Best Psychology Grad Schools: West Coast

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US News

US News and World report ranks schools every year according to majors. In 2009, Stanford University was ranked number one out of the best psychology grad schools. Others found on the list include University of California, Berkeley, Yale, and Princeton University.

Stanford University

Why has Stanford University been ranked number one for best psychology grad schools?

Stanford University offers a co-terminal master’s degree for students enrolled in the PhD program in psychology, although it is not offered on its own. While there are no previous course requirements for admissions into the doctoral program, the prospective students must show promise in a research and teaching career. As a competitive school, Stanford assesses Graduate Record Examination scores, GPA, courses taken, letters of recommendation, and statements for admissions purposes.

Stanford admits approximately 2 to 4 students each year into each of the sub areas. Sub areas include:

  • Cognitive
  • Developmental
  • Social
  • Neuroscience
  • Affective Science

An undergraduate degree in psychology is not required, but undergraduate research experience is highly desirable. Students are admitted once a year during the fall semester. Students take an array of courses including core, area of specialization, statistics, and research. Students are also required to be teaching assistants for at least five psychology courses during their time as a doctoral student. Stanford also requires dissertation and seminars.

Tuition and expenses are as follows:

  • 11-18 Graduate credits: $12,900 per quarter
  • 8, 9, or 10 Graduate credits: $8,390
  • Each Graduate credit above 18: $860

Stanford University estimates other expenses such as rent, food, books, health insurance, and personal should cost approximately $7,673. Students can attain financial aid through, loans, grants, scholarships, and fellowships.

University of California, Berkeley

At an admission rate fluctuating between 3% and 18%, Berkeley does not offer a terminal degree in psychology at the master’s level but does offer the option to attain the MA if students are enrolled to obtain the PhD. This competitive school currently has 120 active graduate students enrolled in the psychology Ph.D program which focuses on five areas including:

Admissions into this five year program is based on factors including prior applicable experience, recommendation letters, statement of purpose and personal history made by student, and Graduate Record Examination scores (GRE). While there is no GRE score requirement, those who have been admitted have normally scored in the 70th percentile or higher. Berkeley has explained in their brochure that they have deep interest in students who have gained previous knowledge in research and would like to continue this journey.

Fees are paid by resident and non-resident students. California residents pay approximately $6,474,75 and non-residents pay $14,025,75. These fees include registration fee, education fee, health insurance fee, Campus fee, class pass fee, and for non-residents a non-resident tuition fee.

The only tuition paid is by non-residents, which is $15,312. Students admitted into the program as non-residents will have their first year non-resident tuition paid by the department. The student must then take it upon him or herself to become a resident of California in order to avoid tuition bills after the first year. More information is on the website regarding how to become a California resident. Other budget considerations mentioned include housing, food, books, supplies, personal, and transportation which has been estimated by the university at $34,286 for a year.

Students will follow a combination of degree requirements including core courses, courses in statistics and methodology, research and directed study, attendance at colloquia, proseminar courses, advanced courses in area of study and seminars, second year research project, training as a graduate student instructor, qualifying examination, and dissertation.

Yale University

One of the best psychology grad schools is Yale, located in New Haven, Connecticut. The graduate program is well-rounded, starting out the focus on psychology as a whole and as the student comes to the end of the program, courses start to aim at the student’s chosen specialization.

Specializations include:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology (APA accredited; American Psychological Association)
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Social/Personality Psychology

Students are expected to start their research training early on in the program and students work closely with faculty. Degree requirements for the PhD include courses in specialization, core courses, courses in statistics and research, colloquia, and dissertation. Students are also given the opportunity to attain experience in teaching. There are many opportunities for students as teaching fellows and this is seen as a degree requirement instead of student employment.

Tuition for Yale is $33,500 per year. Doctoral students receive a full fellowship applied towards their tuition. Living expenses per year is estimated at $18,920. These expenses can be paid through financial aid, loans, and other outside grants students apply to.

This competitive school admits approximately 15 students every year out of 500. As with the previous schools above, research experience is a must to be considered for admission into Yale University. Admissions also assess Graduate Record Examination scores, academic record, and letters of recommendation.

Princeton University

A doctoral degree in psychology is offered by Princeton University, located in Princeton, NJ. Applications are taken between September and December for admission into the following fall term for full time study. Application fee is $70 before December 1 and $90 after December 1. Application fees can be waived due to financial hardships.

Students’ applications are evaluated on their recommendation letters, Graduate Record Examination scores, academic records, resume, and statement of purpose. This five year program include psychology courses, research, residence, general examinations, qualifying examinations, and dissertation showing mastery of the student’s chosen field and ability to conduct research. Students choose one of the following specializations:

  • Systems Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Perception and Cognition
  • Personality and Social Psychology
  • Physiological Psychology

Graduate student teaching is expected at Princeton University. Employment is actually not expected from full time graduate students as it will interfere with studies, research, and teacher training. It is expected that doctoral students teach for at least three class hours during the entire program.

Normally, doctoral students attain assistantships, fellowships, and stipends to help cover tuition expenses. Fees having to do with housing, books, supplies, and personal expenses can be paid by student or loans. University fellowships cover full tuition of $26,000 per year for doctoral students.


So what makes these schools fall into the category of best psychology grad schools? These schools are at the top of their game. They not only offer various sub areas in psychology to choose from but also offer a strong foundation of research and teacher training. What is more is that they offer full paid fellowships form the university to cover tuition. They may not look for undergraduate degrees in psychology, but they do look for experience in research. Any student looking to attain a Doctorate in Psychology for less should take into consideration all requirements of these schools.


Princeton University Department of Psychology -

Yale Department of Psychology -

Stanford University Department of Psychology -

University of California Berkeley Psychology Department -