Undergraduate Major FAQ

Advising for Psychology Major

If you are a junior or senior in the psychology major, you do need an advisor from our department. If you are in the neuroscience track, please contact the neuroscience track advisor for advising. For standard major, please contact the DUS. 

The DUS emails all majors about this procedure about one week before the shopping period begins. 

First, read through this FAQ page in detail. We’ve designed this page so that you can find the answers to many of the most common questions about the major here (Looking over this page first can also save you the hassle of emailing the DUS and the time it takes to wait for a reply). If you can’t find the answer to your general question on this webpage, then email the DUS or the neuroscience track advisor.

Course Name

Ideal time to complete

Notes

PreReq

Introductory Psychology
(or AP 5 credit)

Freshman

If you received a 5 in AP Psychology then you do not need to take this course.

1

Statistics
(PSYC 200 or STAT 103)

Sophomore

You can take this during Junior year, but some research methods courses have statistics as a pre-requisite. If you want to conduct empirical research for your senior requirement then you should plan on taking statistics as a Sophomore.

2

Research Methods
(PSYC 201-299)

Junior

3

Social Science – core
(PSYC 140, 150, or 180)

Sophomore

4

Social Science

Junior

5

Natural Science – core
(PSYC 120, 130, 160, 170, or 190)

Sophomore

6

Natural Science

Junior

7

PSYC elective

Freshman

Any 100-level course.

8

PSYC elective

Junior

This can be an independent research course. Check FAQ under “Research Experience”.

9

PSYC elective

Junior / Senior

10

PSYC elective

Senior

11

Senior requirement
(Psyc 400-499)

Senior

One (but only one) of these can be taken during your Junior year.

12

Senior requirement
(Psyc 400-499)

Senior

Credit Counting

No. For those who got a 5 on their AP exam, PSYC 110 is not required.

This is possible in rare circumstances, but the decision to count a course outside the major will be decided on a case-by-case basis via petition to the DUS. To petition to count a course outside the psychology major, you will need to email the DUS with the following information:

(1) a copy of course syllabus

(2) a copy of the course reading lists.

Petitions that do not include these two pieces of information will be rejected. The DUS will then look these materials over on a case-by-case basis. Note that most courses outside the psychology major will not be approved for psychology major credit. To count for credit, a course must (a) focus directly on a specific psychological issue (e.g., mental illness, memory, etc.) and (b) have considerable psychological content (i.e., many readings that cover primary research published in psychological journals). Examples of courses that were not approved are listed here. If the DUS does approve your petition, make sure you obtain a written documentation (e-mail or official letter) and keep this information for your own record.

Yes, there is no deadline for a course petition. But again, as explained above most petitions are not approved, so be sure to plan wisely and petition early whenever possible.

You can count up to three non-psychology courses towards psychology major credit. But again, as explained above, most petitions are not approved.

Only two courses taken Credit/D/Fail may be applied toward the major. Note that no 200-level course taken Credit/D/Fail may be applied toward the major.

Sadly, there is no real way to determine which courses will be offered next year before courses are posted on OCI during the summer. However, if you're hoping to take a specific course, it's a good idea to contact the professor that usually teaches that course to find out if they intend to teach it again, or whether they will be on sabbatical, etc. (They may have a firm sense of what they'll teach next year long before the official list appears.) Also, note that many 400-level seminars closely track faculty interests from year to year, and that many professors teach a particular seminar only once.

Sadly, there is no real way to determine which courses will need to be lotteried until shopping week. That said, there are certain important courses that are limited/lotteried nearly every year. For example, research methods courses are almost always limited (this is due to the need for computer and other facilities that only hold a limited number of students). For this reason, research methods courses often tend to be over-subscribed. We therefore strongly suggest that you plan to take one of these courses before your senior year. You can save yourself a senior year headache by taking these courses early.

We strongly recommend that students take PSYC 200. However, because of time conflicts, we do sometimes allow other courses to count. We can count STAT 103 as fulfilling our statistics requirement, and you do not need to do anything to count this course. For all other statistics course, the DUS will need to see the syllabus of that course for the current semester to make sure the proposed course covers all necessary concepts. Please note that most other stats classes offered at Yale do not cover the necessary material. In particular, if a proposed course does not cover two-way ANOVA, the DUS cannot approve it.

Core courses are survey courses that introduce students to major areas of psychology and provide additional background for more advanced courses. Only introductory level courses (100-level courses) that end in zero can count as core courses. These include. PSYC 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180, & 190. Note that you must take two core course total. one from the Social Science side of psychology (formerly List A) and one from the Natural Science side of psychology (formerly List B). Also note that these courses are not necessarily offered every year, so you may need to plan ahead.

Because psychology is so diverse a subject, we require that every student take at least two courses from the social science point of view in psychology and at least two from the natural science point of view. For a list of which courses count as social science versus natural, click here.

Also, please do not confuse this distinction with the Sc (Science) and So (Social Science) distribution requirements. For instance, some of the psychology courses that are counted as So are courses taking the natural science point of view.  

No, only courses with a PSYC designation on OCI can count for the Social Science or Natural Science courses requirements for the major.

Neuroscience Track

The neuroscience track is a special track within the Psychology Major for students who are interested in neuroscience. Such students are considered Psychology majors for whom the requirements have been modified to accommodate their interests, and to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience and psychology. Interested students are encouraged to meet with the track adviser, Dr. Avram Holmes (avram.holmes@yale.edu). You should also take a look at the Neuroscience Track Major Worksheet which will give you a nice guide for how to fulfill all the Neuroscience Track requirements.

No, if you have already placed out of these courses, then you do not need to take BIOL101/102 or BIOL 103/104.

The two advanced science courses must be chosen from Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology courses numbered 200 and above that deal with human and/or animal biology. We recommend the following courses: MCDB 200, 202, 205, 210, 240, 250, 300, 315, 320, E&EB 220, 225, and 240. Certain courses outside of these departments may also meet the advanced science requirement, including BENG 350, 421, CPSC 475, MB&B 300, 301, 420, 435,443, 452, MATH 222, 225, 230, 231, and STAT 241. Other courses may qualify for this requirement with permission of the neuroscience track adviser. Note that laboratory courses do not count toward the advanced science requirement.

The senior requirement for the Neuroscience Track is the same as the senior requirement for the standard major, except that your 400-level courses should have neuroscience content. As with the standard major, students pursuing the B.S. degree in the track must carry out an empirical project as part of a directed research course (PSYC 498 or 499), but students in the Neuroscience Track must be supervised by a faculty member within the neuroscience area of the Psychology department (click here for a list). Students who wish to work with an affiliated faculty member studying neuroscience outside the department must obtain permission from the neuroscience track adviser. For a list of other faculty at Yale with neuroscience interests, click here.

Course Name

Ideal time to complete

Notes

PreReq

Introductory Psychology
(or AP 5 credit)

Freshman

If you received a 5 in AP Psychology then you do not need to take this course.

PreReq

BIOL 101+102
(or AP 5 credit)

Freshman

If you received a 5 in AP Biology then you do not need to take this course.

PreReq

BIOL 103+104
(or AP 5 credit)

Sophomore

If you received a 5 in AP Biology then you do not need to take this course.

1

Statistics
(PSYC 200 or STAT 103)

Freshman / Sophomore

You can take this during Junior year, but some research methods courses have statistics as a pre-requisite. If you want to conduct empirical research for your senior requirement then you should plan on taking statistics as a Freshman or Sophomore.

2

Research Methods
(PSYC 201-299 w/ neuroscience focus)

Junior

3

Social Science – core
(PSYC 140, 150, or 180)

Sophomore

4

Social Science

Junior

5

Neuroscience – core
(PSYC 160 or 170)

Sophomore

6

Natural Science

Junior

7

PSYC elective

Freshman / Senior

Any PSYC course

8

PSYC elective

Junior

This can be an independent research course. Check FAQ under “Research Experience”.

9

Advanced science

Junior / Senior

10

Advanced science

Senior

11

Senior requirement
(Psyc 400-499)

Senior

One (but only one) of these can be taken during your Junior year.

12

Senior requirement
(Psyc 400-499)

Senior

Research Experiences

Definitely! In fact, most of our psychology majors gain some psychological research experience during their time at Yale. It is never too early to start doing research. Many psychology labs accept students with varying backgrounds and levels of previous research experience. In fact, many labs encourage freshman and sophomores to apply for positions in the hope that these students will work in the lab for several semesters and possibly complete senior requirement in the lab. Most of the time, students begin doing research by finding positions as research assistants, either during the academic year here at Yale, or over the summer break at Yale or elsewhere. If you perform research in a lab during the academic year, you can often get directed research credit for your work in the lab.

There are many, many undergraduate research opportunities available to you! Most psychology laboratories at Yale have opportunities for undergraduates to get involved. Some labs take on undergraduates during the academic year either for academic credit, for pay (through work-study program, etc.) or on a volunteer basis. Some labs will also hire undergraduate research assistants (RAs) full-time over the summer break.

Our department does keep a website that lists some of the research opportunities available each semester (click here for a listed of posted ads). However, this list DOES NOT represent all the research opportunities available to you as a Yale student.

Unlike classes and other academic experiences, you usually need to do some work to seek out research opportunities. No matter what type of position you're looking for (course credit, summer, paid, volunteer, etc.), the process is basically the same. Your first step will be to figure out which professors are doing work that you find especially interesting. To help start this search at Yale, get to know what the professors in the Psychology department do and what research questions they're working on. The best way to learn more is to google different professors, read about their work, and think about what you would find interesting. Once you've learned more, you can simply email the professors you want to work with to ask if they have any research opportunities available. Note, however, that professors get lots of emails from interested students. This means that you're much more likely to actually be accepted for a research opportunity if you can demonstrate that you are truly informed about the work being done in the lab. Before contacting professors out of the blue, take some time to find out what they are working on, and read several of their recent papers. By taking the time and effort to find out about some of the details of the work, you'll demonstrate that you are committed to the relevant area of study and that you're not desperately mass-emailing professors (which, as you've probably guessed, most professors don't like very much).

The PSYC department offers several different kinds of independent research courses for credit. We offer full credit directed research course (PSYC 493), and half credit directed research course (PSYC 495). These courses are graded pass/fall. In addition, we offer full credit senior essay course (PSYC 499), which is letter graded and must include substantial writing of more than 5,000 words (click here for more information on the Senior Requirement). All of these courses allow students to perform research (either empirical research or literature review) in a lab at Yale for credit. The specific content of these course varies depending on the particular project you and a faculty member come up with, but often it will involve working in a lab for 8-12 hours per week (or 4-6 hours per week for the half-credit PSYC 495 course) sitting in on weekly lab meetings, and writing up a final paper.

Note that all of these courses require filling out a tutorial form that is due by the seventh calendar day after the classes begin. Forms can be downloaded here

First, you have to find a faculty member who is willing to supervise such a course for you. Since you must enroll in the course at the start of the semester, you must find a faculty member during shopping week. This process for doing this is described above. Once you and a faculty member have discussed a project and have already agreed on a plan of action, then download a tutorial form here. Bring this form to the faculty member who has agreed to supervise you. At this point, you and the faculty member will together need to completely fill out this form, which means that the topic of your research should already be chosen and the format of your course requirements should be determined. Keep in mind that the workload for this course must be equivalent to other courses offered at Yale. You and your faculty member should also agree upon the basis of your evaluation (i.e., what you will be graded on). Once you two agree on the plans, fill out the form, and e-mail it to the DUS or the department registrar Andrea Chamba while Cc-ing your advisor. You will not be able to get your schedule signed unless we have this tutorial form when you register for a directed research course.

No. We do not offer a Directed Reading or Directed Research course during the summer. Therefore, one cannot get a credit for research done during the summer.

Yes! Yale College has a number of funding opportunities (click here and here for summaries). Of these funding sources, two are typically used by psychology students. The Yale College Dean’s Research Fellowship in the Sciences and the Yale College Dean’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences have both funded psychology undergraduates to conduct research with Yale faculty over the summers.

Senior Requirements

Yes. You should start thinking about how to fulfill the senior requirement. In addition, all Juniors must complete a Senior Requirement form by the end of their Junior year. For more information, see Senior Requirement Information.

No. Only students seeking Distinction in the major are required to submit a senior essay to be graded by a second reader. For more details, see Senior Requirement Information.

Substantial writing means a final paper with a minimum of 5,000 words for a full-credit course (400-489, 499).

Yes, you can fulfill one or both of senior requirements using senior seminars, unless you are pursuing BS degree. (Note that we can pre-register you for only one seminar and preregistration for senior seminars takes place at the end of the Junior year.) Possible 400-level senior requirement courses include senior seminars (PSYC 490-489), senior requirement directed research courses (PSYC 493 or 495, which is a half credit), and senior requirement directed research courses (PSYC 499).

All rising seniors may pre-register for a senior seminar for their senior year. However, if there is a shortage of slots available for senior seminars, priority will be given to students who need a senior seminar in order to fulfill their senior requirement.

There are no restrictions in research format for students seeking a BA. For a BA degree with Distinction, the senior essay can be a literature review or empirical study.

No. Your senior essay is usually just the paper you have written for credit in one of your 400-level courses (or sometimes a combination of the two papers you wrote for each of your 400-level courses). Seniors seeking distinction in the major do not have to write an extra paper.

Study Abroad

In consultation with the DUS, you can select courses that have a substantial amount of Psychology content. In order to receive official approval from the DUS to count those courses toward your psychology credits, you will need to submit the syllabi, which include reading lists and requirements. In most cases, however, those materials are not available when you apply for study abroad programs. Thus, we can make initial selections based on the brief course descriptions, but if you want to make sure that those courses would count towards your Psychology credit, you should email the DUS those materials when you register for the courses.

We don't have a limit. But see the next question.

Fill out the Psychology Major Worksheet (downloadable here) and email or bring it to the DUS. We also STRONGLY recommend that you take statistics (Psych 200) and a research methods course (PSYC 201-299) BEFORE you study abroad because you need to take these courses before you start your senior year if you are doing a BS degree. Also, these courses are rarely offered in other foreign institutions. Furthermore, even if you study abroad for only one semester, there is no guarantee that these courses will be offered during the semester that you are back at Yale. PSYC 200 and research methods courses are offered either in the Fall or Spring, depending on the availability of the instructors. Please remember that you cannot count on last year’s schedule to predict which semester these courses will be offered. Therefore, the safest thing to do is to take these courses before you study abroad. If this is not feasible, talk to the DUS.

Career and Graduate School

There is an excellent book on this topic published by APA titled “Getting In. A Step-by-Step Plan For Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology”. You can buy it on the APA Website or on Amazon. There are also some tips in this PDF and on this website.

Well, the short answer is that you can do pretty much anything with a Psychology degree. For more specifics, check out the APA webpage on psychology careers.

Psi Chi is the undergraduate honor society in Psychology (for more information about this society, click here). Yale has its own chapter of Psi Chi.

Students are chosen for induction into Yale's Chapter of Psi Chi during their junior year based on academic excellence and promise in the major. If you qualify, you will receive an email about induction some time during your junior or senior years.

The psychology department has are two senior essay prizes for graduating seniors. Details can be found here. However, psychology students are eligible for lots of undergraduate prizes. Click here for more details.