Prospective graduate students

Frequently asked questions:
Applying to join the MSU Autism Lab

Dr. Ingersoll mentors graduate students in the Clinical Science doctoral program in the Department of Psychology. General information for prospective students interested in our clinical science program at MSU can be found at this link.

The purpose of this guide is to provide essential information for applying to work with Dr. Ingersoll in the Clinical Science program in the Department of Psychology at MSU. We hope that this will help make the application process more transparent for applicants without the privilege of strong faculty mentors or professional connections.

Our lab typically recruits one graduate student every other year.  However,  depending on funding, we may recruit a student every year for several consecutive years.  We are particularly interested in applicants from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds, including neurodivergent students.

Thank you to Dr. Jessica Schleider, PhD, for the inspiration & outline for this document.

Is Dr. Ingersoll accepting a student this year?

I am not currently considering graduate students (*updated 9/13/2022)

How do I know if I’m a good fit for the MSU Autism Lab?

My judge of an applicant’s fit for our lab is based on the alignment of their: 1) prior research experiences; 2) current research interests; and 3) future training and career goals with our research and mission and my training approach.

I strongly value prior research experience, and consider it strongly in admissions decisions.  Prior research experience in the field of ASD is particularly attractive.  In addition, most of my graduate students have had experience working with children with ASD prior to graduate school. 

I am looking for applicants whose current research interests fit well with the work being conducted in our lab.  This could include early social communication development, parent-mediated intervention, telehealth, community implementation of interventions, and/or service access and disparities with for children with ASD and their families. 

I am most interested in mentoring students who wish to pursue a research or academic career or other career that involves the dissemination of knowledge.  

Does the program require the GRE? How important are my scores?

The Clinical Science program currently requires the general GRE, although there has been some serious discussion about eliminating this requirement for the upcoming application cycle. 

Our program reviews applications holistically and uses GRE scores as just one of many pieces of information in determining an applicant’s potential for success in our program.  We recognize that the GRE is largely unpredictive of many important indicators of graduate student success, and is even less predictive for applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.  I weigh previous research experience, current research interests, and career goals most highly, although outstanding GRE scores can compensate for weaknesses in one or more of these areas.

Are there any “screening criteria” you use to review applications?

No.  I review all applications in which the applicant has expressed interest in having me as a research mentor.

Should I email Dr. Ingersoll to express my interest in applying to the MSU Autism Lab?

You are more than welcome to do so, but it will not impact your odds of receiving an interview invitation or an offer of admission. You are encouraged to read through this website, the Department of Psychology site, and the Clinical Science program site to familiarize yourself with our lab, program, and department.

I am interested in research in autism spectrum disorder, but I want to focus on adolescence or adulthood. Should I consider your lab?

While we have occasionally published in this area, most of our work focuses on early interventions for toddlers and young children. There are other folks doing this type of research who would likely be a much better fit!

I am interested in direct, therapist-implemented interventions. Should I consider your lab?

Our lab focuses on parent-mediated interventions, and have recently begun to focus more on community implementation of interventions. This means that we train parents and/or community providers to work with children. However, our students receive clinical training through our in-house MSU Psychological Clinic, where they often see clients on the autism spectrum throughout the lifespan.

I don’t have any intervention experience. I’m interested in parent-implemented interventions and implementation science, but I don’t have direct experience in this area. Can I still apply to your lab?

Direct clinical experience with children with ASD and their families is desirable; however, it is not required for a successful application.  I do look for individuals who are comfortable working with young children and have some experience with individuals with ASD, even if it has not been in a clinical capacity.

I don’t have prior research experience. Can I still apply to your lab?

Given the heavy research focus of our lab and graduate program, prior research experience is essential.  I recognize that many excellent students do not become involved in research during their undergraduate career.  If you did not gain strong research experience as an undergraduate, there are still opportunities to so at the post-baccalaureate stage.  I recommend seeking a paid or volunteer research assistant position in a lab or seeking out research opportunities within a clinical setting.  Although research experience with individuals with ASD is a plus, we are most interested in students who have developed strong clinical research skills and who truly enjoy the research process.

What should I include in my personal statement?

  • A clear statement of your research interests and how they relate to our lab’s mission and program of research.
  • A statement of why you are interested in the MSU Autism Lab, rather than other similar labs
  • A statement about your career goals (your best guess right now!)
  • A discussion of your independent research experience:
    • What skills did you learn?
    • What new questions or research ideas did you take away from the experience?
    • How did it impact your trajectory?
  • It is okay to include information about your life experiences or personal relationship to mental health issues if they pertain to important aspects of your identity or relate to your experience overcoming obstacles to higher education. However, your personal/lived experiences should not be the focus, and they should be clearly connected to the rest of your statement. Your research interests, experience and goals should be the emphasis.

Clinical psychology doctoral programs involve both research training and clinical training. Which is emphasized at MSU?

The Clinical Science program emphasizes rigorous training in both research and clinical practice. As our lab studies intervention, clinical skills are essential for conducting good research. However, the program is a “clinical science” model with a strong emphasis on research, and students who are happiest in the program tend to be those whose career goals include research or dissemination of science more broadly.

Want to know more about “clinical science”? MSU’s program was recently accredited by PCSAS, and you can find out more on their website.

What is Dr. Ingersoll’s mentorship style?

As a mentor, it is very important for me to develop a productive and supporting working relationship with each of my graduate students.  I seek to provide individualized mentorship that aligns with each student’s training and career goals. 

I strongly believe in training students to be independent thinkers.  Thus, I encourage my students to develop their own areas of research expertise, in addition to the shared expertise in lab.  As part of this process, I support my students in developing independent projects as much as is possible for their developmental stage. 

I believe strong communication and timely feedback are an important component of the learning process.  I meet weekly with each graduate student to discuss their individual projects and training goals, and all graduate students together to discuss larger, lab-wide projects and opportunities. 

Can I contact your current graduate students?

Certainly! See the Meet our Team page.

I’ve never made a CV before… What does it look like?

See the following resources:

The application fees are going to create hardship for me. What can I do?

The MSU Graduate School offers fee waivers through the Big Ten Academic Alliance, McNair program, and some other programs as well.

How can I learn more about the application process in general?

See the following resources: