Prospective Graduate Students

Application Information

Dear Potential Applicant:

Thank you for your interest in our Ph.D. program in Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology. Our program is rigorous and designed to provide students with the skills they will need to become research scientists capable of pursuing knowledge of mental and social processes and brain functioning. Students may earn degrees with a focus in cognitive science, behavioral neuroscience, or social psychology.

If you have general questions about the application process, consider reading some of the resources listed at the bottom of this letter. You should also consult advisors or career counselors at your college or university. In addition, pay particular attention to our faculty members’ web sites. If you have further questions about our Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology program after reading this letter and the web site information, feel free to contact Dr. Joe Vandello  by email or postal mail (Department of Psychology, PCD 4118G, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620-7200).

Like most doctoral programs, we admit new applicants only once a year. Applications are due December 1st for domestic and international applicants for admission the following fall. Students are admitted only for full-time study. Acceptance into the program is based on GPA, letters of recommendation, research experience, and the match between the applicant’s interests and the interests of our core faculty who are admitting students in a given year. GRE scores are optional. We use the personal statement to understand the applicant's research experience, research interests, and intended mentor(s).

We evaluate applicants holistically, taking into account academic performance, expressed interests, fit, research experience, and letters of recommendation. Although GRE scores are not required, we accept them and use them in our evaluations. Many faculty members consider GRE scores when making acceptance decisions. Please note that some University scholarships require GRE scores.

Although we have no formal cutoffs for GPA, we are most likely to consider applicants with an undergraduate GPA above 3.75.  Although GRE scores are optional you may wish to note that a recent entering class had mean GRE ranks of 78th percentile for the Verbal GRE and 52nd percentile for the Quantitative GRE. The mean GPA for the last two years of undergraduate school was 3.89 for these entering students. In addition, all entering students had worked as research assistants collecting empirical data in a laboratory or field setting.

Three recommendation letters are required. All three should be from faculty members or doctoral-level researchers. The ideal choice is someone with whom you have worked closely, especially if you have taken a small challenging class or conducted research with that person.

  • To be accepted into our program, students should have extensive research experience and a strong background in psychological research methods or other scientific methodologies, such as biology, neuroscience, computer science, or language science. The area of the undergraduate degree need only be loosely related to psychology, provided the applicant’s interests are similar to those of our core faculty.

  • Approximately 5 - 7 students are admitted each year. Some academically qualified students are not admitted because their research interests differ sharply from the interests of our core faculty members who are admitting students that year. Therefore, you should review their interests before applying to our program. If you want to learn even more about particular faculty members, you may email them at the address listed on their web pages.

  • Our program requires a full-time commitment.

  • The Ph.D. program can be completed in five years of full-time academic work, although many of our students require six years. All students are involved in conducting research projects under the supervision of faculty members throughout this period. These projects include two independent research projects: a master’s thesis and a doctoral dissertation.

  • Many incoming students already have a master’s degree. Students entering with a master’s degree can waive previously taken graduate courses that are judged to be equivalent to requirements in our Ph.D. program, and can potentially transfer up to 15 credits toward the Ph.D. However, all of the course requirements from our masters on the way to the Ph.D. must be met either by waiving the requirement based on courses already taken in the previous master’s degree or by taking the courses en route to the Ph.D. Decisions about course waivers and credit transfers can only be made after review once an applicant has been accepted into the program. Each individual case must be evaluated by the concentration after admission. Likewise, it is sometimes possible to count a completed master’s thesis if it is judged equivalent in quality to theses conducted by students in our program. After acceptance into the program, a faculty committee will review your thesis to determine whether it can meet our requirements.

We welcome your interest in our Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology program and hope that this letter, along with other departmental information, will help you make an informed decision about applying. Please read about our admissions requirements. Good luck in your pursuit of graduate education!

Ruthann Atchley, Ph.D.
Area Director, Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology program

P.S. There are a number of excellent books that can help with the application process. A book that our students have recommended is Graduate study in psychology. It can be ordered from the American Psychological Association.