarship application. The letters provide important information to those evaluating your potential for success in the program.

Think carefully regarding who you will approach for reference letters and the types of letters needed for your particular goals e.g., academic references, references for volunteer or paid positions related to a particular field, character references, etc.

Tips for obtaining letters of recommendation.

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Personal Statements

Most graduate schools ask you to provide a self-assessment about your preparedness for graduate studies. The required information might include details regarding your:

  • areas of interest
  • educational and career goals
  • academic and research experience
  • volunteer and paid work experience

that is relevant to the intended area of study.

The statements must be well written and convey your commitment to the specific program and the related profession.

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Academic Standing

An Honours degree in Psychology (or equivalent - see Make-Up Psychology) that includes an honours thesis (e.g., PSYCH 499A/B/C) is typically required for admission to graduate school in Psychology.

Admission to graduate studies is very competitive so apply to several schools.

Many graduate schools advertise that the minimum overall average required for admission is in the 75 to 78% range. Note however, that the majority of those admitted will have averages considerably higher than the published cutoffs.

Reviewers will decide whether to look at averages for the cumulative record and/or a subset of the record e.g., grades for the last 2 full years of study. Further, whether emphasis is placed on the overall average versus the Psychology average, or on both averages.

If you calculate your averages for the last 2 full years of study, include the grades for the last 10.0 units (i.e., 20 term courses) and don't split terms (i.e., include all of the grades for a given term). If admission decisions for graduate studies (check deadlines of the schools) are made before rather than after your 4A (year/level) school term marks are available, grades for your last 2 years of study will consist of your year 2 and 3 grades. If your year 2 grades are lower than your year 3 grades and the grades you expect for year 4, you might want to consider delaying your application to graduate studies by a year.

You can get a better indication of the competition for admission by looking at the number of applications that a particular school receives in comparison to the number of offers of admission made.

For example, the UWaterloo Department of Psychology typically receives 300 to 350 applications for admission to graduate studies annually. The cumulative average (overall and psychology) of those accepted tend to be at least 84 to 87% with the cutoffs for admission to the Clinical Psychology graduate program being the highest.  For Fall 2015, 52 offers of admission were made and 32 accepted the offers. For Fall 2014, 44 offers of admission were made and 32 accepted offers.

If you are thinking about completing a second Bachelor's degree before applying for admission to graduate studies, consider this:
If you are counting on your grades for the second degree to be greater evidence of your potential for success in graduate studies than the grades for the first degree, doing the second degree at a different university than the first degree might be recommended depending on your current cumulative averages and circumstances. You are welcome to consult with the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in Psychology about your plans.

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Language proficiency

Review the language proficiency requirements for admission to the programs you are applying to.

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Applying to graduate programs is expensive and includes, for example:

  • application fees for several schools.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE): fees for writing the GRE General Test, fees for writing the GRE Subject (Psychology) Test, and fees for the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to distribute copies of the GRE scores.
  • fees for sending official transcripts from UWaterloo to other institutions.
  • miscellaneous expenses such as telephone calls, mailing costs (envelopes and stamps), and travel expenses to visit the schools or to attend interviews.

Employment opportunities

Sample employment for those with graduate level degrees in Psychology

Psychology Graduate Studies at the University of Waterloo

As you may be aware the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo has grown to be one of the most esteemed Departments of Psychology within Canada. Our graduate program is internationally renowned and, as a department, we are very proud of our diverse and highly-rated graduate program as well as our excellent graduate students and their many accomplishments.

We are committed to providing all of our graduate students with an intellectually stimulating, flexible, and friendly environment in which to pursue their studies.

Further details, see information for future Psychology graduate students at the University of Waterloo.