IvyWise Resources

Exploring an Interest in Psychology

By Kelly, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor and Academic Advisor

Do you enjoy learning about the brain and how it works, why we make the decisions we make, and how the brain influences our behaviors? Are you interested in mental health? If you answered yes to either (or both!) of these questions, psychology might be the path for you. With ten major branches of psychology — including abnormal psychology, behavioral psychology, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and forensic psychology — there is something for everyone.

As you imagine how to explore your interest in psychology or mental health, let’s consider approaches both inside and outside of the classroom to help you discover if this is an area you want to consider academically, as a career, or as an overall interest. You can pursue all these approaches or just a few to build foundational knowledge in this dynamic field.

Challenge Yourself with Outside Reading 

Reading about various psychology topics is the first step. If you’re wondering where to start, here are some suggested titles:

  • “The Little Book of Psychology” by Emily Ralls and Caroline Riggs
  • “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo
  • “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” by Oliver Sacks
  • “The Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson
  • “Authentic Happiness” by Martin E.P. Seligman
  • “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
  • “Career Paths in Psychology” by Robert J. Sternberg
  • “Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole” by Allan Ropper and B.D. Burrell

Take Specialized Courses 

If your school offers psychology courses, such as AP Psychology, this can be a great way to explore your interest while also strengthening your academic profile. And if your school doesn’t offer it, you can self-study for the AP exam. Online courses are also a wonderful way to deepen your curiosity in psychology and to understand whether it could be something you want to pursue further. These classes are available for free:

Research Professional Associations 

To better understand the field of psychology, learn more about current topics in varying areas of psychology, and discover career options, check out associations such as the American Psychological Association (APA). Professional associations can be a great resource for identifying potential internships or connecting with professionals in your area.

Find Extracurricular Opportunities 

To deepen your exploration, you can get involved in school and community initiatives that support mental health. As a bonus, you can also start applying what you learn in your psychology courses.

Join or Start a Psychology Club

A psychology club is an excellent way to learn more about the field and exchange knowledge with your peers. You can invite guest speakers, organize talks on various psychology topics, build leadership skills by developing opportunities for your community, and even create partnerships with relevant community initiatives. Pursue your interests, gain insight from peers with similar interests, and establish yourself as a leader who is willing to create opportunities.

Start a Blog and/or Social Media Resource

Researching topics of interest and sharing online resources can help you dive deeper into your psychology interest and provide a platform to share your insights. Additionally, starting a blog and maintaining it is a great independent project to include on your college application — especially if you plan to major in psychology. Another option is to start a YouTube channel, Instagram account, or other social media platform to get the word out, build a following, and share mental health insights, support services, and discussions.

Get Involved with Your School’s Wellness Center 

Mental health centers in schools are a way for students to get support, access resources, and more. Reach out to your guidance counselor to see how you can participate. For example, you could do outreach to help promote the center’s services, organize a fundraiser, lead youth workshops, launch a mental health awareness campaign during Mental Health Awareness Week, or connect with your school’s Student Council to recruit volunteers.

Volunteer As a Peer Listener 

There are multiple organizations that support youth, such as 7cups and Teen Line, by providing opportunities to be trained as a peer listener. Doing this can help you gain foundational experience for a career path in counseling while helping your peers and determining if psychology is the right fit for you.

Pursue Summer Pre-College Programs

To better explore psychology topics at the college level and discover which subjects excite you, pursuing an immersive summer program can guide you in your path and introduce you to the college experience. Some programs even include college credit. The following programs are recommended by the APA:

Gain Research and Hands-On Experience

Gaining research experience at the high school level is an excellent way to develop research skills for college, highlight your interests, get out in the field through experiential learning, and present yourself as an aspiring professional. You could even get published in academic journals. Some opportunities to consider include National Student Leadership Conference Psychology and Neuroscience and Stanford Summer Research Internships.

Complete Your Own Passion Project

Develop a self-led project unique to you to learn more about potential career paths, engage in a topic on a deeper level and stand out in college admissions. Examples include writing an independent research paper, producing your own podcast, developing an app or video game, writing a review paper, organizing a community art exhibit focused on mental health, creating a board game, organizing a community service project, designing and teaching your own course or workshop, organizing a youth conference, or developing art therapy exercises.  IvyWise counselors and tutors can help you explore options through Project Mentorship.

No matter how you choose to explore your interest in psychology, pursuing and building upon your passion for mental health will help you get recognized in your college applications and prepare you for a field that is highly sought after. You may find it helpful to work with an IvyWise counselor who can help you pursue opportunities that best align with your academic and career goals. Schedule an Initial Consultation today to learn more. 

 简体中文 »
close wechat qr code