Honors in Psychology: Preparing Students to Take the Next Step

Honors in Psychology: Preparing Students to Take the Next Step Image

For sixteen years now, students majoring in psychology at George Mason University who want to challenge themselves above the curriculum have been encouraged to apply for admission into the Honors Program in Psychology. If accepted into the program, students take specialized courses that start with an overview of research opportunities in psychology, and end with completion and oral defense of an honors thesis project to a faculty committee. The rigorous three-semester program incorporates many graduate school elements such as working in a small cohort of twenty other high-achieving psychology students, completing the research project and thesis, and developing a mentoring relationship with a faculty advisor.

Linda Chrosniak, the program’s director since 2003, describes the Honors Program as a way for students to enhance critical thinking through the research process, a skill that will serve them well for graduate school, the job market, and life in general. Coupled with already competitive application requirements—50 credit hours by the end of fall, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25, and a minimum GPA of 3.40 in psychology courses— Chrosniak states that the three semesters in the honors program “challenge students beyond what they may typically experience as undergraduates and encourage both intellectual and personal growth. This process parallels the graduate thesis experience.”

Between spending time in the research lab, coding data, and exploring data, students should be prepared to commit at least 10 hours a week in their first semester, and closer to 20 hours a week for the last two semesters. Although students in the program may sacrifice free time, hours of sleep, and social activities, they graduate with Honors as better writers, stronger presenters, and most importantly, more confident in their skillset as they embark on the transition into graduate school or the professional job market.

Of the 198 Honor student graduates since 2004, 52 are in/have completed a PhD program, 57 are in/have completed a master’s program, 3 have graduated from law school, and several students have earned other professional degrees. Of interest is the fact that 4 former honors students are now faculty members in tenure-line positions at universities around the country. To incoming psychology students who are unsure of where to start, Linda says the best thing to do is to get involved in research and seek out a relationship with faculty and graduate students who are doing research of interest to the student. “Our faculty are really open to talking to students,” Chrosniak remarks. “Doors are open, people are available, and they want to help undergraduate students. Seek that out.”

If you are an undergraduate student majoring in psychology and would like to apply to the Honors Program, the deadline to apply is Friday, October 28. Contact the director at lchrosni@gmu.edu for more information.

Find out what our Honors alumni are up to! Click on a name in the sidebar to read how the honors program prepared them for their career.