Psychology department launches post-baccalaureate program

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UC Berkeley’s psychology department launched a post-baccalaureate program this semester that aims to prepare students for research-based graduate psychology programs.

Post-baccalaureate programs are designed to prepare college graduates for graduate school or careers but are not considered to be graduate school. For up to four semesters, students in the program take introductory and upper-division psychology courses, participate in research and receive professional development help from advisers.

Richard Ivry, professor and psychology department chair, and campus assistant professor of psychology Aaron Fisher run the program together.

After the students have completed their coursework, they receive a certificate in psychology. Fisher said it is the preparation and research opportunities the program offers that will help students when applying for graduate programs.

In addition to their coursework and research, students meet with an adviser once a week. The students receive advice in many areas, including how to write a graduate school application, build relationships with professors, decide on a field of psychology and start a research program.

This professional development approach “puts them in a position where they get the big picture,” Fisher said.

Fisher and Ivry selected three students, who are enrolled in UC Berkeley Extension but take classes on campus, for the program’s inaugural semester.

“We wanted a small number of folks who were a really good fit,” Fisher said. “People who were academically successful … and had a clear idea of what they wanted to get out of it and where they wanted to go.”

Fisher said they are planning to enroll three more students next semester and grow the program from there. Students can apply on the program’s website.

Emily Becklund, a student in the program, graduated from the University of Southern California in 2012 with a degree in public policy but said she thought she would never have the chance to explore her intellectual interests in graduate school because she “majored in the wrong thing.”

Fisher had a similar experience to Becklund’s after finishing his undergraduate education. He majored in music but was struggling to make it in the business. On a whim, he applied to a post-baccalaureate psychology program at Columbia University, which led him to graduate school and a career in psychology.

“I cannot overstate the impact the opportunity had in my life,” he said. “It’s amazing to be able to share that opportunity with other people.”

Robin Hailstorks, associate executive director of precollege and undergraduate education at the American Psychological Association, said programs such as these help students get started in the field.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring students into the discipline who really have an interest in pursuing graduate education,” she said.

Contact Sonja Hutson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.