This page provides a guide to help you through the process of applying to the Ph.D. Program in Social Psychology. We begin with the most important points:
Application deadline: December 1st
The requirements for an application are listed here.
We do not require or consider GRE scores.
We welcome applications from diverse backgrounds. Our priorities are to maximize opportunities for first generation students and disadvantaged individuals including but not limited to identities based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, immigration background, undergraduate major, and others.
You will need to have research interests aligned with one or more of our faculty.
Check out our YouTube channel for tips on constructing a strong application.
- In early Fall each year we hold a Virtual Preview Day to introduce potential applicants to our Programs and give tips about applying to graduate school. The Fall 2023 event has passed, but videos of past events, including introductions to several faculty labs and some Q&A with the participants may be viewed here.
If this guide doesn’t answer all of your questions, feel free to contact our Program Administrator or about applying to our program. (We will also be posting videos about applying to our program shortly - stay tuned.)
Should I apply to the NYU Social Psychology Ph.D. program?
We study all sorts of research areas, including social cognition, social judgment and decision making, close relationships, intergroup dynamics, stereotyping and prejudice, goals and motivation, diversity science, political psychology, person perception, and social neuroscience, among others. You should apply if you’re interested in these topics and you want to work with one or more of our faculty. Our program is centered on basic research in these areas. We do not provide training in Clinical Psychology.
We believe science is better when it is a collaboration among people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Our priorities are to maximize opportunities for first generation students and disadvantaged individuals as noted above. We strive to increase the diversity and create an inclusive professional environment among our student body and faculty. For more information about support for a diverse and inclusive space that allows all people to develop their whole selves in our graduate programs, see these resources.
Our program has overlap in research areas with the NYU Cognition & Perception Ph.D. program and several other schools and departments (Stern School of Business, Applied Psychology, Political Science, Center for Neural Science, Philosophy) and many of our faculty have affiliations with other departments. It is possible for graduate students to work with faculty in multiple programs, departments, or schools. You should apply to the Social Psychology Ph.D. program if your primary mentor would be a faculty member in the program.
Who is a typical successful applicant?
There is not necessarily a typical applicant. We admit students who majored in Psychology as undergraduates, but we also admit students who majored in other disciplines. We admit students whose interests only became evident after graduating from college. We admit students who attended large research universities and small liberal-arts colleges. Although a strong college transcript is helpful, we can look past some bad grades if you provide evidence that you will be successful in our program. Each year our program admits 5-10 out of over 200 applicants, so the process is highly competitive.
Our highest priority in ranking applications is a clear demonstration that the applicant has the creativity, skills, and research interests to do important and innovative research in an area aligned with the interests of our faculty. For all applicants, but especially those coming from another field, the best way to demonstrate potential for success is to have experience with related research (e.g., as a volunteer, research assistant, or other involvement). Each lab has different priorities for skills and experience; whereas one lab may value conducting questionnaire research online, another lab may emphasize computational skills or brain-imaging experience, and so on. You are welcome to contact potential faculty mentors before submitting your application to determine whether you are a good fit for their lab.
In our program, most students are admitted with the expectation that they will join a specific lab. If your interests are broader, you should specify all the faculty members with whom you are interested in working, and that is perfectly fine. But, it is important to clearly indicate in your application the research areas and labs that are of interest to you, because no one is admitted unless at least one faculty member says that they would be interested in having you join their lab.
All students accepted into our program are guaranteed funding for five years of graduate study. Full funding (academic year plus summer) can come from a mix of funding sources including the graduate school, faculty research grants, student pre-doctoral fellowships and teaching assistantships. NYU offers a minimum annual stipend, but most of our students make additional salary through these other sources.
What will I need to write and gather to apply?
The requirements are outlined here and you can start applying here. We neither require nor consider GRE scores in our evaluation of applicants.
Instead of the GRE, we require a Quantitative and Programming Skills Preparation resume (1 page or less, single spaced). In this document, please describe your preparation in the following areas: math, statistics, logic, computer programming, data processing, and other quantitative skills that are relevant to the program and the specific faculty research labs you are interested in. In each of these areas, you might describe university courses taken and brief description of content covered, independent courses taken, Massive Open Online Courses completed (ie. MOOCs here), academic research experiences in labs that provided opportunities for data analysis, professional development opportunities that offered statistical training (ie. Job or career responsibilities that included database management, programming skills, data analysis), certifications in programming languages, statistics workshops completed (ie. Deep Dive workshops here).
Applicants may not have received training in all of the following; it is not necessary to demonstrate preparation in all of the following areas. Applicants may have received training in other relevant areas and are encouraged to use additional headings as is appropriate to their own training.
You will need official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools you attended. The application includes a statement of purpose, an optional personal statement, and your CV.
The statement of purpose should describe why you are applying to our Ph.D. program. This might include experiences that inspired your interest in social psychology, such as a description of your research experience. This should not just be a list, but a description of the research questions you have worked on, how to draw a conclusion from the results, and your involvement in the work. You should include a clear indication of your current research interests, including the faculty member(s) with whom you are most interested in working. You might also mention your goals beyond the Ph.D. The statement is typically two double-spaced pages.
The optional Personal History Statement is more personal than the statement of purpose. If you wish, you can describe your personal journey that led to your application to our program. The purpose of the Personal History Statement is to get to know you as an individual and as a potential graduate student. Please speak to any aspects of your lived experiences and/or attributes which motivate you to pursue a graduate degree and how these will enrich the Graduate School of Arts and Science's learning environment. You may consider discussing any of the following questions: (1) Have you worked in public service, community service and/or other outreach services which impacted your decision to pursue graduate education? (2) Do you plan on conducting research and/or working in areas that will explore and/or expand upon under-studied or under-developed areas of academia and/or serve under-privileged populations, under-represented minority populations, or other diverse populations? (3) How will your planned studies broaden ways to promote equity and inclusion and/or positively impact the NYU community?
The CV is a resume of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. It should include your education, employment, research experience (paid, volunteer, coursework), and skills (e.g., in data collection, analysis, computer packages, programming languages, etc.). It should list research talks you’ve given or posters you’ve presented at school or scientific conferences and any publications (published, under review, or in preparation). To illustrate your research experience, you may attach a paper or poster to your application. Of course, many successful applicants will not have publications or talks to list, but if you have them, please include them.
You will also need to include at least three letters of recommendation. Letters are most effective if they come from someone who can talk about your abilities in a research environment (e.g., your faculty mentor or research supervisor). A professor from a course in which you did well is less effective, because we are more interested in your ability to move on to independent research than in your skills in taking a class. Letters from an employer in a non-research, non-academic setting are the least useful. If you worked mainly with a doctoral student or postdoc in a larger lab, a letter from this person, perhaps co-signed by the lab faculty member, can be very effective. Although we prefer letters from faculty in our field, if you did research in another field (e.g., Political Science), a letter from that mentor will still provide evidence of your ability to do research, read the literature, work independently, and so on. Finally, make sure that your recommenders follow through and upload their letters.
What do successful essays look like?
Here is a collection of successful essays from previous applicants to NYU’s Psychology Ph.D. programs.
Where can I get further help in crafting my application and getting answers to my questions?
Contact the Program Administrator Esther Song.
Ask for a consultation with one of our faculty or graduate students
We will also be posting videos about applying to our program here shortly - stay tuned.
What happens next?
After applications arrive on December 1st, we strive to have at least 2 faculty look at every application. We typically receive over 200 applications. The most competitive applications will be examined by additional faculty (often those they indicated as being interested in working with), and then the program faculty in addition to several graduate students meet to decide on whom we will invite to our Open House. Usually, this is a visit to New York on a Friday (usually in February) and those who can't visit (typically international students) are asked to join online interviews instead. This year, these events will be fully online. The dates will be announced here shortly. Invitations are usually made in mid-December, although this can happen in early January as well.
The Open House is an opportunity for us to get to know you better and vice versa. There will be an introduction to the Program, interviews with several faculty members, meetings with students and postdocs in your research area and meetings specifically with lab members of a lab you are considering joining. In a normal year there will be times to socialize in person with current graduate students and with faculty. This year, we will try to approximate that as best we can online.
Once the Open House is over, program faculty in addition to several graduate students meet again to determine whom to ask the graduate school to offer admission. We are limited by the graduate school on the number of applicants we are allowed to admit (based on financial considerations within the department, i.e., by comparing the number of continuing students we have to the available funds to support students from the graduate school and existing supports for current graduate students from faculty grants, training grants and students' pre-doctoral fellowships). We choose whom to admit subject to those constraints, as well as selecting other applicants who will remain on a waiting list. Given that there are often many more qualified applicants than we have space to admit, those on the wait-list are equally qualified as those offered first.
Admitted students have until April 15th to let us know whether they will accept our offer. Those on the waiting list will only be admitted once we hear that a sufficient number of others have turned us down. As such, offers to those on the waitlist, if they happen at all, typically don't materialize until early April.