This blog has been inspired by my role as an ambassador for the school of psychology at Cardiff. Apart from writing this blog, my role is to be a point of contact both for prospective students and undergraduates to ask questions about my experiences with the course, the university and Cardiff in general. I help out at the psychology open days, I do talks and presentations at secondary schools and I receive emails over facebook regularly – what I often see is that there are a few very similar questions that continue to crop up time and time again. So I thought i’d help y’all out and write a little FAQ section on Cardiff University and the School of Psychology.
I’ve attempted to put them in some kind of chronological order – Pre-Uni, The Course, The Uni, The City and finally My Personal Tips. If you have any burning questions that I haven’t addressed here, please feel free to email me over facebook, and I’ll do my best to help you out: https://www.facebook.com/hannah.chandler.568
What GCSE’s do I need? At the point I was choosing, in fact throughout my GCSE’s, I had no idea what I wanted to do. My best advice to this question would be to go for the subjects you are really interested in. You’ll probably be more likely to do well in those subjects as you’ll actually want to learn about them. Having said this, it’s also an idea to keep your options broad, because that will leave more doors open later on.
What A-levels do I need? Again, my advice for this would be similar to that of GCSE’s – choose what you’re interested in. If you do have an idea of what you want to do at university, then research around. A lot of uni courses require you to reach a certain grade in a particular subject, so look at the universities that offer your course and see what requirements they have for it. In terms of psychology, a lot of unis don’t require you to have any subject in particular, but if you have a science, entry requirements may be slightly lower. From my experience, the subjects that you will probably find the most useful would be Psychology (obviously), Biology, Maths Studies (a more statistics based and applied maths course) and English Literature. Something else to consider is alternative courses to A-levels. I took the International Baccalaureate (IB) and this involved studying six subjects. This was great for me as I had no idea what I wanted to do, so it kept my options open. It also meant I ended up studying subjects that have come in very handy at university!
Why did I choose psychology? As I mentioned, I chose to do the IB instead of A-levels. Because of it’s nature, within the IB you have to pick six subjects, one of which being a humanity. I had the choice of either psychology or philosophy. Philosophy never really appealed to me so that sort of left psychology. So I guess you could say that I chose it as a ‘filler’ subject. I didn’t even really know what is was about when I filled in my application form. It was only over summer that I actually started researching what it involved… and that was when I fell in love. I realised Psychology was the subject that explored all the types of questions I’d been asking since I was a diddy. Ever since I stepped into that first lesson i knew that psychology was what i was going to study at uni….and the rest is history so they say!
…But I don’t know what I want to do at university! I’m about to say what everyone says, and I know that sometimes it’s hard to believe them, but don’t panic – you don’t have to know now! If it’s coming up to the time to apply to university, don’t worry! Book an appointment with a careers advisor, they may be able to help point you in directions you’d never even considered or heard of! There are always Gap years, which can give you invaluable experience that will come in handy when it’s time to start applying for those all important jobs. You don’t even have to go to university, there are some really amazing vocational courses out there. There are also a number of invaluable apprenticeship opportunities too. Having said that if you know that you definitely want to go to university, then psychology is a good course to choose if you don’t know what you want to eventually end up doing. Psychology gives you so many transferrable skills – such as critical thinking, dealing with data and research skills to name but a few. Here’s an interesting fact for you: According to the British Psychological Society, 75% of psychology graduates pursue a career path that isn’t related to becoming a chartered psychologist. The skills you learn on the course, especially here at Cardiff, give you essential skills that employers may typically look for.
What should I put in my personal statement for Psychology? Yourself! The universities want to know who YOU are. They want to know if you have the passion and interest in the subject. Yes definitely get it checked over, but make sure the changes others suggest don’t end up eradicating the ‘you-ness’ from it! In terms of content, do a bit of research… Find out what particular themes/subjects the courses you are interested in cover. When I wrote mine, I knew that Cardiff’s course looked at memory. So what I did was try to tie this into my previous experiences. For example in my personal statement I said something along the lines of: ‘As I grew up I wondered why my Grandfather could recount detailed stories of his experiences in the war, yet couldn’t remember where he’d just left his glasses’ . . . just something that subtly shows the person reading your personal statement that you are meant to be at their university!
What part of Psychology am I interested in? I think I’ve pretty much gone through the spectrum of what I’m interested in. I started out coming into Cardiff absolutely dead certain that I was going to be a clinical psychologist…as the weeks went on I started developing an interest in cognitive psychology….then perception…..moving onto forensic psychology and psychopaths….then a bit of sport psychology. The current interest is occupational psychology; and I think i’ve got it this time! This is the one I am most passionate about and I’m about to go into this sector for my placement….but the future isn’t set and this could well change! Isn’t it true that the average person goes through about 5 or 6 career changes in their lifetime?!
What differentiates the course at Cardiff from other Psychology courses at other universities? This one is a tricky one as I can’t really answer it from an experience point of view! What I do like about the way that the course at Cardiff is designed is that you’re not there to just learn about Psychology. Cardiff’s psychology course is very skill based. What i mean by this is that it teaches you skills on how to be an independent learner, a critical thinker, and how to articulate clear and concise writing (I hope it’s coming off here!). Already after two years I’ve seen a big change in myself, how I write, how I learn and how i research and revise. I genuinely believe that I don’t think I could of improved so much as I have done here. The second thing I really like about Cardiff, and what ultimately was the deciding factor for me, was that Cardiff offer a sandwich course – a.k.a a placement year. I’ve come to learn that this is going to be absolutely essential when I reach the stage of applying for jobs. Not only that, but i’ve heard so many positive things about this year out. So many people have great experiences and learn so much about themselves whilst developing their skills that I wouldn’t want to miss out on it for the world. It’s basically a time to get a great quality experience whilst still being supported by that university. Thirdly, I also like the fact the first few modules you take in your first year are designed so that you have a good grounding for the rest of the course. What I mean is that the first modules you take are: Practical Psychology, Research Methods and Statistics, and an Introduction to Psychology. In these modules you learn about the way research is conducted and how to conduct it yourself, which means you are then in a better position to understand research papers and what the results mean for the argument you are trying to make. Finally, the course is of course BPS accredited – which is essential if you want to go on to become a chartered psychologist.
Is statistics hard?/I didn’t study maths or sciences, will this be a problem? It’s really not as hard as it’s made out to be. So many people do really well in this module. If you are finding it tricky though there is plenty of support available. There are a number of maths support sessions run, where you can drop in and ask your questions that you don’t understand. You can always email the lecturers and many will be happy to help. There’s also a discussion board on your Cardiff email site where you can post questions and lecturers will respond with their answers. and of course, there are other students who you will know in and around psych who are always happy to help.
Do I get any free time?/What are the contact hours like? With pretty much any Psychology course, there aren’t a lot of contact hours involved. You will typically have about 6 hours of lectures a week and a couple of hours of tutorials. However, you are expected to put a lot more work in than this. The expectation is that you spend 200 hours on each module. That’s about 55 hours a week for all three modules. Why? Because it’s a very independent learning course. They don’t want to spoon feed you the information. They do give guidance on how to research and where to look for the type of information you need, but essentially you are the one who finds the research papers and controls your own learning. In terms of free time, yes! You do get free time, they don’t expect you to spend every waking hour working, there is plenty of time for volunteering, sports, socials and of course, the all important partying!
Have you ever encountered any problems? Firstly, the style of teaching is very different from what you will have been used to at 6th form or college. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you get into the swing of it very quickly. Secondly, I’ll be honest, as with any psychology or indeed any university course/degree there will be some lecturers who you just don’t really fit their style of teaching. But that’s ok! Generally each module is split between three or four lecturers, so chances are you’ll like most of them! Thirdly, it’s quite scary to think that you have only one shot at course work and exams. In the past you used to have mocks, and re-drafts and re-takes….now it’s one shot to get the grade you want. Yes, it’s scary, but don’t worry, again you’ll get used to it and actually, it’s not that bad! You just got to make sure coursework is in on time! Finally, the thing for me that was most tricky this year, was fitting everything in that I wanted to do. I’ve probably overloaded myself a little bit, but you have so many opportunities available to you at Cardiff that you really don’t want to turn them down!
How do I find Cardiff University and the city? I absolutely 100% love it. To me, it’s the best place I could have possibly have been. Cardiff as a city is not too big that it’s overwhelming, but big enough to have everything you need. Everything is within walking distance too. There’s not really much need for buses and taxis, unless of course you’re on a night out! The university is also very supportive. Our student union is incredible! You really have to come and check it out for yourself. The facilities really are outstanding, and I genuinely am so happy here. Once again, it’s the best place I could have possibly have been.
What support is there available? At Cardiff we have what is called the’Student Support Centre’. This place is amazing and offers you Advice and Guidance, Financial support, Counselling, Support for International students, and support for dyslexic/disabled students. Any need is catered for (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/studentsupport/ https://twitter.com/CardiffUniSSC). Something that I personally found really helpful is that the Union offer a service to check over your contract before you sign for a house. This just ensures that you’re not going to be left short-handed. I’d advice any one who were about to sign for a house you use this service as it really helped us. Finally, there are also a number of student led services on hand to offer support to anyone who needs it:
– Nightline – a confidential listening service open from 8pm to 8am. Anything from troubling housemates to work stress to pizza numbers! (https://twitter.com/CardiffNL).
– SRSH – Student Run Self Help works to help support students with eating disorders (https://twitter.com/SRSH_Cardiff).
– Mental Wealth – Student run group promoting positive well being and raising mental health awareness (https://twitter.com/CardiffMW)
With many more besides. There is always someone to talk to about nay problem you may have.
My Personal Tips
What are my personal tips when looking for universities? Firstly, check out the course & what final year modules that course offers. You need to be interested in what is taught, otherwise you’re not going to enjoy the course! Secondly, VISIT the universities. This is so important. You’ll get ‘the feeling’ to know whether this is the place for you or not. I certainly got it with Cardiff. There are some places you’ll go to as well that you know won’t really work for you. Choosing a uni is all about personal preference, and you’re not going to know unless you visit the place. Thirdly, work experience, work experience, work experience! Get as much as you can – especially over summer. Universities and employers alike love it. Get going early and you’ll save yourself the stress for later on. And finally, look up the societies and sports clubs on offer. It’ll make fresher’s fayre a little less overwhelming, and you’ll already have an idea in your head of what you want to ask when you get there.
One last note, throw yourself into everything you want to do and give everything and anything a try! University offers you so many exciting opportunities and you’d be crazy to miss out.
Remember if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I always love hearing from you. (https://www.facebook.com/hannah.chandler.568)
For now, good luck with exams and hopefully I’ll be seeing you in September!
A week in the life of a psychology student at Cardiff University: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVUXTyeCaJc