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Prospective Grad Students

FAQs: Applying to the SPARK Lab as a Graduate Student

We thank Dr. Jessica Schleider for sharing her Applicant FAQ and inspiring us to join in efforts to make graduate school admission processes more transparent, accessible, and equitable. The information below is adapted from Dr. Schleider’s FAQ. Please note that this information reflects our lab’s views and may not reflect those of Concordia University or other faculty in the Psychology Department.

Updated Oct 2023

Why did you post this information?

We recognize that the psychology graduate application process is an uneven playing field. The process is opaque, and applicants without access to mentors or professional connections have less guidance. We hope that, by sharing this information, we are helping to “level the playing field” across applicants to our lab.

Will you be accepting a new graduate student to begin in Fall 2024?

Whether I will be able to recruit a graduate student during this upcoming cycle is dependent on funding decisions, which unfortunately I will not know until after the program application deadline. I hope to be able to recruit a new student and I will be reviewing applications.

How do I know if I’m a “good fit” for the SPARK Lab?

When reviewing applications, I am most interested in the goodness of fit between 1) your research interests, experience, and goals, and 2) our lab’s mission, our research focus, and my own mentoring capabilities and approach.

Overall, applicants who would likely be “good fits” would:

  • Demonstrate commitment to research. Applicants who have accrued independent research experience (e.g., by leading an honour’s thesis, independent project, or equivalent, and/or first-authored conference presentation) will be a particularly strong fit.

  • Demonstrate commitment to the SPARK Lab’s mission. Commitment to this mission may be demonstrated through your past experience (research, employment, volunteer, or other professional experience), your personal statement, and letters of recommendation. It is important that you demonstrate your commitment rather than simply sharing that you are passionate about our mission. 

  • Demonstrate commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Applicants who are open-minded and willing to reflect upon personal biases will be a good fit for our lab.

  • Demonstrate commitment to a career in child mental health. Students in our lab typically pursue a career in child/adolescent intervention, mental health services, and/or implementation.

More specifically, applicants with the following interests may be good fits to our lab:

  • Psychosocial treatment efficacy, effectiveness, and tailoring for youths with disruptive behaviours and/or ADHD.

 

  • Implementation science to improve access to treatments outside of academic settings for youths with disruptive behaviours and/or ADHD.

  • Improving child mental health service delivery and quality for historically minorities and underserved groups.

I am especially interested in applicants with experience in some or all of the following areas (although none is required):

  • Working directly with children/adolescents and their families (e.g., recruitment, data collection).

 

  • Strong quantitative background, including coding and/or programming.

  • Community-based participatory research or conducting research outside of a lab setting (e.g., homes, schools, clinics, hospitals, community settings).

I believe that strong training in evidence-based practice is essential to becoming an effective, informed researcher. I aim to recruit students seeking rigorous training in both intervention research and clinical practice. Both skill-sets necessarily inform each other. Our lab develops, tests, and implement interventions, so I view clinical training as especially important for trainees in our lab.

At the same time, I feel best-prepared to support students who are interested in careers that incorporate research in some way, especially clinical, intervention, and/or implementation research. As such, I may not be the most effective mentor for applicants who are interested exclusively in clinical practice careers. Students who have prior work and research experience, feel comfortable working independently, and are able to bring their own independent research questions within larger studies in the lab are likely to be successful in our lab. 

What projects would I work on in the SPARK Lab?

Please see the Research Projects section on our website for more details on ongoing projects. Currently, we have 3 active projects: 1) APF study designed to identify treatment targets to inform a tailored treatment for youths with callous-unemotional traits, and 2) NIMH R21 study on developing an ADHD phenotyping algorithm using primary care electronic health record data and understanding factors that may impact implementation, and 3) NIMH R01 study on examining the effectiveness and implementation of an integrated parent-child treatment program for families with ADHD. 

 

In addition, students have opportunities to develop and lead their own research projects or analyze secondary data. I have a number of active collaborations and access to clinical trial or intervention data. I encourage students to develop new and novel research that is feasible and aligned with the lab’s mission. I am interested in learning about ideas you may have. 

Should I email you to express my interest in applying to your lab?
Can we meet to discuss my interests?

Your decision to email me (or not) will have no impact on your odds of receiving an interview invitation or an offer of admission. Because I am unable to equitably accommodate meetings with everyone, I do not meet with applicants or provide feedback on application materials prior to the program application deadline. Applicants are encouraged to review our lab website, which includes answers to many common questions about our research directions and lab culture. If you have specific questions that are not addressed on this page or on our lab website, please get in touch, and I will do my best to address them.

Please refer to the Department website for information about the application process.

What should I include in my personal statement?

I find it helpful when applicants include the following in their personal statements:

 

  • A clear statement of your research interests and career goals (even if they are approximate/might change) and how they relate to our lab’s mission and work

  • A clear statement of why you are interested in our lab, in particular, versus other labs that study youth mental health. Here, you may also discuss how you think my research and mentorship can help you get where you want to be.  

  • Discussions of your independent research experiences (or career/life experiences) and what you learned from them. Rather than a chronological accounting of your experiences, I suggest synthesizing (1) the skills you developed from working on the projects (e.g., data collection; coding/running analyses; recruiting children/families; writing certain sections of a paper; submitting/presenting a poster, partnering with community members), and (2) what your “takeaways” were from the projects (e.g., your interpretations of the findings and how this informed new research ideas, or how your knowledge/skills prepare you for the specific research you wish to undertake in graduate school).

  • You may include thoughts on the specific projects and research questions you would like to explore in our lab.

Is it advantageous to list multiple mentors of interest (or just one) on my application?

There is no inherent advantage to naming multiple mentors of interest on your application. I review all applications on which I am listed as a top-choice mentor. Listing two potential mentors is appropriate if your interests and goals clearly fit with two faculty members’ research programs (as described in your personal statement).  

I am an international student. Will this remove me from consideration?

All applications will be reviewed regardless of citizenship. However, it is important to be aware that there are financial barriers to international students in our Department. International students can expect higher tuition than their peers. There are also limits to funding that international students may be eligible for (e.g., Tri-Council). You can find a tuition calculator here

Where else can I find information or guidance for my application process? 

Beyond our Department website, I recommend these resources:​

  • Getting Into Psych Grad School, provided by the Council of University Directors in Clinical Psychology. This guide is focused more on US-based programs but the principles apply to most Clinical programs. 

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