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Graduate Psychology Degrees for Non-Majors

So, you have decided that the Psychological Sciences are way more interesting than whatever it was you've majored in (we agree). And, this revelation came too late for you to change majors. Perhaps it has come even after you've been away from W&M for a few years.

You do not have to be a psychology major to get into a psychology graduate program. If you can make a good case for your belated interest in psychology, your lack of a psychology degree may not hurt your chances of getting in to a graduate program. A solid background in another area (sociology, biology, English) could well make you an attractive candidate.

You may, however need to do some extra work to have a successful application.

Coursework

You need to take the core courses in the major (introductory, statistics, and experimental) to have a successful application. If you can, try to take a few psychology courses beyond the core if you can fit them in.

If you do not have the core courses, plan to take them in a summer session, an extra semester, or part-time as an unclassified student. The courses themselves are important introduction to the discipline. Even more important is that this extra work proves that you are serious about a career in psychology. You are making an effort to obtain the necessary background, even if it is inconvenient.

GRE

Take the psychology test only if it is required for applications. You can expect (hope) that the subject test score will be evaluated in light of your limited psychology background. A middling score might even look good in your case. Do not put off your application because you are concerned about the Psychology test. Make the best of your score, whatever it is. Of course, you will study to get high scores on the General GRE.

Letter of Intent

Make sure that the application letter of intent clearly explains why you did not major in psychology, and explain your decision to pursue a career in psychology. Discuss your limited psychology background and list the steps you have taken to compensate.

Other actions

There are other things you can do to strengthen your application.

  • Consider volunteering at a mental health facility or helping with a research project. These will allow you to confirm your interest in psychology as a profession, and could be a source for letters of recommendation.
  • If you have space in your senior year, take additional psychology courses and get some more practical experience.
  • Consider delaying graduate plans until you strengthen your psychology credentials. Having done so will look very good on the application as powerful evidence of your interest in psychology and of your motivation for graduate education.
  • Discuss your plans with a psychology faculty member, perhaps one of your former instructors. You want to know if you making realistic plans. Aim to define specific programs and goals and find out what you need to do to maximize your chances.