Frequently Asked Questions

What is academic advisement, and how does it work in the Department of Psychology?

Academic advising is based on the student-advisor relationship, focusing on the personal and academic goals of the student and how those goals can be achieved. Based on the strengths and abilities of the student, the advisor helps the student understand the steps required for the successful completing of his or her degree. It is up to the individual student to seek out assistance in this regard, which will ultimately determine his or her academic success.

Student Responsibilities:

  • Prepare for advising appointments: note any questions or concerns and bring necessary materials
  • Develop resourcefulness: use additional resources for guidance on academic and career matters
  • Take self-ownership of education: make fully informed choices and take responsibility for decisions

Advisor Responsibilities:

  • Assist student in determining life goals, career options and higher educational aspirations
  • Listen to academic concerns and needs of the student
  • Refer students to appropriate resources for guidance on academic and career matters

For more information, visit our undergraduate advising page.

I've heard that some PSY 101 classes are not taught like a normal course. Can you tell me about it?

Some Psychology 101 classes at the University of Nevada, Reno are different from any other course you have taken. It does not provide weekly lectures, from which you are expected to take notes and study. Research has shown that the lecture approach is not a very good method for teaching large groups of students. Instead, you will study the textbook and online interactive materials on your own, take many computerized quizzes in the Learning Lab and participate in small group discussions. To help promote mastery of the material, you will be allowed multiple opportunities to take each quiz. You also will be able to participate in online discussion groups with other students and professional psychologists, both from our department and the community.

The course is self-paced to allow you to progress as fast as you'd like. (Note: Quiz deadlines are in place, however, to prevent you from going too slow.) The bulk of the course consists of you reading and studying the assigned material. When you are confident that you understand the material, make an appointment to take a quiz in the Learning Lab. Proctors will be available in the Learning Lab at all times to assist you with any questions about the quizzes or course material. A group discussion, consisting of a small group of students and a graduate student serving as discussion leader, also will be required for each chapter. The Psychology 101 teaching staff includes two course directors (department faculty members), a course designer (a graduate student responsible for developing and maintaining the online portions of the course), graduate teaching assistants and proctors. A proctor is an undergraduate student who has been selected for his or her mastery of the course content, for maturity of judgment, for understanding what it's like to be a beginner, and for sound interpersonal skills. It is the proctor who will assist you in mastering the course content. Graduate teaching assistants monitor and update all student course records, supervise the proctors and serves as the small-group discussion leaders. The course director plans, manages, modifies, and evaluates the course, and basically does whatever it takes to ensure that learning is always taking place.

For more information, visit the self-pace interactive network page.

What are Psi Chi and the Psychology Club?

Psi Chi is the national honor society in psychology. It meets on an approximately monthly basis to discuss various issues in the area of psychology.

The Psychology Club meets simultaneously and is designed for students who do not yet qualify for Psi Chi membership.

The minimum requirements for Psi Chi membership are as follows:

  • Completion of at least three semesters of college courses
  • Completion of at least nine semester credits within psychology
  • Registration for major or minor standing in psychology or for a program psychological in nature that is equivalent for such standings
  • Undergraduates must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and rank in the upper 35 percent of their class in general scholarship. They also must demonstrate superior scholarship in psychology, earning a minimum GPA of 3.0 in psychology courses.
  • Graduate students must maintain an average grade of "B" or better in all graduate courses, including psychology.
  • High standards of personal behavior.
  • Two-thirds affirmative vote of those present at a regular meeting of the chapter.

Look for current Psi Chi information on the Psychology bulletin board on the south end of the Mack Social Science building, fourth floor or check out Psi Chi's webpage.

Are psychology majors required to do an internship or a thesis?

No, psychology majors are not required to do an internship or thesis. However, if the catalog you are using requires "direct learning" credits, you will be required to complete research or field experience credits

How do the direct learning courses work?

The direct learning element is a requirement for all tracks of the psychology major beginning with the 1997-1998 catalog. There are basically two types of courses that will fulfill this requirement: field experience and research experience. As the name suggests, these are not lecture-based courses. Rather, you actually get hands-on training and experience in delivering services, conducting research or both. The department considers these experiences to be crucial in developing students of psychology; further, they are very important, and likely necessary, for getting into graduate school in psychology.

The courses that fulfill the "direct learning" requirement are:

  • PSY 275 & 375: Undergraduate Research
  • PSY 439: Field Experience in the Teaching of Psychology
  • PSY 440: Field Experience in Behavior Analysis
  • PSY 447: Field Experience in Geropsychology
  • PSY 448: Geropsychology Independent Study

Field experience (PSY 439, 440 & 447) is basically work for credit. It gives you applied experience working in the field of psychology with specific populations. For example, in PSY 447 you work with older adults; in PSY 440 you work with profoundly developmentally disabled adults, moderately developmentally disabled adults and children, autistic children, mentally ill adults, or in an organizational setting; and in PSY 439, you work as a proctor to aid students enrolled in PSY 101.

Research experience (PSY 275, 375 & 448) is helping graduate students and professors do psychological research for credit. You will learn how to plan, design, implement experiments and analyze data, etc. as it is actually happening. You could engage in a wide variety of activities depending on the lab.

Both experiences are very useful activities, and it is recommended that you take part in both while an undergraduate, as time permits. How that time is spent also depends on what your later goals are: some graduate programs would like you to take more applied experience before you enter their programs (often terminal masters programs), while others would like you to have done a lot of undergraduate research (typically doctoral programs). Also, it can never hurt to get information from the programs to which you intend to apply for graduate school and see what they would like you to have done as an undergraduate.

As mentioned above, these are not lecture classes; you actually work with the population for a particular number of hours per week. Also, since these are variable credit courses, you can choose sign up for one, two or three credits. The formula is as follows: for fall and spring semesters, for each credit you sign up for, you are committing to three hours per week of work or research. So, if you sign up for three credits, you would have to work nine hours per week for the semester. During the summer, since the semesters are shorter, you work more hours per week. However, the total number of hours you will work over the course will be the same as during the regular semester.

Register for classes

So, how do you get signed up? If you look in the course schedule, you will notice that these courses are listed, but they required instructor permission to register. In all cases with direct learning courses, you will have to speak with the professor before signing up.

To sign up for research experience: Unless you already have a relationship with the professor you want to work with, the best resource is the bulletin board on the north end of the fourth floor of the Mack Social Science building. It says "Psychology -- Research and Field Experience Opportunities" and has flyers on it. Each flyer is from a professor who needs research assistants in his or her lab. So find one that sounds interesting to you and make a call. If you end up working for that professor, that professor will let the psychology department know you have consent, and it will be entered in MyNevada. Another good way to find a research assistant position is to look at the faculty. It lists the professors and their research interests, and allows you to email the professors directly.

To sign up for field experience: Look up the course number in which you are interested in the course schedule (note that there are several sections of PSY 440). The footnotes in the course schedule tell you what the specific topic and/or population of that section of field experience will be, as well as the name of the professor who runs that project. Then, you will have to contact those professors in order to find out what you will be doing, and whether they have slots open for more students. These professors also will let the psychology department know you have consent, and it will be entered in MyNevada.

Finally, don't be confused by the footnotes in the course schedule for 440: when it says "course meets first few weeks only", that only means that the time published in the course schedule is only for the first meeting or two. After that, you will set up an individualized training and work schedule for the rest of the semester.

What is a colloquium?

A colloquium (plural = "colloquia") is typically a presentation of research, with a question-and-answer period at the end. Colloquia are excellent opportunities to learn about research in psychology and interact with students and professionals also interested in the field.

You listen a presentation about some current research that the speaker is doing. You'll hear how the project was set up, what the results were, and the speaker's interpretation of those results. Then, the people in the audience can ask questions, offer criticisms, etc. and the presenter will respond. Colloquia usually last about 1.5 to two hours.

A nice thing about attending these presentations is that you gain exposure to the various types of research within psychology, and with this information, you can begin to form your own opinion about what's good and bad research, and about what you're interested in. It'll basically give you a head start in developing your own thoughts about psychology.

Finally, these colloquia come up often. Sometimes, every Friday will have one for several weeks. The people that speak are "brought in" as guests to the University of Nevada, Reno usually by one of the graduate programs (clinical psychology, experimental psychology or behavior analysis), and so their presentation will usually come from the same general perspective that program. Different people are interested in different things (especially within psychology, which is extremely diverse as a discipline), so if you go to a few colloquia you are likely to experience widely varying kinds of ideas.

If your email address is included on the psychology advisor's list, you will receive notice whenever a colloquium is being held. If you would like to be included on this list, just email the advisor.

How do I declare a psychology major or minor?

To declare yourself as a psychology major, stop by the Psychology Department main office (MSS 438) and complete a "declaration of major" form.  Further information and course requirements for this major can be found in the online catalog.

If you still have questions after reviewing this information, please see the appropriate psychology advisor.

I currently am pursuing a double major because I thought that it might look good and help me get into graduate school. What's your opinion?

In general, a double major might appear better than a single major because it shows that you can focus, plan and make the most of your undergraduate educational experience. You might even be able to find ways to combine your majors in order to focus on your specific interests. There are several majors available that may combine with psychology to better meet your needs and interests.

  • If you want to work in organizational/industrial psychology, consider a double major or minor in business administration.
  • If you want to work in therapy with older adults, consider a double major or minor in gerontology.
  • If you want to work in experimental psychology, consider a dual degree or minor in biology.
  • If you want to work in forensic or criminal psychology, consider a double major with criminal justice.
  • If you want to work with addicted populations, consider a minor in addiction treatment services.
  • If you want to work in more divers settings, a major or minor in Spanish might be helpful.

All of these second majors (or minors) would be in your area of interest and therefore not only justifiable, but also would look good to graduate school admissions committees.

How can I go above and beyond the basic psychology courses to enhance my grad school applications?

Grad School Prep/Research Specialization Track: The Graduate School Preparation track (2011 catalog)/Research Specialization track (2013 catalog) for the psychology major is a course sequence option that goes above and beyond the psychology general track requirements by just a few courses. Specifically, some additional research methodology coursework and direct learning (i.e., research/field experience) is required.

Direct Learning (Research/Field Experience): Consider signing up for credits of research and/or field experience. Working in a faculty member's lab can help expand your experience with different kinds of psychological research, as well as help you to decide which area of psychology you are most interested in. It also will give you more opportunities to seek out recommendation letters from faculty when and if you do apply to graduate school. Finally, you may even get a chance to participate in some presentations at conferences or even publications.

PSI CHI/Psychology Club: If you are not already, you may also want to become a member of PSI CHI or the Psychology Club. Involvement with an academic honor society looks great on your vita, can expose you to other aspects of psychology, and introduce you to other students interested in the area. Also, there are lectures (colloquia) given periodically by visiting scholars, and that is a really good way to learn about what's brand new in psychology. When colloquia are scheduled, a flyer is posted on the Psychology bulletin board on Mack Social Science's first floor.

Research and Contact your Graduate Programs and/or Faculty of Interest: You should contact the graduate program(s) to which you are planning to apply and ask them what they expect in a good candidate. Good questions to ask include:

  • What kind of projects are your students working on?
  • Is the program structured in a way that makes students cooperative or competitive with each other?
  • Are there opportunities to work with multiple faculty, or will most projects be with the same person?
  • How supportive are faculty with regard to original ideas for research?
  • What kind of external grants or private grants does the program have?
  • What kind of teaching opportunities are there?