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What If I Don't Get In?

Many students do not get in to any of the schools to which they have applied. This can happen because of bad luck (especially if a student applied to only a few programs), or it can indicate that a student is not among the most competitive applicants. In order to avoid the former possibility, most students should apply to 10 or more programs. If a student is rejected from all schools due to a deficiency in her or his record, there may still be hope for being accepted in the future, but it will take work and commitment. For example, an uneven undergraduate record may require that the student take additional classes and perform well in them. GREs lower than 1200 may require that the student attempt to raise them by taking a GRE preparation course. (These courses can often be helpful, but you shouldn't expect them to raise your score more than 150 points or so.)

Another possibility is to take a year or two off to work on research. It is often possible to get a (not very highly-) paid position in a research laboratory at a university or at an agency such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), near Washington, DC. Full-time research experience in a certain domain will make you more attractive to others in that domain (e.g., schizophrenia research). It will also give you a clear indication of whether research is for you. Obviously, this is a large commitment, one that you should approach carefully.