First Year Focus

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior – how people perceive the world, think, and act.  The Department of Psychology at Northwestern University reflects the richness of the field as a whole, with five main areas of research and instruction: Brain, Behavior, & Cognition; Clinical Psychology; Cognitive Psychology; Personality Psychology; and Social Psychology. Members of the psychology faculty at Northwestern are active researchers, and the undergraduate program in psychology reflects their common concern with the advancement of knowledge about human behavior.

Why study Psychology?

Students of psychology ask the question "Why are people the way they are"?  A better understanding of human behavior has obvious benefits.  In addition, many of our courses emphasize the development of critical thinking skills such as the ability to consider evidence and evaluate opposing points of view. Students also gain practical experience developing research ideas, analyzing data, and communicating results.

What to do with a Psychology major?

Psychology combines the study of people with a focus on the analysis and interpretation of data, which provides an excellent foundation for a wide range of careers. Among the careers pursued by psychology majors are:

  • Psychology
    • Clinical and Counseling
    • Industrial/organizational
    • Research and/or teaching
  • Medicine
  • Law
  • Human Resources
  • Management and Business
  • Social work
  • Teaching
  • Other social service professions
  • Consulting

AP Credits

AP Psychology 

Students who earn a 4 or a 5 on the AP Psychology test should have PSYCH 110 listed on their transcripts, along with an indication that this is a test credit rather than credit for Northwestern course work.  These students do not need to take PSYCH 110 in order to fulfill the major or minor requirements, nor do they need it as a prerequisite for any other psychology courses.

Other AP credits 

To fulfill the requirements for a major or minor in psychology, students must complete Introduction to Psychology (PSYCH 110), Statistical Methods in Psychology (PSYCH 201), Research Methods in Psychology (PSYCH 205), and a variety of other psychology courses. The major also requires five “related courses” offered by other departments.  AP credits may count toward the statistics and “related courses” requirements.

The table below should help to guide you. For more details on counting AP scores toward Northwestern requirements, see the Weinberg College AP credit webpage.

Department courses for a major or minor in psychology

AP Credit

Course Requirement It Satisfies

AP Psychology


AP Statistics

Can substitute for PSYCH 201

Related courses for a major in psychology (2 200 level Math courses plus 3 additional eligible courses)
AP Credit Course Requirement It Satisfies
AP Calculus

1 credit (MATH 220) = 1 200-level Math course

2 credits (MATH 220 and 224) = 2 200 level Math courses
AP Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, and Physics All credits earned can count toward the "3 additional" related courses for the major

Courses to start with

First-year students are eligible to take a variety of courses in our department.

First-Year Seminars

Our department offers first-year seminars on a range of topics pertaining to psychology.  Recent examples include "Music and the Mind", "The Psychology of Bullying", and "The Psychology of Weird Beliefs".

Introduction to Psychology

Another good place to start is Introduction to Psychology (PSYCH 110).  This course provides a broad introduction to the field of psychology and the variety of questions that psychologists ask. It is a prerequisite for most of our other courses.

Students with AP Psychology credit

As noted above, students with AP credit for PSYCH 110 do not have to take the course at Northwestern. They can start with a 200-level psychology course. Options include:

  • Special First-Year Section of Developmental Psychology

    In Fall 2013 the department will be offering a special section of Developmental Psychology (PSYCH 218) just for first-year students. This is an excellent choice for students who already have credit for PSYCH 110. Psych 218 is by department permission only. To be eligible for this class, you must be a first-year in the Fall of 2013 and have (a) earned a 4 or 5 on the AP Psychology exam and/or (b) completed Introduction to Psychology at a college or university from which Northwestern accepts credit.

    If you have any general questions about the course, please get in touch with Maria Candelario, the undergraduate program assistant for Psychology, An invitation for enrollment will be sent out via email to eligible first-years twice, once before orientation week and again during orientation week. Only students that receive the invitation will be allowed to enroll. Instructions for enrollment will be provided in the invitation email. The course meets twice a week for lecture, and once a week in smaller discussion sections. Course and discussion section times are available on CAESAR.
  • Other Good Courses for First-Year Students

    First-years who have AP credit for PSYCH 110, or have already completed the course, are also eligible to enroll in Statistical Methods in Psychology (PSYCH 201), Social Psychology (PSYCH 204), Psychology of Personality (PSYCH 215), Cognitive Psychology (PSYCH 228), and some of our other courses.

    First-years with credit for both PSYCH 110 and PSYCH 201 are eligible to enroll in Research Methods in Psychology (PSYCH 205). However, it is advisable to take at least one content course at Northwestern (e.g., Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Psychology of Personality, or Cognitive Psychology) before taking Research Methods.


Psychology classes are quite popular and many of them fill up quickly.  But, students who declare a psychology major or minor are entitled to “preregister” for courses in our department.  This means that they can skip ahead and register earlier than students who have not declared. So, if you know you want to be a psychology major or minor, it pays to declare early!  Information on how to declare a psychology major or minor is on the department website.


You can take a look at our major and minor requirements here on our web site and read more about our undergraduate program.

Any student with questions about our major, our minor, our courses, or other aspects of our undergraduate program can contact the Undergraduate Program Assistant in the Psychology main office (Swift Hall 102, 847-491-5190).  You can also set up an appointment by stopping by the office in 102 Swift Hall or by emailing Or, if you would like to contact an adviser directly, feel free to email David Smith at

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