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.

Welcome to the Psychology Department

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 2022 Preregistration Process for First-Year Students:

First, the psychology department is no longer allowing students 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 three sections of Introduction to Psychology (PSYC-100) this fall have a total of about 60 openings for first year students. In order to create greater equity in who gets into this course, we have made the course instructor permission. All first-year students who want to take Intro Psych should request instructor permission (this is permission from the professor teaching the course) AND ask their adviser to approve their taking this course during their first-year advising meeting. If all three sections fit in the student’s schedule, they may request permission for 1, 2, or 3 sections. The Registrar’s office will then randomly select students for open spots, if there are more students interested in a given section than space allows (and students will be told about whether they did or did not receive a space by noon on Friday, August 26th). Students who do not receive a space in one of the sections will be placed on a waitlist. Wait-listed students are welcome to come on the first day of class to any or all of the sections and will be let into the course if additional spots open up.

This process means that first-year students will not be able to enroll in Introduction to Psychology on the day of registration. Advisors should approve the course (including any/all sections that work for the student's schedule) and instruct students to request instructor permission through AC data; only students who request Instructor Permission will be included in the lottery for spaces. However, students should enroll in an alternative course during pre-registration, which they then have the option to drop if they receive placement in one of the Introduction to Psychology sections. In the spring semester, first year students will be given priority for all spaces in Introduction to Psychology, and all interested first-years who preregister in November have a high probability of getting into the course in the spring of 2023.

Please contact Catherine Sanderson (casanderson@amherst.edu) with any questions.