Drew C. Appleby, Ph.D., Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Karen M. Appleby, Ph.D., Idaho State University
Numerous authors offer advice to undergraduate psychology majors about what they should do to gain admission to graduate programs. However, few authors advise students about what they should not do when applying to graduate school and, when they do, few support their advice with data. We surveyed the chairs of graduate school admissions committees in psychology about the contents of graduate school applications that decreased chances for acceptance (i.e., kisses of death or KODs). A qualitative analysis of these surveys yielded ·the following ‘six categories of KODs. Although the KODs identified in this study reflect unwise choices on the part of applicants, we believe many of them resulted more from a lack of appropriate advising and mentoring than from a lack of applicants’ intelligence. Unless undergraduate psychology programs provide appropriate advising and mentoring concerning graduate school culture and the requirements of the graduate school application process, their majors are likely to commit these KODs. For example, an unmentored psychology major may interpret a personal statement at face value by perceiving it as an opportunity to share personal (i.e., private) information with the members of a graduate admissions committee. Unless applicants know that a personal statement should address issues such as research interests and perceived fit with a program, they may misinterpret its purpose and write personal statements that inadvertently doom their applications. Similarly, an unmentored student may interpret a letter of recommendation as a request for information from a person who I knows her/him well and can vouch for her/his admirable traits and strong values (e.g., a family member or a member of the clergy). The purpose of our study was to remedy these unfortunate situations by providing undergraduate psychology majors with advice that will enable them to avoid the KODs in the graduate school application process.