What is the college process like? What should I expect? Psychology Graduate student Robert Wickersham pulls back the curtain on a typical college experience including leading up to and through earning multiple degrees.
His Graduate and Undergraduate Journey
Wickersham switched high schools his junior year. His new school did not have a psychology class available, so he started a club.
“In terms of grades, switching definitely hurt me,” describes Wickersham. “Basically all my grades went down a level.” It was also beneficial because he switched early enough to qualify for in-state tuition and applied to all the University of California schools.
When taking the ACT/SAT, as well as the GRE for graduate coursework, Wickersham stresses that studying is key.
Invest in a quality test prep program.
There is also a licensure exam at the end of his degree to practice in his chosen profession.
“With psychology it is really important to think ahead of where you want to go with your degree because there are not a lot of options for just an undergraduate degree,” notes Wickersham.
A student will have to choose between:
- Higher degree in psychology.
- Not a lot, or very little, research.
- Focuses on helping people.
- Still focuses on clinic work and helping people.
- Includes more research and publishing.
“If you want to go to a higher degree in psychology, you NEED research experience,” emphasizes Wickersham. You can begin as an undergraduate working with grad students or professors.
This can lead to letters of recommendation to help gain acceptance into competitive graduate schools.
When choosing an undergraduate college, Wickersham considered the profession he wanted to pursue. His major is so competitive at UCLA that students can’t declare psychology as a major until their junior year and only if they have the credits and grades for it.
One or two classes had a professor that was more research based, or they were teaching assistants, which made a difference in the style of the course. Ultimately, those are the people that will be able to help you the most with getting involved in research.
Wickersham completed his undergraduate degree in 4 years, but due to advanced high school classes with transferable credits he actually began college as a sophomore.
This allowed him to study abroad more freely and not be so concerned about academics that were exclusively focused around his major.
Advice for Parents
“A great thing to do is to get some kind of teaching experience,” recommends Wickersham. This can also be tutoring or a job helping other students. This is very useful in graduate school application essays.
Choose which degree you want to pursue and get involved with research as fast as you can.
Some possible careers that come from the psychology field are:
- Private Practice
- Hospital Setting
- Including performing Emergency Psych evaluations
- Integrated Health Teams
These can be combined in any way you like.
Be sure to choose a specialty area you really enjoy within this field.
Wickersham concludes, “Even if you have a strike against you, such as low GPA or test scores, where there is a will there is a way.” Always follow your dreams.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
- email RWickers@UCCS.Edu
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Brad is not affiliated with Robert Wickersham or University of California.