Kelsey Caetano-Anolles is 17-years-old and recently earned an undergraduate degree in psychology for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. She wants to be a clinical psychologist and applied to the doctoral program at UIUC. She was shocked and upset when she was denied admission to the program - in spite of her academic record. When she sought to find out why she was denied admission, she was upset to learn that her age was a factor. She has started a petition "calling for more legal protection to make sure young people aren't denied schooling or opportunities because of their age."
I believe discrimination is wrong. But as a clinical psychologist who is still young enough to recall graduate school and my early days of training, I honestly have to say, I don't think that UIUC's call was wrong. There are a lot of factors that are weighed in selecting individuals for graduate program in clinical psychology, because during the process of getting that degree, the individual will be put in a position of seeing and treating real life persons. A clinical psychology degree is not an academic degree, and being a good clinical psychologist is not about simply reading books and making good grades.
I was 21 when I entered graduate school, and to tell the truth, at that point, I would have been pissed off if I had been told my age was a factor in my being rejected from graduate school. I graduated with honors from a well-known university in three years - I had completed a year-long individual research project, I had volunteered on a crisis line, clearly, I was ready, right? In retrospect, I probably should have been denied admission to graduate school as a 21-year-old, because while I had the book smarts, I simply didn't have the life experience and maturity for the degree program I had chosen. I was still doing a lot of growing up, even if I wasn't admitting it to myself at the time. And I ended up having to do that maturation while I was in the program, which caused quite a bit of difficulty for me on my clinical rotations. It would have been incredibly upsetting for me, but I probably needed to take a year or two to get out into the world - out of school - and experience adult life.
So Ms. Caetano-Anoulles - no, I do not know you, and, yes, I understand you are upset. But sitting here, knowing now what I know about the differences between the academic undergraduate degree and the clinical graduate degree of psychology, knowing what I know about the needs of clients/patients, knowing what I know about how life experiences are important for the development of a clinical psychologist, I have to say it: UIUC made the right choice. You more than likely are not ready for enrolling in a clinical psychology doctoral program. Go out - experience life, experience the world as an adult. Understand the what life is like outside of school. Develop that aspect of your being - it's just as important to becoming a good clinical psychologist as making good grades in school.