Exploring Psychology at Beloit

by Nicole Hou’20

Are you thinking of majoring in psychology? Not majoring  but wondering if it’s worth it to explore some classes that sound interesting to you? In this interview, Drs. Kristin Bonnie and Alexis Grosofsky share how the skills developed through studying psychology can be applicable to any field. So, if you’re curious about psychology, be sure to read below, visit the Department’s website, and then sign up for the Introduction to Psychology course. After fulfilling that requirement, you’re free to take almost any psychology class you want! 

HOW DOES PSYCHOLOGY DIFFER FROM OTHER DISCIPLINES?

Kristin: Psychology is often categorized as a social science, so there are similarities—or overlaps at least—through topics and methods with sociology and anthropology. But psychology uses scientific methods and thinking as the basis of the discipline, so psychology is also similar to biology and chemistry because we’re using theory and previous research to create hypotheses and test those hypotheses in a systematic way.

However, because humans are not straightforward, robotic-like creatures, there’s a lot of ambiguity even when you follow the scientific method. It’s hard to replicate findings in psychology, since humans’ own behavior changes all the time because of all different kinds of factors, and so there is an erroneous belief among many that psychology is a “soft” science.

What is perhaps most important to know is that psychology is much broader than therapy and counseling—which really only comprises a small component of the discipline and our major.

HOW DOES LEARNING PSYCHOLOGY HELP STUDENTS LEARN IN OTHER COURSES?

 Kristin: All the time, I see students bring in things they learn from other courses into psychology, and they also apply psychology in other places, since psychology is a study of human behavior and cognition and thinking. Therefore, if it involves a human being or really any animal, there are going to be applications for psychology.

Alexis:  And psychology plays well with lots of other disciplines. Our students have majored or minored in many departments across campus. It’s not necessarily encouraged, but it’s supported and doable. Our classes are not structured in a strict sequence, which gives more flexibility.

WHAT CAN PSYCHOLOGY  MAJORS DO AFTER GRADUATION?

Kristin: With a degree in psychology, I usually say you can do anything and nothing…it depends on what you want to do. The students who are interested in the clinical component of psychology (like therapy, counseling or social work) need to go on to get at least a Master’s degree. Several psychology majors are accepted into Ph.D. programs in psychology each year. Our graduates also do everything from the Peace Corps to law school and medical school, to working in schools, or working in advertising or sales. Or human resources. Or public health. Or politics….

Alexis: The skills you gain in psychology—like how memory works or skills from research methods—will help you in other classes, as well as jobs. It’s the classes you take and the skills you gain from majoring in psychology that will allow you to do a lot of things.

ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN PSYCHOLOGY?

Kristin: If you are interested in psychology, you should take the intro class first, probably within the first three semesters at Beloit. Students can check our major requirements online and are welcome to talk to any psychology professor—just stop by and knock. Though we don’t have a psychology minor, a student can essentially minor by taking a bunch of classes that are interesting to them.

Students who are interested in psychology should take more classes in related disciplines including biology, sociology, HEAL, CRIS, and political science, as well as learn how to become a better writer.

Alexis: If you are interested or even if you’re already in the major, EXPLORE. Take classes maybe you might not automatically be drawn to…don’t only go for classes that you’re pretty sure you’ll like. Go for a class you’re not sure about. Choose some classes that will challenge you. If you still like psychology after taking a variety of classes, then psychology  is the major for you.

Kristin: I also encourage students to study abroad. If you’re interested in human behavior and thinking, it’s really important to understand how different cultures and environments create different behaviors and different ways of thinking. We encourage students who are interested in interacting with people to take a second language as well. Having that skill will augment their degree in psychology and make them marketable for whatever they want to do, and it also makes students more sensitive to cultural differences that exist in people they are going to interact with.