This brochure provides graduate and professional training programs in psychology with specific action tips, in a brief outline format, for developing ethnic minority student recruitment and retention strategies and recruitment materials. These tips are based on findings of research on effective ethnic minority student recruitment and retention. The publication Diversity and Accreditation, published by the APA Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training in Psychology (CEMRRAT), may also be helpful in this regard.

Employing effective student recruitment and retention strategies

Effective minority student recruitment and retention must be viewed and implemented as a long-term process. It involves several critical components:

A. Creating a supportive environment for ethnic minority student training and mentoring

B. Having a committed faculty and appropriate training opportunities and resources

C. Developing creative strategies for identifying talented applicants and encouraging them to apply to the program and

D. Developing a renewable and sustainable critical mass of ethnic minority graduate students.

Following are helpful specific actions for organizing more effective strategies for recruiting ethnic minority students into graduate and professional training programs and for retaining the students in those programs.

A. Create a supportive environment

1. Develop an orientation for prospective students that allows the program to describe its philosophy, research and professional training opportunities and its sensitivity to ethnic minority considerations.

2. Establish ethnic minority student support groups for students currently in the program.

3. Incorporate issues of ethnicity and culture into the courses, research experiences and practicum opportunities for all students.

4. Conduct diversity training workshops for faculty, administrators and students to create a genuine appreciation and respect for cultural diversity.

B. Ensure the presence of committed faculty and other relevant resources

1. Have in the program a minimum number of ethnic minority or other faculty with interest in and a commitment to providing leadership for developing these initiatives.

2. Identify ways to obtain and retain access to ethnic minority populations.

3. Have access to appropriate expertise for working with ethnic minority populations.

4. Address issues of ethnic minority representation in research samples and clinical populations.

5. Have adequate financial support for ethnic minority students.

C. Use creative recruitment strategies

1. Develop an information network that allows the program to identify and track talented ethnic minority students as prospective applicants (e.g., recruiting from such programs as the APA Minority Undergraduate Students of Excellence (MUSE), Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC), Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS), and other ethnic minority research mentoring programs).

2. Develop organized and aggressive recruitment efforts, including well-organized and professionally prepared admissions materials and coordinated outreach efforts that include mailing program brochures and personalized letters to colleagues at other institutions and conducting recruitment trips to undergraduate programs with significant pools of ethnic minority students, etc.

3. Develop other creative ethnic minority focused recruitment activities, such as ethnic minority recruitment or orientation days.

4. Design ethnic minority undergraduate research mentoring programs, including those that are federally funded (e.g., MARC, CORE, MBRS, the new APA/NIGMS project, etc.) or locally developed and funded by the respective university (e.g., UCLA's START program, Summer Research Opportunity Programs, etc.).

D. Develop a stable and continuing ethnic minority graduate student pool

1. Incorporate ethnic minority graduate students as full partners in the development of ethnic minority recruitment and mentoring programs.

2. Have ethnic minority graduate students serve as recruiters for the program.

3. Have ethnic minority graduate students serve as research mentors and advisors to ethnic minority undergraduates.

4. Establish an ethnic minority alumni group, which can provide a valuable resource of trained consultants, clinical supervisors, adjunct faculty, recruiters, etc.

5. Use ethnic minority graduate students as alumni linkages back to their undergraduate universities and programs.

6. Focus special attention and efforts on ethnic minority student retention, graduation and mentoring for academic, research, and professional careers. One of the most important criteria of a program's readiness to train ethnic minority students is its record of success in training ethnic minority students.

Developing an ethnic minority recruitment packet

The following are helpful hints for organizing and developing a recruitment packet for prospective ethnic minority students in psychology. The recommendations for developing and "fine tuning" documents comprising the packet are taken from a recent article by Ponterotto et al. (1995). The article presents the results of a study of issues salient in Hispanic and African American students' evaluations of program-application packets as part of an ethnic minority recruitment strategy.

1. The application packet should be well organized and include a university catalogue, a department or school catalogue and a program-specific bulletin.

2. The physical quality of the packets should be reviewed and improved. Many department/program forms are poorly copied. On the other hand, university catalogues are of higher quality. The packet should be carefully packaged and distributed.

3. The application and admissions processes should be carefully spelled out. Dates, timelines and toll-free numbers are urged.

4. Admissions criteria should be clearly delineated, including specific mention of what information strengthens an application.

5. Financial aid information should be specifically and candidly discussed.

6. Packets should include a program handbook that contains the program description, philosophy, theoretical orientation and interests of faculty; course sequences; research experiences; practica; complete course descriptions; internship criteria; and the dissertation process.

7. Demographic information should be included about the student body, faculty and recent program graduates. Presence of ethnic minority faculty or faculty interested in ethnic minority populations or issues should be highlighted.

8. A community resource guide specifically geared to needs and interests of ethnic minority students should be developed and included.

9. The program's multicultural interest and commitment should be reflected throughout the handbook and catalogues.

10. Packets should include a personally addressed cover letter to the prospective student. If recruitment is done personally, individual attention should be given to each student rather than the use of a "blanket" approach.

Who are the students of color? This publication uses the U.S. Bureau of the Census definition of color:
African/American/Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian-American/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino(a).

Other sources of information
  • Bernal, M. E. (1994). Integration of ethnic minorities into academic psychology: How it has been and what it could be. In E. J. Trickett, R. J. Watts, and E. Birman (Eds.), Human diversity: Perspectives on people in context (pp. 404-423). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hammond, W. R., & Yung, B. (1993). Minority student recruitment and retention practices among schools of professional psychology: A national survey and analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice®, 24, 3-12.
  • Myers, H. F., Wohlford, P., Guzman, L. P., & Echemendia, R. J. (Eds.). (1991). Ethnic minority perspectives on clinical training and services in psychology. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
  • Ponterotto, J. G., Burkard, A., Yoshida, R. K., Cancelli, A. A., Mendex, G., Wailewski, L., & Sussman, L. (1995). Prospective minority students' perceptions of application packets for professional psychology programs: A qualitative study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(2), 196-204.
  • Stricker, G., Davis-Russell, E., Bourg, E., Duran, E., Hammond, R., McHollan, S., Polite, K., & Vaughn, B. E. (Eds). (1990). Toward ethnic diversification in psychology education and training. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Other brochures in the psychology education and careers guidebook series

Prepared by

American Psychological Association
Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention
and Training in Psychology
Workgroup on Student Recruitment and Retention

Hector F. Myers, PhD, Chair
Robin J. Hailstorks, Phd
Paul Leung, PhD
Richard McCarty, PhD
Manuel Miranda, PhD
Edward G. Singleton, PhD
Brian D. Smedley, PhD
Paul Wohlford, PhD

A publication of the American Psychological Association
Washington, D.C.