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

Students who successfully complete all requirements for the major will earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. 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 or IB Credits

AP and IB Psychology 

Students who earn a 4 or a 5 on the AP Psychology test, or a 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB 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 and IB 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/IB 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/IB Credit

Course Requirement It Satisfies




Can substitute for PSYCH 201

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

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

2 credits (MATH 220 and 224) = 2 200 level Math courses
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 or IB Psychology credit

As noted above, students with AP or IB 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 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. To be eligible for this class, you must be a first-year student in the Fall and have (a) earned a 4 or 5 on the AP Psychology exam, (b) earned a 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB Psychology exam and/or (c) completed Introduction to Psychology at a college or university from which Northwestern accepts credit. 
  • Other Good Courses for First-Year Students

    First-years who have AP or IB 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 technically eligible to enroll in Research Methods in Psychology (PSYCH 205). However, students should take at least one content course at Northwestern (e.g., Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Psychology of Personality, or Cognitive Psychology) before taking Research Methods. Students MAY NOT take Research Methods during their first term at Northwestern.


Psychology classes are quite popular and many of them fill up quickly.  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. 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 If you would like to contact an adviser directly, feel free to email Sara Broaders at

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