Welcome to the Psychology Department

Major Explorations: Psychology

Catherine Sanderson, Poler Family Professor in Psychology and Chair of Psychology provides an overview of the psychology department, including some of the courses students can enroll in and careers that a psychology major can pursue.

Most prospective majors and non-majors begin exploring psychology by taking PSYC-100 Introduction to Psychology.  Almost all courses in psychology require PSYC-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 who might be interested in taking a psychology course at Amherst (as a major or non-major) start by taking Psychology 100. 

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 a set of procedures for both fall and spring semesters to make enrollment in Psyc 100 as fair as possible; interested students are STRONGLY encouraged to pre-register both semesters. For fall sections of Psyc 100, space will be given to all upper-class students who preregister in the spring, and all remaining open spaces will then go to first-year students when they register in August (see below for specific information about the August preregistration process). For spring sections of Psyc 100, first-year students will receive priority over all other students (and there is typically no space for non-first-year students). 

August 2023 Preregistration Process for First-Year Students:

First, the Introduction to Psychology course emphasizes the development of essential skills in research, writing, and critical thinking - not simply the mastery of major theories and findings in psychology - and therefore students are not able to place out of our introduction to psychology class by taking AP Psychology. All first-year students interested in exploring the psychology major should therefore plan to take the introduction to psychology course (PSYC-100) sometime in their first three semesters.

Second, the four sections of Introduction to Psychology (PSYC-100) this fall have a combined total of about 65 openings for first year students; there are currently spaces available via a lottery system in Sections 1, 2, and 4. If you are interested in taking Introduction to Psychology this fall you can enter the lottery by requesting instructor permission for each section you are interested in (you can request permission for more than one section if you’re willing to revise your schedule based on results of the lottery). Following registration, you will receive an email letting you know whether you have received one of the PSYC-100 spaces that you requested. If you did receive a space, you will be asked to submit an online form within two business days in order to be officially registered for the course. 

If you are initially told that you did not receive one of the PSYC-100 spaces, it is still possible that space will open up in one of the sections (if other students decline their space). If so, you will receive a second email and will need to submit an online form within two business days in order to be officially registered for the course. You can also attend the first day of class for any or all of the PSYC-100 course meetings, which will give you first priority for any spaces that open up if currently enrolled students do not attend. 

Please note that students who are enrolled and do not attend the first class are automatically dropped from the course.

Finally, it is absolutely possible to major in psychology by taking the Introduction to Psychology course in the spring semester of your first year, or even in the fall semester of your sophomore year. All spaces in the spring semester sections of this course are reserved for first-year students, and most first-years who preregister in November will get a space in one of the two sections offered in the spring of 2024.

Please contact Catherine Sanderson (casanderson@amherst.edu) with any questions about the Introduction to Psychology course.