In high school and even in college, one of the things that I wish I had was a person I could ask all of my academic questions to. As a first generation college student, I didn’t have anyone to ask about what college was like, what classes I should take, or what I should major in. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that one of my goals is to help you with your college journey. If you don’t have anyone to seek college advice from, I want to be that person for you!
Since school is starting soon and college application deadlines are approaching, I am starting a series where I interview some amazing ladies on what it’s like to be in their major. I’m a biochemistry and cell biology major on the pre-med track, so I know that not all of you can relate to my experiences. In these interviews, I ask my friends in different fields of study about their academic and work experiences as well as advice that they can give YOU! I hope that these interviews will help you decide what to major in or even what to switch your major to. I plan on posting these interviews every Friday this month, so be sure to come back each week!
Today, I am interviewing my sweet friend Carissa! We met about a year ago in our Tagalog class and have been friends ever since. Carissa is someone I admire and look up to. She is selfless, caring, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. I know that you will find her interview about being a psychology major very informative and inspiring!
Meet my friend Carissa!
Here are 30 Questions With Carissa, a Psychology Major:
1. Where is your hometown?
2. What are your hobbies/interests?
I enjoy going to the beach, hanging out with my friends and going out dancing, and drawing!
3. What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I got stranded in Germany when I was on my way back to the US from studying abroad in Europe because my 1st flight was delayed. That was definitely a crazy experience, lots of crying and running happened. Thankfully I just had to fly out the next day and the airlines provided me a hotel!
4. What college do you attend?
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
Transferred from a community college in the Bay Area.
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5. What year are you?
Senior. 4th year undergraduate student, 2nd year transfer.
Note (Blaze Ann speaking): At the time of this interview, Carissa was a 4th year. However, she graduated this past summer and is now doing behavior therapy for kids with autism!
6. What is your major?
Psychology with Specialization in Clinical Psychology
7. What is your future career goal?
My future career goal is to be a Clinical Psychologist specializing in mood disorders among kids and adolescents. A Clinical Psychologist is a doctor who can both treat and diagnose patients in the mental health field as well as focus on research. I could also teach at university levels as a Clinical Psychologist. In order to reach this career, I need to complete a doctoral degree in psychology and test for the psychologist state licensure.
8. When and why did you pick this major?
I suppose I became more passionate about the psychology field sometime during my senior year of high school. I guess I didn’t really “pick” it till I applied to my community college as a psychology major and then chose to transfer to UCSD as a clinical psychology major. When you choose the “transfer” route for your undergraduate career, you have to complete equivalent courses to fulfill lower division classes that would have been taken if you went straight to your “wanted” university. I chose the “clinical psychology” specialization because I learned more about what exactly is Clinical Psychology through my community college’s psychology intro courses.
I chose this major and specialization because I was exposed to the field more when I was in high school. When I was in my Junior year, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). My story behind this was predominantly due to having drastic expectations for myself and dealing with advanced classes where none of my classmates really looked like me. That feeling of self-doubt and decreasing confidence really took a toll in my educational career and own well-being. I was in and out of attending high school just because I was physically and mentally strained with just the thought of going to class and disappointing my family, friends, teachers and feared being looked down upon by my classmates who were predominantly Caucasian and had parents with more of an educational background. As a daughter of Filipino immigrants and being the first-generation born in the US, I personally felt like I had to prove something for my family and background. And so, as I myself was seeking therapy, I became more interested in the treatment techniques and learning more about what I was going through. Growing up, I had friends who faced depression and anxiety and I would always try my best to be there for them, but when I personally went through those episodes, it really opened my eyes about the field. I was also inspired by the post-doctorate who was treating me during that chapter in my life because she was a figure who not only helped me improve my well-being but also gave me my first insight into the treatment approach from an educational perspective.
I knew this route was meant for me because even when I was younger, I always felt rewarded when I was able to make someone feel even a little bit better. I would always put my friends’ safety and well-being first. As I learned to be more aware of what this field was, I would get that feeling of “this is what I want to do” and whenever I got that rewarding feeling I would just remember why I want to do this.
9. Do you have any advice for those still deciding whether to become a psychology major?
My advice for those still deciding on what you want to do… things take time and there’s no need to rush. I know we live in a world that bombards us with the mentality of always needing to know what we need and wanting to choose a route that has “prestige” and money. Sometimes, those around us can also try to make the decision for our future for us and that can be mentally straining. In this capitalistic world, it’s hard to take time to explore who we are and what we want to do just because of the constant demands of life we face. However, it’s important to do what you have a passion for. If you don’t have that passion or sincere interest in a field, it’ll be difficult for you to go through the education and career aspects of it. In my case, this life You deserve to do something that makes you happy, so take your time in trying to figure that out for yourself!
10. What do you love about your major?
What I love about my major is that it really teaches me about human behavior and the biological side of it. I like how my major can get from very theoretical to very physiological. It just fascinates me on how things just kinda happened.. Like how our biological makeup has an influence on our attitudes and how our attitudes influence our behaviors and then so on… and then my major just tries to understand more about what’s going on behind all that.
11. What are some things you don’t like about your major?
Aside from disliking the stigma behind being a “nonstem” major, I’m not a big fan of how a lot of the courses in this field are evaluated. I wished more professors made the class structure more applicable. Like, I wish our tests were more based on a given scenario/situation rather than “What is….” / “Which is….” / “Who theorized….”. I’ve only come across a few professors in my undergraduate career who really pushed an applicable kind of teaching style. Maybe the “memorization” kind of teaching is just the academia culture across all majors… but that’s a different kind of discussion.
12. What classes do you normally have to take each term?
It depends. Depends on what specialization you are and the college/university you are in. It also depends on what kind of degree you are getting (Bachelors of Arts vs Bachelors of Science). At my community college, I focused a lot on: lower division courses for a BS in Psychology with Specialization in Clinical Psychology, courses I needed to transfer out of community college, and courses I needed for earning an Associates Degree. Everything just depends on where you are in your process and what you want to do.
During my first two years of college (so while I was at my community college), I focused more on my general ed courses and lower div psyc courses. Here I took my first couple of psychology courses, biology courses, chemistry, calculus courses, statistics, computer science, and other electives I needed to fulfill requirements and for my own entertainment (art, dance, cardio, philosophy, sociology, music). My courses during this time were more based on what I needed to transfer and what would be needed if I got accepted to UCSD with my given major.
During my last two years of college (me currently at UCSD), I focused more on my upper division major courses. I also needed 3 elective courses for being at Marshall College, but that’s about it. Because I completed a lot of my lower div courses at community college, all I needed to do now was complete the rest of the requirements for my BS and fulfillments for UCSD. I did take some fun courses, like Filipino, for myself! (Very important to give yourself “fun” classes for just wanting to learn to learn!).
13. What is the most challenging thing about being in your major?
I guess… like I said, things really do just depend also on where you are (like your school) and your own strengths/weaknesses… but I guess the most challenging thing about my major in UCSD is that it often comes to the case where you have to teach yourself. I might feel that way though just because of how UCSD is structured rather than my major itself. I definitely noticed the difference between transitioning from my community college environment to a university environment (especially a research heavy university).
14. What is the hardest class you’ve taken in your major?
I would say your “hardest” class depends on you as a person. In my experience, the statistics side of research was really difficult for me to grasp. And although I learned statistics in community college and did very well in it, learning it at UCSD from a research perspective was different and difficult for me because my college foundation was not built on a research mentality. So I would say statistics with research methods was the hardest class I needed for my major. I had a difficult time grasping all the tests and what to use depending on what you’re measuring and all the analysis methods. Following what to use and when was where I would get confused.
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15. What is your favorite class that you’ve taken in your major?
Favorite class… well I’m a Clinical Psychology specialization major so I loved everything related to disorders, upbringing, and identity. I loved classes about Clinical Psychology (disorders focused on the adult population and kids/adolescents), eating disorders, human sexuality, parenting, adolescents… I can’t choose just one hahaha, but I just adore this kind of concept.
16. How do you study for your classes? Is there a lot of homework or mostly studying for tests?
Hm… again, really depends on what class and what field of psyc the class is focusing on. Most psyc classes at UCSD don’t have “graded” homework (like readings and reviewing lectures), so you really have to study for your tests. A few do have heavy homework workloads.
I mostly study on my own for homework. For studying for the test, I love to make study groups with my friends! Talking it out with someone is what helps me the most!
17. Would you say people in your major and classes are competitive or supportive? What is the community like?
I would say UCSD in general is a very competitive atmosphere. But within my major, I think it’s easier to find people willing to help you out or to offer help to someone else. You can definitely find a good group of people to work with. Nonetheless, there are still people who may prefer to work alone or just see things as a competition.
18. Are your department/professors supportive? What are they like?
Mmmm… at my community college yes, they were amazing professors and counselors! At UCSD, I would say it’s different. Probably because classes and students are of a much larger scale. It’s less 1-on-1 at UCSD. It could be difficult to reach out to counselors and professors because they’re overly busy and it could feel like they brush you off. But there are definitely professors out there who sincerely do care, you just need to communicate and reach out to them to see how they can help you.
19. What is the most defining thing you’ve learned as a psychology major?
Being a psych major, I definitely realized how much of a binary there is between STEM and non-STEM majors in our world. Being a psych major at UCSD (primarily a stem school) also really opened my eyes.
This major also taught me that there are all types of people within a field. I met many other psych majors who are down to earth and really care about other people. I’ve also met psych majors who lack effective social skills. Even among professors, I notice that there are different personalities and attitudes among them. But the differences make sense, we’re all human and not completely the same.
20. Have you ever felt like switching your major or just giving up? If so, what made you stay? What keeps you motivated?
No, I never felt like switching my major. I did question if I was “smart enough” when I started at UCSD. But I kept motivated when I would be rewarded for helping those around me. I’d continue to be driven just remembering that rewarding feeling.
21. Do you feel like there is a certain stigma being in your major or career path?
Absolutely. I feel more of a stigma with my major more rather than my career path. A Clinical Psychologist is seen as a doctor whereas a Psychology major is seen to be something “easy” for not being a STEM major. Usually when I would tell people I’m a psychology major, they’re just like “Oh really? That’s cool, can you read my mind?”. Honestly, it sucks when people look down on me for my major, but what can I do? At the end of the day I know what I want and I know I can be of aid among someone’s life.
22. Has being a female affected your experience in this major?
Not necessarily. Majority of my major is female. However, I guess it just reinforces the idea that girls are psyc majors. Since we’re “not STEM” we’re looked down upon.
23. Is there any advice you wish you had when you started college?
When you start university, take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t feel like you have to get things done right away as soon as possible. When you seek advising from counselors, ask for second opinions. I was told when I started UCSD that I might not graduate on time because I completed the majority of my lower div courses at community college and I needed 180 units earned from UCSD to graduate. But now, I finished my degree early and I’m just taking an extra quarter for fun.
Also! If you are taking the transfer route, taking your first quarter/semester easy. Upper division courses are much different from lower division courses. Core courses (major/main upper division classes in your field) are the most difficult, so take your time with completing them. Try not to over work yourself and assure that you give yourself a day just for you, a self-care day. TALK TO YOUR PROFESSORS! If you’re struggling or stressing because of workload, talk to them. It’s not guaranteed they can do something, but it never hurts to try.
24. Are you involved in any extracurriculars or student organizations?
I’m a lab assistant for a Professor at UCSD! I help run some of the studies we ask students to participate in for points in Psychology courses. I’m a member of UCSD’s Psi Chi/Psychology Club. I am part of committees for assisting schools around SD in teaching about the field of psychology.
25. Do you currently have a job or internship? What do you do?
As I am currently writing this, we are in the Coronavirus Pandemic. As a result, I had to move back to my home town in the Bay Area from San Diego. Before all this, yes, I was working while in school. I worked as a Student Abstractor at UCSD’s Autism Center of Excellence. Here, I was in charge of helping out with clinical data research.
26. What is the work environment like?
The work environment here was nice. My team was made up of a handful of people. I enjoyed that there were other students working here or had graduated from the previous year. I was grateful that I worked with people who were friendly and assured to help you out if you needed it. 🙂
27. What advice do you have for those looking for a job or internship in the psychology field?
If you’re looking for experience in the psychology field, start with volunteer work. Something I was grateful for at my school is that there were resources and organizations that helped me start building my experience up. If you want to join a research lab, reach out to professors: tell them why you’re interested in their projects, what makes you a great candidate, what you want to do in the future, how being part of their lab would help you achieve that goal. Be sincere and respectful when you reach out to jobs, committees, professors, etc. Find an organization that can help you meet more people in the field. I found out about UCSD’s Psychology Club/Psi Chi Psychology Honors Society and that helped me start. Building up a network of people will definitely help you in the long run too!
Also, you are going to encounter rejection. It’s absolutely going to feel crappy, and that’s okay. It’s a process, you win some you lose some. Learn from the experience and move on. It just means something else is out there for you or that right now isn’t the time just yet!
28. What advice do you have for people on the same career path as you?
Make sure you give yourself space for your own well-being. Remind yourself that you’re also human and that there’s only so much you can do. Talk to people in your field and are doing what you want to do. Listen to their stories in achieving their career and ask for advice.
If you also want to treat people in the future, great! Look into the options because you don’t need a doctorate if you just want to treat. Learn about the careers in the field and learn more about what you really want to do in the long run. 🙂
29. Are there other career path opportunities for people in your major?
Absolutely! Psychology has a wide range of specializations. I’m the Clinical Psychology route (treating, research, teaching), there’s also psychiatry (medicine focused), Social Psychologist, Developmental Psychologist, Marriage-Family Therapist (MFT), Social Worker (MSW), Neurologist, Cognitive Psychologist, etc. There’s a lot you can do in the psychology field.
30. Are you planning on attending graduate school? If so, what should people keep in mind to do to prepare for applying?
I am! I will be applying to a doctorates program (PhD and PsyD programs) this coming fall. In the psychology field, depending on what you want to do, you can also go for the Masters Route instead. Figure out what you’re going to need for applying and for your specific programs: Placement tests?, Letters of Recommendation?, Volunteer Hours?, Personal Statements?, etc. Start earlier rather than last minute. Each graduate program is different, so create an excel sheet that lists each of the school’s requirements. As you are looking into programs think about whether you can really see yourself living in the area. Also make sure you have an income that can satisfy the cost of living in the areas you are looking into. Look into the faculty members of who you’ll be working with, see who you would want to work with (have at least 2 faculty members from each university you would be interested in working with)!
Again, be prepared for the possibility of rejection! It’s very common for graduates to take a “gap year” (not going straight to a grad school after graduating from undergrad). THINGS TAKE TIME! There’s no need to rush, you have a whole life out there to figure out what you want for yourself.
I know this interview is focused on upcoming undergraduate college students… so I don’t want to bombard you with too much information on the process. You have time to figure it out. Reach out to your professors or advising counselors. Attend talks and workshops! Find a group of people who are also interested in what you’re interested in! I figured all this grad school stuff during my last 2 years of university, so really, you have time!
31. Is there anything else you want to add?
Another reminder: TAKE YOUR TIME! EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN PACE IN THINGS! YOU DO NOT NEED TO RUSH. THE WORLD CAN BE VERY DEMANDING, BUT IT’S OKAY TO PUT WHAT YOU WANT FOR YOURSELF FIRST.
Thank you so much for taking the time in reading a bit of my story and where I am in life! Again, this is my experience and my life, we all have our own paths, so don’t expect that you have to exactly go through what I did to achieve your goals and aspirations. It’s okay if your goals change throughout your educational career, life is a process of figuring out what you want for yourself!
Thank you Blaze Ann for wanting to interview me, I am honored to be given this opportunity! If you have any questions feel free to reach out to myself, @caiyco, on instagram. If you would like to communicate via email, feel free to reach out to @P31beauty or myself and we can figure it out from there ♥
Conclusion on 30 Questions With A Psychology Major
Wow! Wasn’t Carissa’s interview so inspiring? As a friend, she always gives solid advice, and I’m so thankful that she was able to share some of her wisdom with you all today! As she mentioned, please feel free to reach out to her via Instagram @caiyco if you have any questions on becoming a psychology major or if you are currently a psych major and need advice. She is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, so don’t hesitate to contact her! If there is a certain major that you want to be featured in the next post, email me your suggestion at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thank you so much to Carissa for taking the time to do this interview and thank YOU for reading it! I truly hope this helps.