Well, a year has come and gone faster than I thought. It seems as though it was just yesterday that I was writing my first President's Message for the Psi Chi Newsletter, and now, here I am, writing my last President's Message for the newly designed Psi Chi newsletter, Eye On Psi Chi. I hope you enjoy the new look and format of the newsletter. If you have any comments, don't forget to write, call, or e-mail; we're always glad to hear from our members.
Before I pass on my last message about Psi Chi, let me tell everyone what a rewarding and fun experience I've had serving on the Psi Chi National Council. I feel very fortunate to have assumed the presidency of Psi Chi at such an auspicious time--following on the heels of excellent prior presidents who began laying the groundwork for moving Psi Chi into the 21st century; working with a superb executive officer, dedicated National Council members, and hard-working, committed National Office staff; and, of course, meeting and interacting with Psi Chi student members and advisors all over the country. It's been an invigorating year trying to improve and expand existing programs, inaugurate new projects, and think ahead to future possibilities. We've certainly not had a shortage of ideas on the National Council, just a shortage of time to put them all together. However, I'm confident that Psi Chi will continue to grow and to thrive, and I suspect that I will miss being in the thick of things when I finally end my term on the National Council next year. For now, though, thank you, everyone, for a wonderful year!
Now, to get to the point of my last presidential message: Psi Chi should be more than one line on your resume. I've often heard students say that one of the major reasons they join Psi Chi is that it looks good on their resume and would help them get into graduate school. If this description fits you, then you need to think again. The belief is not incorrect, but it's not quite correct either. It's true that Psi Chi offers a variety of excellent programs--at the local, regional, and national levels--to help you prepare for and get into graduate school. I would encourage you to take advantage of these programs. However, if you've taken the time to study the literature "out there" about how to get into graduate school you may already know that simply being a member of an extracurricular organization (including Psi Chi) does not, by itself, rank very high in importance for graduate admissions committees. What does rank higher than extracurricular activities, though, is your letters of recommendation, and this is one of the many ways that active membership in Psi Chi can be beneficial. The professors who write your letters of recommendation will find it helpful if they can write about your activities outside of the classroom as well as your performance in the classroom. The more they write about you, the more knowledgeable and persuasive their letters of recommendation will be.
How does Psi Chi membership help your professors write a better letter of recommendation, you might ask? Well, this is where my message comes in. If you're a member of Psi Chi and some other student isn't, then you certainly should stand out a little more than the other student. After all, membership in Psi Chi is an indication that you are one of the better psychology students in your graduating class. However, if you think about it, doesn't it make sense that the other students who also want to go to graduate school are probably all pretty good students too and also members of Psi Chi? Let me give you some rough numbers to ponder. There are about 65,000 BA degrees awarded in psychology every year, and about 20% of this number (approximately 13,000) go on to earn a MA or PhD degree in psychology. In 1995-96, Psi Chi inducted 18,421 new members, which is several thousand more students than go on to earn graduate degrees in psychology. Clearly, then, just being a member of Psi Chi doesn't necessarily help you stand out in the crowd, because the crowd of Psi Chi members potentially going on to graduate school is pretty large.
So, what can you do? How do you get yourself to stand out from the crowd so that your professors can write you a better letter of recommendation? One thing you should consider is transforming your membership in Psi Chi into something more than one line on your resume. Take advantage of the leadership opportunities afforded you by your local Psi Chi chapter, and take advantage of the professional opportunities that Psi Chi makes available to you at the local, regional and national levels. Anything you do that is above and beyond simple membership in Psi Chi gives your professors something more to say about you in their letters of recommendation.
Let me give you two sample statements that I might write in a letter of recommendation. Statement 1: "In addition to being an excellent student, David is a member of Psi Chi." Statement 2: "In addition to being an excellent student, Janet is a member of Psi Chi and has served as treasurer and president of our local chapter. Under her leadership as president, our Psi Chi chapter was the recipient of the Psi Chi regional best chapter award. Additionally, Janet has presented research papers at regional and national Psi Chi programs, and for one of these papers, received a best paper award. She was a recipient of a Psi Chi small research grant, which funded the expenses of her senior research project, and she has just been notified that one of her earlier papers has been accepted for publication in the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research."
Which sounds better to you? If you like statement 2 better, then start now and make Psi Chi more than one line on your resume!
Fall 1996 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 64), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 1996, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.