Recently I have been getting this question from several incoming freshmen for which I don’t necessarily have enough time to answer them individually at UCLA while juggling seven courses in one quarter, therefore I thought of sharing how I happen to be doing a double major in Psychology and Cognitive Science. For those who are not thinking of doing a major or minor in the aforementioned disciplines you are more than welcome to leave us at this juncture and maybe join us again in my next article where I will brag about my Trans-Canadian journey that happened during the spring break :p! But for those who chose to stay and read further, let’s take a deep dive into some details, fully comprehended only by Psyc majors!
So, initially I thought of majoring in Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science (choice to minor in Economics is another story, I will discuss in some other article) and also study Spanish as my fourth language (or probably fifth if I count in my limited proficiency in French!) but unfortunately studying Spanish came to a halt after my first semester when I submitted my application for exchange (during the second semester of my sophomore year) to Universities like Columbia, Toronto and of course UCLA (technically its UCEAP!) and decided to redirect my academic interest into studying advanced courses in Psychology so that by the time of my exchange I will be able to start doing lab courses in order to gain research experience. As a self-proclaimed rational decision maker, I can justify the choice I made last year and I don’t think the opportunity cost of not learning Spanish would be more than what I gain currently from my exposure to different labs and research projects that I am involved in (anyway I just got an A in my Spanish speaking test, in which, after hours of learning and practice, I really felt I deserved an A+).
Still I hadn’t made the switch to declaring Cognitive Science as my second major but then I realized that each 4 unit course that I study at UCLA only accounts for 5 HKU credits. Left with more units to study even if I am officially finished studying a HKU equivalent course here at UCLA, I decided to make the big move, which is actually just doing some basic change in settings in your online student portal! By the end of my exchange I will be done with all my core courses in Psychology and even some courses from my second major so for the remaining two years at HKU I can focus on my second concentration along with working on my thesis, which actually helps my profile since I intend to do PhD in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience that deals with cognition, brain and behavior.
Now, I assume, the background is clear so let’s move on to the logistics. So in order to major in Psychology (no matter as your first or second major) you need to complete 96 units of credits which more or less involve studying 15-16 courses with around 10-12 courses from the Psyc Dept. and the rest from other disciplines under the Faculty of Social Sciences. To give you a concrete example, let’s take my case into review, so by the end of my exchange I will be done with 90 units and I would have to complete one more lab course as part of my capstone experience (although I have finished two lab courses in Cog and Dev Psyc here at UCLA, but I am transferring the units gained as part of the Global Citizenship credits (12 units in total which involves off-campus learning that you can gain either by studying some courses that are equivalent to 12 HKU units while on exchange or by doing an internship during the semester or during summer). It’s not necessary for anyone who is majoring in Psychology to write a thesis which is a 12-unit year-round course, if you have satisfied the 96 units as seen in Figure 1 (to zoom in click on the image once). But for students like me who want to go to Grad school, it’s a good option to start working on research from Undergraduate level itself. Two important things before I move on to explain the logistics of taking Psyc as a minor are that, first of all, majoring in Psyc requires a lot of stats so if you are not up for it then better drop the plan of majoring in it (a lot of freshmen who initially want to major in Psychology forego their plan after doing the Introductory Stats course offered by Psyc Dept.- PSYC1004, there is an advanced course too in Stats which is a must for all Psyc majors) and there is another off-campus learning called Social Innovation (12 units) which you must satisfy in order to major in Psychology by either doing an internship during the semester or during summer (I already finished it last summer with MOEI by conducting a psychological experiment on my students along with teaching them English, it’s a really intensive yet one of the best courses I ever had at HKU!).
Psyc as a minor is fairly much simpler and extremely flexible since now you just need to study 36 units of Psyc courses i.e. study 6 Psychology courses. It’s basically designed to give students a flavor of what we study in various streams of Psychology. I think Figure 1 and 2 are self-explanatory in this regard.
Moving on to Cog Sci as a major, first of all, let me tell you that you are allowed to double count up to 24 units if you are doing a second major which shares certain courses with your first major and it’s an advantage for me since I just have to complete 48 units of courses instead of 72 to major in Cog Sci. This is because I can double count 2 pre-requisite courses that I already did from other disciplines for my first major along with Bio and Cog Psyc that are two of the numerous electives offered in Cog Sci that I already studied for my first major. For remaining 48 units I need to take 2 introductory courses (aw once again, I thought was done with them in my first year :p) and also study 3 compulsory courses in Cog Sci that include Foundations and Seminars in Cog Sci along with a research project in Cog Sci. These are the only three courses that are exclusive to Cog Sci discipline since all the other electives come from the dept. of Psychology, Computer Science, Linguistics and Philosophy. Therefore there is great flexibility in terms of choosing which particular stream to focus in Cog Sci. A computer science major who wants to do a major or minor in Cog Sci can just focus on doing electives from the Artificial Intelligence stream while a Philosophy major can focus on the Philosophy of Mind stream. As for me, I am specializing in Brain and Cognition coz that relates back to my research interest.
Similar like doing Psyc as a minor, when Cog Sci is taken as a minor, you just need to 36 units of credits which include the two core courses (Foundations and Seminars in Cog Sci) while the rest you can choose from the courses offered by the 4 departments that jointly handle this discipline.
I assure you, this is by far the best summary you can find anywhere of the degree regulation book from my faculty; maybe I should seek part-time employment at my Department’s general office to offer clarifications to students with major/minor issues in Psyc Dept! Btw This doesn’t mean that I knew everything from the start but talking with my mentor and officials (a special mention to Hayson Chan- the most patient and helpful guy at my faculty office- I trouble him so much with my constantly updating application for credit transfer!), spending some time finding the right resources online and always being curious to explore the area of my interest helped me a lot to get a clear sense of this issue and also share the info with my peers and address it to readers like you who are interested to become a Psycho!!! So get into the habit of searching for relevant info both off and online, it will help you a lot in the long run- that’s the greatest takeaway message for those who stayed with us even if they still have no plans of doing a major or minor in Psyc or Cog Sci, lol!!
For more info on each course offered by Psyc dept. you can play around this website- http://www.psychology.hku.hk/index.php?rpath=home and yeah you also get to see my pic on the homepage taken during last year’s Award Ceremony, too much media exposure and I seem to love it :p!!