5 things you may not know about studying psychology

The end of the year is almost in sight and that means many year 12 graduates-to-be will be starting to feel relieved and praying that all their hard work has paid off. If this is you, then hopefully you have begun asking yourself, what is in store for next year?

If you are deciding whether to take the leap into tertiary study then try to not get too overwhelmed with the many options to consider. When I was in your shoes four years ago, I chose to study psychology. Psychology is one of the most popular professions, as it has many applications in the job market. There are also several different entrance pathways at UQ including, through an arts, science, or psychological science degree. I’m going to give you some helpful facts on psychology, including the things that I didn’t know before starting, which may help you make that final crucial decision.

1. There is more to psychology than becoming a clinical psychologist

This has to be one of the biggest misconceptions I’ve come across. There is absolutely no obligation to pursue a career in clinical psychology after graduation – although it is, of course, an option. Psychology graduates can practise in many different areas of specialisation, including, but not limited to:

  • Neuropsychological research
  • Community psychology
  • Educational and development psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Organisational psychology
  • Sport and exercise psychology

My biggest piece of advice is to do some research and keep your options open.  If you are unsure which area is for you then don’t worry, you will figure out where your interests lie once you are enrolled and taking a range of electives. A good thing to keep in mind is that psychology is applicable in almost every professional position.

2. Be prepared to put in the hard yards

Psychology somehow has a reputation as being easy when compared to degrees like law or engineering, but don’t get ready to slack off just yet. Three years of intense (and mandatory) statistics subjects will prove that theory wrong. Yes, the realisation that the degree you picked is actually chock-full of maths can be slightly heartbreaking. On the positive side, the consistent praise of employers and research supervisors on the quality of UQ graduates makes it all worthwhile in the end. Plus, in your later years, you can read those hefty scientific journal articles and know exactly what they’re talking about.

Don’t let your background (if you have one) in any high school science subjects get too rusty either. There are plenty of electives that draw on biology and chemistry – specifically in exploring the neurological background of psychology. 

3. Get ready for all your family and friends to believe the stereotypes

You will most likely get asked whether you can read minds at every second party or group gathering that you attend. I am not sure why. I don’t know what answer they are expecting, but, this is a classic line from non-psychology students. You’ll probably explain the first few times that being a psychologist is very different from a psychic. By the end of your degree, like me, you will probably just be rolling with it.

Also be prepared for some hands-on counselling for your friends and family. You might have only completed one first year subject, but you’re still the go-to for anyone seeking advice. I like to think of it as getting some early practical experience.

4. Your lectures will be full

Lectures rooms can hold upwards of 400+ students, and every seat will be full. Avoid being the late person who has to awkwardly find a seat once class has started, or the inevitable squeeze along a row of people as you seek the very last seat available – in the middle of the row. Get to class early, set yourself up nicely, and try not to be overwhelmed by all the new faces.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t become best friends with the person next to you by the end of the first lecture. It can be harder to make friends in lectures – mainly due to the sheer volume of students.  Tutorials are great for making friends with peers and taking advantage of the small class sizes with plenty of group question time and activities. If you want a quick and easy way to make friends with your psychology classmates then the Psychology Student Association (PSA) is for you! They have retreats, barbeques, bar crawls and sports teams – making them your one-stop shop for university friends. Just look for their stall on market day.

5. Research experience is invaluable

This is probably the number one thing I wish I’d known as a first year student. Research experience is not only very helpful in applying your theoretical knowledge in real life, but you can also pick up some hot tips and habits from experienced researchers and supervisors.

Your first year studies require participation in studies run by students in older years (usually honours or PhD) to gain partial credit, but from second year onward I definitely recommend you start looking for ways to participate in experiments and other studies. UQ provides both summer and winter research programs that allow undergraduates to work with leading academics – and you get paid to do it! Besides the great experience, this also looks great on your resume and is the perfect way to start creating relationships with honours supervisors from the get go.

Written by Savannah.

Last updated:
16 January 2017