Skip to main content
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Skip to main content

Admissions

The Clinical Psychology PhD Program expects to admit approximately 4-6 new students in the fall of each year. Because we are a mentor-based program, it is critical that your application reference the faculty with whom you hope to work with during your tenure at Northwestern. See below under "Recruiting Faculty" and visit our Faculty Mentors page to learn more about the faculty that are recruiting for the current application season.

We offer PhD Applicants the option of having their application automatically considered for our Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program. You can learn more about this program on our MA program website. If you select this option when applying for the PhD program, we will use your existing PhD application when considering offers for our MA program at no additional charge.  Please note that if you do not select the option to be considered for the MA program, and you decide at a later time to apply to the MA program, you will have to apply separately and pay the additional application fee.  

There is a separate APA-accredited and PCSAS-accredited PhD program in clinical psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University. More information on the WCAS clinical psychology program can be found on the WCAS website. There are many differences between our program and the WCAS program. For example, the WCAS program operates from a clinical scientist model, whereas our program operates from a scientist-practitioner model. 

 *Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our program has eliminated the GRE General Test for admission to the fall 2021 class. We will NOT accept or consider GRE scores for applications submitted this fall 2020. Applicants should NOT submit their GRE scores through ETS nor report their scores in the application portal or on their CVs or personal statements.

To facilitate our holistic review of your application, particularly given that we are not collecting or examining GRE data, we are requiring all applicants to complete a Supplemental Application Survey.  In addition to submitting your application through CollegeNet, please complete the following survey to provide additional details about your application: https://northwestern.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5BwkKp5JqAlxEHz. Please note that this link also appears within CollegeNet; please do not fill it out twice.

 Recruiting Faculty

We require applicants to our program to identify at least one faculty member that they would like to work with during their doctoral education. Below is a list of faculty that will be recruiting for students in the upcoming season (to start Fall 2021). Please visit our Faculty Mentor's page for more information on each of the recruiting faculty. Please refrain from emailing faculty that are not listed on this page to inquire if they are recruiting students; if they are recruiting students, they will be listed on this page!

 Faculty recruiting for the upcoming admissions season:

  • Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, under the research mentorship of Tali Raviv. Dr. Raviv and the team at the Center for Childhood Resilience at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago are seeking a graduate student who is interested in the implementation and dissemination of evidence-based approaches to promote mental health and resilience for youth exposed to trauma, racism, and other childhood adversities in school and community settings. Applicants with previous research experience in the areas of trauma and school or community mental health are preferred. Please note that Dr. Cicchetti and Dr. Gouze, who are core faculty within the Center, are not recruiting students this year.
  • Health Disparities and Public Policy Program, under the research mentorship of Linda Teplin and Karen Abram, is looking for applicants to work on their new intergenerational study, The Northwestern Juvenile Project:  Next Generation.  They plan to interview original participants from the Northwestern Juvenile Project (now in their late 30s and early 40s) and their teenage children.  The study focuses on identifying characteristics that promote resilience in at-risk youth, and generating data that can guide public policy and reduce health disparities. They are focusing especially on what helps at-risk youth desist from firearm involvement, substance abuse, and delinquency.  Experience with at-risk populations -- including those involved with the criminal justice system --  and a background in child development is a plus.  The most competitive applicants will have had experience in research (abstracts, papers presented at national meetings, publications), have excellent writing skills, and a strong background working with data. 
  • Molly Losh and her lab (NDL) are looking for applicants with an interest in language and social functioning in autism spectrum disorders. Competitive applicants will have prior research and clinical experience with individuals with autism spectrum disorder, fragile X, and/or related disabilities 
  • Judy Moskowitz is seeing a motivated student with interests in stress, coping, emotion, and health. In particular, her lab focuses on interventions that target positive emotion across a range of samples experiencing health-related and other types of life stress. Applicants with research experience in health psychology are preferred. 
  • Michael Newcomb is seeking a student with interests in sexual and gender minority (SGM) health to join his research group at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (isgmh.northwestern.edu). Dr. Newcomb’s work currently focuses on HIV/AIDS, substance use and mental health among SGM youth, with an emphasis on understanding how romantic relationships can be used to improve health. Students from various underrepresented backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
  • Jason Ong is seeking students who are interested in sleep health and the relationship between sleep, circadian rhythms, and chronic health conditions (e.g., chronic pain, cardiovascular disease).  Competitive applicants will have a research background or particular interest in mindfulness meditation, sleep and circadian rhythms, or digital/mobile health.  
  • Heather Risser, in the Mental Health Services and Policy Program, is seeking a student interested in developing, implementing or evaluating resources for parents. This may include evidence-based interventions, coaching and support, web-based tools and learning or digital interventions to promote understanding of their child’s mental health, chronic medical conditions or developmental disabilities. The student may also be interested in joining program evaluation projects or project that exam aspects of interventions and services for children exposed to maltreatment. Competitive applicants will have good writing skills, interpersonal skills and some experience with data (either data collection, creating databases, data cleaning and/or data analyses).

 Criteria

The PhD program engages in a holistic review process when considering applicants. The criteria listed below are balanced across experience, attributes and academic metrics, considering how specific individuals may contribute to the program as well as the broader field of clinical psychology. Background, opportunity and evidence of compensatory factors are used to contextualize both strengths in the application, as well as weaknesses.  

  • Overall academic preparation, including consideration of the following:
    • Undergraduate grade point average 
    • Undergraduate and/or master’s major and/or quality of course work consistent with a major in psychology, including basic psychological science (affective, biological, cognitive, developmental and social aspects of behavior), abnormal psychology, statistics and research design
    • Awards, honors, leadership positions, attainment of competitive grants
    • Quality of completion of the graduate application form
  • Research preparation
    • The duration, type and quality of prior research experiences
    • Research productivity (presentation, publications)
  • Clinical preparation
    • Exposure to clinical populations
  • Alignment with the mission and aims of the PhD program
  • Alignment with the interests and goals of specific faculty members and their labs
    • We are especially interested in students whose experiences as well as interests align with specific faculty members and their labs.
  • Quality of the student’s personal statement
  • Letters of reference
  • For international students, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores

*Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our program has eliminated the GRE General Test for admission to the fall 2021 class. We will NOT accept or consider GRE scores for applications submitted this fall 2020. Applicants should NOT submit their GRE scores through ETS nor report their scores in the application portal or on their CVs or personal statements.

We value individual and cultural diversity in our incoming classes. We especially encourage members of groups that are underrepresented within the field of psychology to apply to our program. It is the policy of Northwestern University not to discriminate against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, handicap or veteran status in matters of admissions, employment, housing or services or in the educational programs or activities it operates, in accordance with civil rights legislation and university commitment. Any alleged violations of this policy or questions regarding the law with respect to non-discrimination should be directed to Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Disability Services, 720 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208-1147, 847-491-7458; Office of the Provost, Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark St., Evanston, IL 60208-1101. Northwestern University reserves the right to change without notice any statement in this application concerning, but not limited to, rules, policies, tuition, fees, curricula and courses.

 How to Apply

Application for admission to the Northwestern University Clinical Psychology PhD Program has three major components:

1. Online Application

Complete the online application (with payment) by Dec. 1, 2020, for enrollment in Fall 2021.

The application process opens on September 8th. In the Personal Information section on Page 1, choose “Clinical Psychology: PhD (C30PH)” as your Academic Program from the pull-down menu. The nonrefundable application fee must be paid via credit card at the time of application submission; the application will not be processed without payment of the fee. The application fee cannot be waived. Find additional information regarding the application fee. The online application will require you to select a Major Area of Study and preferred faculty mentor. If you do not indicate the faculty member(s) by name, there may be a delay in reviewing your application.

2. Supporting Documents

You will also need to submit the following supporting materials to complete your application. All of the supporting documents must be submitted online; paper or "hard" copies will not be accepted for the application. Please include the following supporting documents in your online application: 

  • Three letters of recommendation from professors or supervisors who are familiar with your academic, research, and/or clinical work (preferably from psychologists). Letters from faculty who know you and your unique characteristics in great depth will be valued more heavily than letters from faculty who know you less well.  These must be submitted online by your recommenders. Instructions are available on the online application.
  • Transcripts from each postsecondary institution you attended. You must upload scanned versions of your unofficial transcripts through the online application. If you are accepted, you will then need to submit official paper copies of your transcripts.
  • A statement of purpose essay covering the following (please disregard the online instructions; essay should be one to two pages, single-spaced, in a 12-point font):
    • Why you want to become a clinical psychologist; include how your background, life experiences, educational preparation, research experience and clinical exposure have contributed to your decision to pursue a career in clinical psychology.
    • Why you are specifically applying to the Clinical Psychology PhD Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
    • Your research interests and aspirations (include the Major Area of Study for which you are applying, how your research experiences have shaped your research interests, your research goals, indicate by name the specific faculty member(s) you would like to work with and why you would like to work with them/how your research interests and experiences fit with the specific lab or mentor).
    • Your clinical interests and aspirations (include your clinically-relevant experiences — paid or volunteer — and how they have shaped your clinical interests). 

3. GRE General Test

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our program has eliminated the GRE General Test for admission to the fall 2021 class. We will NOT accept or consider GRE scores for applications submitted this fall 2020. Applicants should NOT submit their GRE scores through ETS nor report their scores in the application portal or on their CVs or personal statements.

4. Supplemental Data

To facilitate our holistic review of your application, particularly given that we are not collecting or examining GRE data, we are requiring all applicants to complete a Supplemental Application Survey.  In addition to submitting your application through CollegeNet, please complete the following survey to provide additional details about your application: https://northwestern.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5BwkKp5JqAlxEHz. Please note that this link also appears within CollegeNet; please do not fill it out twice.

 Tuition & Financial Aid

All students admitted to the Clinical Psychology PhD Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences will receive a Research Assistant Scholarship or equivalent award that provides 100 percent tuition remission, fully subsidized university health insurance and a monthly stipend (at least $2,754 monthly for 12 months or $33,504 annually). As part of the acceptance of the financial support, students are required to apply for external funding. The Clinical Psychology PhD Program does not provide funded teaching assistantships.

More information can be found on the financial aid pages of The Graduate School’s website.

Travel Grants

All students in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program qualify for a limited number of travel grants to present research at academic conferences. These travels grants are provided by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and The Graduate School.

Financial Aid

Students have full access to Northwestern’s Student Financial Services to assist with direct loans for tuition and cost-of-living expenses. For more information on student loans, visit The Graduate School website.

 Notification of Acceptance/Denial

Admission decisions will be conveyed via the online application. Additional information about the admission decision can be found through the The Graduate School admissions site. Official acceptance will follow in writing from The Graduate School. Review of applications begins in December. Interview dates will be in the first two weeks of March, on Mondays and Fridays. Please follow us on Twitter for updates.

 About National Rankings of Clinical Psychology Programs

Some applicants to doctoral programs in Clinical Psychology may consider national rankings when deciding where to apply for graduate school. Applicants are encouraged to carefully review the methodology used by any national ranking system. For example, the approach used by the U.S. News and World Report relies simply on rankings of programs by the chairs of psychology departments and directors of clinical training (click here for their methodology). As such, their rankings rely purely on the subjective estimation of the reputation of programs by the individuals completing the survey; no specific metrics or objective data are used in the rankings (see additional critiques of these national ranking systems by Malcolm Gladwell and John Byrne).

 

Only 18% of chairs and directors completed the last iteration of this reputational survey, the lowest of any health profession. As such, the rankings are not representative of the opinions of chairs and directors. The low rankings are due, in part, to the training council representing scientist practitioner and clinical scientist doctoral programs in clinical psychology, the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP), passing a resolution in 1995 encouraging programs not to participate in the survey:

 

“Be it resolved that CUDCP encourages its member programs to refuse to complete the U.S. News & World Report reputational survey for 2001; that CUDCP requests that the U.S. News & World Report magazine develop mechanisms to provide more information for decision-making of prospective applicants for clinical psychology training; and that CUDCP offers its assistance to U.S. News & World Report in developing these mechanisms and accessing necessary information.” 

 

Given these concerns, we strongly encourage applicants – and others – to ignore national rankings when considering the quality of a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. 

 

Even with improved methodology, national rankings are likely to be of little use to applicants in identifying their best programs. Instead, applicants need to consider if a program’s goals and objectives align with their goals and objectives. A national ranking system will never be able to capture the individualized strengths and weakness of programs for unique applicants.

 

Please note that every clinical psychology program accredited by the American Psychological Association must post data on admissions and outcomes, including time to completion, program costs, internship placement, attrition, and licensure.  CUDCP programs are also encouraged to provide information on their selectivity/yield (e.g., # of applicants, offers, matriculated students) and number of students with funding.

 Why the PhD Program in Clinical Psychology is not accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS)

The PhD Program in Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is grounded in the scientist-practitioner model of education and training. This model reflects the combination of clinically relevant research and specialized clinical activities that characterizes most clinical psychologists in academic medical centers and similar settings. Our program agrees with – and in many ways reflects – the mission and goals of PCSAS; however, PCSAS only accredits programs that adhere to a clinical science model of education and training. Although we believe there is little practical difference between clinical science and scientist-practitioner programs in clinical psychology, at the end of the day, we are a scientist-practitioner program. As such, our program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and we are not seeking PCSAS accreditation.

 Licensure: Consumer Information Disclosure

The Clinical Psychology PhD Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University provides education in Clinical Psychology that is compliant with national standards. The practice of psychology, however, is regulated at the state level, and may require training experiences and examinations beyond the educational and training requirements provided by the PhD program.

Northwestern University, to the best of its ability, determined that the curriculum offered by our Program meets – or does not meet – the educational requirements for licensure or certification to practice psychology in each of the 50 states in the United States. You can access our consumer information disclosure here.

You are also encouraged to review the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards’ online tool, PsyBook (https://www.asppb.net/page/psybook), which summarizes requirements for most states and territories, and to contact the licensing authorities directly in the state for which you hope to get licensed.

 

 

The Clinical Psychology PhD Program follows the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology's (CUDCP) policy on admissions offers and acceptances (PDF). We also encourage you to review the CUDCP fact sheet on graduate programs in clinical psychology (PDF)

Visit Clinical Psych Grad School for more information on graduate education in psychology and mental health.

Contact Us

Please direct all questions to the admissions assistant:

clinpsych@northwestern.edu
Phone: 312-908-8262
Fax: 312-908-5070

Back to top

Follow Psychiatry on