Tag Archives: Careers

Majoring in Psychology: How to determine which colleges offer the best fit

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and the mind, and is one of the oldest fields around! In 387 BC, Plato suggested that the brain is the source of mental processes, but it was not until 1879 that the first psychological lab was established by Wilhem Wundt at the University of Leipsig, followed by the first such lab in the US at Johns Hopkins University in 1883.

Trends

A New Focus on Neuroscience

The most significant trend over recent decades is the increased attention to the workings of the brain, still considered “our most complex but least understood organ.”

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As such, neuroscience is emerging as one of the most popular and valuable new fields of study, and typically involves the combination of psychology and biology to understand behavior and cognition.  For example, the University of Pennsylvania created the Biological Basis of Behavior Program (BBB) in 1978. One of the first neuroscience undergraduate programs, the major brings together faculty from the psychology, biology and computer science departments of the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as faculty from the Graduate Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

Colleges approach neuroscience from a variety of perspectives. Barnard offers the major Neuroscience & Behavior as a distinct major from Psychology and Biological Sciences, although courses in these related areas can be taken to fulfill the major requirements.  St Andrews, in Scotland, offers a BSc degree in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, which resides within the College of Science.  And Princeton offers a Certificate in Neuroscience (minor), which can be satisfied with courses from a range of disciplines beyond psychology and biology, such as computer science, engineering and philosophy.

More Interdisciplinary Study

Beyond the an increased focused in neuroscience, the study of psychology is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary; many academic programs now allow and encourage psychology students to pair the major with other fields, ranging from philosophy to women’s studies.

Washington University in St. Louis offers an interdisciplinary major in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology (PNP). Boston College promotes their interdisciplinary minors, and suggests that students interested in the psychology of women consider the Women’s Studies Minor. Oxford University offers a renowned degree in Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics (PPL), which prepares students to “enter careers in fields including professional psychology, education, research, medicine, the health services, finance, commerce, industry, the media and information technology.”

Common Undergraduate Concentrations

As a psychology major, you will often have the opportunity or requirement to pursue specialized programs within the major, including:

  • Clinical/counseling
  • Developmental/childhood
  • Educational
  • Environmental
  • Family
  • Forensic/law
  • Industrial/Organization
  • Neuroscience
  • Quantitative
  • Social

For example, Harvard’s Psychology Concentration (major) offers three tracks:  General Psychology, Mind/Brain/Behavior: Cognitive Science, or Life Sciences: Cognitive Neuroscience & Evolutionary Psychology.  Carnegie Mellon offers three “sub-domains:” Cognitive Psychology (including Cognitive Neuroscience), Developmental Psychology, and Social/Personality/Health Psychology. On the other hand, the Psychology major at Williams, a small liberal arts college, requires students to take a variety of courses, but has no specialized tracks.

Note that undergraduate psychology is relatively unregulated in terms of institutional accreditations. The APA does not accredit or rank specific undergraduate psychology departments.

BA vs. BS Degree in Psychology

Differences between the Programs

Psychology majors can either obtain a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). The BA degree has a more liberal arts focus, whereas the BS degree typically requires more in-depth study of psychology, and a greater emphasis on scientific research.  New York University offers the options of a BA in Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a BS in Applied Psychology in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and provides an excellent comparison of the two programs.

NYU’s BA in Psychology requires 36 credits in psychology and 92 credits of liberal arts. In contrast, the BS in Applied Psychology requires 68 credits in psychology, including several research courses, a multi-semester fieldwork sequence, and a 5-course concentration, with the remaining 60 credits in liberal arts. As such, it’s easier to double major or minor with the BA degree within the total of 128 credits.  Lehigh’s approach is similar to NYU in that the BS in Psychology program requires more courses in the major, a more scientific focus, and a required concentration within psychology.

 Impact on Your Graduate School and Career Plans

Your future interests in graduate school and career also come into play when deciding between a BA vs BS degree in psychology. Note that each college’s programs have a unique focus.  At NYU, students planning to pursue graduate school in psychology, business or law could take either course.  Pre-meds are encouraged to take the BA in Psychology, due to the opportunities for lab research.  Students who wish to practice psychology in community-based settings are encouraged to take the BS in Applied Psychology because of the fieldwork requirement. In contrast, at Lehigh, students interested in a career in medicine or the health-related fields are encouraged to take the BS program.

The American Psychological Association suggests that the best way to evaluate programs is to visit them, meet with students, and choose a program that feels comfortable to you:

“In truth, there is often little difference between the two degrees. Some schools only offer a BA, others only BS. The requirements for the two degrees might overlap completely. Even when a school offers a choice of either a BA or BS, your decision may not be all that critical. The more important consideration is taking courses that will prepare you for the program you want to enter as a graduate student.”

If you are planning to pursue graduate study in psychology, you can find information about the requirements of over 500 programs online or in the print volume Graduate Study in Psychology, 2015 Edition. The revised MCAT2015 incorporates a new section on The Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior; if you want to major in psychology as a pre-med, evaluate the requirements and course offerings of various BA and BS programs to determine which would provide the strongest foundation. If you plan to pursue a career in business and law, either degree would provide useful background, but if you are more interested in the scientific or technical fields, such as patent law or business operations, a BS may be more suitable.

Research Opportunities

Regardless of whether students are in a BA or BS program in Psychology, there are substantial opportunities for conducting faculty-supervised research as a psychology major:

  • Laboratory.  Students work in a laboratory, also referred to as “basic” or “bench” research, studying topics such as learning, memory and motivation. Yale offers a myriad of research opportunities in diverse areas such as cognition, memory and motivation.
  • Clinical.  Students have access to clinical settings, such as elementary school classrooms or senior citizen centers, in which they can study social interactions or developmental processes.  Clinical research often involves developing, administering and analyzing surveys. In Georgetown’s Psychology Department, students can collect or code data, screen and recruit research participants, and conduct background literature searches.

Typically, honors programs require that students participate in research. In addition to research during the academic year at your university, you can pursue summer research or internships at other colleges, such as Middlebury College, or research organizations such as Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  The American Psychological Association maintains an excellent list of summer research opportunities.

Careers

When people think of careers connected to the psychology major, they often think of traditional fields including psychological or career counselor, or school psychologist. But there are rapidly-growing opportunities in more specialized interdisciplinary fields, such as forensic psychologist (applies psychological to criminal investigation and law), engineering psychologist (studies how people interact with machines and other technology), sports psychologist (focuses on motivation and performance related to sports), genetics counselor (provides information about genetic disorders to families) and industrial-organizational psychologist (studies workplace behavior).

In choosing a major, it’s important to find a subject you’re passionate about, while also considering your future career path. Luckily, psychology is a broad-based field, with many different practical and career applications; knowledge of people and their motivations can be applied to virtually all careers!  The study of psychology may expose you to many different career paths, and help you identify your interests.

For more information, contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

Career Corner: From School to Scooters, The Path to a Career in Industrial Design


When Katie Powers was considering colleges in 2002, she knew that she loved art, but she also felt strongly that she didn’t want to go to a small arts school.

Rather, she wanted a liberal arts education, aiming to major in English and minor in art. She fell in love with the University of Notre Dame, and she was accepted. During her freshman year, she found that her AP courses from high school gave her the opportunity to opt out of several freshman year requirements. This gave her the flexibility to immediately start taking art courses. She began by taking courses in graphic design.

In her second semester, Katie took a drafting course, her first industrial design class. The last few projects were open-ended, and without thinking she suddenly found herself with a sketchbook filled with rubber ducks and Transformers. She says, “Looking back, I realize now that those were the first toys I ever designed. Once I started drawing things in 3-D versus 2-D, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to change my major from Graphic Design to Industrial Design.”

Notre Dame’s Industrial Design program trained Katie in all fields, from designing Third World water pumps to staplers to personal flotation devices. But whenever she was given the opportunity to create an open-ended project, she always chose to design products for children.

Senior year, Katie volunteered to take a corporate-sponsored class in order to participate in a project with Radio Flyer, a toy company specializing in ride-on vehicles and most famously known for the “little red wagon.” She thought this would be a great networking opportunity, and she valued the chance to work alongside engineering and marketing students to design and present a new tricycle concept to a professional client.

This class helped Katie to secure an interview with Radio Flyer, and she was offered a paid internship in Chicago, beginning the fall after her graduation. “Radio Flyer had many connections to the University of Notre Dame. Many of my colleagues had gone through the same program at Notre Dame, knew the course load and professors that I had known. This made for an easier transition from college to the design industry.”

Katie interned for three months, before accepting a position as a full-time Industrial Designer. She worked at Radio Flyer for four and a half years designing wagons, scooters, and spring horses. She participated in consumer research, product design, prototyping, and structural packaging design. Katie also re-branded the girls’ line to make it more consistent with the heritage of the Radio Flyer brand. Since the department was relatively small when she started, designers were encouraged to take on many different roles, and it was not unusual for Katie to jump from a sewing machine where she was prototyping wagon seat covers, to a computer where she was using SolidWorks to build scooter decks, to the model shop where she could be sculpting a quarter-scale spring horse model out of clay.

“I enjoyed the culture and felt they really supported my growth as a designer. Wearing so many hats sometimes made growing as a designer difficult, because I had to juggle so many different tasks. However, having first-hand experience with every step of the development process is an invaluable tool that still shapes the way I design today.”

Eventually, Katie decided she wanted to move back to the East Coast to be closer to family and seek new opportunities in design. But finding a job proved harder than she had anticipated. She found that companies on the East Coast recruited heavily from well-known East Coast design schools, such as FIT, RISD, Pratt, Parson, and the School of Visual Arts. Not many companies were familiar with the University of Notre Dame’s art program, and her alumni contacts were not what they had been in Chicago.

While Katie was seeking a position in New York, she continued to design for Radio Flyer as a freelancer. She was particularly interested in the company, Skip Hop, known for designing functional and trendy baby and toddler products, and she pursued them for several months before she was finally contacted back. She was given the opportunity to freelance, and she did so for nine months.

Finally, Katie got her big break through a Linked-In connection.  She secured an interview with Fisher-Price Friends, a small satellite office of the Fisher-Price corporation that handles most of the licensed business for the brand. After freelancing for a year, Katie was eager to return to the collaborative environment of an in-house design team.

At Fisher Price, Katie did not get the first position that she interviewed for, but she did get the second one; she was hired as a Senior Designer for the Thomas and Friends team, and she helped launch and develop the Wooden Railway line. After two years of designing wood and motorized train systems, Katie transitioned to the Octonauts’ license where she continues to design vehicles and play sets based on the popular television show and illustrated book series. At Fisher Price, which is twice the size of her previous companies, Katie gained new experience in working with external licensors and dealing with a more aggressive schedule and project load.

While the process of finding an industrial design job on the East Coast may have proved more difficult than initially expected, Katie does not regret her decision not to attend an East Coast arts school. In looking back at her college experience, Katie says, “I wouldn’t change anything about my education. My professors were so focused on helping me to find success. I also like that I was able to take other classes outside of art, like Anthropology and Chinese Philosophy, and I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland my junior year.”

This broad education gives Katie the confidence that she could work for any company, designing kitchen goods or motorcycles. Notre Dame purposely did not structure their design classes around instruction of specific software programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, because their philosophy is that the theory of design is most important.

“You need to know what’s a good design and what isn’t and how to communicate your ideas so that they make it from conception to production.” Katie said.

“The biggest struggle in my career,” says Katie, “is continually opening up a blank sketchbook and striving to draw something that no one has thought of before. Half of the battle is often having enough patience with myself to know that the ideas will come, just not always as fast as I’d like. I love being an industrial designer because every day presents a different challenge with a new set of rules and the possibilities for design are limitless.”

Also, her desk is fully stocked with Nerf guns, miniature trains, and glow-in-the-dark slime containers, and her coworkers crash remote controlled flying drones into the light fixtures on a daily basis. It’s never boring.

Applying to B-School: Do You Have the Right Work Experience?

MBA applicants are evaluated according to a variety of factors, many of which are common to nearly all admissions processes – grades, test scores, personal statements. Unique to the process, however, is the significant role of work experience. But what particular kind of work experience are B-Schools looking for? And how much? Do my internships count? What about my time at graduate school? Or the year I spent in the Peace Corps? Why do I have so many questions?

Take a deep breath. Collegiate Gateway is here to help you make sense of it all.

What is the desired length of work experience MBA programs like to see in candidates?

Though seemingly a basic question, there really is no straightforward answer – how much work experience you’ll need will depend a great deal on who you are, and how your experiences contribute to the total picture of you as an applicant. For the purpose of the MBA application, you’ll want to evaluate your work experience qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. The question is not so much “ how many years have you worked?” but “what have you accomplished?” and “how has your work experience helped you define your future career path?” There is no universal “right time” to apply. In the words of Wharton’s admissions office:

“[W]e evaluate work experience not in terms of years, but the depth and breadth of an individual’s position, his or her contributions to the work environment, and level of responsibility and progression.”

That said, students at top business schools typically matriculate with at least one or two years of professional experience in the form of full-time, paid positions, though different programs will have different norms and standards. While there are some schools that have hard-and-fast requirements, like Fordham, which requires at least two years of work experience, most impose little or no formal requirements. The Class of 2015 at Stanford Business School ranged from 0-12 years of work experience, with an average of four years. The average student admitted to Wharton has worked for five or six years, but the program does accept exceptional early career candidates with limited or no experience (provided they exhibit strong managerial and professional potential).

Harvard’s MBA program, on the other hand, encourages college seniors to apply, but with the expectation that they will be offered deferred admission, conditional upon acquiring full-time work experience. In fact, Harvard has recently developed a special “2+2 Program” for a group of 100-125 students who are graduating college or graduate school without having had full-time work experience. The program especially targets students who have majored in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math, holding about half of the 2+2 spots for such students, with the remainder open to a broad range of undergraduate majors.

In an interview with US News, Graham Richmond, a graduate and former admissions official at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and co-founder of MBA admissions consulting firm Clear Admit, encourages students to think less about the number of years they’ve worked, and more about the quality of their “professional profiles” as a whole:

“In all cases, candidates should ask themselves several key questions: Have I made a significant impact on my company, clients, or co-workers? Have I been recognized in some way for my efforts on the job? Have I learned all that I can in my current role? Are other areas of my candidacy (academic profile, community service, etc.) strong enough such that I may be relatively less reliant on my work experience in the admissions process?”

What qualifies as work experience? Are there specific kinds of experience that MBA programs prefer?

In almost all cases, work experience is fairly broadly defined. Harvard states that work experience consists simply of “opportunities in which students have been able to develop their professional and leadership skills.”

The truth is, top business schools seek a well-rounded student body, and regularly accept students from a wide variety of both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, from Peace Corps workers, to venture capitalists, to brand managers.

Rather than focus on specific categories of work experiences, programs are more interested in applicants’ roles, responsibilities and achievements. According to Richmond, “…work experience—whether full time, part time, interning, etc—doesn’t have to be paid work experience in order to be valuable in the admissions process per se. It’s more about what you have accomplished, how you have led, who you have collaborated with and how you have grown.” And leadership can certainly be demonstrated by a variety of extracurricular and community service activities in areas you are truly passionate about.

Generally, however, full-time work is valued more highly than internships. But exceptions may be made for younger applicants with zero to one year of full-time work experience. For these students, summer internships can be helpful, and reflect a student’s accomplishments and dedication to a certain career path.  It’s also important to note that graduate school is universally not regarded as a substitute for professional work experience.

For more guidance or information regarding MBA admissions, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help.

College Grades and Employers: What Matters to Whom

It is not uncommon for students, having worked hard throughout high school in order to gain admission to the college of their dreams, to question the importance of their college grades. Some may think: I’ve gotten into a good college; isn’t it enough to do reasonably well? Does it really matter whether or not I have straight As? Didn’t George W. Bush have a C average at Yale? Things worked out OK for him, right?

The fact is, your grades in college do matter, and not just for those who intend to go on to professional school. But how much they matter will vary somewhat, depending on the employer and the industry.  Keep in mind that GPA is one of many factors that employers use to evaluate prospective employees, and your activities, internships and work experiences are highly valued as well.

Large vs. Small Companies

The extent to which a company will weigh a prospective employee’s GPA depends on a number of factors. It is well-known that more competitive industries tend to care more about grades, especially when you’re talking about particularly selective jobs in finance and consulting. A lesser known factor, however, is size; generally, larger companies will expect to see your GPA on a resume, and will more commonly use that number to screen applicants. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2013 survey, the percentage of employers who screen candidates by GPA reached an all-time high this past year: 78.3% of the survey’s 200 respondents. Notably, these respondents tended to be big companies, averaging about 7,500 people on the payroll.

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Of these same respondents, 63.5 percent of respondents reported a “cut-off” (or minimum GPA required for consideration) of exactly 3.0, with just over 20 percent using a GPA cutoff greater than 3.0.  The remaining 16 percent of respondents use GPA cutoffs less than 3.0, with some as low as 2.0. Notably, these minimum GPAs remain fairly consistent across industries.

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Generally, however, smaller companies and start-ups place a lesser emphasis on GPA. Nevertheless, if your grades are good, you should say so. While these employers don’t necessarily expect to see a GPA on your resume, it doesn’t mean they don’t care at all. In a recent article in Forbes, Dean Iacovetti, director of recruiting at a Apprenda, a software company in Manhattan, stated that while he didn’t require applicants to report a GPA, he still takes notice of a strong one. “If there’s an individual graduating with a 3.5 from Cornell, that’s someone I’d like to see.”

The Role of Other Factors

If you’re concerned that your grades don’t quite measure up, however, don’t despair. While GPA can be a large factor in determining qualifications, it is still only one factor. There are a number of ways to make up for and explain slightly lower grades. For example, recruiters at many companies are familiar with the schools where they recruit; they understand that a B in a tough class at a competitive school may be a greater accomplishment than an A somewhere else. Additionally, if the GPA in your major is better than your overall average, you can list that number, or both.

Another recent survey of 704 employers by the Chronicle of Education found that, while grades are important, experience is even better; employers place more weight on real work experience, particularly internships and employment during school than academic credentials including GPA and college major. Approximately 50% of science and technology employers valued candidates more based on their experience, compared to 19% who valued candidates more based on academic merit. In media and communications, 48% valued prior experience more and 20% valued academic records more. As such, students can compensate for lower grades by emphasizing work experience, and highlighting successes.

For more guidance developing your career, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re happy to help!

How Your Myers Briggs Type Can Help You Make the Right Choices!

It’s no secret that people are happiest when they choose a major, career, or even a life partner, that suits their personality, talents and ambitions. Making these choices, though, is not so simple. It requires time, reflection, and research. Your MBTI type correlates not only with the choices you make, but the ways in which you approach, implement, and reflect upon those decisions. Whether you’re choosing a major, examining career possibilities, or making any other important decision, understanding your MBTI type can help you to understand your decision-making strengths, as well as your decision making challenges. And finding a decision-making process that works best for you makes it that much simpler to reach a final decision that’s right for YOU!

Each of the four type dimensions reflects an aspect of your personality. As such, each one also influences your decision making styles. When facing a decision, Extroverts (E), for example, will often think about who else they can consult and involve in the decision, whereas Introverts (I) will prefer to think privately, at least initially, and want to be sure they need to be involved the decision. Similarly, Sensing types (S) tend to focus on refining tried-and-true methods, whereas Intuitive types (N) will consider new methods to try.

Often, the interaction between the first and last letters of your MBTI type are the most indicative of your decision-making style; for example, the manner with which you explore potential courses and majors. Extrovert-Judging types (EJ), for example, are often considered the most decisive: they want to choose a path quickly and proceed toward their goals. They seek to develop a sense of purpose, and will proceed methodically and efficiently in that direction. At the other end of the spectrum are the Introverted Perceiving types (IP), who wait to make a decision until they can consider all the options available to them. They often change their minds, and prefer that way; for them, a career path is an ongoing journey.

Being aware of your decision making style is crucially important, in that it may help you to make decisions at your pace, as well as help you to avoid the pitfalls associated with each type. The EJs for example, may run into trouble if they make a decision too quickly, and only later realize they do not possess the skill-sets or interests necessary in their chosen field; sometimes EJs need to slow down and collect more information. IPs, on the other hand, sometimes need to push themselves to make a decision, lest they slip into a pattern of hesitation and uncertainty.

Each type has a variety of strengths and weaknesses, and all four dimensions work together in more ways than are enumerated here. To learn more about your type, and your decision-making strengths and challenges, contact www.collegiategateway.com.

 

How MBTI Personality Type Can Help You Succeed in College and Careers

College is a time of choices, from majors to roommates, extracurriculars to coursework. In order to make the best choices for you, you have to know yourself. To that end, discovering your Myers-Briggs personality type is invaluable to succeeding in college and beyond.

The Four Dimension Preferences of Type

There are 16 MBTI personality types, based on four metrics of preferred personality styles:

  • Extroversion vs. Introversion (E or I): Source of energy and stimulation
  • Intuition vs. Sensing (N or S): Way of gathering information
  • Feeling vs. Thinking (F or T): Way of making decisions
  • Perceiving vs. Judging (P or J): Lifestyle preferences

Each of the 16 types exhibits unique characteristics, learning styles, and preferences. Knowing your type can help you select courses, majors, extracurricular activities, summer plans – even roommates! It can even help you improve your study habits and manage the stress of, say, finals week.

The Heart of Type

The two middle letters of your type are considered “the heart of type” and are known as your “functions”: they represent the way you gather information, and then use that information to make decisions.  These functions correlate with specific fields of study. Knowing the fields most correlated to your type may help guide your exploration. Here are a few examples:

  • People who have an “ST” personality type use the Sensing function to gather information and the Thinking function to make decisions.  STs are often the most practical and hands on types, excelling as engineers and accountants, or pursuing a skilled trade.
  • People who have an “NF” personality type use the Intuition function to gather information and the Feeling function to make decisions.  NFs may tend toward creative professions in art, music and writing, or may make use of their emotional awareness as counselors and educators.

It is important to note that despite these correlations, every type is represented in every career and field of study, and each type can be successful in any career or field or study.  Other factors besides personality may play a role in your decision to pursue certain fields or careers, such as the influence of family or culture. To learn more, contact www.collegiategateway.com.