What do you think is the most important part of the grad school application process? I am trying to find an internship somewhere and have applied to volunteer organizations to add to my portfolio, but as of right now my experience is limited. I am beginning to write my essays for my application and if you have any advice on making them stand-out I would greatly appreciate it.
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I think it is great that you are trying to gain relevant experience - that is HUGE! I used to be review all the applications that we received for people who wanted to be part of the psychology (athletic counseling) program at my graduate school. For the essay, in addition to stating why you are so passionate about this field, also talk about how your interests align with the school or even specific professors. The school that I went to was huge on mind, body, and spirit. It was EASY to see the people that took the time to incorporate that into their essay and that put them higher on my list. I also prioritized people that had reached out to our program director via email or phone or had visited the campus in person. Make sure that you have glowing references, preferably from people related to the field so that can be teachers, anyone you have interned for, etc.
I would suggest that you should work or volunteer at places that matches your field of interest in psychology. For example if you would like to pursue in child psychology, then work with people who studies child development and child related psychiatric disorders. Through working with them, you will learn a lot from them in terms of their experiences in grad schools and more importantly whether you like it or not. For essays such as statement of interest or statement of purpose, then you should focus on why you want pursue this field and your future career plans. Hope this helps
Your essay and your academic performance are probably the most dominant in your application. Be passionate in your essay about whatever grad program you are applying to.