From the Authors: Top 5 Tips for the New Psychology Major
We are often asked by newly declared psychology majors what should be their first steps in entering the discipline. As a result, we have developed a “Top Five” list in hopes of increasing the likelihood of your success in the discipline. We encourage you to use each of these tips as you discover the field of psychology and as you work toward achieving your educational and career goals. It is a great journey that will positively impact every area of your life!
Meet with an Advisor
Students often overlook the great resource that is academic advising. All departments/universities devote large amounts of time, energy, and money to advising. The reason for this large expenditure of resources is the vital role it can play in student success. Academic advising can help ensure you are taking the right courses so that you graduate on time. Advisors can also help you identify the best courses to take given your educational and career goals. Advisors can provide information on suggested course loads (i.e., how many courses to take given your other commitments) and other resources at your university that can help increase the likelihood of your success in your education (e.g., writing labs, math tutoring).
Get Involved with Fellow Psychology Majors
Most faculty lead incredibly busy lives. Students are no different in this regard. However, getting involved with fellow psychology majors can prove helpful in a variety of ways. In other words, the investment of time in developing relationships with your peers pays off! These relationships, especially with advanced majors (i.e., juniors and seniors), can provide insight into which courses to take, which professors work regularly with students on projects, and what opportunities exist in the field in terms of internships and volunteer experiences. One of the easiest ways to get involved is joining one of the department’s student organizations (e.g., a psychology club). These groups’ meetings provide an easy way to begin developing peer relationships, not to mention the experience of getting to know others with similar interests.
Get to Know your Professors
Professors are second only to you in ensuring your educational success. Your professors have “been there and done that” and can provide a unique perspective on your studies. We often hear from our graduates that the most influential part of their education was the relationships developed with faculty members. Nothing can replace the mentoring relationship. As a result, we encourage new majors to visit professors during office hours to chat about the course and their educational goals. You might even ask if they have any projects in which you might get involved!
Get Involved in Research
One of the common misperceptions of new majors is that “research” is what happens when you find background information and articles for a term paper. Although this is one type of research, the research we suggest here involves developing ideas/hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing up the results for presentation or publication. The foundation of psychology is the scientific method. As such, the cornerstone to education in the discipline is learning how to conduct research via the scientific method. The learning process is time consuming, often beginning with the more mundane parts of research (e.g., helping distribute surveys, entering data on the computer). However, over time, the experience can expand to incorporate all aspects of research, including developing your own study. This type of learning experience usually begins with coursework then is brought to fruition with faculty members outside the classroom. This gives even more reason to build those relationships with professors!
Study Hard Don’t forget to study hard! As most students know, it is very difficult to keep a grade point average (GPA) high and even more difficult to raise it when it is low. As a result, we urge students to focus their energies on their coursework, even those courses outside of psychology. High GPAs will pay off in the future by differentiating you from the majority of students entering the job market upon graduation and the majority of students applying to graduate school to further their education. With coverage of important preparatory issues and the key psychology subfields, Majoring in Psychology: Achieving Your Educational and Career Goals provides undergraduate students with clear, concise, research-based information on strategies to begin a successful undergraduate career in psychology.
- Provides the most comprehensive text on majoring in psychology currently available
- Discusses the benefits of pursuing a psychology degree and key steps to prepare for a job or graduate study in the field
- Features brief topical contributions written by national figures in their respective subfields
- Incorporates current data and research on diversity-related issues as well as guidance on how to ensure personality traits and abilities match the skills that potential career paths demand
"This book looks at all aspects of a psychology career from being an undergraduate major through the weighty choice of a career in neuropsychology and everything in between. This book would work well as a textbook for a career planning course or for an individual who is contemplating entering this field." (Suite101, August 2010)