Skip to main content

First Year Focus

Expand all

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, Development, and Health; 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 Credits

AP and IB Psychology 

Students who earn a 5 on the AP Psychology test, or a 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB Psychology test, should have “PSYCH 110-Introduction to Psychology” 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

AP/IB Credit Course Requirement It Satisfies

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

2 credits (MATH 220-1 and 220-2) = 2 200-level Math courses

3 credits (MATH 220-1, 220-2, and 226) = 2 200-level Math courses AND one of the “3 additional” related 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", "Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment: Psychological and Economic Themes", and "The Psychology of Weird Beliefs".

Introduction to Psychology

Other than the First-Year Seminars, the 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.

Relationship Science

First-year students are welcome to enroll in PSYCH 313-Relationship Science. This course does not require Introduction to Psychology as a prerequisite.

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. We will have some spots reserved in each of these courses that will become available during first-year student registration.

Options include:

  • PSYCH 201 – Statistical Methods in Psychology
  • PSYCH 213 – Social Psychology
  • PSYCH 215 – Psychology of Personality
  • PSYCH 228 – Cognitive Psychology
  • PSYCH 244 - Developmental Psychology

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., Social Psychology, Psychology of Personality, Cognitive Psychology, or Developmental 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. (Preregistration is not available for Fall Quarter of the first year.)


You can take a look at our major and minor requirements here on our website 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 Professor Gorvine at