One of the biggest mistakes that students make when applying to psychology doctoral programs is to rely on their GPA and GRE scores as a compass measuring their chances of getting in. What you may not have learned from your classes or even your participation in the Psychology Club is that psychology doctoral programs tend to admit "holy grail" students straight out of undergrad - those students who have those objective criteria at a minimum. You will need much more to get into graduate school. What other factors should you consider when preparing for advanced study in doctoral programs?
Psychology doctoral programs run on an apprenticeship model, meaning that you will likely be admitted with a faculty mentor that shares your research interests. However, more and more graduate programs are expecting that you will walk into the door with prior research experience. How do you get this research experience? Check for flyers around your Psychology Department on campus advertising for research assistants. If you cannot find any, ask a graduate student or even volunteer to work with one of your professors. Chances are that they will be happy to have you work with them on data entry and simple analyses, provided that you understand statistics, and that you are reliable and trustworthy! Does your university offer the option of enrolling in a Senior Thesis or Honors Thesis course? Ask an undergraduate advisor and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
Scientific Writing Skills
Do you know the ins and outs of APA style? What about the specific conventions of scientific writing? Lots of people tend to think of the counseling, human practice side of psychology, but one commonality of Ph.D. level doctoral programs is an emphasis on research. You will spend many years as a doctoral student working to develop your own research projects, piloting data, and even submitting manuscripts over to academic journals. As a result, it pays to come into a doctoral degree program with a great understanding on scientific writing skills.
Consider Joining Psi Chi
Psi Chi is an international honor society for psychology. Not only will membership in this organization look good on your resume, but you will be able to network with like-minded students. Think about it: Where are you most likely to interact with other students who are serious about getting into graduate school? Getting involved may give you an insider edge to hearing about promising summer programs designed to give you the tools to develop a competitive edge through the graduate admissions process. And another plus to add to your resume may be leadership skills gained through volunteering and working with such a prestigious organization.