Prospective PhD Students

This is a FAQ page for prospective students interested in applying to the School Psychology PhD progam at USU to work with me and my lab. 

To respect my time and yours, please read this page thoroughly—and check out all the relevant links—prior to emailing me or my grad students with questions. There’s a good chance that whatever you’re wondering about is addressed below.

Photo by Kace Lott / Unsplash

Q1. Are you accepting new grad students for admission in Fall 2025?

A1. Yes, I plan to accept 1 or 2 new students for admission into the USU School Psychology PhD program for Fall 2025. I encourage all prospective students who are interested in my work and lab to apply. The application deadline is December 1, 2024.

Q2. Do you accept grad students for specialist or terminal masters degrees to work with you and your lab?

A2. No, I do not. Our Psychology Department at USU has an educational specialist (EdS) program in school psychology, but students in that program are accepted as a cohort and are not placed in research labs. Although I teach and train EdS students, I do not have the same mentoring relationship with them as I do with the PhD students in our lab. 

If you want to learn more about our EdS program and how it differs from the PhD program, check out our USU school psychology program website. I encourage anyone interested in the EdS program to apply. The application deadline for that program is also December 1. 

Q3. Do you provide funding for PhD students? If so, what’s the deal?

A3. Yes, we currently guarantee “full funding” for each on-campus year of the PhD program. Funding consists of a monthly living stipend, full tuition waivers (for all credits required by the program), and 80% of the costs of student health insurance. Students are still responsible for paying student fees and the remaining health insurance costs required by the university.

To receive and keep funding, PhD students are required to (a) hold a 20-hr week assistantship, (b) be continuously enrolled as an active student, and (c) remain in good academic standing. Assistantships usually last the duration of an academic year and can vary in nature from clinical to research to teaching positions, depending on availability and student interest.

Q4. How do I know if a PhD in school psychology is right for me? Am I better suited for another kind of graduate degree?

A4. Only you can answer this question for yourself. I worked through this dilemma when I was preparing to apply to grad school. I found it helpful to talk with grad students and professionals in the few fields I was considering. I also read as much as I could find online and in books about different degrees and fields. Eventually, once I was as informed as I thought I could be, I just went with my gut. I suggest doing similarly: (a) consider your options, (b) do your homework, then (c) go with your gut.

Here are several resources you might consider to inform your decision:

Q5. What should I do in my application to signal that I want to work with you and your lab?

A5. First, review the "Steps to Apply" webiste from USU's School of Graduate Stuides. Then, once you start the application, make sure to do these four things:

  1. When choosing the “academic program,” make sure to select the “Psychology PhD” option.
  2. When picking a “specialization,” select the “School Psychology” option.
  3. When asked to name any “faculty member” you are interested in working with, write my name in the text box. 
  4. In your personal statement, explicitly say that you are interested in working with me and our lab—and talk about your reasons for why you’d like to do so.
Sunset at night against the campus of Utah State University.  When USU has a victory, they light the “A” (for Aggies) blue.
Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

Q6. Do you have any advice for writing an effective personal statement?

A6. There’s no one right way to write a personal statement. But I’ve noticed sometimes applicants get carried away with trying to stand out with their statements. A little bit of creativity can be fun and engaging for those reading your statement (i.e., me and the other faculty in our program). But I’m less interested in how creative your writing is and more interested in how clearly your writing communicates. I am especially interested in reading clear answers to these kinds of big questions:

  1. What personal history or experiences have motivated you to get a PhD?
  2. Given there are lots of other psychology PhDs options, why are you specifically interested in school psychology?
  3. Why are you applying to work with me and our lab?
  4. What are your career goals and ambitions? In other words, what do you hope to do with your PhD post-graduation?
  5. If you were to come to our PhD program, what contributions might you make toward diversifying or improving the work we do in our lab and profession?

Q7. Could you be my primary faculty mentor if I apply to the combined counseling/clinical specialization within the Psychology PhD program at USU?

A7. No, I could not. I only serve as a primary faculty mentor for students in the school psychology PhD specialization. If you are interested in the combined clinical/counseling PhD specialization, you will need to apply to work with faculty in that program.

Q8. What are the application criteria and requirements for applying to the School Psychology PhD specialization at USU?

A8. The application criteria and requirements are listed on our program's website. The info on this page should tell you all you need to know.

Q9. Do you require the GRE for applying to your PhD program?

A9. No, not anymore. We discontinued the GRE requirement in 2020. 

Q10. Beyond the formal requirements, what other characteristics are you looking for in grad students who are good fits for your lab?

A10. After you meet the minimum requirements, then it all boils down to how well your interests fit with our lab. I am particularly keen on accepting students who want to pursue a career path involving research or teaching/training or leadership in school psychology. This doesn’t mean you have to want a traditional professor position, but it usually means you want something different than a full-time clinician role. Beyond that, here’s a list of other characteristics that I look for:

  • Strong interest in youth mental health assessment
  • Strong interest in schools as mental health service systems
  • Previous research experience related to youth and/or school mental health
  • Previous applied experience related to working with youth and/or in schools
  • Research interests compatible with our lab’s current projects
  • Strong interpersonal skills that contribute to a collaborative lab culture

Q11. Will you review and provide feedback on my CV or personal statement prior to applying to your program?

A11. I will look over your CV, but I won’t offer feedback for improving it. I will only tell you if it seems like your interests and experiences may align with our lab. It is also totally fine to apply without sending me your CV; this contact does not influence how I evaluate applications. As a rule, I do not review personal statements pre-application.

That said, I strongly recommend asking others to carefully review and provide feedback on your CV and personal statement prior to applying. Professors and current grad students are usually the best people to ask for this feedback. 

Q12. When is the deadline for your grad applications? And if I’ve already missed the deadline, will you still consider my application?

A12. The application deadline is December 1 of each year. In principle, I am open to considering applications received past the deadline. But there is no guarantee your application will be given full consideration unless it arrives on time. If you’re applying past the December 1 deadline and have extenuating circumstances that you believe justify a late application, please email me about your situation.

brown mountain
Photo by John Fowler / Unsplash

Q13. What is the timeline for hearing application decisions? And when do interviews usually happen?

A13. We review applications around December 10 and we typically make interview invitations prior to December 20. Interviews are held in late January or early February of the next calendar year. All interview decisions are communicated by email.

Q14. Can you tell me more about the school psychology PhD specialization at USU?

A14. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend reading the brief specialization overview on our Department’s website. Then read through our Graduate Student Handbook, which gives a thorough overview of program requirements, accreditation status, culture, policies, etc. You can download a copy of our program handbook on our Department’s “Graduate Student Handbooks” page. Look for the current year's version and pick the one called “School Psychology PhD.”

Q15. Can you tell me more about your lab and what kinds of projects you're working on?

A15. Definitely. The best place to start is by reading through our lab’s current projects page, our PhD students page, and my bio page. This will give you a good idea of who we are and what we’re up to. You can also see our lab's recent publications on my Google Scholar profile.

Q16. It is okay to reach out and express my interest in applying to work with you and your lab?

A16. For sure. I will be happy to hear from you. But it’s also fine not to reach out. Contacting me directly won’t make or break your application, as I give every on-time application the same level of review. Historically, I have accepted several students who reached out in advance as well as several who did not. If you do reach out, I’ll likely send you a short reply confirming that I received your note and saying that I look forward to reviewing your application. That's about it.

Q17. Can I reach out to your current grad students?

A17. Yes, you can. You may email them by clicking on their names listed on our PhD students page. However, before you do, please do your homework by reading this page and reviewing our school psychology PhD specialization handbook. (See Q14, above, for how to access the handbook.)

Q18. What is your best advice for how to approach grad school applications?

A18. I recommend four things:

  1. Do your homework to ensure your goodness-of-fit with the programs, labs, and mentors you'd like to work with.
  2. Take the time needed to develop a clear personal statement and a comprehensive CV.
  3. Be intentional about who you ask to write your letters of recommendation; make sure these people are willing to write letters that are strong and specific.
  4. Reach out to people you trust and solicit their feedback about points 1, 2, and 3. And do this well in advance of application deadlines, so you can revise plans and materials as needed.

While we’re on the topic, here are some good resources to support the points mentioned above:

That concludes the FAQ. If you still have questions after reading all this, feel free to email me. And if you just want to say “Hi” or let me know you've applied, I will be happy to hear from you as well.

Thank you for being interested in my work and our lab. I wish you all the best with your grad school applications!