Welcome to the Psychology Department

Major Explorations: Psychology

Catherine Sanderson, Poler Family Professor in Psychology and Chair of Psychology provides an overview of the psychology department, including some of the courses students can enroll in and careers that a psychology major can pursue.

Most prospective majors and non-majors begin exploring psychology by taking PSYC-100 Introduction to Psychology.  Almost all courses in psychology require PSYC-100 and some upper-level courses have additional prerequisites. These prerequisites are not designed to exclude non-majors from Psychology Department courses. Rather, they are meant to ensure that the students and professor share a common background and vocabulary with which to approach the course material. Therefore, we strongly recommend that students who might be interested in taking a psychology course at Amherst (as a major or non-major) start by taking Psychology 100. 

Psych 100 is a very popular course on campus — approximately half of the student body takes Psyc 100 at some point during their stay at Amherst. Consequently, the demand for the course exceeds the space available every semester. The department has adopted a set of procedures for both fall and spring semesters to make enrollment in Psyc 100 as fair as possible; interested students are STRONGLY encouraged to pre-register both semesters. For fall sections of Psyc 100, space will be given to all upper-class students who preregister in the spring, and all remaining open spaces will then go to first-year students when they register in August (see below for specific information about the August preregistration process). For spring sections of Psyc 100, first-year students will receive priority over all other students (and there is typically no space for non-first-year students). 

August 2024 Preregistration Process for First-Year Students:

First, the Introduction to Psychology course emphasizes the development of essential skills in research, writing, and critical thinking - not simply the mastery of major theories and findings in psychology - and therefore students are not able to place out of our introduction to psychology class by taking AP Psychology. All first-year students interested in exploring the psychology major should therefore plan to take the introduction to psychology course (PSYC-100) sometime in their first three semesters.

Second, the three sections of Introduction to Psychology (PSYC-100) this fall have a combined total of about 65 openings for first year students. We anticipate that all of these spaces will be taken earlier in the August preregistration process, and thus if you have a later registration time slot, it is likely you will not receive a space. If you are interested in taking Introduction to Psychology this fall but all spaces are full before you register, you should email Professor Catherine Sanderson (casanderson@amherst.edu) to get on a waitlist for any spots that open up. You can add yourself to a waitlist for any or all of the sections that work with your schedule.  You can also attend the first day of class for any or all of the PSYC-100 course meetings, which will give you first priority for any spaces that open up if currently enrolled students do not attend. Please note that students who are enrolled and do not attend the first class are automatically dropped from the course.

Finally, it is absolutely possible to major in psychology by taking the Introduction to Psychology course in the spring semester of your first year, or even in the fall semester of your sophomore year. All spaces in the spring semester sections of this course are reserved for first-year students, and most first-years who preregister in November will get a space in one of the three sections offered in the spring of 2025.

Please contact Catherine Sanderson (casanderson@amherst.edu) with any questions about the Introduction to Psychology course.