Prospective Graduate Students

Application Information

Please note that applications to the clinical area must be received on or before our Priority Deadline date of December 1 (domestic and international applicants). Applicants invited for an on-campus interview will be asked to attend one of our Open Houses (January 31st - February 1st or February 7th-8th).

Psychology is one of the most common majors on most college campuses. In addition, many psychology majors hope to become clinical psychologists. However, entry into a clinical psychology PhD program is difficult as acceptance rates vary from 1 to 20%. In general, if you are very interested in attending a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology, you should seriously consider applying to at least several programs (13-15 would not be unreasonable). Following this strategy will increase your chances of acceptance into at least one program.

The competition for acceptance into the USF Clinical Psychology program is, unfortunately, intense. Approximately 300 students apply each year but only about 7-10 are admitted. Students admitted to the Clinical Psychology program at the University of South Florida frequently excel in a number of different areas:


Many qualified students are not admitted because acceptance is determined not only by credentials but also by past experiences. Nearly all entering students have worked as research assistants and many have had experience in a mental health facility, usually as a volunteer. Although both types of experiences will enhance your chances for admission, psychological research experience is most important. The majority of our entering students have presented their research at a conference or have published their research. Another reason that experience will help you when you apply to our program is that you will need three letters of recommendation. Optimally, these letters will be from academic psychologists with whom you have worked in the past and who know something about you personally. For example, professors with whom you have worked as a research assistant would be good references.

Academic Excellence

Other than the minimum criteria set by the university for all graduate programs, we have no formal cutoffs for GPA. Nevertheless, there are some guidelines you can use to evaluate your chances for admission. The entering classes for the last three years had a median GPA of 3.76. Please realize, however, that many students admitted into our program have GPAs lower (and higher) than this as GPA is not the sole criteria for admission. A GPA around 3.5 for the last two years is recommended. We also prefer that students have an undergraduate degree in Psychology. However, we have occasionally made an exception for applicants who are particularly strong in other areas (e.g., research experiences). Still, it is highly desirable for a student to have at least a minimal background in Psychology (e.g., Introductory Psychology, Abnormal Psychology) and in Research Methods (e.g. Experimental Design, Statistics, etc.).

Verbal and Quantitative Skills

Other than the minimum criteria set by the university for all graduate programs, we have no formal cutoffs for GRE scores. Nevertheless, there are some guidelines you can use to evaluate your chances for admission. The entering classes for the last three years had a median GRE (Verbal and Quantitative combined) score of 1333 (on the old version) or 316 (on the newer version). Please realize, however, that many students admitted into our program have scores lower (and higher) than these scores as GRE scores are not the sole criteria for admission. A combined GRE score of at least 1250 or 310 is recommended.

Match on Research Interests

Many qualified students are not admitted because acceptance is determined not only by credentials and past experiences but also by match with the research interests of our faculty. We are an apprenticeship model (also known as a mentorship model) program, which means that students work closely with at least one primary research mentor. Admission decisions are made with mentorship matches in mind, so it is important for applicants to identify at least one potential mentor among the clinical faculty. It is a good idea to mention your preferred mentor(s) in your personal statement. Note that not all faculty members expect to admit students into their laboratories next Fall. Those who expect to admit students are identified by asterisks.

Based on review of qualifications relative to the aforementioned areas, approximately 30-35 applicants are invited to one of two Open House interview events each year. The clinical area usually tries to accept between 7-10 students into the program. Some candidates who do not get an offer initially are put on a waiting list. Consistent with APA guidelines, all applicants will be informed of their status in the admissions process by April 1st. Also, consistent with APA guidelines, applicants have until April 15th to decide on an offer. If they decline the offer before April 15th, then applicants on the waiting list may receive an offer (which again can be held until April 15th).

Please see the Student Statistics/Full Disclosure for more information on the students who have been recruited over the last few years and the USF Clinical Psychology Faculty page for information about who is recruiting students this year.

Minority Applicants

Our program strongly encourages applications from individuals of diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or cultural backgrounds. Minority members are under-represented in the field of clinical psychology; thus, we hope that students who represent cultural minorities will seriously consider applying. Minority applicants are eligible to apply for a variety of fellowships with deadlines between January 15th and February 15th. There are some that are by departmental nomination only (e.g., Graduate Student Success (GSS) Fellowship, Delores Auzenne Fellowship, McNair Doctoral Fellowship (part of the GSS Fellowships), and Presidential Graduate Fellowship). To find out more please visit the USF Office of Graduate Studies Fellowship and Scholarship page.

Applicants with a Masters Degree

Many students already have an M.A. and, understandably, would like to obtain full credit for their degree. It is sometimes possible to transfer credit for courses that are virtually identical to those offered by our department; however, no final decision about such courses can be made prior to your acceptance into the program. Each individual case must be evaluated after admission by the Graduate Program Committee. Likewise, it is sometimes possible to obtain credit for an already completed masters thesis if it is judged equivalent in quality to those conducted by students in our program. After acceptance into the program, a faculty committee would review your thesis to determine if it can be transferred.

Tips on Applying

There are a number of excellent books that can help with the application process. Books that our students have recommended are the following: Getting In: a Step-by-step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology, Graduate Study in Psychology (both of which can be ordered from the American Psychological Association: 1-800-374-2721), and Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical Psychology (by Norcross, Mayne & Sayette, published by Guilford Press). We hope these references help you become more educated about the application process.

If you have general questions about the application process or about careers in the field of psychology, we encourage you to read some of the resources noted above. If you have specific questions about our Clinical program after reading the material on this webpage, please feel free to contact our clinical admissions advisor who can be reached at (813) 618-7974. This advisor is an advanced clinical student who will keep regular telephone hours throughout the academic term. Here is advisor's email address. In the meantime, we wish you good luck in making your decision and hope that you will seriously consider applying to our program.

A Note on Interviews, Visits, and Contacting Faculty:
Because of the volume of applications each year, we cannot arrange visits or interviews with prospective applicants until February, at which point we invite about 35 applicants to the University of South Florida Open Houses to interview. If you are interested in the program and have questions, you should contact faculty whose work looks like the best match for you and who are taking students for the current year, or contact Rose Miller, our clinical admissions advisor.

Brief USF Clinical Psychology PhD Program Description

Our program is a full-time, APA-Accredited, Ph.D. program. It is also a member program of the Academy for Psychological Clinical Science, which indicates our commitment to research training. Although an M.A. degree is awarded on the way toward receiving the Ph.D., you should not enter the program with the intention of obtaining only a masters. If you cannot commit to the Ph.D. program, you should investigate the large number of schools that offer a terminal masters program in Clinical Psychology.

The entire Ph.D. program usually takes four or five years of academic work, followed by a one-year clinical internship. All students complete two independent research projects, a masters thesis and a doctoral dissertation. In order to be eligible for graduation, students are required to complete 90 hours of course work. In addition to intense involvement in research activities, students are involved in clinical practica throughout their training.

Clinical Faculty Research

The research interests of the Clinical faculty are described below. Our faculty members have diverse interests within clinical psychology, and we urge applicants to read the descriptions carefully before deciding whether to apply to our program. In addition to the research foci of the individual faculty members, we would like to highlight a few general areas that cut across faculty, and are therefore particular strengths of the clinical training program at USF. Please note, however, that these general themes do not represent all of the areas of research carried out by our faculty and students.

Health Psychology

This is the fastest-growing area within the field of clinical psychology, and it is a clear strength of our department. Areas of health psychology studied by our faculty include addictive disorders (Bornovalova, Brandon, Drobes, Goldman, Schlauch, Verona), eating disorders and obesity (Rancourt), and behavioral oncology and risk factors for cancer (Brandon). Research in health psychology is enhanced by the presence of a medical school and large medical center on campus. Among the hospitals in the medical center are the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and the James A. Haley Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Both of these facilities often serve as sites of clinical research and practicum placements for our students.

Addictive Behaviors

Substance abuse is one of the most prevalent behavioral problems today, impacting society in a multitude of ways. It is also an area that has benefited greatly from psychological research. Although mentioned above as a sub area within health psychology, addictive behaviors can also be considered a strength of our department in its own right. Clinical faculty conducting research in this area include Mark Goldman (alcohol expectancies), Marina Bornovalova (drug use disorders and comorbidity with Borderline Personality Disorder), Robert Schlauch (treatment outcomes, pretreatment change, alcohol craving) and Edelyn Verona (gender differences in pathways to drug use, drug use links to antisociality and psychopathy), Thomas Brandon (tobacco use and cessation), and David Drobes (drug addiction and craving).


The study of mental illness and disordered behaviors continues to serve as a foundation for much of clinical psychology. Faculty whose research falls in this area include Marina Bornovalova (externalizing disorders and behaviors), Edelyn Verona (psychopathy, personality disorders, aggression/violence), Marc Karver (self harm and suicidal behavior), Vicky Phares (developmental psychopathology), Jon Rottenberg (individual differences in the experience of emotions, especially depression), and Diana Rancourt (eating disorders).

Clinical Child Psychology

Clinical child psychology has been one of the most popular and expanding areas of study over the past decade. Department research spans the prevention-treatment continuum from studies of etiology, assessment, and treatment of child/adolescent disorders to primary and secondary prevention efforts to reduce rates of disorder and promote healthy functioning. Clinical faculty conducting research in this general area include Vicky Phares (developmental psychopathology, parenting), Marc Karver (treatment processes and suicidal adolescents), and Diana Rancourt (peer influence and adolescents’ weight-related behaviors). Research and practicum sites include the USF Psychological Services Center, three local school districts, and the Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry in the USF Department of Pediatrics.

 View the Clinical Faculty Research Addendum for more details regarding faculty members' specific research interests.

Financial Obligations and Living Arangements

Tuition and Fees

For the 2018-2019 academic year, tuition rates are $431.43 per credit-hour for Florida residents and $877.17 per hour for nonresidents. The typical entering clinical student will register for 12 credits in the first year and second year.

The large majority of graduate students receive tuition waivers. For example, most TA and RA positions come with a tuition waiver. The tuition waiver covers 100% of tuition costs and students are responsible for additional student fees.


The cost of living in Tampa is affordable compared with most large cities. Most one-bedroom apartments rent for approximately $800/month, and most two-bedroom apartments rent for $1000/month. Many nice apartment complexes are located close to campus. For more information about housing and Tampa in general, take a look at any of several Tampa Bay area guides on the internet.

Alternatives to a Clinical Psychology Degree

In choosing a career path, you should be aware of graduate programs in other mental health fields. For example, at USF, there are excellent programs in School Psychology (813-974-3246), Social Work (813-974-2063), Rehabilitation Counseling (813-974-2855), Counselor Education (813-974-3515), and Aging Studies (813-974-2414). Other universities offer additional programs at the masters and doctoral levels.

Clinical Admissions Chair
Marc S. Karver, Ph.D.

Director of Clinical Training
Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D.