FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

I am a prospective student/parent. How can I learn more about the Psychology Department at Amherst?

Administrative questions about department policies are best directed to either the Chair of the Department or the department's academic co-ordinator, Isabel Margolin (413 542-2217). For all other questions, feel free to contact any member of our Faculty. They will be happy to answer your questions and to discuss the educational mission of the department and the college.

What are the hours of the Department Office?

During the regular school term, the office is open Monday - Friday, 8:30 - 4:30 (closed from 1:00 - 2:00). The office is located in SCCE D205. The department's academic co-ordinator, Isabel Margolin (542-2217), is available to answer questions and provide assistance.

I'm not a psychology major, but I am interested in taking some psychology courses. How should I proceed?

Several courses do not require any previous experience with psychology; these courses include Psychology 100 (Introduction to Psychology) and 122 (Statistics). Many intermediate courses require Psychology 100 and some upper-level courses have additional prerequisites. These prerequisites are not designed to exclude non-majors from Psychology Department courses. Rather, they are meant to ensure that the students and professor share a common background and vocabulary with which to approach the course material. Therefore, we strongly recommend that students take Psychology 100. Speak with the professor if you are interested in a course for which you do not meet the prerequisite. Some professors are willing to waive prerequisite requirements for students who have demonstrated interest and/or competence in a complimentary field.

I am interested in taking Psych 100 but I hear it is frequently overenrolled. What should I do?

Psych 100 is a very popular course on campus - approximately half of the student body takes Psyc 100 at some point during their stay at Amherst . Consequently, the demand for the course exceeds the space available every semester. The department has adopted the following procedures to make enrollment in Psyc 100 as fair as possible. Interested students are STRONGLY encouraged to pre-register. For fall sections of Psyc 100, space will be given to all upperclass students who preregister in the spring, and all open spaces then going to first-year students.  For spring sections of Psyc 100, first-year students will receive priority over all other students).  It is a good idea to show up the first day of the following semester even if you were dropped from pre-registration. Many spaces become available as students explore their options in the shopping period. First-year students who preregister for Psyc 100 in the spring semester and are dropped will be guaranteed a space in Psyc 100 in the fall (as long as they preregister and show up the first day).

My course requires a Course-Pak reader. Where are they available?

All Course-Pak readers are available in the Psychology Department Office (SCCE D205). Amherst students can have the cost billed to their account. Five-College students should pay for their readers by check.

How do I declare a psychology major?

Students who are interested in pursuing the psychology major must schedule an appointment with the Chair of the Department. Students MUST complete the Plan for the Psychology Major (available here), and the Major Declaration form (available here or from the Registrar) prior to meeting with Professor Demorest.

How are advisors assigned?

The Chair assigns advisors to all new majors. Whenever possible, students are paired with advisors who share common interests. However, due to the limited number of faculty, student preferences cannot always be honored.

Will going abroad interfere with completing the requirements for the Psychology Major?

There is ample time to complete the major course requirements, even if a student chooses to study abroad; in fact, many of our majors study abroad each year. Frequently, courses taken abroad can be applied toward the major as open electives. Before you go abroad, be sure to meet with your advisor to review the courses you intend to take. You should also make sure that you have satisfied any prerequisites for the senior seminar(s) that interest you. Finally, if you plan to apply for the Honors Program, be sure to speak with potential thesis advisors about projects that you would be interested in pursuing. If you will be abroad during the Spring semester of the junior year, don't forget to fill out an application for the Honors Program. This form must be completed over the internet, so it can be completed either prior to your departure or while you are away (if you have web access while you are abroad).

How do I apply for Departmental Honors research?

Rising juniors who are interested in applying for Departmental Honors research must indicate their interest by filling out a form due in late March (check the main Psych. Dept. page for the deadline). The form asks for a description of your research interests, along with the names of three professors with whom you are interested in working. You must discuss your interests with one or more faculty members prior to the application deadline. The faculty meets as a group to assign advisors. Although every effort is made to accommodate student preferences, the number of advising slots is limited, so be sure to speak to several faculty members about potential thesis projects. Click here for more information on the Honors Program.

What is 'Special Topics' and how do I go about signing up for one?

'Special Topics' can take a number of forms. Sometimes they involve a close reading of a literature not covered in one of the department's listed courses. At the end of the semester, the student typically writes an in-depth analysis of the research they have read. More commonly, 'Special Topics' involves a research project, smaller in scope than what might constitute a thesis project. Over the course of the semester, the student would read about a particular topic, design an experiment related to that topic, collect and analyze the data, and prepare a written report of the project. 'Special Topics' courses require the approval of a faculty member. If you are interested, contact the faculty member whose interests are best suited to your project.

Placing out of Courses

Psyc 100

Because spaces in Psyc 100 are limited, students who scored a 4 or 5 on the Psychology Advanced Placement Exam and students who scored 5 or better on the Psychology International Baccalaureate exam MAY NOT enroll in Psyc 100.  Students meeting these criteria still must complete the requisite number of courses for the major (currently 9), but Psyc 100 cannot be one of those courses.  Transfer students who completed an introductory psychology course at another college or university may count that course toward the major, but cannot enroll in Psyc 100 at Amherst.  Please speak with the Chair if you have any further questions.

Psyc 122

Psychology majors may place out of Psyc 122 by completing any of the four requirements listed below. Students who elect to place out of Psyc 122 still must complete the requisite number of courses for the major. Requests to place out of Psyc 122 must be accompanied by an official test score report or college transcript if it cannot be accessed through ACdata.

  • AP Statistics with a grade of 4 or 5
  • Statistics 111 or 135
  • Economics 360
  • A statistics course at one of the other 5 Colleges (the course must be approved in advance by a member of the department as not all 5-College statistics courses will satisfy this requirement)

Students may not place out of any other courses required for the major.