Top 3 Resources You Need to Use as a Freshman or Transfer Student
When I transferred to California State University, Northridge (CSUN) from Moorpark Community College I remember feeling excited and nervous. I felt as if I was behind my classmates in terms of taking advantage of available resources. Now, I am a research assistant in a psychology research lab, in the Honors Psychology program, and I am currently the secretary of Psi Chi. I wasn’t always clear about the opportunities at CSUN. One essential recommendation I learned is ask for help! No matter how difficulty it is to ask. Despite the negative experiences with some people, I kept asking for help. This helped me to find people who had a better understanding of the different paths available in psychology.
Here are the top 3 things you should do when starting at a four-year college.
1. Go to Office Hours
Going to a professor’s office hours is crucial for a number of reasons. If you have never visited your professor or are too shy for various reasons, here are three reasons why you should. First, you need to start building a relationship with at least three professors because someday you will need letters of recommendation for grad school, summer research programs, internships, or jobs and it will be tough to do so if you don’t know any faculty. Second, your professors will know about different research labs and opportunities related to your interests. Many faculty have websites for their research labs while others just do word of mouth to let others know about their lab. Third, once they know you, they will begin to consider you when they hear about new opportunities like job openings, summer programs etc.
You don’t have to meet with just your professors! Any professor is happy to help students!
It may seem daunting to go into a professor’s office hours but go in prepared. There are a few ways you can go in prepared:
● Look at their faculty page and see where they went to school, what they received their degree, and especially look into their research
○ Look through their publications and read some of their recent publications
○ Write down some questions you had about it
○ Greet the professor and say you had a few questions about the work they have done
● Look into your own academic interests
○ What areas of research grab your attention more?
○ Write down any questions you have about the field you are interested in
● Inquire if there are any extracurriculars you should possibly do
○ Volunteering (clinics, hospitals, shelters)
○ Related work (Behavior therapists → Applied Behavioral Analysis)
2. Join a research lab or volunteer as soon as you can!
Even if the first lab you join or volunteer position isn’t totally in line with your interests you will still gain really valuable research experience. If you are planning to apply to graduate programs then you will need to gain research experience or hands-on experiences regardless of your career interests. For some careers, you might even need both types of experiences, like in clinical psychology
How do you join a lab?
You can sometime find out if a professor is taking in new research assistants by going to a faculty webpage through the CSUN website and check if they list “accepting new research assistants.” If they list on their website or on their CSUN faculty page that they are not accepting new research assistants keep in mind this information is not always up to date, so it’s always best just to send a friendly and respectful email to see if they have any positions open.
You could also meet with a professor and ask if they are considering accepting new research assistants.
3. Get involved and find community! But How?
One of the best things you can do is find your own community. Thera are a number of ways to do so.
You can join your major’s honors society. Depending on your major, you will have different honors societies. For psychology, it is Psi Chi, while for engineering it is Tau Beta Pi. Being in the honors society will push you to meet other motivated students in your field and form friendships.
You can become a peer mentor for other students. At CSUN the program is called the Fellowship-Mentoring program within the Center for Achievement in Psychological Sciences (CAPS).
Attend the events that your department hosts. At CSUN, the CAPS center hosts free coffee talks with different professors in the department who want to share advice about topics like graduate school or research labs.
Written by Luz Andrino: Contact @ firstname.lastname@example.org