Student FAQ

GETTING STARTED IN THE PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT

You can find our most up-to-date course schedules on the Year-at-a-Glance and the Weekly Schedule pages for Fall and for Spring Semesters. 

Alternatively, to find these pages, go to our main website and hover over the “Courses” tab. There you will see under “At a Glance” all the available weekly and yearly schedules. 

You can also view course descriptions and recent syllabi on our Course Index pages. 

 

All faculty are happy to discuss the field of psychology with interested students. To learn about the Psychology and the Neuroscience & Behavior Major or for assistance planning your program, first read over our Program Planning Tips webpage, and then feel free to consult a Faculty or Peer Advisor.
 

If you have questions about major requirements that are not answered on our web pages, majors and concentrators should see one of the Program Advisors or Liz Parish, the Undergraduate Curriculum Assistant, in 406 Schermerhorn.

    If you are unsure which major you prefer, we recommend you take a look over the different major requirements. You can find more detailed information about the Psychology major here, and more detailed information about the Neuroscience and Behavior major here

    A good way to see the different major requirements is by looking over the Neuroscience and Behavior checklist, and the Psychology major checklist. These checklist will show you exactly what each major requires and what course options you have. 

    The Undergraduate Curriculum Assistant (Liz Parish) and the department DUS's are all here to help you with any advising questions you may have, so if at any point you have questions, feel free to reach out to any of the advisors. 

    Please also refer to the different sections of this FAQ for the Psychology major and the Neuroscience and Behavior major, as there are different sample schedules that may also help give you an idea of what courses you could take to fulfill each major.

     

    Although you do not have to declare your major until the end of the sophomore year, we recommend that you take some of the introductory courses early on so that you can have an early taste of the major and so that you can take full advantage of our program offerings and research opportunities.

    There are several student organizations on campus that are of interest to Psychology Majors, including the Psi Chi Honors Society, Columbia Neuroscience Society, and Columbia’s Clinical Psychology Society.

    In addition to these groups, there is an active Peer Advising Network in the department. Peer Advisors are well informed of the department's requirements and policies, they are comfortable working with both faculty and students, and they are interested in overseeing new programs and events to better inform majors of opportunities within the Department of Psychology.

    The Psychology Home Page has links to Colloquia, Monday Seminars, and other events. See the department newsletters for announcements of special events for majors.

    Our department has a weekly newsletter that includes lots of up to date information about the department including department events, department announcements, major/concentration information, some relevant campus events, and research/volunteer opportunities. To sign up for the newsletter, please email Liz Parish

    To see previous department newsletter click here

    GETTING INVOLVED IN RESEARCH

    As an undergraduate major you may participate in faculty research as a volunteer or as a work-study assistant. You may also register for supervised individual research (PSYC UN3950), or you may apply at the end of your sophomore year to participate in the two-year Psychology Honors Program.

    At the beginning of the fall term, the department hosts a Lab Preview event for students to learn about research opportunities for the upcoming semester.

    For additional information about current and past research opportunities within our department and at other institutions, check out our weekly department newsletters

    For more details on research opportunities within our department, take a look at our Research Opportunities page.

    If you are interested in volunteering for a lab as a research assistant, we recommend you participate in our Fall Lab Preview event, as this will give you an understanding of what kind of work you may do and what labs have availability for research assistant positions. If you are unable to attend the event, you can view the most recent lab preview information packet here.

    Once you know which labs you are interested in working with, you should contact the lab manager or the professor directly. Explain your interest in working in the lab, and why you think you would be great for the position. You can find a list of lab websites here, and each lab website will include contact information.

    For work study opportunities please also reach out to labs directly, and if hired for a work study position, please email Liz Parish. For information about the work study program, take a look at the work study page

    THE PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR & CONCENTRATION

    From psychology faculty:

    What could be more fascinating than the human mind? Is it really something you can study? We think so. Find out how and why.

    It is one of the most popular majors in the country, with good reason.

    • As a science, it draws on and thereby illustrates a wide variety of other sciences: physics, physiology, biochemistry, and the most advanced brain imaging technology.
    • As a field that emerged from the humanities and philosophy, it provides responsible and relatively comprehensible contexts for dealing with other people.
    • It is an excellent starting point for many professions, both firmly established ones (like clinical psychology and psychiatry, ophthalmology and audiology, neurosurgery, etc.) and such newly emerging fields as distant interaction (virtual reality) in the military, the classroom, and the operating room.
    • Perhaps the most general major one can undertake.

    Reach out to one of the Peer Advisors to get a student’s perspective on the major! 

     

     

    We recommend that you begin your study of psychology with PSYC UN1001 The Science of Psychology, as early as possible. Most other courses require PSYC UN1001as a prerequisite.

    The Science of Psychology will provide you with a broad overview of the questions psychologists ask, the methods experimental psychologists use to address these questions, and how those questions reveal psychology's philosophical and biological ancestry. 

    To learn more about the different sections of the Science of Psychology course, please take a look at course descriptions and syllabi posted on our course index webpage.

    After you have taken UN1001, consider taking a 2000-level course in an area that interests you, such as memory and cognition, behavioral neuroscience, or social psychology, and completing a laboratory course and a statistics course.

    To major in Psychology you need to complete at least 30 points, including the following six courses:

    Required Courses

    • The Science of Psychology course (PSYC UN1001)
    • One statistics course
      (PSYC UN1610, STAT UN1001, STAT UN1101, or STAT UN1201)
    • One laboratory course
      (Any PSYC course in the 1400s)

    One course from each of the three area groups

    • Group I. Perception and Cognition
      (Any PSYC course in the 2200s, 3200s, or 4200s)
    • Group II. Psychobiology and Neuroscience
      (Any PSYC course in the 2400s, 3400s, or 4400s)
    • Group III. Social, Personality, and Abnormal
      (Any PSYC course in the 2600s, 3600s, or 4600s)
       

    One PSYC seminar

    • One seminar course, numbered in the 3000s or 4000s, must be taken for 3 or more points. A seminar course may fulfill both the seminar requirement and a group requirement if it meets the criteria for both, but the points will not count twice.

    Sample Track I

    This track might be completed by a student interested in applying to graduate school in psychology. It includes both advanced seminars and supervised research. Total credits completed = 41.

    First Year

    • PSYC UN1001 (Science of Psychology)
    • PSYC UN26xx (a social, personality, or abnormal psychology course)

    Sophomore Year

    • PSYC UN1610 (a statistics course in the fall term)
    • UN24xx (a course in the behavioral neuroscience group)
    • PSYC UN14xx (a lab course in the spring term)
    • PSYC UN22xx (a perception or cognition course)

    Junior Year

    • PSYC UN22xx (another perception or cognition course)
    • PSYC UN34xx (a neuroscience seminar)
    • PSYC UN3950 (supervised individual research with a faculty member)

    Senior Year

    • PSYC UN26xx (another social, personality, or abnormal psychology course)
    • PSYC GU46xx (a social, personality, or abnormal psychology seminar)
    • PSYC UN3950 (supervised individual research with a faculty member)
    • Psych BCxxxx (a Barnard psychology course)
       

    Sample Track II

    This track shows one of many ways to complete the minimal requirements of the psychology major while still participating in research and advanced seminars. Total credits completed = 31 or 32.

    First Year

    • PSYC UN1001 (Science of Psychology)

    Sophomore Year

    • PSYC UN26xx (a social, personality, or abnormal psychology course)
    • PSYC UN1610 (a statistics course)
    • PSYC UN24xx (a course in the behavioral neuroscience group)

    Junior Year

    • PSYC UN14xx (a lab course in the fall term)
    • PSYC UN22xx (a course in the perception/cognition group)
    • PSYC UN24xx (a second course in the behavioral neuroscience group)

    Senior Year

    • PSYC UN34xx (a seminar in the behavioral neuroscience group)
    • PSYC UN3950 (supervised individual research with a faculty member)
    • Psych BCxxxx (a Barnard psychology course)

     

    Click here to see a sample Major Requirement Checklist of a hypothetical graduating senior psychology major.

    The requirements of the Psychology Major insure that all students receive a broad introduction to the field, followed by intensive introduction to statistics and research methods, and a balanced exposure to three broad areas of inquiry within psychology: perception and cognition; psychobiology and neuroscience; and social, personality, and abnormal psychology. It also leaves enough electives for a student to explore an area in depth. This program is designed to provide a coherent and well-rounded course of study that can serve as a foundation for supervised research as well as for advanced graduate work.

    Yes, but no more than 9 transfer credits (or a combination of transfer and Barnard credits) will be accepted toward the psychology major, and no more than 5 transfer credits (or a combination of transfer and Barnard credits) will be accepted toward the psychology concentration. Approval of transfer credits on a student's Entrance Credit Report toward general requirements for the bachelor's degree does not grant approval of these credits toward the psychology major.

    Approval of transfer credits to fulfill psychology requirements must be obtained in writing from a psychology program advisor using the Major Requirement Substitution Form. To be approved for the major, a course taken at another institution should be substantially similar to one offered by the department, the grade received must be a B- or better, and the course must have been taken within the past 8 years.

    If two courses overlap in content, only one will be applied towards the major. With the exception of approved Barnard courses, students should consult their Program Advisor (DUS) before registering for psychology courses offered outside the department.

    For more details on transfer credit, visit our Transfer Credit web page.

     

     

    NEUROSCIENCE & BEHAVIOR MAJOR

    The Psychology department also cosponsors a Neuroscience and Behavior Major with the Dept. of Biological Sciences. The Neuroscience and Behavior Major requires the completion of five biology and five psychology courses, described in more details here.
     

    Please note, there is no Neuroscience and Behavior concentration. There is only a Neuroscience and Behavior major. 

    Sample Track I (with pre-med)

    This track might be completed by a student interested in applying to graduate school in psychology. It includes both advanced seminars and supervised research. Total credits completed = XYZ.

    First Year

    • PSYC UN1001 (Science of Psychology)
    • General Chemistry I
    • PSYC UN1610 (a statistics course in the fall term)
    • General Chemistry II
    • General Chemistry Lab

    Sophomore Year

    • Biology I
    • Biology I Lab
    • Physics I and Physics I Lab
    • Biology II Physics II and Physics II Lab
    • PSYC UN2450/2430 Behavioral/ Cognitive Neuroscience 

    Junior Year

    • Organic Chemistry I and Lab
    • Research Methods
    • Neurobiology I
    • 2000/3000 Level Psychology Course

    Senior Year

    • Neurobiology II
    • Psychology Seminar
    • 3000/4000 Biology Seminar

    The requirements of the Neuroscience and Behavior Major insure that all students receive a broad introduction to the field, followed by intensive introduction to statistics, a balanced exposure to areas of inquiry within psychology (i.e., perception and cognition; psychobiology and neuroscience) and biology (i.e, cellular biology physiology, genetics, and neurobiology). It also leaves enough electives for a student to explore both sides of the major (Psychology and Biology) more in depth. This program is designed to provide a coherent and well-rounded course of study that can serve as a foundation for supervised research as well as for advanced graduate work.

    The Neuroscience and Behavior major is split between the Psychology department and the Biology department. For questions about the Biology portion of the major, please reach out the the Biology department. You can find a list of advisors on the Biology site here

    Yes, but only 1 transfer/Barnard course will be accepted for the psychology portion of the Neuroscience and Behavior major. Approval of transfer credits on a student's Entrance Credit Report toward general requirements for the bachelor's degree does not grant approval of these credits toward the neuroscience and behavior major.

    Approval of transfer credits to fulfill one of the neuroscience and behavior major requirements must be obtained in writing from a neuroscience and behavior program advisor using the Major Requirement Substitution Form. To be approved for the major, a course taken at another institution should be substantially similar to one offered by the department, the grade received must be a B- or better, and the course must have been taken within the past 8 years.

    If two courses overlap in content, only one will be applied towards the major. With the exception of approved Barnard courses, students should consult their Program Advisor (DUS) before registering for psychology courses offered outside the department.

    For more details on transfer credit, visit our Transfer Credit web page.

     

    MAJOR CERTIFICATION, TRANSFER CREDITS, AND OTHER QUESTIONS

    A Major Requirement Checklist is meant to help determine if you are on track to complete the major/concentration.

    The Psychology department evaluates each checklist to determine whether or not the course plan completes the major requirements and then notifies the student accordingly. If the student's course plan changes or if it does not satisfy the major requirements, a revised checklist must be submitted. Departmental approval of an accurate and up-to-date checklist will help ensure completion of all major requirements on time for graduation.

    To help avoid any issues with completing requirements for graduation, we highly recommend that you submit a checklist for review before registering for your final semester. Once completed, please submit a checklist to Liz Parish.

    You can find the different Major Requirement Checklists here.

    Yes, Barnard courses will be considered as transfer credit towards the psychology major/concentration and the Neuroscience and Behavior major. They will be included in the 9 allotted transfer credits for Psychology, and the one allotted transfer course for Neuroscience and Behavior. 

    For the Neuroscience and Behavior major you must submit a Major Requirement Substitution form and all the necessary materials for a Barnard course to be approved. This step is not required for the Psychology major or concentration.

    For a list of approved Barnard courses click here. Please review which Barnard courses apply to which major requirements, as not all courses will count towards specific requirements, some may only count towards elective credit.

    Beginning in Fall 2019, the Psychology Department began accepting a score of 5 on the AP Psychology exam, or a score of 7 on the Higher Level IB Psychology exam, to meet the Science of Psychology requirement. The AP/IB Psychology exam does not count as a course or toward a student’s points total for their program; students placing out of the Science of Psychology requirement in this way will need to take an additional course to fulfill the required number of courses or points for their program.

    The College Board Advanced Placement (AP) statistics scores do not satisfy the statistics requirement. Students who have completed AP statistics may opt to take a more advanced statistics course to fulfill this requirement with the approval of one of the directors of undergraduate studies.

    Although study abroad is not an integral part of training in psychology, it can provide exposure to a wide variety of quality educational experiences, and, as such, can be very fulfilling. Careful planning is required to integrate study abroad into a psychology major, and students who are interested in the Honors Program or in pursuing graduate work in psychology will find it particularly difficult to do so because of the need to pursue research and advanced seminars at Columbia.

    If you are interested in studying abroad, you should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies as early as possible for help in planning your major and in finding psychology courses abroad that are compatible with the major.

    See these instructions and the accompanying form. You will use them to apply for credit toward the major for a course taken outside the department.

    HONOR & PRIZES

    The department sponsors a two-year Honors Program that starts in the junior year and is designed for a limited number of outstanding Psychology and Neuroscience and Behavior majors who are interested in participating in research with a psychology faculty member and completing an honors thesis. Students who successfully complete this two-year program graduate with departmental honors. You may apply for admission to the Honors Program at the end of your sophomore year.
     

    For additional information, see the Department of Psychology Honors Program.

    TEACHING ASSISTANT OPPORTUNITIES

    Each semester there are a number of undergraduate Teaching Assistant positions available in the Psychology Department. Serving as a Teaching Assistant is a great way to develop expertise in a subject area, gain leadership skills, and earn teaching experience. This is a paid position.

    Full-time undergraduate/post-bac TAs are paid for 175 hours per term, which works out to an average of 11-12 hours per week over 15 weeks.

    Here are some things you may be asked to do as an undergraduate TA: 

    • Support your instructor before the semester starts by attending planned meetings and helping to get the course set up for the semester
    • Attend every lecture, pay attentions, and be ready to help
    • Do all the assigned reading
    • Help keep the CourseWorks site updates and running smoothly
    • Attend weekly TA meetings
    • Hold weekly office hours
    • Help with exam and assignment grading 
    • Help proctor exams
    • Plan and hold review sessions

    We open up the TA application before the start of each semester. We typically announce when the application is open each semester on our website and in our department newsletter.

    To see if the application is open, please visit our TA page. If the application is open, there will be a link to a google form that you must fill out and submit for review. 

    After review of all applications, we will send out emails to each applicant informing them of the status of their application. 

    AFTER GRADUATION

    The psychology curriculum prepares majors for graduate study in psychology and provides a relevant background for many other fields, including social work, education, medicine, law, and business.

    Explore career opportunities and resources from our After Graduation web page and if interested in pursuing a graduate career in psychology, check out our prospective graduate students page here.
     

    Your faculty advisors will be happy to talk to you about graduate study. You may, of course, also consult with any of the other faculty or graduate students in the department, especially those with whom you have studied or done independent research. Generally, it is helpful to consult a faculty member who is familiar with the areas you are interested in pursuing. Each year the department sponsors events specifically addressing graduate school and career issues.

    Check out our prospective graduate students page here.

     

    If you would like to receive relevant alumni information from the department following graduation, please subscribe to our alumni listserv here.

    COVID-19

    For the fall, we will likely have a limited number of classes with in-person learning components on campus, and the great majority of the instruction will happen online. Classes that will happen in-person will allow a small number of students to attend in the classroom; the exact number will depend on the public health requirements for classroom instruction. We will also offer a virtual option for all classes, including those that allow in-person attendance. We will provide more information, as it becomes available, on our week at a glance.

    Please regularly visit Columbia University's Resource Guide for COVID-19.

    Due to the mid-semester change in the mode of learning in Spring 2020, P grades for Psychology courses from that semester will be accepted for the major and concentration requirements. For all other semesters, a C- or higher is required for a course to count towards the major/concentration.

    In an effort to assist in de-densification, we have spread our typical Fall/Spring curriculum out over the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms. Some courses originally planned for the Fall semester have moved to Spring or Summer A. You can find an overview of the entire 2020-21 curriculum on our Year at a Glance page.

    For the Neuroscience and Behavior major, due to changes in course offerings during the Fall 2020 semester, PSYC UN2470 will now be allowed to count towards the P2 requirement.