Master of Arts in School and Clinical Child Psychology (SCCP), Class of 2020
What are some words of wisdom you would give to a new or incoming student in your program?
Graduate school isn't about proving yourself against the competition anymore. You've already done that. You still have to work and do your absolute best, but the people around you are there to help. For the first time in my academic career, I felt like I'm part of a community of friendly colleagues. It's also much more about your own professional development; you don't need to fuss about grades much at all; take all that energy and make sure you're getting properly trained with useful skills that you WON'T forget the day the course ends. Further to that point, while you're still building your resume, it's far more important to pursue things of personal interest than necessarily high prestige or academic credibility. Do you value publications? Specific job certifications? Experience working with populations? You need to know these things to start steering yourself early, or you will find yourself drifting into whatever's convenient, and these courses matter for your career a lot more than ever before.
The SCCP program is very much a joint MA-PhD program, so it's straight back to OISE for me, for another 4 years. The MA program sets you up with basics of psychological testing and diagnosis, and the applied skills to work as a psychometrist or in the schoolboard. Some people will stop there, but most continue onward to get the breadth and specialization of this complex field.
I have a lot of strong feelings about this program. The standout highlight are my awesome peers who I've gone through this journey with; always there, whether it was when I failed my first exam, invited me out even though I refused to drink, edited my atrociously bad papers, and tolerated my unrelenting cynicism. Beyond them, the program itself does a great job of preparing you in the fundamental skills needed for assessment in school and clinical psychology. The department is tightly knit, people are friendly, and there is definitely a sense of community between staff and students. I was able to book an extra meeting with a faculty member who wasn't even my own supervisor and debrief with them entirely about stress and feeling overwhelmed. Knowing that other people are willing to do that for their students is such an empowering feeling, and makes you feel like you matter. Students further in the program are also wonderfully helpful with a variety of fantastic resources to make your life easier. The courses that are directly targeted at training will give you tangible, useful skills that you'll use the rest of your career. There's also no shortage of extra opportunities, both within OISE and in other networked institutions, and exploring these "extra curricular" to supplement your professional development is encouraged. There's a surprising amount of workspace to stay late as well, well equipped with statistics programs for all your research needs. You can feel the effort OISE makes to be accommodating with post-modernist values, and while nobody seems to be able to do that perfectly, the effort counts for a lot. The intent is to be as respectful as they can, and the community embodies that. At the end of the day, the University of Toronto degree is worth so much by itself, simply for being a credible and competitive organization.