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What psychology upper division classes should I take in college?

Currently interested in Child psychology, but since there are so many psychology classes options available, I'm looking for some advice as to what are the most important classes I definitely need to take. #child-psychology #psychology #college

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Win’s Answer

To an extent, this should depend on the major requirements of your college and the prerequisite requirements of graduate school programs to which you hope to apply. For undergrad major requirements, it is best to contact student services or check your schools catalog, e.g., https://onestop2.umn.edu//pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=3581. For graduate school prerequisites, check the websites of programs you are interested in. There should be information on what courses (if any) are specifically required for your degree and area of specialization under the section where admissions information is offered, e.g., https://cla.umn.edu/psychology/graduate/how-apply/admissions-requirements-statistics.

Beyond those restrictions, my advice would be to take classes that improve your research skills and knowledge of methodology. Attempt to take the most advanced statistics classes that are available to psychology students at your school (this would likely be a good question for your major advisor). Take classes that offer opportunities for you to design and complete your own research or work on research of your professors. I would also say that taking the upper division classes that are considered more difficult, generally classes that contain more biology and/or statistics, will look good on your grad school application, as long as you do well in those courses. It shows that you are able to handle more conceptually difficult concepts. Further, both biology and statistics are fundamental to the study of psychology.

If the programs you are interested in applying to also require you to take the GRE Subject Test, it might be useful to focus on courses that will cover material that is on the exam (see https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/psychology)

Lastly, it is important to show that you have experience with your chosen area of specialization, here Child Psychology. Depending on what you'd like to do with your degree, it would likely be good to take courses related to clinical, developmental, and/or counseling psychology, in addition to any child psychology courses that may be available.

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi, Martha!

Generally, you should focus on building a solid background in science and math while you are in high school. Excellent writing and communication skills are also essential, so English and speech courses can also be very helpful.

In order to get a better idea of what high school classes you should take, schedule an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss your academic plans. Your counselor can offer further advice on which courses might help you reach your goals. Browse through program catalogs or look at the course requirements of psychology programs online in order to learn more about the classes you will have to take in college.

Some of the courses you should consider taking in high school include:

AP Psychology
If your high school offers an AP Psychology course, then you should benefit from this great opportunity. Not only does this course provide a great introduction to psychology, but it may also allow you the chance to earn college credits that will give you a head start on your degree.

Writing / English / Speech
Psychology students are expected to communicate effectively, both in verbal speech and in writing. Taking writing and speech courses in high school is a good way to develop solid communication skills that will be very useful later on.

Psychology and biology have a great deal in common, so taking high school biology courses can be very helpful. During your university studies, you will cover topics such as cell biology, human anatomy, brain anatomy, genetics, and evolution — topics all covered in high school biology courses.

Algebra and Statistics
Statistics play a vital role in psychology research, and nearly all psychology programs require at least one statistics course. Taking math classes in high school is a great way to ensure that you are prepared for the demands of college. High school courses in algebra and statistics will help you learn more about concepts including independent and dependent variables, exponents, probability, and graphs.

Social Sciences
Many university psychology programs recommend that high school students take plenty of social science courses including economics, history, government, geography, and sociology. These courses help increase your general knowledge base and help you develop critical thinking skills that will be important later during your academic studies and professional career.

Final Thoughts
Even if your high school does not offer psychology classes, there are still plenty of courses you can take that will help you later on in college. Psychology majors need a solid background in topics such as life science, social science, math, and communication. Concentrating your studies on such topics during high school will help give you the knowledge you need to succeed as a psychology major.


Good luck!