The Equation: A Graduate School Alignment Inventory
A * $ * C * E = GSAS
[These four factors are all multipliers – they are not factors that simply add to one another. The power of each factor multiplies the impact of every other factor.]
An Inventory to Assist Decision-Making
This inventory enables a prospective graduate student to assess the extent to which they “fit” easily with existing graduate schools of psychology. Most graduate schools can “accommodate” the needs of prospective students who produce scores of 1 to 50. The challenge for many prospective graduate students is to identify a graduate school that can accommodate much higher scores.
GSAS=Graduate School Alignment Score
The extent to which a prospective graduate student must look for a distinctive graduate school and psychology curriculum that is aligned with their specific needs and interests.
A= Age of prospective student
- 1= I am under 30 years of age
- 2= I am 30-39 years old
- 3= I am 40-49 years old
- 4= I am 50-59 years old
- 5= I am 60-69 years old
- 6= I am 70 years of age or older
$ – Cost Effectiveness
- 1= I have no financial concerns
- 2= I can afford to pay $1,000 per month (Tuition) and/or expect to earn at least $80,000 per year income after graduation.
- 3= I can afford to pay $900 per month (Tuition) and/or expect to earn at least $100,000 per year income after graduation.
- 4= I can afford to pay $800 per month (Tuition) and expect to earn at least $120,000 per year income after graduation.
- 5= I can afford to pay $700 per month (Tuition) and expect to earn at least $140,000 per year income after graduation.
- 6= I can afford to pay $600 per month (Tuition) and expect to earn at least $160,000 per year income after graduation.
- 1= I am not working and do not have major family obligations. I could attend graduate school full-time and live in a geographical location where residential graduate education is readily available.
- 2= I am working part-time and/or have some family obligations and live in a geographic area where graduate education is readily available. I could attend graduate school during the evening or on weekends.
- 3= I am working full-time and/or have major family obligations. However, I live in a geographic location where graduate education is readily available. I could afford to ateend graduate school on weeknights and weekends – though this would be quite a demand.
- 4= I am working full-time and/or have major family obligations and do not live near an educational institution that provides high quality graduate education in professional psychology. At least some of my classes would need to be offered on-line and I could make arrangements for some travel to a graduate school in my general area.
- 5= I work full-time and/or have major family obligations. I live in an area where high quality graduate educations is not readily available. I would need all of my classes to be offered on-line, though I could attend at least one extended (3-4 day) in-person session once per year (at some accessible area of the world).
- 6= I work full-time in a very demanding job and/or have major family obligations. I live in an area where high quality graduate educations is not readily available. I would need all of my classes to be offered on-line and some of them would even have to be asynchronistic (recorded in a manner that allows me to participate at a time of my own choosing).
E=Emergent Fields of Psychology
- 1=I am not a professional psychology and currently have received little training in the field, but am very interested in pursuing a graduate degree in professional psychology that will enable me to obtain a license and earn a living working in an established area of professional psychology (e.g. psychotherapy, psychodiagnostic assessments, personnel assessments in organizations, school counselling)
- 2=I have a degree in psychology and am now working in the field (providing well-established psychological services). I wish to obtain a more advanced degree and license so that I can serve a broader population of clients and/or provide services as a higher fee.
- 3=I already have a license in a mental health field. I just want to upgrade my existing psychological practices (and perhaps do some writing and/or teaching). I don’t need another license.
- 4=I am a human service professional working in an area that does not need a license (e.g. consulting, human resource management). I wish to add new areas to my existing practice. I don’t need a license.
- 5= I am a licensed human service provider who wants to add an emergent field of professional psychology to my existing practice. I won’t need another license, though could benefit from receiving a certificate of completion/proficiency from a credible institution. This emergent field (such as health psychology, executive coaching, applied decisional sciences/behavioral economics, family permanence/adoption) should hold the potential of becoming a major area of professional psychology, but at the present time probably does not require a license.
- 6= I wish to become highly proficient and a noted expertise in a newly-emergent area of professional psychology. I expect to devote full-time to work in this new field. This emergent field (such as health psychology, executive coaching, applied decisional sciences/behavioral economics, family permanence/adoption) should hold the potential of becoming a major area of professional psychology, but at the present time probably does not require a license.
The GSAS Calculation
Step One: Record your score for each of the four factors:
- A/Age: ______
- $/Cost Effectiveness: _____
- C/Convenience: _____
- E:Emergent: _____
Step Two: Multiply A times S = _____ (for example: A=3 and $ = 4. Then 3 x 4 = 12) This is your A$ score
Step Three: Multiply A$ times C = _____ (for example A$-12 and C=2. Then 12×2=24). This is your A$C score
Step Four: Multiple A$C times E = _____ (for example A$C=24 and E=3) Then 24×3=72). This is your final GSAS.
What Does Your GSAS Tell You?
This score tells you something about the kind of graduate school in psychology that you might wish to attend.
The scores range from 1 (1x1x1x1=1) to 1296 (6x6x6x6=1296). This is a wide range of scores—that accurately reflects the wide range of differences to be found among various graduate schools of psychology. This is why it is important that you find a good “fit” for you. Otherwise, you are likely to spend substantial time and money attending a graduate program that is not very satisfying for you or even from which you never graduate (resulting in the greatest waste of time and money).
GSAS and Graduate School Options
Option One: GSAS of 1-50
You probably should consider applying to a psychology graduate program at a major research university. You should also consider either living in a residential setting (dorm or nearby housing) or identifying a research university near you (so that you can commute from home). The tuition is often lower if you are a resident of the state or province in which the graduate program is offered.
The challenge will be to gain admissions to this kind of highly selective educational institution. Typically, you will need a solid Grade Point Average as an Undergraduate and you might need to take the Graduate Record Exam and obtain a high score. It also might be of benefit for you to gain some “real world” experience after graduating from college – especially if this experience is in a human service field.
Most of the research-oriented graduate schools offer the Ph.D. degree and tend to focus on academic psychology and research in psychology. If you wish to become as a licensed clinical psychologist after graduating from a doctoral program, then you should consider a graduate program offering a clinical training program approved by the American Psychological Association (or approved by the psychological association or society in the country where you reside).
Option Two: GSAS of 51-100
You probably should consider one of the free-standing graduate schools offering either Ph.D. or (more often) the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. Most of these graduate schools are located in the United States (though several are located in Canada). Typically, these schools (in USA) provide clinical training programs that are approved by the American Psychological Association. In most instances, you will need to attend classes during the day-time, though many of these schools are now offering evening and weekend classes. It is usually quite difficult to hold down a full-time job while attending one of these free-standing graduate schools. They also are often quite expensive (receiving no public funding).
Examples of graduate schools of psychology that fit in this category are: (1) the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) (now a unit of Alliant University) (with four campuses in California), (2) the Wright Institute (Berkeley, California), (3) the Illinois School of Professional Psychology (unit of Argosy University) (Chicago Illinois), (4) the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology, (5) the Michigan School of Psychology (Farmington Hills, Michigan) and (6) Palo Alto University (Palo Alto, California).
Option Three: GSAS of 101-400
You might wish to consider a graduate school of psychology that is specifically tailored to the working adult with courses either being held during the evening and weekends or held in-person several times a year in an intensive residential format. Increasingly, these graduate schools are offering most (or all) of their courses on-line, using such digital educational tools that provide video-based conferencing (such as Skype and Zoom) and manage the school’s educational processes (such as Moodle).
In considering enrollment in one of these graduate schools, it is important to check out their approval and accreditation status. Your own state or province might not recognize graduate degrees from schools that are primarily offering programs via on-line education. This is particularly problematic if you are interested in clinical licensing in your state or province.
While these graduate schools, in most instances, are private (and therefore often expensive). they typically are less expensive than the Option Two schools. Furthermore, it is possible for you to work full-time while attending one of these schools—which is an important consideration with regard to both finances and your own career advancement (can you afford to step out of your own current work for several years while working on a full-time doctoral degree—even if you intend to shift to a new career in psychology after graduation)?
Graduate schools in this third category include: (1) the Fielding Institute (Santa Barbara, California), (2) the Saybrook Institute (San Francisco, California), (3) the Chicago School of Professional Psychology (multiple campuses). (4) Walden University (Tampa, Florida) and Capella University (Minneapolis, Minnesota) . The location for most of these graduate schools is not very important, given that most of the instruction is delivered on-line or during intensive in-person sessions once or twice per year.
There are also several unique graduate schools that belong in this category. They are unique because they tend to focus on a specific school of professional psychology or offer a specific perspective on psychological practices. Included in this group of graduate schools are: (1) the Adler School of Professional Psychology (unit of Adler University) (Chicago, Illinois) (focusing on Adlerian psychology), (2) the Pacifica Graduate Institute (Santa Barbara, California) (focusing on Jungian psychology) and (3) the California Institute of Integral Studies (San Francisco, California) (focusing on holistic psychology).
Option Four: GSAS Above 400
This fourth option leads us to very few doctoral programs in psychology. We would specifically identify one institution: the Professional School of Psychology (PSP) (Sacramento, California). Recognizing that this survey has been prepared and is offered by PSP, one can justifiably wonder about the bias inherent in this analysis. We would suggest that PSP is truly unique in several ways that relate directly to the four factors in GSAS.
- A (Age): PSP is a graduate school directly focused on the educational interests and needs of mature and accomplished adult professionals. The average age of PSP students is 45.
- $ (Cost): PSP offers doctoral programs at a much lower tuition level than most other graduate schools (typically ¼ to 1/3 the cost of most other graduate schools). The PSP tuition plan is also unique. A newly-admitted student contracts with the school for their entire tuition while enrolled at PSP—which means that they know exactly how much to pay for their doctoral program. There are no tuition increases for them while they are attending the school.
- C (Convenience): The Professional School of Psychology also scores high with regard to convenience. Courses are held at convenient times on-line. However, interpersonal relationships and active dialogue is not sacrificed. PSP offers what is called a “synchronist” mode of instruction (with students and faculty interacting with one another in real time via Zoom and other video conference mediations). Typically, students take courses in the evening or early morning (depending on where in the world they live) and participate in small student study groups that fits with their own busy life schedule.
- E (Emergent Fields of Psychology): Finally, and perhaps most importantly, PSP offers an integrative program that provides knowledge and skills-training in the cutting-edge of professional psychology and in a global classroom setting that provides a safe setting for the sharing of multiple-cultural perspectives from among the students and faculty. Unlike other graduate schools of professional psychology, PSP is dedicated to the education of thought leaders who are preparing to address the issues of a challenging time in our mid-century world. We provide an Engaging Global Classroom at an Affordable Cost for Mature and Accomplished Adult Learners throughout the World
Option Four Problems and Challenges
There are some important problems and challenges associated with the fourth option. These must be considered by anyone considering enrolled at PSP (or any other option four graduate school that we have not yet identified). First, the low cost of PSP tuition calls into question the credibility of PSP education. Some leaders in the graduate education community believe that price and quality are closely related: low cost education is inherently inferior. We believe this is a faulty assumption and have extensive evidence regarding the quality of PSP education.
A second challenge concerns the innovative nature of PSP’s educational delivery modes and the focus of the PSP curriculum. PSP is pushing the boundaries in offering hybrid educational delivery systems (blending in-person and digital engagements), and exploring applied psychological practices in such emergent areas as professional coaching, health psychology, family permanence, applied decisional sciences, and human-embedded technologies. We are a pioneering educational institution and our mission is to serve the needs and interests of mature and accomplished life-long learners who are themselves pioneers. All of this must be taken into consideration if you have a high GSAS.
We hope that you find this survey regarding graduate student alignment to be of value and we welcome your comments regarding this inventory and the identification of other psychology graduate school programs that qualify for one of these four options (including option four).