By Fara Seddigh
For psych students who are just entering the psychology program at York with no knowledge of what to expect, this article will be your secret to success. However, if you’re in your 4th year of the psych program and still don’t know what you’re doing, don’t fret! As a psych student who started off with a Bachelor of Science and transitioned into a Bachelor of Arts in my fourth year, I experienced highs and lows of being a psych major. This article outlines everything you need to know about the program. Also, I’ll provide extra tips on how to set yourself up for success in psych.
BA or BSc …What’s the Difference?
Sometimes students randomly choose their psych degree as BA or BSc without knowing the differences between the two. I speak about these students as if I was not a victim of this exact issue myself, but lacking awareness of the minor differences between degrees is the reason I changed from a BSc to a BA.
A Bachelor of Arts, commonly referred to as BA, has a whole set of requirements similar to a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in psychology. Both degrees require a set number of psychology courses to be taken in your first, second, third, and fourth year of the program. For instance, to proceed in a psych major, students from both strands must complete the introductory psychology course, PSYCH 1010, with a minimum grade of C or higher.
Distinguish between the two degrees.
While BSc requires students to take a handful of science courses such as CHEM 1000 or BIOL 1000, students completing a BA have more choice in the courses they take. Be sure to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses. Are you strong in math, chem, bio, or physics? If yes, then consider a Bachelor of Science. If you feel more confident during writing exercises, creative projects, or critical analyses, then perhaps a Bachelor of Arts in psychology is right for you.
Basically, a BA is more suited for students who are passionate about psychology but open to exploring a variety of subjects. In contrast, the BSc is focused on the sciences. Thus, it’s geared towards students with a keen interest in that specific area. If you are stuck in the middle, refrain from making any decisions prior to consulting an Academic Advisor. They are usually the best source to consult for guidance on this issue.
You may have heard the joke: “How do psychology students get sad? They can just look at their notes for the solution.” Due to the nature of psychology, psych students appear to be mental health experts just because we read a few sentences on Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory. Psych students, just like the rest of the lot, are prone to becoming mentally exhausted from school stress. For this reason, it’s important to know who to reach out to when you feel like you can’t handle your problems efficiently. Or even if you need someone to lend a listening ear.
Fortunately, any student enrolled at York University can receive free counselling simply by walking into the office of Student Counselling & Development services at the Bennett Centre for Student Services. Self-care is the most important tip for success, as you won’t be able to work towards your goals without ensuring your own well-being.
Another way to seek help is through Academic Advising. As I previously mentioned, Academic Advisors are the best source for getting specific information on your courses or degree requirements. Psych students can make an appointment with advisors over the phone or in-person at their office in Calumet College. During the appointment, advisors will help you figure out how you want to proceed in your academic path. They can offer tips on which courses fit in with your interests, how to customize your schedule, and whether your program is right for you. What you should not do is wait until the first day of classes to make your appointment, as there’s a high chance that they won’t be able to dedicate enough time to adequately address your concerns.
Everyone tells you how important it is to get involved at university, but many of us still don’t listen. I waited until my third year to join a club. But I was pleasantly surprised by the sense of community and leadership that it instilled within me. At York, you can find a variety of clubs to get involved in. Potterheads, debate lovers, and pre-med students all have a club dedicated to their interests. Even if you don’t find a club that you’d like to join, you can start one! Simply log onto YUConnect using your Passport York credentials and click on “Register an Organization”.
Before you start a club, check out the college-affiliated clubs as well. If you’re a psych student, you are probably affiliated with Calumet College. Calumet has its own affiliation with The Undergraduate Psychology Student Association, shortly known as UPSA.
UPSA is a student-run club that offers services to promote the academic and personal development of psychology students. Getting involved as a peer tutor, mentor, or volunteer within UPSA is a great way for psych students to build meaningful relationships. The club introduces you to fellow psych students with a drive to succeed. It also provides you with various opportunities to get involved within your college. Even if you don’t want to join UPSA, check out their free tutoring and mentoring services. All York students are able to attend UPSA’s free drop-in tutoring sessions. UPSA also offers mentoring. This is a service for students who need some advice on non-academic matters such as campus resources, research experience, and a variety of other concerns.
Overall, York is a pretty big school, and it can become daunting to navigate it on your own. Find a sense of community within such a large campus. I mean, joining a few clubs can help you make friends, but it will also look great on a resume! Be sure to check out a comprehensive list of clubs on YUConnect, the university’s main resource for student organizations.
Say Hi to Professors
It sounds intimidating, I know. Psychology is one of the largest programs at York. It’s no surprise that most psych lecture halls seat about 200 or more students. This is very different from a typical high school classroom, a setting in which you could obtain your instructor’s attention by calling their name. In fact, the larger the size of the class, the harder it is to muster up the courage to participate. Get a professor to acknowledge you by attending their office hours or staying after class. Either way, it is crucial to recognize the importance of talking to your professors.
Psychology is a saturated field with a lot of brilliant minds.
Build connections with the right people — a skill known as networking. By introducing yourself to your professor, you elevate your chances of them treating you favourably when you need a reference letter or research supervisor. If you’re an introvert, not to worry, emails can also work as a preliminary introduction until you work up the courage to introduce yourself in person.
Psychology is one of the most enjoyable areas of study. You’re learning why you do the things you do. It’s a subject filled with interesting phenomenon and theories that help you make sense of the world. However, when 300 pages of readings or tricky multiple-choice questions take their toll, keep these tips in mind. Seek help when you need to. Find support through on-campus clubs and reach out to professors to assist you along the way.