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. Visit our Faculty Mentors page to learn more and see who is currently recruiting for the upcoming 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.
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 2020). Please note that we may add to this list throughout the summer as additional faculty decide if they are recruiting a student. Please visit our Faculty Mentor's page for more information on each of the recruiting faculty.
Faculty recruiting for the upcoming admissions season:
- Michael Brook & Robert Hanlon. Drs. Brook and Hanlon seek applicants whose primary research interest is in biopsychosocial determinants of violence. Current projects in the lab utilize public health research, forensic neuropsychology, and neurocriminology methodologies to enhance the understanding of violent aggression and criminal behavior. Competitive applicants will have familiarity with neuropsychological assessment methods and prior experience coordinating multidisciplinary research projects.
- Inger Burnett-Zeigler. Dr. Burnett-Zeigler is seeking enthusiastic students who are passionate about improving access and engagement in mental health services in underserved, disadvantaged communities. We are seeking applicants with an interest in women's mental health, mood disorders, and mindfulness-based interventions. The most competitive applicants will have demonstrated a passion for working with disadvantaged populations, experience administering structured and semi-structured clinical instruments, and experience or training in mind-body approaches.
- Tamar Gefen. Dr. Gefen is looking for applicants with an interest in translational research with neurodegenerative diseases and highly successful aging. Applicants will be preferred if they have experience with basic science wet-lab research and/or skills with neuropsychological assessment.
- Molly Losh. Dr. 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.
- Neil Jordan, Cassandra Kisiel & Heather Risser and their lab (Mental Health Services and Policy Program) are looking for applicants with interests in mental health, trauma, or child welfare policy research. Competitive applicants will have some research experience in one of these areas or job/volunteer experience at a community or public-sector organization that provides or supports mental health, trauma, or child welfare services.
- Emily Rogalski. Dr. Rogalski is looking for applicants to engage in her aging and dementia research projects focused on Alzheimer’s dementia, primary progressive aphasia, frontotemporal dementia and SuperAging. Characteristics of competitive applicants include a strong research interest and experience in cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, neuroimaging (MR and PET), speech-language therapy, statistics, use of technology in assessment and care, and/or experience neuropsychological test administration. Evidence of research productivity (i.e., abstract or manuscripts) is preferred.
- Benjamin Schalet. Dr. Schalet is looking for applicants with an interest in patient-reported outcome instruments, psychometric analysis, and applications of Item Response Theory (IRT), particularly in applications involving patient engagement, depression and anxiety, and HIV-risk.
- Linda Teplin & Karen Abram. Dr. Teplin and Dr. Abram are looking for applicants to work on their new intergenerational study, The Northwestern Juvenile Project: Next Generation. We 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. We 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.
- Michael Wolf. Dr. Wolf and his lab are looking for applicants interested in health communication, health promotion, as well as cognitive and psychological determinants of personal health. Competitive applicants will have specific interests and experience in older adult populations and/or the management of individuals living with multiple chronic diseases.
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
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) verbal, quantitative and analytical scores (the Psychology Subject Test is recommended, but not required)
- 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
- Quality of the student’s personal statement
- Letters of reference
- For international students, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores
We value demographic, gender and ethnic/racial diversity in our incoming classes. We especially encourage members of underrepresented minority groups with strong applications 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, 2019, for enrollment in fall 2020.
Applications open each September. 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 research emphasis 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. Test Scores
Request that the Educational Testing Service (ETS) submit official GRE (verbal, quantitative, analytical) and/or TOEFL test scores to The Graduate School (code 1565).
Due to the GRE testing schedule the deadline for all GRE scores is January 19th. You can self-report your scores as part of the online application; however, official GRE scores are required for final consideration. We do not have an absolute cut-off score for GRE scores, but most of the applicants we consider have GRE scores above the 70th percentile. Please have your official GRE scores sent by ETS directly to The Northwestern University Graduate School (institution code 1565, department code 2001 optional).
For international students, valid TOEFL scores are required unless you have, or will have, completed a bachelor’s or graduate degree from an institution where the primary language is English. The program cannot waive this requirement. Please have your TOEFL scores sent by ETS directly to The Graduate School using code 01. If you have taken the IBT TOEFL exam, please request that your scores be sent to the graduate office (versus undergraduate) and then select the program name that most matches clinical psychology. If no match is available, you may choose option 99.
The Psychology Subject Test is required prior to admission but is not required for application.
3. 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). 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 research emphasis 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 the clinical emphasis for which you are applying, your clinically-relevant experiences — paid or volunteer — and how they have shaped your clinical interests). NOTE: Your research and clinical emphases may be the same, in which case you do not need to discuss them separately!
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 or Facebook for updates.
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 $2,643 monthly for 12 months or $31,716 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.
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.
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.
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 21% of chairs and directors completed the last iteration of this reputational survey. Indeed, the training council representing scientist practitioner and clinical scientist doctoral programs in clinical psychology, the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP), passed 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.
Learn more about our American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited doctoral program via our reporting on student admissions, outcomes and other data (PDF).
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.
Please direct all questions to the admissions assistant: