What do Psychology Majors do?
College students may have a wide variety of motives for choosing psychology as their major. Choosing to major in psychology can be a great first step for many different career paths. In this major, the courses are generally highly interesting and the people in the class are usually sociable. The type of people who do well in psychology are those who love people or have a passion for solving some particular problem. Due to the nature of the field being centered on human problems, students should be comfortable interacting with others in a wide variety of settings. A strong education in psychology goes far beyond the classroom and encompasses a wide variety of activities. For example, many students are involved in research related to a particular area in psychology that interests them or use a research experience to explore possible areas of interest. Also, there are opportunities for community involvement through volunteering experiences, and there are often so many opportunities available that it is easy to find something related to a possible area of interest. A lot of universities have a psychology club, and many are associated with Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology. Getting involved in a psychology club is a great way to meet people with similar interests, with activities including stuff that is just for fun, centered around a specific charity or cause in the community, or focused on career development (help writing a resume, studying for the GRE, or traveling to conferences). There are also a good deal of internship opportunities available during the summers, although these can be highly competitive.
It’s good for potential psychology majors to be able to multitask and create a balanced lifestyle. Often, students will have multiple responsibilities (courses, extra-curricular activities, etc.) that often overlap, so being able to plan ahead, use time management skills, and say “no” to opportunities is key. Because so much of the educational experience is outside the classroom, it is beneficial to be to set time aside for studying and follow through, which leaves open the rest of your time to take advantage of other opportunities that come up.
Life as a Psychology Major
In your first couple semesters as a psychology major, you will most likely take general education (GenEd) classes. These are classes that meet basic distribution requirements at your college. For example, at my university, the Psychology Department was under the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, so I had to meet all the requirements of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which included things like Physical Science and Foreign Language. This led to some weird class schedules, which included courses like “Age of Dinosaurs”, “Life in the Universe”, and a 5-credit introductory Spanish class my senior year. Don’t worry about your transcripts looking weird when you go to apply to graduate school – it’s pretty standard to have a few oddball classes in there. What you don’t want is a pattern of easy classes, which can be avoided by taking some of the more difficult classes within your major or picking up a minor in a related field along the way. It may sound like making a sacrifice to sign up for a more difficult class, but in my experience this was not the case at all. The cake classes are usually held in huge lecture halls and if you’re only taking the class to get an easy A it can be an incredibly boring experience. On the other hand, the hard classes are usually small and have great instructors who are really passionate about what they do. I remember taking a really hard lab that involved going off campus 3 times a week to work with developmentally disabled kids. I got to watch cutting-edge research in the making, helping collect data for projects that would eventually be published by graduate students and faculty members! The articles I had to read for class (which could have been boring and abstract otherwise) suddenly made sense, because they involved techniques that we were using in the lab. I ended up getting an A in the class, had way more fun, and learned a lot more than if I would have opted for the generic lab class (which was supposed to be way easier, but everybody ended up hating).