Psi Chi, Psychology's National Honors Society

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What is Psi Chi

Psi Chi is Psychology's National Honors Society. It was founded in 1929 based on discussions that took place at KU. That is why we are Charter # 1!

Benefits of joining Psi Chi:

  • When you become a member of Psi Chi, you are a member for life.
  • You get to graduate wearing a special cord.
  • The documents a membership certificate and card which give tangible evidence of membership.
  • The references provided throughout one's lifetime (this service alone is worth the investment).
  • The experience gained by working with Psi Chi is excellent for building up a resume.
  • Psi Chi is a springboard for professional growth. Opportunities are made available to the members for promoting their research, receiving national and international recognition, meeting and interacting with leaders in their field, and meeting Psi Chi members of other chapters.
  • The United States government recognizes membership in Psi Chi as meeting one of the requirements for entrance to the GS-7 security level in the Federal service.
  •  Scholarship opportunities
  • A fun, relaxed atmosphere in which to discuss psychology

For those of you who are interested in becoming a Psi Chi member.

Steps to Apply:

Step1: Go to the Psi Chi website

Step2: Go to “JOIN” (don’t click on it). Then click on “Become a Member”. Go to the button of the page and click on the orange button “APPLY NOW”. After that, hit the blue button “APPLY NOW” in the next page.

Step3: Fill out the application form.

Step4: Turn in a physical copy of your DPR and a $70 check ($55 for Psi Chi, $15 chapter fee) paid to Psi Chi to the Psychology department main office, 426 Fraser.

Prospective members must:

  • Have a minimum 3.25 GPA overall (minimum 3.5 in Psychology).
  • Have completed at least three semesters of college.
  • Be officially registered as a Psychology major or minor (or allied field emphasizing Psychology).
  • Have high standards of academic conduct (no academic misconduct on their record).
  • Have completed at least 9 semester hours of psychology courses.

Honor Cords

It's getting close to graduation time, and Psi Chi members get the opportunity to graduate with a stylish Honors Cord!

Applications are due by April 30. Please turn in your check and a filled out Honor Cord Application form to the Psi Chi box in 426 Fraser. A Psi Chi officer will then contact you in order to confirm your application and to direct you to Dr. Cushing to pick up your cord.

Contact the Psi Chi Officer Team

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In this section of our web site you'll find lots of helpful tips, whether your ultimate goal is admission to graduate school, finding a career to fit with your psychology degree, or even if you're not really sure what it is that you'd like to do. We're here to help you succeed and get the most out of your time at KU, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to send us an e-mail at

While it is certainly important to go to class and get good grades, there is so much more that can be done to really maximize your psychology degree. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that GPA is not even the most important factor considered by graduate admissions committees! With that idea in mind, let's take a look at some of the things you can do outside the classroom to really get the most out of your experience.

  • Benefits of Involvement in Undergraduate Research
  • Vital to Graduate School Admittance
  • Can be taken for course credit
  • Getting to know professors on a personal level
  • Excellent way to obtain Letters of Recommendation
  • Better understanding of the academic process of psychological research
  • Learn more about the various fields of psychology and where your interests fit in

  • So how do I get involved?

Glad you asked! The first step is to identify a couple professors that you would potentially be interested in working with. Ideally, it should be an area in which you're interested, but it's not absolutely necessary. As long as you bring a positive attitude and strong work ethic to the lab, you will certainly be successful.

One of the best ways to identify potential research advisors is to check out the KU Psychology department faculty page, where you can locate contact information, areas of expertise, and a brief summary of research interests for the professors here at KU. Pick a few that you might be interested in working with and send them an e-mail indicating your interest. If all goes well, they'll probably want to set up a meeting with you to discuss the research that they are doing and to make sure that you'll be a good fit in their lab. Additionally, it's important to note that you need not be enrolled in a professor's class to help with their research. If a professor that you don't have for class is doing research that you find exciting, feel free to contact them and ask if you can help.

  • OK, so I'm already involved in undergraduate research. What else can I do to maximize my undergraduate experience?

There are a number of different things that you can do, starting with working on your networking skills. We've previously mentioned that letters of recommendation are important, so the more professors you know (or the more that know you), the better off you'll be when it becomes time to ask for those all-important letters. Some good ways to get to know your teachers are simple, but effective. For starters, be sure to go to office hours for all of your professors, if for no other reason than to introduce yourself!

It can also be to your benefit to get involved in Psi Chi, as it will be a good way to discuss ideas with peers and professors alike.

  • What about the Honors program?

The Honors program at KU can be another fantastic way to enhance your profile and your resume. Honors students conduct their own research in the form of an honors thesis, and they are among the best and brightest psychology majors at the university. For more information about requirements and signing up, check out the Psychology Honors web site.

  • Is there anything that I can do outside of school that would make me a more appealing candidate to graduate schools or to potential employers?

Absolutely. There is always a need for volunteers in various mental health fields, and that can be a great thing to add to your resume. In Lawrence, check out the website for volunteering at Headquarters. It can be a great source for information about becoming a volunteer in a psychology-related field. You can also look into potential employment in a related field. University Career and Employment Services offers outstanding assistance when it comes to finding a job that is both interesting, and that will look great on your resume.

Basis of My Letters

As a general rule, I write almost exclusively from first-hand knowledge and experience with you and with your work. Therefore it is important that you look carefully at the dimensions that are important for a particular school or employer; you should be certain that the kind of interactions you and I have had will give me sufficient grounds to answer the questions asked. For someone I have known exclusively in a class, I am pretty comfortable writing about school skills, verbal facility (written and oral), and general academic potential; I would be less confident that I can attest to your emotional maturity, leadership potential, social skills, likely success as a clinician, or other more personal characteristics. Sometimes a resume or personal statement will give me a fact or two that I can use to amplify a point I want to make, but the core of my recommendation must come from personal experience. Inevitably the material for the most convincing letters comes from experiences that have occurred outside the usual classroom setting; those interactions can take place while working on research or teaching together, or it can come from conversations outside of class.

Kinds of Letters

As both a writer of letters and someone who reads dozens of recommendation letters each year, I can offer you some sense of the classes of letters that are produced. First, there is the basic letter that describes your performance in one or two classes; this letter will repeat the grades and include an anecdote about class participation or maybe a term paper topic. Sometimes I can write a basic-plus letter that describes an occasional out of class conversation that confirms the plans, goals, and values articulated in your personal statement. Second, there is a moderate letter that describes your performance in more than two classes, along with some form of collaboration beyond class. This letter allows for examples of your taking initiative or responsibility in some form of non-standard effort, and the context is appropriate for drawing inferences that communicate more than what is found in the grades on the transcript. Finally, there are genuinely strong letters based on two or more classes and extended collaboration, including some independent work beyond assisting in an ongoing project. Interactions in this context allow me to give examples of performance that indicate an advanced level of maturity, creativity, and independent responsibility. When asked to evaluate whether someone would successfully complete a graduate program, this is the kind of repertoire I would like to describe. These situations also naturally provide opportunities for conversation about plans and goals, and there is more evidence of personal qualities that are obscured by the roles taken in classes.

Letter Strategy

As you go through your education in psychology, be sure to identify opportunities for the kinds of interactions that lead to letters of the stronger types. If you are asking for a letter in the fall of your last year, there is relatively little you can do to change the nature of your interactions with letter writers. At this point your strategy should be to note the kinds of information asked for in the letter (often in very small print near a large empty space) and give the form to people who can provide that kind of information. Sometimes this will not be an academic person.

Protocol for Requesting Letters

Following the list below should make your job more straightforward and make it easier for me to process your letters.

  1. Provide a list of all employers or schools, including the group or person to whom the letter should be addressed (e.g., Graduate Admissions Committee, Personnel Director); highlight on this list the due date, whether or not there is a standard form, and whether the letter is sent directly to the program/employer or to you for transmittal with your application.
  2. Include an addressed, stamped envelope for each letter. Editor's note: I would like to add that you should not put your home address as the return address. The professor will put his/her university address here.
  3. For each letter, list the job title or name of program and specific degree for which you are applying (e.g., M.A. in counseling, Ph.D. in Psychology, Staff Client Coordinator).
  4. If there is a standard form, be certain that it is filled in completely. This includes both your name and mine, as well as my office address and affiliation. If there is a waiver statement, be certain that you have marked your choice of option (either is acceptable to me) and signed the document.

    Editor's note: Some professors will not write a letter unless you have waived your right to see it. Also, letter-readers prefer to see this right waived because they can be more certain that the letter is honest. Check with your letter-writer if you are unsure. Also, a professor may prefer to fill in their own information- they often have an address stamp and can answer questions concerning rank which the student may not be able to.

    I would also add that a typed application looks especially good.
  5. A copy of your personal statement that you will be sending with your materials (if appropriate); if none is asked for, give a one paragraph statement of your goals related to this application and why you are a good fit for the position or program.
  6. You may also wish to include a brief (two pages maximum) vitae or resume that describes your academic and non-academic experiences (projects, school groups, employment, volunteer activities, cultural activities). Occasionally these activities will fit in with the letter I can write based on my own experiences; please help me by pointing out such connections if you include a resume.

Editor’s note: In the case that your letter of recommendation must be turned in via an online format, research the proper process for turning in the letter.  Explain the process to your letter-writer, whether they need to email the letter of recommendation or if they should be prepared to get an email from a service that will take them to a secure website in which they can upload the letter of recommendation. Continue to follow steps all steps other than step 2.

Additional Note:

Students sometimes believe that because they feel they know a professor well, that so too must the professor know them well. You may have had 2-3 classes with a professor, but if you didn't stand out- the sad truth is- the professor may not even pair your name with your face!

Be sure to take some time to let your professors know you. I have heard students assert that they do not stop by to see professors because they are 'independent'. Fine, but this 'independence' won't get you a good letter.

Many professors prefer to be contacted by email rather than, say, a phone call or a drop in. That's because they tend to be busy during the day, and an email can be read at any time.  Many, if not most, professors are very good at replying. If you've heard nothing within a week, it's ok to try again. Persistence often pays.

Keep in mind that you're not emailing a friend. Do not write 'hi' or 'hello' in the subject line. Better, write something like 'research in your lab' or 'PSYC 480'. Do not send attachments and avoid adding backgrounds and emoticons. Steer clear from slang.

Always address the recipient in the body with "Dr.". It is true that not all of the researchers at KU have their PhD, nor do all of the instructors. But all of the faculty do. If you're not sure who is faculty and who isn't, or who has their PhD (earning them the title 'Dr.') and who doesn't, it is much better to err on the side of caution and call someone "Dr." who technically isn't. In fact, it will make their day.

If you call a professor by their first name, or worse, by their nickname, don't be surprised if they don't get back to you.

Don't forget to sign your name, first name and last. Leave off your nickname as well.


Subj: Research opportunities

Dear Dr. Simpson,

I understand you are conducting research on perception and language. I would be very interested to get involved. Do you have any psyc 480 opportunities? I am a junior and am keenly interested in gaining research experience for grad school. I am a committed student, enthusiastic worker, and this experience is a priority for me.

Thank you very much in advance.


Amanda Reckonwith

So you're considering moving on to studies at the graduate level? Great!

With that decision, however, comes a great deal of anxiety. Much of that stress can stem from a lack of knowledge about what grad school is really like. With that in mind, a panel of first-year grad students was asked to field questions from undergrads and to talk a little about their experience early in their careers. Here is some of the information that we learned:

Taking a Year Off

Many students fear that taking a year off will somehow harm them in the admissions process or in some other way if they are considering graduate school. While there are a number of factors that must go into this decision for each individual, our panel included students who had gone straight from undergraduate to graduate work, as well as some who had taken a year or two off. The students who had taken time off seemed to agree that it was not a bad thing for them, and can actually be a positive experience, depending on your individual circumstances.

Clinical vs. Counseling Psychology

Clinical psychology programs tend to be more focused on psychopathology in the clinical training that you will receive. That is, clinical psychology tends to teach its students to identify and assess disorders, and then to treat those disorders with psychotherapy.

Counseling psychology, on the other hand, is more focused on providing patients with social support, and is likely to deal less with individuals with serious mental issues. Counseling psychologists may tend to see more individuals who are just in need of a little extra help, leaving patients with severe problems to clinical psychologists.

What about the Psy.D.?

The Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) is a degree that has come about more recently, and is probably a good choice for individuals who would like to receive clinical training, but have little or no interest in research. These programs focus almost entirely on clinical training, and don't require a dissertation like a Ph.D. program would. Instead, students in the Psy.D. program will do a "Senior Project," which can take a number of forms and is based on the interests of the student. While these programs are a helpful alternative for many, an important drawback is the cost. These programs can be quite expensive, since they are typically not funded like Ph.D. programs. If you would like to know more about the difference between the Psy.D. and the Ph.D., see Margaret Lloyd's Careers in Psychology Page.

Can I Work in Graduate School?

This is a question that can vary from program to program, but the idea among students in our panel is that it is very difficult to have a job while completing graduate school. However, many doctoral students do benefit from teaching or research assistantships, for which they are compensated with tuition waivers and/or stipends. This is definitely something to look at when choosing a graduate program.