High School Plans for Students Who Love Psychology

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If you're a high school student considering a college major in psychology, begin preparing now for your higher education pursuits. Taking psychology courses in high school can help you succeed, but many high schools offer only a few options if any. It's possible that your first academic exposure to psychology might be Psych 101 during your first year of college, if that's the path you choose.

Fortunately, most high schools offer non-psych courses that can still benefit future psych majors. Additionally, you can enroll in clubs and activities that, although not specifically geared toward psychology, can help you develop relevant skills and knowledge. This article focuses on preparing for a college major in psychology, but these courses and activities can be great tools even if your goal is to simply broaden your knowledge of psychology or if your choice of major changes in the years ahead.

High School Classes

Naturally, you should focus on high school prerequisites for a college major in psychology. Consult your guidance counselor and browse through college catalogs and course requirements online to learn more about the classes you will take in college and those you should take now. Here are a few high school courses they're likely to recommend.

Algebra and Statistics

Statistics play a vital role in research, and nearly all psychology programs require at least one statistics course. High school math classes will help you prepare for the demands of college and help you learn more about concepts including independent and dependent variables, exponents, probability, and graphs.

Biology

Psychology and biology are as closely related as the mind is to the body. During your university studies, you'll cover topics such as cell biology, human anatomy, brain anatomy, genetics, and evolution—all of which are introduced in high school biology courses.

Language Arts

Psychology students and professionals must communicate effectively, in both speech and writing, so courses in these areas are crucial.

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 for your academic and professional career.

Foreign Language

Many U.S. colleges and universities expect high school students to have studied a language other than English, regardless of intended major. This is especially useful for future psychology majors because it fosters the understanding and appreciation of other cultures, customs, and attitudes you'll need in your career.

AP Psychology

Not only does advanced placement (AP) psychology provide a useful introduction to the field, but it typically offers college credit that will give you a head start on your degree. Check with your guidance counselor about the prerequisites for this class as soon as possible so you can plan appropriately.

If your high school doesn't offer AP psychology, you can prepare and register to take the AP test on your own.

Extracurricular Activities

Step outside the classroom with your efforts, too. Here are a few extracurricular activities to consider:

  • Join your high school's psychology club. If none exists, consider starting one; this will demonstrate leadership to college admissions committees.
  • Volunteer as a peer counselor. You'll get real-world experience applying the psychology concepts you're learning to help your fellow students through difficult issues.
  • Pursue a part-time job, job shadow, or volunteer position in human services.
  • Get involved in fundraising, awareness, or other efforts targeted toward supporting mental health and helping those with mental health conditions. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource to start with; this organization is involved in advocacy and awareness activities such as walks and fundraising events. There might even be a chapter near you.

Other Ways to Prepare

The sheer amount and depth of information you'll be required to absorb and apply in the field of psychology make solid study habits essential. As a bonus, these study skills will also help you in the core non-psychology classes your college requires.

Read about the lives of prominent psychologists—how they came to the field, their schooling, their specialties, and their contributions. If you're new to the field, you might be surprised by the variety of approaches, theories, and advances. You also might find some inspiration.

Likewise, take the initiative to explore the many avenues a psychology degree can open. Careers in psychology span far wider than you probably realize, and learning about them can help you narrow your focus and choose a concentration in college.

Talk to your school's guidance counselor about how they decided on their career. When did they know this was the career for them? What helped them as they prepared for it? What challenges do they find most difficult at work? How does their career in psychology affect them personally?

A Word From Verywell

Even if your high school doesn't offer psychology classes, you can take plenty of other courses that will help lay the groundwork for success as a college psychology major. You'll need a solid background in subjects such as life sciences, social sciences, math, and communication, for starters. Backing your studies with good study habits and relevant activities will help give you the well-rounded background you need to succeed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do you learn in high school psychology?

    According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the following are just a few of the topics you're likely to explore in a high school psychology class:

    • Research methods
    • Learning and memory
    • Social relationships
    • Psychoactive drugs and their effects
    • Brain function
    • Personality
    • Psychological disorders and their treatment
  • What are the high school prerequisites for psychology?

    Generally, high school courses in the sciences, math, communication arts (English and a foreign language), social studies, and history form a good foundation for your college psychology studies. In particular, math is key because you'll need to understand research and statistics. Likewise, the study of the mind, body, and how they interact relies on science.

  • How can I prepare for a career in psychology after high school?

    As a future psychologist, you must earn a bachelor's degree, plus a master's and/or doctorate psychology degree. After graduation, you'll spend at least a year in an internship or postdoctoral program, and then pass a licensure exam. This amounts to about eight years of study. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental and behavioral disorders, so they undergo programs of study, exams, evaluations, and field experience that are just as rigorous.

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  1. American Psychological Association. Enrollment data.