Psychology is a very popular area of study in the U.S. Nearly every accredited university in the U.S. offers an undergraduate degree in psychology. International students can find a great program at which to study in many different parts of the U.S. To ensure that one is prepared, it might be useful to know what the typical degree requirements for an undergraduate program are and which are the top undergraduate programs in the U.S.
Typical Undergraduate Degree Requirements
To achieve an undergraduate degree in psychology, one must develop various skills and an understanding of psychological theories. To this end, many undergraduate programs in psychology will require students to take a core curriculum of classes along with electives that allow students more choice of specialization. Core curriculum classes include research methods, psychological statistics, classes in social psychology, and classes in developmental psychology.
Research methods courses help students learn how to pick viable research topics, find and cite source materials for formal research projects, and how to organize and coordinate large chunks of data, research, and theory. Psychological statistics courses teach students the basics of quantitative reasoning that they will need to find patterns in their experimental research. The skills taught in these two classes is essential for anyone interested in pursuing psychology in their future careers. Social and development psychology classes focus more on content than building skills. Social psychology is the study of how people act in groups and how the behavior of others affects one's own psychology. Developmental psychology studies how the mind develops from infancy through adulthood. Both areas of study are so prominent that nearly all undergraduate programs in psychology require students to study them.
Elective classes give international students options to pursue specialized education in topics within psychology in which they have a particular interest. Typical elective courses address issues in abnormal psychology, the neuroscience of psychology, and perhaps pharmaceuticals and psychology. The number and quality of elective courses available to students often play a large role in determining the overall quality of the department. The broader the options for elective courses, the more areas of specialization available to students and the higher the quality of the electives, the more prepared students will become to utilize what they learn in these elective classes effectively. International students should pay special attention to the elective classes available at the programs at which they are interested in studying, as these courses are often what set a department apart from the others.
International students might be interested in which are the best undergraduate programs in psychology in the U.S. Stanford University in California, Yale University in Connecticut, and the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota-Twin Cities are among the very elite programs.
While the prestige of one's undergraduate program is a factor one should consider in deciding where to study, it is important to note that many undergraduate psychology programs provide very good education and experience but do not necessarily qualify as elite according to some rankings. This is because it is often nearly impossible to quantify the quality of teaching one receives. Many rankings are determined by quality and quantity of publications the faculty produces, but this is not an infallible guide to determining the best teacher for any given individual student. International students who are interested in earning an undergraduate degree in psychology should investigate prospective departments before deciding to study at any particular school and should not rely only on the ranking of the undergraduate program.
Think about the areas you want to explore, the quality of faculty, the class size, and most importantly - what area of psychology they focus on. The New School, for example, is not only located in the heart of New York City for any international student looking for cultural immersion, but they have a strong foundation focusing on academic or applied psychology by combining academic study with research training and a senior capstone. This may be exactly what you want! So be sure to explore, research the school's Psychology Department and e-mail current faculty or students to determine how closely the faculty work with students and faculty availability, along with general student satisfaction with their program. Put in the time and research so that you can find the best undergraduate program that meets all of your needs!