How to Apply
The Clinical Psychology PhD Program expects to admit approximately four to seven 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 during your tenure at Northwestern. See below under "Recruiting Faculty" and visit our Faculty Mentors page to learn more about the faculty and associated labs that are recruiting for the current application season. Please do not contact faculty that are not on the "Recruiting Faculty" list to ask them if they will be recruiting. The "Recruiting Faculty" section is accurate and up-to-date.
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, you will not be able to change your mind later (Northwestern restricts applications to one program at a time, unless you select the MA consideration option).
Please be aware that 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 eliminated the GRE General Test for admission to the Fall 2022 class. In an effort to maximize holistic review and move toward greater equity and fairness in our admissions process, we have continued to NOT accept or consider GRE scores in our application process. 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 will revisit our GRE policy annually.
The following labs are recruiting for the upcoming academic year (to begin Fall 2023). It is unlikely that any other labs will be recruiting students. As such, please refrain from contacting faculty not on this list to ask them if they will be recruiting.
Dr. Beidas, Chair and Ralph Seal Paffenbarger Professor of Medical Social Sciences, is seeking a student who is interested in gaining experience in conducting implementation science related work; qualitative methods; and/or content interest in suicide prevention, firearm safety promotion, cancer, HIV, and/or cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Diana Chirinos is looking for applicants to join the Cardiovascular Health Inequities (CHI) lab. Dr. Chirinos is a licensed clinical health psychologist and her research focuses on the psychosocial determinants of cardiovascular disease with a particular emphasis on the health of vulnerable populations. She has served as a mentor to clinical psychology masters’ students, medical students, and postdoctoral fellows. She has a collaborative mentoring style and will work with trainees to delineate short- and long-term goals based on the student’s interests and skills. The ideal candidate will have previous research experience and interest that align with the goals and mission of the lab. Experience in the area of health psychology/cardiovascular behavioral medicine is preferred but not required. Students of under-represented backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply.
Dr. Tamar Gefen in the Laboratory for Translational Neuropsychology in the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology & Alzheimer's Disease is looking for an applicant that is interesteed in investigating clinicopathologic relationships in neurodegenerative diseases (AD, FTLD) and trajectories of highly successful aging ("SuperAging"). Methods include neuropathologic evaluation based on brain autopsy, stereological analysis, and integration of histologic markers with antemortem imaging and longitudinal neuropsychological data. Preferred skills include experience with basic science wet-lab research and neuropsychological assessment.
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson is looking for applicants to join the Dynamic Brain Lab, which studies the brain dynamics underlying memory and cognitive control across the human lifespan. Research combines methods from cognitive psychology and human neuroscience, including invasive and noninvasive electrophysiology, electrical stimulation, eyetracking, and structural brain imaging. Outcomes advance basic science and translate to better quality of life by revealing how, and in whom, cognitive decline may be prevented or remediated. Priority will be given to Clinical Neuropsychology applicants who are open-minded problem solvers, and comfortable working with neurosurgical patients, including children. Experience with electrophysiology and/or computer programming preferred but not required.
Dr. Michael Wolf is seeking students interested in the intersection of cognitive, psychosocial, and health system factors that affect a person's ability to successfully manage their health. Dr. Wolf is also interested in students with an interest in the design of practical, scalable interventions to help individuals and families access, understand, and use health information to make appropriate health decisions and adopt recommended behaviors. The current focus of much of Dr. Wolf's work is in the areas of aging, multi-morbidity, and medication regimen safety and adherence. Most of his lab's work is interventional and leverages health and consumer technologies as appropriate to 'hardwire' patient education, counseling, and monitoring activities in primary care settings to improve chronic disease self-management.
Dr. 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. 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.
Dr. Emily Rogalski is seeking a student to engage in her research programs focused on 1) Multimodal Neuroimaging (MR, amyloid PET and tau PET) and Aging, Alzheimer's and related dementias; 2) Drivers of progression and risk for Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA); 3) Communication Bridge non-pharmacological intervention designed to maximize communication and quality of life for with PPA and related dementias; and 4) SuperAging. Characteristics of competitive applicants include a strong research interest and experience in cognitive and clinical neuroscience, neuropsychology, neuroimaging (MR and PET), speech-language therapy, social work, mixed methods, qualitative research, programming, biostatistics, use of technology in assessment and care, and/or experience neuropsychological test administration. Evidence of research productivity (i.e., abstracts, manuscripts, project leadership) is preferred.
Dr. Stew Shankman and the Northwestern Emotion and Risk Lab (NEAR Lab) is seeking a student to participate in multi-method research that explores the relation between mood and anxiety disorders, the nature and familial transmission of emotional disorders, and basic questions in affective science. The NEAR Lab integrates clinical and epidemiological approaches with neuroscience and psychophysiological methods.
Dr. Bonnie Spring. Dr. Spring and Dr. Angela Pfammatter are looking for applicants to join their CATALYST Lab, which develops, evaluates, and delivers technology-assisted interventions that aim to prevent and treat chronic diseases by addressing obesity, poor quality diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco use, alone or in combination. They would like a student to help them develop effective, resource-efficient, interventions that incorporate digital components to extend population reach, accommodate individual differences and adapt to changes in state. The CATALYST Lab team has streamlined its current clinical trials to be delivered entirely remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding its reach across the United States.
Dr. Tiffany Taft is an Associate Professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine who specializes in health psychology and the social and emotional impacts of chronic digestive diseases. Her research focuses in two areas: medical trauma and post-traumatic stress in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis) and psychophysiological processes in chronic diseases affecting the esophagus. Dr. Taft is part of a multidisciplinary team that includes physicians, physiologists, and clinical psychologists as part of the first integrated behavioral medicine program in gastroenterology in the United States, started by her and Dr. Laurie Keefer in 2005. She has mentored many students, including post-doctoral fellows, clinical psychology PhD and master's students, as well as medical students interested in research. Dr. Taft's mentorship style is highly collaborative, and she welcomes new ideas to facilitate mentees finding their own path. She also emphasizes autonomy and setting boundaries to maintain healthy work-life balance.
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. Most students admitted to our program have 1 or more years of post-baccalaureate research experience; very few students are admitted directly from their undergraduate institution.
- 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, evidence of English language proficiency
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
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.
For students to be successful in our PhD program, it is necessary for them to have proficiency in understanding, reading, writing, and speaking in English. An English proficiency score is required for applicants whose first/primary language is not English. English proficiency scores may not be self-reported; these must be submitted officially via the appropriate testing organization as part of the application.
For admission into the PhD program, you must certify your proficiency in the English language in one of the following three ways:
- Providing official scores for either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. The test must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry (e.g., if you are applying for fall 2023 entry, test scores must be no older than September 2020.) For the TOEFL, you must score 577 or higher on the paper-based test, 233 or higher on the computer-based test, 90 or higher on the internet based test. For the IELTS, you must receive a score of 7.0 or higher.
- Providing transcripts verifying an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution or equivalent, where the language of instruction is English. For your application, only unofficial transcripts are required. If you receive an offer of admission to our program, official transcripts will be required.
- Providing official transcripts verifying a graduate degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English. For your application, only unofficial transcripts are required. If you receive an offer of admission to our program, official transcripts will be required.
For more information on English proficiency requirements, please see: https://www.tgs.northwestern.edu/services-support/international-student-services/language-testing-support.html
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 and a monthly stipend (at least $35,196 annually) for five years while in the program. We also offer fully subsidized university health insurance while students are funded and on campus. 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.
The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) has created this fees tool for prospective students to evaluate the cost of attending graduate programs and financially plan for their education.
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.
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, 2022, for enrollment in Fall 2023.
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 by the PhD program; however, eligible students can apply for a fee waiver. 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).
- You are welcome to submit a writing sample if you would like. This is fully optional and not required.
3. 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, please complete the Supplemental Application Survey. The link to the Survey will be sent directly to you in the email provided in your submitted application. Please note that there may be a delay in receiving the link after submitting your application.
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.
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.
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.
The Clinical Psychology PhD Program follows the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology's (CUDCP) policy on admissions offers and acceptances. We also encourage you to review the CUDCP fact sheet on graduate programs in clinical psychology.
Visit Clinical Psych Grad School for more information on graduate education in psychology and mental health.