How Do I Get Involved in Psychology?
Your undergraduate education lasts four (or, sometimes, five, six…) years. Along the way, you acquire lots of knowledge and facts-that part is mandatory. You also have the opportunity to meet interesting and knowledgeable people who can advise and mentor you through this process and those that follow-that part is optional.
Though optional, the relationships you establish with mentors and advisors during your undergraduate career can be the most important experiences you take away from your time at OSU. They can help you acquire the skills and practical knowledge that will propel you into graduate school, work, and, generally, life beyond the university. The old adage "It doesn't matter what you know; it matters who you know" is partially true. It certainly matters who you know; and it does matter what you know-but it's equally important who taught it to you.
Extracurricular involvement in the School of Psychological Science is essential for graduate school admissions. Without research experience and faculty mentorship, admittance into a graduate program (in psychology or elsewhere) is practically impossible. Taking the first steps can be nerve-wracking. It was for this writer. So, on this page are some tips for how to get involved, get the most out of your OSU Psychology experience, and get on the track for the future you want. This comes from the collective wisdom of your peers, who are current or former students in the Psychology program.
Step 1: Use classes with professors as opportunities to get involved.
In order to be considered for opportunities, you need to "come to mind" when a professor is looking to fill a need in a lab, work on a project, or otherwise seek your involvement outside of class. Instructors hold office hours and do so because they want to be available to students. Your instructors will practically hit the roof if you visit them not to alter a grade or get an extension on a paper, but just to sit and talk for five or ten minutes about some aspect of the course you find interesting (hint: if you've completed the assigned reading about the topic and are mildly conversant in the subject, this is a big plus). If coming by just to chat is not your style, swing by to drop off a paper or ask a test question and then strike up a conversation.
Graduate Zach Goodin Says: "Don't be afraid to be "that guy [or woman]." Asking questions - not contributing anecdotal insights - during lecture shows that you care about the subject."
Step 2: Be visible in the School, outside of classes.
There are hundreds of Psychology majors and minors at OSU. If you wait to be noticed, it might not happen simply because of the vast numbers of students here. The key to becoming visible is participating in smaller environments, where you are one of 10 or 12 students and not one of 60 or 200. Seek out opportunities for socialization among members of the School of Psychological Science. Psi Chi Honors Society is a student group that provides an in-road to this. Classes that center around research (PSY 301, WIC courses, and 401 courses) provide smaller environments that allow you to demonstrate your skills and ideas in the context of research. The annual School of Psychological Science picnic allows you to interact with members of the School in a very casual manner. Finally, attending advertised talks that happen every so often is an additional ways to get noticed.
Graduate Logan Cornett Says: "Find out which area you're interested in, meet the professor that works in that area, and let him or her know how interested you are. That's how I got involved. If you don't know what you are interested in, it might be a good idea to take a look at several different labs and find out what their research is all about."
Step 3: Don't knock it 'til you try it (or, Experimentation is not commitment)
"But, but... I don't want to end up doing research," you might be saying to yourself. If you're interested in psychology and think you might want to go on in any sort of graduate school direction, it is to your benefit to get involved in research. Spending a term or two working alongside a faculty member and student researchers will enhance your understanding of the topics discussed in classes, pique your curiosity, and distinguish you from other students whose grades are just as noteworthy as yours.
But wait, there's more. You might even end up liking research! You might be compelled to delve deeper into empirical science and answer other questions with the tools of psychology (note that your current attitudes about research aren't very good predictors of the attitudes you'll hold once you've tried it). Or, you might decide research is not your bag. Either way, you're fine-- you've gained the experience and knowledge necessary to move on to the next stage. Whether you end up loving research or hating it, you will have a better understanding of your eventual career interests and knowing what you want is an important thing.
So, take a look through our faculty's research interests. Peruse the fine work being done by your peers. Talk to your favorite faculty member about getting involved with research in the School of Psychological Science.