Applicant Advice

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We are very proud of our program and of our national standing among the best programs offering developmental training. As you browse the UNC website, you will note that our core program, housed in the Department of Psychology, should be viewed in the broader context of other facilities at UNC that are relevant for the study of development. These opportunities include the Center for Developmental Science, the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. There are also many developmentally-oriented faculty members in other academic units, and our group has established close collaborations with many of these colleagues. Their affiliations include the Department of Sociology, the School of Education, the School of Nursing, the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Allied Health Sciences. Finally, many faculty and students collaborate with colleagues at neighboring institutions, and some courses are cross-listed across campuses.

Admission Requirements

Admission to our Program is highly competitive. We expect strong undergraduate grades (a GPA of 3.5 or higher), GRE scores at 1000 or above (for Verbal plus Quantitative), at least three strong letters of recommendation, and some relevant research experience. Students who do not meet all of the criteria are sometimes admitted, but they should address this aspect of their application explicitly in their Personal Statements. The UNC Graduate School requires a minimum GRE score above the 50th percentile on both Verbal & Quantitative, with some degree of latitude in exceptional circumstances. Most students in our Program are from the United States, but some are from abroad. Students who are not native speakers of English must demonstrate proficiency in English (i.e., score well on the TOEFL). We have a strong commitment to recruit and train students from under-represented minority groups and students who have an interest in minority research issues. Students in either (or both) of these categories are urged to get in touch with Dr. Ornstein early in the admissions process.

The Personal Statement is an extremely important part of your application. One component of the Personal Statement is a succinct description of your research experience, particularly research that is relevant to developmental psychology. Hypotheses and findings are important, but we are particularly interested in knowing what specific research tasks you have performed (i.e., the depth and breadth of your research experience). A second component of the Personal Statement is a description of your interests. There is latitude for students to change focus during the course of their graduate studies; given the nature of our training, we do look for students who have interests that align with those of one or more of our Core faculty members. To help you determine your fit with our program, please look closely at the section of our website describing our major research themes. If no themes on this list appeal to you, it would be unwise to apply to UNC. Another relevant aspect of your interests that should be discouraged in the Personal Statement is the general career path that you are pursuing. Do you see yourself as heading toward a job as a college professor, researcher, teacher, or some other line of work? Finally, the Personal Statement can be used to explain weaknesses in the application or other extenuating circumstances that should be taken into consideration.

Financial Support

UNC’s budget is approved on a year-by-year basis by the N.C. Legislature. Thus, we cannot offer our graduate students a written guarantee of long-term financial support. However, since the founding of the Developmental Program in the 1960’s, every student in the Developmental Program has had some form of stipend plus tuition remission throughout his or her entire graduate training. Funding is generally in the form of a stipend for research or teaching, but it sometimes comes through some external award such as an NSF Fellowship. We ask all incoming students to become state residents as soon as possible as this affects the Department’s tuition expenditure.


We hope that you will apply to UNC Chapel Hill for graduate training in Developmental Psychology. Please note that we begin processing applications in early December. See Admissions and the Graduate School for additional information on the application process. We usually make our initial selections by early February, and we will contact you then if you have been invited to interview. Offers of admission will follow shortly thereafter. Depending upon the responses from our initial offers, we sometimes admit students who are on our waiting list.

Please feel free to call or send e-mail if you have questions about the program that could affect your decision to apply. Our webpage has assorted addresses and phone numbers for faculty, staff, and current students. Most general questions about graduate school at UNC can be answered by Student Services, 919-962-7149. Specific questions about the Developmental Program should go to Lori Shamblin or Program Director, Peter A. Ornstein.