Frequently Asked Questions

1. I want to be a psychology major. How do I pick an adviser?

The Psychology Department allows you to ask anyone in the department you want, as long as that person isn't already overloaded with advisees. So, you can ask a faculty member based on having enjoyed a course from that person, or because you think you want to eventually specialize in the area that person covers, or completely randomly. You are not restricted to your adviser for getting information about careers, getting supervision for research or independent study, or talking about life in general. After you ask the faculty member's permission, bring the registrar's form to the Psychology Office for the chair to sign. You can leave it with the department assistant.

2. How late can I declare a major?

The college regulations mandate that you declare a major before returning to campus in the fall semester of your junior year. It's one of the standards of progress that can keep you from returning if you fail to declare something as your major. You can, however, change your major after that occurs by submitting the appropriate form to the Registrar's Office (after getting the chair's signature). The more you have had psychology courses (and in the appropriate areas and levels), the later you can declare and still complete the major in a timely fashion. We advise, however, that you declare as soon as possible, so that a psychology professor can give you advice about sequencing your course requirements and which courses to put where on your tree.

3. Can a course count twice? For both an area requirement (e.g. cognitive) and a specific type requirement (e.g. methods)

Yes. In fact, given the requirement for the methods series to have at least one from the set 301, 302, 303, or 304 and at least one from the set 314, 315, 316, or 318, two of the three "area" requirements will automatically be met that way.

4. Can I take more than one methods course in a single semester?

Yes. Although, we do not encourage it. Methods classes all have laboratory work in addition to the normal lecture hours, so these courses are considered "heavy" ones. On the other hand, we recommend that you take the topics that interest you the most, so if they happen to be the same semester, go for it.

5. Can I take PSY 314, 315, 316 or 318 concurrently with PSY 310?

No. These four courses assume that you have taken (and passed) PSY 310. You may, however, take the other methods courses (PSY 301, 302, 303, 304) simultaneously with PSY 310 or even before it.

6. Can I put the capstones last on my tree?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we designate enough spaces for all senior majors between the capstone alternatives. No, in the sense that if you particularly want one of the courses over the other, or you have a time conflict with one of the courses, then you need to try for the desired course early in your tree. While we do guarantee that there will be a space available in a capstone for you, we do not guarantee that you'll get the capstone you most want. We balance the courses so that all students have a seminar-like experience rather than one course being over-subscribed and the other being under-subscribed. Failure to put the capstones early on your tree, or failure to put both down as alternatives may mean that you take your lesser-preferred course and have to drop some other course to make it fit with your schedule.

7. How do I pick a topic for a senior thesis?

Besides lightning bolts striking from the Heavens, ideas can grow out of previous courses, especially Methods classes and seminars because these frequently include a "research proposal" or "mini-experiment" during the class. Expansion of one of these may be a perfect thesis idea. Some students get ideas after working with a faculty member on a research project or by being an assistant to another student's research project. These opportunities are often publicized by word of mouth, so ask around and let it be known that you're interested in helping.

8. How do courses I take elsewhere count? Either from studying abroad or elsewhere?

There are two aspects to courses counting at Davidson. One is whether a course earns college credit and applies toward the 32 courses needed for graduation. The Registrar's Office rules on that, and all JYA or other on-leave students must check with the Registrar's office for approval of courses taken elsewhere. The other is whether a course may count as one of the 10 needed for the Psychology major. The chair of the department rules on that, and students are encouraged to consult with him or her.

In general, the following principles apply:
  1. If the course is fully equivalent to one of our 200-level courses, it will be accepted and given the Davidson course number.
  2. If the course is similar to a 200-level course but isn't offered at Davidson or if it combines parts of our courses, then the Chair will, in consultation with other faculty in the department who have looked at the syllabus or other course materials, give it a special transfer number that indicates which "area" it might count for. For example, a life-span developmental course (covering one-third of our child, adolescent, and aging courses) would get the number PSY 297 and count in the Developmental/Clinical area.
  3. We do not allow students to use transfer credit for any 300-level or 400-level required course, that is, for research design (PSY 310), methods courses (PSY 301-305, 323, 314-319), seminars (PSY 350-380), or capstones (PSY 400, 401, 402). If you take such a course, it will transfer as one of the special 200-level numbers or as a tutorial and might count in the "area" but it will not exempt you from taking the 5 required upper level courses at Davidson. Exceptions to this rule are occasionally made for students who transfer to Davidson from another school at the beginning of their junior year, but these exceptions are rare.
9. If I need a tutor in a psychology class, whom do I contact?

One option is to contact the Dean of Students Office, which has a list of junior and senior psychology majors that the Psychology Department has recommended. Contact that office about making arrangements. Another option is to talk to your professor, who might be able to get someone else in your class to help you.

10. What's the difference between a tutorial and a practicum (internship)?

A tutorial (PSY 330-349) is a directed, intensive study of a topic.

  • The most common type of tutorial is for students to prepare for their thesis research by spending a semester reading journal articles and books, discussing the material in weekly or twice-monthly meetings with the supervising faculty member, and writing an Introduction and perhaps a Method section to what will eventually be the student's thesis.
  • Another common type of tutorial is working as a research assistant for a faculty member. Again the student would do a lot of reading, but there would also be data collection efforts and perhaps research meetings with the other students in that lab.
  • A third, less common type of tutorial, is for the student who wants to explore a topic in psychology that the college does not offer as course material. Essentially, the student would design the syllabus for the course—proposing what textbook to read and what papers to write or other experiences to have that would demonstrate the student's mastery of the course content.

A practicum is intended to give the student hands-on contact in an applied setting 8-12 hours a week, supplemented by readings and meetings with the supervisory faculty member.

  • The course is graded pass-fail because the Davidson faculty member typically does not see the student's off-site work.
  • Nearly every sub-discipline area of psychology can support a practicum, although by far the most common are clinical and business settings.
  • In the Charlotte area, students can arrange a practicum at such agencies as The Relatives and Transition House (for run-away children), Arosa House (for abused and neglected children) hospital and medical office settings (for behavioral medicine interventions, pediatric wards, chaplain's office to help counseling patients), Reachline Telephone counseling, daycare centers, retirement communities, print and broadcast media (Charlotte Observer, WBTV, Creative Loafing), various businesses (training and development, personnel testing, advertising), the Center for Applied Cognitive Studies, the Center for Creative Leadership, the Children's Law Center, and so on.
  • For most of these settings, the student needs to initiate the contact and arrange for the experience, although a faculty member might be able to provide some help.