This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
Psi-Chi-ology Lab
Blog Home All Blogs
The path to becoming a well-versed Psi Chi member starts with this blog, Psi-Chi-ology Lab. Learn more.


Search all posts for:   


Top tags: Psi Chi Related  Chapter Life  A Better You  Conducting Research  All Things Psych  Career Advice  Going to Grad School 

Writing Meeting Minutes for Your Psi Chi Chapter

Posted By Psi Chi Central Office, Monday, July 30, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Psi Chi chapter secretaries are generally tasked with writing a record the minutes of each chapter meeting. But, wait! What exactly are “meeting minutes” and how should you write them?

Meeting minutes are simply a basic record of the events and motions made during a meeting. Of course, you don’t really need to write down the exact “minute” of every detail in a meeting. Instead, it is important that you capture the general spirit of the meeting such as motions, votes, and upcoming plans. This post will share a few tips and an example.

First Things First, Plan Before Each Meeting

Invite other officers and members to request any items that they would like added to the upcoming agenda. Having an organized agenda prepared in advance will make the most of your members’ time. And it makes taking the minutes easier too.

What to Include in Your Record of a Meeting

  • Date of meeting
  • Time the meeting was called to order
  • Roll call
  • New business
  • Motions taken or rejected
  • Items to be held over
  • Next meeting date and time
  • Time the meeting was adjourned

View an Example

So, what should your meeting minutes look like? All Psi Chi chapters are unique, but here is a general outline that you can follow:

Psi Chi Meeting Minutes

Call to Order
The chapter meeting was called and held on [DATE] at [TIME] at [LOCATION].

Approval of Minutes From Previous Meeting
The minutes of the previous meeting were read and unanimously approved as distributed.

Announcements/Officer Reports

Summarize any announcements and/or reports given.

Unfinished Business
Summarize any ongoing business.

Agenda for Next Meeting
List any items to be discussed at the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at [INSERT TIME]. The next general meeting will be [DATE] at [TIME] at [LOCATION].

Sharing Your Meeting Minutes

At each meeting, you will probably be asked by your chapter president to read the minutes for the previous meeting. If you aren’t asked, then volunteer to do so anyway! Quickly reviewing past chapter decisions will help remind everyone what is going on, and catch up new attendees so that they will feel more comfortable participating.

Meeting minutes should be made available to all members. You may wish to distribute print copies to members. Or, you could share your meeting minutes on social media, or on your chapter’s website or blog!

Other Helpful Tips

  • Look over your notes and finalize your minutes as soon as possible after each meeting. This will ensure that you remember as much as possible.
  • Feel free to ask for clarification when you need it.

Related Articles

Tags:  A Better You  Chapter Life 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

How to Run a Chapter Meeting

Posted By Psi Chi Central Office, Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Following a set procedure for your chapter meetings—even a simple one—can go a long way toward improving your chapter’s accomplishments throughout the year. Here is some basic information about running meetings to get you started. Please keep in mind that all chapters have their own unique structures and needs. For further information about conducting meetings, members are encouraged to purchase a copy of the latest edition of Robert’s Rules of Order.

Who Runs Chapter Meetings?

Chapter presidents are generally responsible for running (i.e., chairing) chapter meetings. In the event that the president cannot attend a meeting, the chapter’s vice-presidents will usually fill in.

Request a Written Agenda in Advance

Your chapter secretary is generally responsible for keeping meeting minutes and writing an order of business for upcoming meetings. Presidents, if you don’t already have an agenda, be sure to ask for one in advance.

During the Meeting—Instructions for the President/Chair

1. To start the meeting, say something like this:
“The meeting will now come to order.”

2. Request for the secretary to perform a roll call.
The secretary will then call the roll, with pauses for response.

3. Ask the secretary to read the minutes from the previous meeting.
Then, ask everyone if there are any corrections. If there aren’t, you should make a motion (see below for specific instructions) to approve the minutes so that they will be part of the official record of the current meeting’s minutes.

4. Request for members to report on any specific roles, activities, or accomplishments.
For example, perhaps an officer was previously asked to provide updates about the planning of an upcoming event. Or maybe an officer would like to share the results of a recent service activity.

5. Discuss any unfinished business from previous meetings.
Occasionally, business will be tabled to the next meeting, and this is Ok—it allows people more time to think about an issue or gather additional information. Double check the minutes of previous meetings to make sure that you haven’t missed anything.

6. Ask if there is any new business.
This is your members’ opportunity to raise issues. These issues do not necessarily have to be on the agenda that was written before the meeting. For the group to decide on any new business, a motion is required (see below).

7. If possible, go ahead and share the agenda for the next meeting.
Remember to include the date, time, and location, as well as any other relevant information.

8. To end the meeting, say something like this:
“Since there is no further business, the meeting is adjourned.”

How to Make a MotionInstructions for All Members

1. President/chair acknowledges a person who has raised a hand or stood up in order to gain your attention.

2. The person will then make a motion by saying, “I move that . . . ”

3. A different member then seconds the motion.

4. President/chair restates the motion by saying, “It is moved and seconded that . . .”

5. Members debate the motion, allowing both sides to discuss.

6. President/chair puts the motion to a vote, asking all those in favor to say “aye” and then all those who oppose to say “no.”

7. President/chair announces the results. For example, say “The aye’s have it” or “The no’s have it.”

Other Tips

1. Identify the goals or purpose of your meeting. If your chapter has specific goals for the overall school year, it is good to write these down and keep them handy at all meetings too.

2. Pay attention to the clock.

3. Take notes.

4. Follow up.

Tags:  A Better You  Chapter Life 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Apply Psi Chi’s Goals to Your Personal Endeavors

Posted By Psi Chi Central Office, Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2018

In a recent blog article, we discussed how local chapters can use Psi Chi’s three goals at the start of each semester to create a roadmap to success. Today, let’s talk about how individual members, including alumni members, can benefit from these three goals too.

Members are encouraged to connect with a local chapter in their area to pursue their goals as a team. However, individual members and alumni are invited to complete our Annual Vision 2020 Worksheet too! This worksheet will help you organize and prepare for meaningful tasks to boost your resum
é, education, and career.

Here are the three goals and some specific suggestions to help you accomplish them.

Goal 1: Scholarly Pursuits

It’s never too late to learn something new! Specifically, this goal encourages you to “conduct exemplary research, disseminate and apply research findings, and maintain a lifelong interest in exploring the field of psychology.” Here are some ways to do this through your membership with Psi Chi.

First, be sure to visit our specific online resources about Conducting Research and Attending and Presenting at Conventions. You’ll be glad that you did—time and time again, research experiences and convention attendance help people discover their unique passions and develop lifelong professional relationships with their peers. Psi Chi features special programming at six regional conventions, APA, and APS. We hope to see you there!

Second, explore our
magazine, blog, and journal. These are all packed with up-to-date information about advancements in psychology. Plus, they also offer unique publication opportunities to Psi Chi students and faculty alike.

Goal 2: Member Development

This goal is a reminder for you to seek out “opportunities to enhance your professional and personal life.” In addition to the skills you will gain from conducting research and networking at conventions, here are three strategies to consider.

First, remember to take advantage of Psi Chi’s Career Center! You can create an account, search for jobs, and set up automatic Job Alerts—all for free. And just as importantly, you can also ask our career experts specific questions about your resumé, interviews, and application materials. Yes, this is a free opportunity to speak with living human beings who are dedicated to guiding you to your next great job opportunity.

A second member development strategy to consider is going to graduate school. Psi Chi is happy to help you with this too through our Going to Grad School Resource and our eBook, An Eye on Graduate School.

A third way to grow personally and professionally is to increase your knowledge of diversity issues and self-improvement strategies such as teamwork skills, mental health, so forth. Our Diversity Matters online resource has some concise steps for you to consider, and our new #Help_HelpedMe Initiative invites you to join us in creating a world where it is safe and acceptable to ask for help when you need it. Also, our three publications are packed with many articles about improving your learning techniques, balancing the work and school, de-stressing, and much more.

Goal 3: Chapter Experiences

Last of all, Psi Chi chapters strive to “foster a vibrant and meaningful environment for all members to contribute to and benefit from continued engagement.”

Although you might have already graduated, you are still welcome to take part in chapter and member experiences. If you have lost contact with your chapter, please take a few minutes to reconnect. Just visit our Chapter Directory, find any chapters near your current location, and then send an e-mail to those faculty advisors to let them know that you are interested in speaking with them and helping them conduct community service activities.

By pursuing each of the three goals above, you are supporting Psi Chi’s greater mission of “recognizing and promoting excellence in the science and application of psychology!” Best wishes in your many future endeavors!

Related Articles

Tags:  A Better You  Career Advice  Psi Chi Related 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Celebrate Undergraduate Research Week With Psi Chi!

Posted By John E. Edlund, PhD, Psi Chi Research Director, Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dear Psi Chi Member,

I am proud to introduce Psi Chi’s first-ever celebration of Undergraduate Research Week! All students and faculty—not just undergrads—are invited to join us April 9–13 to shine a light on the latest generation of students striving to advance the science and application of psychology.

In 2010, Undergraduate Research Week was declared by the U.S. House of Representatives. Indeed, many professionals first discovered their passion for research when they were students. This celebration is to recognize those beginnings too, and for the mentors who cultivate countless bright minds. Here are four ways you can honor this special occasion:

1. Join a Research Project

Psi Chi NICE recently partnered with StudySwap, a free tool featuring dozens of projects actively seeking collaborators such as yourself. See the brand-new article which will appear in Eye on Psi Chi, “Undergrad Researchers Will Save Psychological Science,” to learn about additional research opportunities.

2. Receive Financial Support

Psi Chi provides $400,000 annually in awards, grants, and scholarships. This includes significant funding for undergraduate research awards, research grants, and travel grants to conventions. View a complete list of annual programs and deadlines.

3. Share and Support Current Research

Share about your current research projects on Facebook. Use hashtag #PsiChiURW. Specific projects, interests, conference attendance—we want to hear about it all! You are also encouraged to participate in online surveys conducted by Psi Chi members. Twenty-one studies are currently seeking participants; submit a link to your own surveys too.

4. Learn Something New

Over the years, Psi Chi has built up a wealth of free articles and resources about Conducting Research and Attending and Presenting at Conventions. You are welcome to use these in your classrooms and other endeavors.

Open Science Practices

Research Methods


Publishing Your Work

Presenting at Conventions

Undergraduate research opportunities cultivate future generations of passionate and innovative researchers. I look forward to your participation in the celebration!

John E. Edlund, PhD
Psi Chi Research Director
Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)

Tags:  A Better You  Chapter Life  Conducting Research  Psi Chi Related 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

A How-To Guide: Setting and Maintaining Goals

Posted By Stephanie Finné, Northeastern Illinois University,, Monday, March 5, 2018


A How-To Guide:
Setting and Maintaining Goals

I recently wrote an article about how to prepare for the upcoming semester, which you can read HERE. In that article, I talked about setting goals/intentions for the upcoming semester so that you can have a clear view of what you want to accomplish. By doing this, you will be able to stay on track during the semester. Since then, I thought I should do a post on how to set goals and intentions in depth and in detail. Having goals guides your focus and attention to the things that matter in your life. And the amazing aspect of goals is that you can start them whenever you like! So what better time to start than now! In this article, I will give five tips that I have used when I set my own goals for the year, and hopefully they will help you as well.

1. Write Out Your Goals

What are your goals for the year? Why do you want to achieve them? These are the questions that will help you set your goals. Once you have determined those details, write your goals down on paper! I'm sure you've heard this, time and time again, but research has shown that you are more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down. When you write things down, it solidifies the words in your mind, and it sets a constant reminder for you to stick with your goals. It also keeps you accountable and committed to your goals once you have written them down on paper.

2. Put Your Goals Where You Can See Them

What good are goals if you do not have a constant reminder of them on a daily basis? Your goals should be somewhere you can see them as a reminder for you to stick with them. Display your goals anywhere and everywhere you look on a regular basis: on your fridge, as the screen saver of your laptop, or the background of your phone. The main idea is that you want to have your goals in your face and in a place that you will regularly see them. This not only serves as a reminder, but it can also keep you motivated to stick to your goals.

3. Reflect on Your Goals on a Weekly Basis

Try to check in with yourself on a weekly basis to see if you are on track with your goals. This is a great way to keep yourself accountable when setting goals because, once the week is over, you know you will have to check in with yourself to see how you are progressing. This is also an important opportunity to find any aspects of your goals that you may need to work on or restructure. Also, keep a record of your reflections and share them with someone. This is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable because, when you make your weekly check in, you will also consult with a supportive friend to keep you on track as well.

4. Start Slow (Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew)

Just because you have a goal, it does not mean that everything will change overnight. Keep your goals realistic and start small. Once you realize that you have hit a milestone, then go bigger. For example, if your goal is to procrastinate less, it probably would not be realistic for you to say that you will get started on your work as soon as you get home. You may need to relax and unwind before you get into doing your work. So maybe start by saying, “When I get home, I am going to relax for 30 minutes, and then I will start on my work.” By doing this, the task will not seem so overwhelming, and you will still be able to accomplish your goal.

5. Have a Game Plan (How Do Your Overall Goals Impact Your Routine?)

Going along with point number four, make sure you have a plan in place for how you can incorporate your goals into your everyday life. Take procrastination, for example. If you made a goal to procrastinate less, try to look at your day and see if there is a time in your schedule where there might not be so much activity. From there, schedule in some work you need to get done rather than filling it up with time-wasting activities. You should not have to turn your whole life upside down when you've established your goals; they should fit well within your day-to-day routine.

There you have it, a guide to goal setting that will keep you focused for any time you want to start a new goal (or continuing some old ones) and maintain them. These five easy steps, writing them out, putting them where they will be seen, reflecting on your goals, starting slowly, and having a game plan, will help you stay on track and stick with your goals no matter what obstacles come your way.

Tags:  A Better You 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Spring Into Research

Posted By Sarah Ann Coffin, CSU Monterey Bay, Thursday, February 8, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Spring Into Research

The morning espresso-to-go routine is back! Welcome all to the new spring semester. As you begin to order books and learn new class schedules, don’t forget to keep your eye on the summer research prize. Often at the start of a new semester, I find myself wrapped up in to-do lists and settling into revised routines. After the extended holiday and relaxation, it can be difficult to prioritize internships and summer research. However, the beginning of the semester is the perfect time to plan for great new opportunities!

Start With a Timeline

Nothing says organization like a rough outline of your research plan. Take a step toward meeting your goals for this semester and summer by establishing a location to jot down deadlines and requirements. Applications like Evernote and Microsoft OneNote provide platforms to map out weekly tasks in organized notebooks by subject. Busy students can use these apps on their mobile phones for quick access to to-do lists on the run. If you are like me, you will love the color coding features that help you keep track of assignments for all of your psychology classes. By getting in the habit of writing down due dates and future opportunities, you can stay on top of research applications, grant deadlines, and assignments this semester.

Fund Your Research

Psi Chi offers grants and awards to fund your research as early as February and March of this year. If you are enrolled in lab or plan to join within the coming year, Psi Chi provides opportunities for financial support for both undergraduate and graduate students. Applications open 30 days prior to deadline dates, so stay updated on ways to fund for your research! While you are perusing Psi Chi’s funding opportunities, take a moment to also check in with your university’s student research center. Many universities throughout the nation provide services to support your research and quest to graduate school through workshops, awards, and grants. Don’t put your dreams of conducting experiments on the back burner; take advantage of the fantastic resources provided to you as a student and member of Psi Chi.

Summer Is Coming!

Let’s face it, it can be frustrating to try to balance a research internship with maintaining grades, personal care, and a social life. Whether you are choosing to invest in summer research for personal edification or for graduate school, finding the right data sources to assist your search for an internship is essential. Try starting with broad websites to give you an idea of the potential research positions available in your concentration, such as the American Psychological Association or the National Science Foundation. From there, you can find sites with internships specific to your interests, such as Johns Hopkins for research in child development or Yale University for origins of social cognition. When you find the concentration that best suits you, don’t forget to record application deadlines in your Evernote or Microsoft OneNote file. Your future self will thank you!

Prepped to Go

With planning on your side, you can tackle landing your desired research position without all of the last minute hassle. For those of you who resolved to procrastinate less in 2018, now is your time to shine! When you do apply for this year’s funding and positions, be confident in your abilities. Whether you are one of ten applicants or one of thousands, be proud of yourself for your careful planning and efforts invested. In preparation alone, you will have exhibited qualities in organization, critical thinking, and goal achievement. Not only will these qualities reflect in your application, but in the way you conduct yourself in your research position as well. Good luck this semester and in all your research endeavors! I can’t wait to see where science takes us next.

Related Articles

Join a Collaborative Research Program
Submitting to Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research
Tips to Find a Faculty Sponsor

Tags:  A Better You  Conducting Research 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Establish Concrete Goals for Your Chapter—Here’s How!

Posted By Psi Chi Central Office, Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Establish Concrete Goals
for Your Chapter—Here’s How!

Psi Chi’s Board of Directors instituted three Vision 2020 goals for Psi Chi that you can also use as a roadmap at the local chapter level. The three goals are:

  1. Scholarly Pursuits
  2. Member Development
  3. Chapter Experiences

Chapters that make concrete plans ahead of time are more likely to be successful. So, today’s article will discuss how to use Psi Chi’s three goals to support your chapter.

First, at the beginning of each semester, encourage your officers and members get together to complete this brief Chapter Goals worksheet. Then, be sure to make copies for all your members or display your chapter’s goals somewhere public to help keep everyone focused on the tasks your chapter will have set for itself.

Starting in January 2018, we invite you to upload your chapter’s goals to the Psi Chi website so that other chapters can see and take inspiration from your endeavors. To view other chapters’ goals, visit HERE. The downloadable worksheet and your chapter’s goals can also be accessed via your appropriate Faculty Advisor or Officer Admin pages.

When your chapter works together as a team, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish. Make a point to attend as many meetings and events as you can, and remember to offer your assistance to your officers and advisors as needed. Here are some specific suggestions to help your chapter accomplish each of Psi Chi’s goals:

Goal 1: Scholarly Pursuits

To embrace this goal, consider suggesting that your chapter host a meeting in a campus computer lab where students can all visit Psi Chi’s Post a Study page to gain experience participating in online research. Students might also appreciate a group lesson on Attending and Presenting at Conventions. Better yet, use this article to inspire your chapter members to attend or even present at a local, regional, or national convention.

Furthermore, if your students are interested in obtaining careers in research, your chapter could conduct or assist a collaborative group research project. Here are some example collaborative Research Opportunities to consider. You might also work together to submit your research to our prestigious Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research. Being able to place a publication on your resumé is especially helpful if you are hoping to attend graduate school!

Goal 2: Member Development

One simple, yet effective, way to support your local members’ personal and professional development is to host events about finding a psychology-related job and/or attending graduate school. Our Careers in Research, Going to Graduate School, and Attending and Presenting at Conventions online resources are packed with information that you could share with your fellow members. In addition to the priceless information you will obtain when hosting these events, you will also gain real leadership experience that can easily be included on your resumé or CV.

Certainly, it is never too late to strengthen your professional skillset by taking on a valuable role in your chapter. Even if annual chapter officer positions have already been filled, you can always offer to start a new committee or officer position at your chapter. Visit this list of leadership types to see which ones might be suitable additions for your chapter.

Goal 3: Chapter Experiences

There are countless ways to create long-lasting memories and friendships with your chapter members. For example, consider having regular community service events, ice cream socials, game nights, pizza parties, and more! Learning about fascinating topics such as Female Serial Killers or watching a psychological thriller film together can be lots of fun too!

And last of all, remember to make recruitment a priority at your chapter. Inviting potential members to join early in the semester could give you chapter an extra boost in attendance and support throughout the year! View our Identify–Invite–Induct PDF for specific suggestions to support your recruitment drives.

Conduct an Experiment

It’s going to be a great academic year! In the comments below, tell us some activities you would like to participate in with your chapter (login required). And don’t forget to upload your chapter’s official goals HERE.

Tags:  A Better You  Chapter Life  Psi Chi Related 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

If Knowledge Is Power, Experience Is the Key: Internships and Service Learning Opportunities

Posted By Kaitlyn Louise Nasworthy, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

If Knowledge Is Power,
Experience Is the Key: Internships
and Service Learning Opportunities

Kaitlyn Louise Nasworthy, Georgia Southern University

All serious psychology students are aware of how important their degree credentials will be to their future. Their alma mater, GPA, chosen courses, and CORE course levels will be examined every time their transcript is submitted for potential jobs and graduate schools. This is why many programs on campuses nationwide push students to succeed in their degrees and earn the highest grades they possibly can earn. Psychology students get an abundance of resources that include tutoring and mentoring, research mentors, how-to guides from online schools, free pdfs of APA writing guildlines and research methods, and loads of extra credit from very kind and understanding professors. As long as students apply themselves, succeeding in getting a psychology degree presents very little difficulty.

But, being a psychology student should be more than just getting a degree. It needs to involve service learning, volunteer work, gaining experience in several areas of psychology, and taking a more hands-on approach to their career building. Although some colleges do offer service learning courses for psychology students and many offer internships, academic excellence is pushed above all else. This, combined with the lack of paid and/or part-time internships, sets up students to defer hands-on work experience in favor of studying, earning extra credit, and focusing more on lecture material than applying it to their future careers. As a result, many psychology students ignore the importance of building tangible real-world skills for their chosen careers, or miss out with experimenting in potential psychology fields they may not have considered otherwise.

Challenges to Obtain These Opportunities

Academic excellence is highly important, and I have always pushed myself to do my very best for both of my degrees. Likewise, I encourage all my peers and colleagues to do the same. However, I do wish I was more involved in service learning opportunities while in school. The few internships and service learning course slots filled up quickly, were highly competitive, and had very strict entrance criteria to meet before being considered. I have heard many other psychology students voice similar opinions on the matter as well. For example, a colleague of mine applied to one of the internship opportunities that my university offers twice, but could not get it because of no prior work experience within the field (clinical psychology). Another colleague of mine applied to this same internship and did not get it because they were 0.2 of a GPA point away from the official GPA requirement, despite having three years of experience. Then, there are students who cannot afford to work in unpaid internships because they are paying for school, and even their own bills!

Strategies to Succeed

So, how do we fix this problem? In my opinion, internships should be gateways to skill-building, and prospective students should not be required to have prior experience to be considered for them. But, internships should not be the only service learning to be presented to students. Professors and faculty could always make sure students are aware of community events that could use their help, centers that need volunteers, and part-time work on and off campus that could help students hone their psychology skills. There should always be a chance for students of all walks of life to apply themselves and learn more about what to expect from their chosen careers.

I also understand that all internships cannot afford to pay students. That being said, internships should offer more than just class credit for students because many students would have to balance class and another job with it. Perhaps they could be treated like graduate assistantships; in lieu of giving the students a paycheck or stipend, offer them a tuition discount for the semester after completing the internship. This would make paying for school easier and allow the students to perform their internship duties relatively stress-free, increasing job performance. This would be especially helpful for on-campus internships and volunteer work because both the students and the university would benefit from it.

As psychology students, we know our field has, can, and will continue to change the world. We learn this in lecture, online work, while writing research papers and reading peer reviewed journals, and creating and carrying out our own research and peer-reviewed writing. Nevertheless, learning should take place outside the classroom as much as it does inside the classroom. So apply to that internship, volunteer at your local psychology clinic, shadow a classroom, type in data for a colleague’s research, and always look out for new opportunities to learn in every psychological field. If knowledge is indeed power, than experience is the key to utilizing that power.

Tags:  A Better You  Career Advice 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

The Pursuit of Graduate School: Vanity or Necessity?

Posted By Carolyn Cowl-Witherspoon, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Pursuit of Graduate School:
Vanity or Necessity?

Carolyn Cowl-Witherspoon, Walden University (MN)

For most of my life, I have felt suction cupped in place. It is a curious feeling because, although there is often a perceived sense of movement, no actual forward momentum occurs. It was during a moment of visceral awareness that I recognized my lack of progressive movement, and that realization propelled me to return to graduate school 30 years after completing my undergraduate degree. Making the decision to return to graduate school was fairly easy, but actually returning to graduate school has been somewhat more challenging. My young brain was a marvel, quick and curious, effortlessly connecting disparate chunks of knowledge into a seamless unification of understanding and content mastery. When I was awarded my bachelors degree, I felt no glowing sense of pride or feeling of accomplishment because it had taken no appreciable effort to achieve it. It felt more like successfully completing the automatic process of a breathing cycle: inhalation, exhalation, inhalation, exhalation. Natural.

Partnered with my older brain, graduate school and the processes of learning are both vaguely familiar and exhilarating, reminiscent of the innate cycles of my breathing, except paced to a roller coaster’s rhythm. From my very first glance at my very first syllabus in my very first graduate course, I was convinced that I had waited far too long to return to school. I was concerned that the academic burdens of graduate school might simply overwhelm my less-elastic brain, prohibiting me from learning anything. However, I was relieved to recognize that although my brain functions differently now, it still functions. Gone are the heady abilities of my youth when I could glance quickly at a textbook and be able to instantly recall its contents days later. Instead, that has been replaced by a steady consistency of reading and review, allowing me to acquire new knowledge through a cycle of gentle repetition.

And so I made it through my first course, and then my second, and then the next. In fact, it began to feel almost effortless, just like breathing in and out. It was automatic, natural. The final course in my Masters program was the subject of one of my areas of specialty, and it was especially gratifying to be able to finish my graduate degree by taking a course that I really enjoyed. As I moved through that last course and the quarter unwound with one week melting into the next, I began to wonder how it would feel when I had finally achieved my initial objective of earning a Masters degree. And more importantly, would it represent enough tangible forward movement for me to perceive that I had finally loosened and lifted the edges of my metaphorical suction cup. When I turned in my last assignment and realized that I had successfully completed graduate school after a 30 year hiatus from the educational process, I definitely, finally felt something about my academic achievement: pride, and it felt very empowering and affirming. I recognized that I had truly earned this degree through indefatigable determination, intellectual curiosity, and very hard work.

So, now what? My initial goal was successfully realized. I have completed my Masters degree, and it has been an incredibly positive and productive experience. However, have I learned enough and will it be enough, personally and professionally, for me to actually move forward (Murdoch, 2016)? My graduate program has taught me to think scientifically (Dane, Baer, Pratt, & Oldham, 2011; Kuhn, Ramsey, & Arvidsson, 2015; Pinnow, 2016), so I began to assess the logic of academic continuation from a scientific perspective. I am, after all, an older learner, and I have often wondered if it would be financially advisable or professionally viable to continue moving forward in pursuit of a PhD. I have also considered that, within the field of psychology, there is often a perceived value difference in academic credibility between a Masters and a PhD. Therefore, perhaps my career opportunities and professional options would be enhanced if I continue to move forward. Most notably, I have asked myself if the desire that compels me to consider this additional academic commitment and resulting financial burden are motivated by personal vanity or justifiably warranted because of professional necessity and expediency.

I have vacillated daily between resolving to stop and being determined to continue; but in the end, my decision was predicated upon the most unexpected catalyst. I had turned in a project in my last course, and my professor called me to say that it had far exceeded the efforts of my classmates. In fact, she told me that it had far exceeded the efforts of the doctoral students, and she wanted my permission to use my project as an exemplary for current and future students in the course. She also asked me if I planned to continue in my studies, indicating that it would be unfortunate if I chose to stop, because she believes that I understand the material in an exceptional way. It was at that precise moment that I decided to continue, unencumbered by reservations.

In reflection, maybe I felt suction cupped in place for so long because I was simply waiting for that catalytic moment, for someone who I respect to remind me that the forward momentum in our academic and professional lives really is just like breathing in and out. It can be automatic, and effortless, and natural. It is something that we just do. Upon reflection, I often wonder if these feelings are simply unique to me, or if they are shared by my colleagues, mentors, and classmates. Do we all yearn for more, and in our yearning, do we wait for that universalized catalytic moment that ultimately propels us forward? What do you think?

Conduct a Lab Experiment

Psi Chi members, are you considering returning to graduate school? Post your questions or advice in the comments below (login required).


Dane, E., Baer, M., Pratt, M. G., & Oldham, G. R. (2011). Rational versus intuitive problem solving: How thinking 'off the beaten path' can stimulate creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5, 3–12.

Kuhn, D., Ramsey, S., & Arvidsson, T. S. (2015). Developing multivariable thinkers. Cognitive Development, 35, 92–110.

Murdoch, D. D. (2016). Psychological literacy: Proceed with caution, construction ahead. Dove Press, 9, 189–199.

Pinnow, E. (2016). Decoding the disciplines: An approach to scientific thinking. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 15, 94–101.

Tags:  A Better You  Going to Grad School 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Keeping Procrastination at Bay

Posted By Rowena Li Tieng Kong, Monday, November 20, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Keeping Procrastination at Bay

Rowena Li Tieng Kong, University of British Columbia Chapter, Vancouver, Canada

Are you a friend or foe of procrastination? As university students, we have all been there and done that—none of us are completely free from this temptation. However, to minimize the harmful effects that procrastination tends to bring upon us, it is worth the time to think about its lures and traps. As an undergraduate for more than four years, I have put together a list of seven points and strategies that I use to remind myself to stay away from submitting an after-deadline assignment or slacking off during exams.

1. Time and Guilt

The more you procrastinate, the more it will affect the outcome, and the sooner the guilt will build up and increase along with it. The way you cope with the guilt and frustration for squandering time can either deter or lead you closer to working on that assignment and studying for finals. It takes a student’s well-balanced perspective and sense of responsibility to ensure that the burden of increased guilt will not result in avoidance of work because of the negativity of perception and emotion it carries.

2. Lack of Information and Initiative

I have found that gathering information about my assignments, no matter how trivial or insignificant the details, makes me more likely to take an earlier initiative to start working on them. Information input stirs up interest and relieves you of the burden of guilt that stems from not putting in the time and effort that you should be doing. It does not matter how small the effort with which you begin, the determination will follow later like a domino effect.

3. Keep Distractions to a Minimum

That means physically, socially, emotionally, and mentally. It is not enough to distance yourself from just one or two of these four channels because it takes only one kind of distraction to divert your attention. Students may work up their determination to reject party invitations and stay alone to study, but if they turn up the volume of their favorite music, there is still much mental concentration and focus to lose.

4. Listen to Your Conscience and Agree With It!

It is one thing to be reminded of an obligation and another thing to align your opinion completely with it. Often, we may take heed but never reach the climax of an agreement with the message broadcasted by our conscience. The inner warning bell that chimes of an impending deadline is meant for our own good and should not to be taken lightly. Interestingly, I find that it tends to resound with greater intensity and more frequently the closer I get to submission deadline, even when I have already gotten everything done for the assignment. Our brain works around time, and our consciousness of it seems to be a unique secondary kind of circadian rhythm. That inner voice could be the most dependable and wisest psychologist inside you. When we dismiss it repeatedly by countering it with excuses, its influence can be altered in the mind and former priorities shoved out of place.

5. Work Out and Practice Your Interest

Yes, it takes exercise and practice to arouse and develop a genuine interest in your coursework that could prevent you from regressing into procrastination. One of the best ways that you can succeed is asking questions about your course material and assignments. We are born to ask questions; that is what birthed science in its beginning. You don't have to worry that your questions may sound weird or off-topic. Even if they do, asking questions is your chance to work out that implicit link between your thoughts and the subject matter. This process helps generate curiosity, voluntary participation, creativity, and ultimately self-enjoyment about the course you are taking. Work becomes less dull and more bearable when you discover the fun in creating new ideas for your assignment.

6. Not a One-Time Affair

One thing we tend to take for granted is that procrastination only matters when deadlines and exams are fast approaching. Such a perception only offers us excuses to take our obligations seriously “when the time comes” and makes less use of the early period way before the deadline when we are still less stressed out. It would be a bonus to work on a task in advance when you’re spared from the time pressure so that you have clarity and peace of mind to come up with more nicely planned and creative ideas. Treat the avoidance of procrastination as an ongoing process.

7. Reward Yourself

The concept of instrumental conditioning tells us that we would engage in a certain behavior when we are given more positive rewards through reinforcement. Therefore, we should not miss out on rewarding ourselves each time we have progressed through a stage of an assignment or a list of course objectives. Often, our first thought of reward would be a physical object (e.g. snack and movie ticket), but let us not forget about meaningful emotional rewards. Each time you complete a work portion, try setting aside a personal moment for positive self-talk and praise on the effort you have sacrificed. It makes the whole job more rewarding and the final goal worth reaching for.

Conduct a Lab Experiment

Psi Chi members, share your strategies to keep procrastination at bay in the comment section below (login required).

Tags:  A Better You 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
Page 2 of 3
1  |  2  |  3

Psi Chi Central Office
651 East 4th Street, Suite 600
Chattanooga, TN 37403

Phone: 423.756.2044 | Fax: 423.265.1529


Certified member of the
Association of College Honor Societies