Today's psychology students span the spectrum of age, race/ethnicity, cultural heritage, sexual identity, disability, relationship and parental status, and various other demographics, says Carol Williams-Nickelson, PsyD, associate executive director of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). "[No longer is] a particular profile equated with an ideal student in the minds of faculty members and admission committees," Williams-Nickelson says.

Since 1975, enrollment in graduate psychology programs has increased by 43 percent, according to a 2001 report by the National Science Foundation. The increasingly diverse graduate student population is evident in APAGS through its varied listservs, advocacy efforts focusing on diversity, resource guides for different populations, and APAGS elected committees, subcommittees and representatives for nearly every subgroup of student. According to graduate-student stats:

  • 74 percent of psychology graduate students are women.

  • 15 percent of recent doctorates are minorities.

  • 58 percent of recent doctorates are under age 35.

  •  46 percent of graduate students are married.

  • The highest number of PhD's granted in 2000 were in clinical psychology--39 percent.

Psychology's demographics are not unique. Graduate students collectively are changing, says Peter Syverson, vice president for research and information services at the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). "They have families, children, debt and are responsible for all kinds of things in their life," Syverson says.

More of them have returned to school later in life: Current CGS statistics show that 57 percent of doctoral students are over the age of 30; one-quarter are over the age of 40.

The Monitor introduces you to five students who illustrate some of the vast differences and experiences of today's psychology graduate students.

Beating the odds

Back to school

Married with children

Coming to America

Traditional or nontraditional?