An Interview with Psychology Student Amanda Cole

An Interview with Psychology Student Amanda Cole

A senior pursuing a B.A in psychology from the University of Iowa, Amanda Cole plans to graduate in December of 2005. A native of northwest Indiana, Amanda kicked off her college career at Columbia College, a private school in Chicago.

Her psychology class there was so intriguing that Amanda decided to change her major and by necessity, her school. Enter the University of Iowa, where she is exploring both social and cognitive psychology.

Amanda is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and is completing upper level courses in social psychology. She currently is gaining valuable expertise in cognitive psychology through her position in the psychology department's Visual Attention Lab.

You & Your Education

In retrospect, what do you know now that you wish you knew before you began to pursue your education?

I wish I knew more about what type of college I wanted to attend.

I have both commuted to a small private school near my home and lived on campus at a large public school far from home. Unfortunately, it took me three years to realize I would have been happiest if I had lived on campus at a small private school about two hours away from home.

I also wish I had taken time to talk with my advisor about the classes I wanted to take. I chose the University of Iowa psychology program for three or four very specific classes. But the classes are offered every other semester and in some cases, only during odd or even years. Prerequisites are required, and I didn't plan my class timing be able to meet the requirements for classes I wanted when they were offered.

What is psychology school coursework like?

Psychology may be a social science, but it is still science. There is a lot of biology, math and writing required in psychology classes.

What have been your three favorite psychology classes?

My absolute favorite was one I took at Columbia, called Self-Identity. It dealt with the distinction between the brain and the mind (if people are able to choose their behaviors or if behaviors are predetermined by biology) and the consequences each would hold for the future.

My second favorite was Environmental Stress. It dealt with stress caused by the environment one lives in. We studied people who survived the holocaust, victims who ended up identifying with their captors and the effects of uncontrollable noise.

This fall, I'm going to be taking Clinical Psychology, which I know I'll enjoy. Clinical Psychology deals with things like personality and mental illness.

Do you belong to any student organizations? Would you advise incoming students to join similar activities and/or what should they expect from membership?

I'm a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, which is an honors society. The government and a few other employers I've heard of offer students who were in honor societies at a higher salary than those who weren't. The activities are fun too, there are chances to volunteer and free food.

Usually if I'm interested in something though (like dance or martial arts), I take a class in it rather than join a club. That way I get credit for what I'm learning.

What advice can you offer prospective psychology students?

From my intro classes, I've seen that a lot of freshmen come into psychology programs believing that psychology is just about mental illness or counseling. Clinical psychology is only one part of a very large field, and most psychology programs force you to learn at least a little bit about all of the different fields.

My advice would be to use the library or the internet to research all the different fields of psychology and what programs colleges offer to make sure the psychology major is a good fit for you.

What else should students consider when choosing a psychology school or program?

Even though it may seem too soon to think about, you should consider what you would like to do after you graduate.

If you would like to teach psychology, do research or become a psychologist, you will need to go to graduate school. Early in your freshman year, make an appointment with your advisor to help you choose which classes to take to better your chances of getting accepted to a good graduate school.

On the other hand, to become a psychiatrist, you will need to go to medical school, so it's important to talk to your academic advisor so you get into the right undergraduate courses.

How available are internships? Any tips for landing?

Internships are very available if you use the resources you have available to you. Most colleges have Career Centers, which exist solely to help students find jobs and internships. Advisors there can help with searching for internships, writing resumes and can give tips for job interviews. Another good resource is your professors. Not only can they write letters of recommendation, but they can also point you in the right direction. and maybe even help you get a position in the department.

What steps have you taken to launch your career when you graduate?

I took a career management course through the business department, which taught me how to construct my resume and showed me all the career options I have available. In addition, I take advantage of my school's Career Center.

Employers first and foremost look for experience. I have been working as a research assistant in my school's Visual Attention Lab and this fall I will work as a Psychology Peer Adviser. Most schools have opportunities like these available for pay or class credit. The experience I've gained in the lab has been invaluable and I've made great friends.

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