We asked 50 Psychology graduates at varying stages of their careers what advice they wish they’d been given while at university. Here’s what they had to say. Their answers may surprise you.
1. Get to know your tutor
You don’t need to stalk them via social media or bring them fruit on the daily, but ignoring the person who has the ability to help you the most in your academic career is a mistake. He/she will most likely be your referee, so this is one relationship you definitely want to nurture.
“I was really jealous of my friend who had formed a great relationship with her tutor from year one. When you start trying in year three, they know you’re just trying to butter them up and it’s all a bit cringe.”
2. Don’t assume the only experience worth getting is in a hospital
If you want to work in Psychology, the most important qualities you need to possess are strong listening and empathetic skills. You’ll only hone these by working with as many different people as is possible. Whether this is in a restaurant, at a cinema, in retail or as a classroom assistant it’s all relevant because it’s all people.
“ I worked in a bar all through uni and let me tell you, that was a personality study like no other.”
3. Volunteer as much and as early as possible
Newsflash! Psychology is a competitive field. These days more and more employers are as interested, if not more so in your life experience as they are your education, so get in there early! Elderly care homes, mental health charities and schools for children with special needs – it’s all relevant to Psychology and will give you an automatic leg-up on the competition.
If you fancy an adventure you can even go abroad to get some much-desired, relevant experience with an organisation like SLV.Global, whose placements combine hugely beneficial psychology work experience with the added bonus of travel.
“I volunteered with SLV.Global after my first year at University and it was such a rewarding, enriching experience. I was able to gain valuable hands-on psychology work experience in a completely new, and exciting culture. Now, as an Assistant Psychologist, I am so grateful to SLV.Global for the opportunity that kick-started my career."
- SLVeteran Abby
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4. Record your lectures if you can’t attend
We’re with you - the allure of your bed is incredibly strong. Sometimes you may not have even seen your bed in a few days. We get it. But we know that if you show up and stay awake long enough to hit “record” on your phone, you’ll thank yourself later. Your lecturers will also notice that you make the effort, even if you struggle to stay awake.
“I made it to every lecture second year. I slept in every lecture second year. But not before I hit that “record” button on my iphone. Yay me!”
5. Take a year out
University is great and most highly recommend it, but overwhelmingly people said that they wished they’d taken some time out before uni to relax, to work and save money or to travel. There are a million and one ways to spend a year out of uni and if you’d like to spend yours getting hugely valuable psychology work experience at the same time as travelling the world, SLV.Global have got a placement with your name on it.
“I spent the year before university working at a restaurant and saving up. In the month before university started I went to Bali with SLV and had an incredible time working in the sector and checking out a new country. No regrets.”
6. Ask questions
Most people we spoke to said that they were scared to look stupid in front of the class, so they avoided raising their hands to ask questions in lectures. This resulted in misinterpretation of topics and lower marks on assignments. If you’re not comfortable asking in person, make sure you write the question down and email your tutor after the lecture for clarification. That’s what they’re there for!
“If you’re thinking it, most likely a lot of other people are too. Be the hero and ask the question. “
7. Get involved with societies or clubs
Joining a society looks great on your CV and it’s a great way to meet like-minded individuals. Members of societies often get first pick of interesting voluntary opportunities on campus and will often get a post before a student who doesn’t belong to a society, as it shows a high level of commitment.
“I joined the Psychology Society in my third year of university. I fully credit the friends I made there for my survival and for my First. We were all pretty competitive and that was motivational. We’re not all geeks either. We like to have a good time.”
8. Take care of yourself
You’re a Psychology student, so you totally get how important your mental well-being is, right? LOLZ! We’re all rubbish at taking our own advice, but try to follow these basic tips.
1. Sleep: get at least six hours a night.
2. Eat: something, anything, just fuel that sexy brain!
3. Drink water: hydration for the nation. You need this. Vodka is not water.
“My whole first year is a blur of headaches and bars. I lost a lot of memories that year, but somehow I can still remember all the words to Mr. Brightside.”
9. Behave like a customer of the university
Now more than ever, if you are unhappy with the service you are provided, you need to speak up. It does seem rude to complain, but an education is expensive! What you’re paying for is high level of tutor support, careers services that actually provide a service and a community that will help you not to only pass your degree, but to succeed afterwards. If you’re not getting this, speak up!
“My tutor was always handing back our assignments just days before our next one was due. There was never enough time to take the feedback on board and apply it to the next bit of coursework, so I complained and sent a letter to the head of the department. Sure I felt a little shady, but I deserved better and I got it. But I had to speak up.”
10. There is more to Psychology than Clinical Psychology
Of course loads of Psych students go into first year thinking this and by third year many students are having an identity crisis, as they’ve discovered that there are a million roads to take in Psychology and they don’t all end in a hospital.
You can focus on other aspects of Psychology like Educational Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Applied Psychology, Counselling, Criminology and the list goes on. All of these other avenues are equally exciting and will land you a fascinating career. You do you, Boo.
“In second year I decided that I wanted to work with kids with special needs. And I panicked at first. Breaking it to my family that I wasn’t going to be a doctor was a lot easier than I thought and now I love what I do and am way happier than I would have been had a stayed the course because I thought that’s what everyone was expecting of me. “
11. Everything will be OK
Bonus advice! This isn’t a mistake, but too often we forget that this too shall pass and we’ll get through this.
We hope some of our advice has been helpful, but we know you have to find your own way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re studying psychology after all so self-care should not only be what you preach, but what you practice as well.
“I was so stressed out during university until I started to take some time out for me. I saved one night a week where I wouldn’t go out or study, but would draw - which is my passion. Once I slowed down a little I began to find my flow and really enjoy uni. So much so that I’m now doing a Masters.”
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