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Getting Ready for Honors:  Freshman and Sophomores

What can I do as a first-year student or sophomore to prepare to enter the Psychology Honors Program?

Although students do not apply to the Honors Program until they are juniors (or the semester before their last year on campus), you can begin to prepare for Honors early in your career at UNC.

  • First, work hard in all of your courses so as to maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.3 and a Psychology GPA of at least 3.5, which are required for admission to the Honors Program.
  • Second, read about research—both in and out of your classes – and talk to professors, graduate students, and other undergraduates about your research interests.  Think about the types of research that you would like to do.  Keep a notebook of research ideas.
  • Third, work to achieve mastery of research skills.  Take PSYC 210 and PSYC 270 as soon as this is feasible in terms of your schedule and course availability.  These courses teach basic skills that are important for research.  You may also be able to obtain some research experience, for example by volunteering to work in a professor’s lab, or by taking Independent Research (PSYC 395).  However, you cannot take PSYC 395 more than twice, so you might want to save these for your junior year.

Getting Ready for Honors:  Juniors

What should I do in my junior year to prepare for honors?

Students apply to the Psychology Honors Program in the spring semester of their junior year.  However, a lot of advance planning needs to be done before submitting the application.

  • First, learn about the Honors Program by reading our webpages and by talking to other students and to faculty.   If you have questions, send an email or make an appointment to talk with one of the Honors Directors, Dr. Beth Kurtz-Costes (Fall 2015) or Dr. Peter Ornstein (Spring 2016).
  • Second, seek out research opportunities as an early part of your training. There are many avenues to do this, including research-intensive courses, independent research experiences (e.g., PSYC 395), occasionally paid research assistantship positions, and volunteer positions. It is strongly advised that students take PSYC 210 or 215, 270 and 395 prior to applying, both to help them develop needed skills, and to let them gauge their own level of interest in research.  Applicants to the Honors Program are required to be taking PSYC 395 during the semester in which they apply, or to have taken it in an earlier semester.
  • Third, plan ahead in terms of your schedule.  The program is designed to be completed in two semesters during the senior year.  Study abroad, December graduation and other educational opportunities may interfere with fitting Honors into your schedule.  If this is your situation, however, we can sometimes accommodate you.  Talk to the Honors Program Director if you have questions about your particular situation.
  • Fourth, the most intensive part of the application process is identifying a faculty sponsor who will advise you on your project.  If you don’t already have someone in mind, explore the Department’s website for information on the research areas of individual faculty members.  Read some of their recent articles to see if these reflect research fields in which you would like to work.  Contact potential mentors to see if it would be possible to get involved in their research.  Initial involvement typically consists of your taking PSYC 395 with a potential advisor. This can be done in either the fall or spring (or both) of your junior year.  On the basis of this initial research experience, you and your advisor will be able to make an informed decision in the spring as to whether you should pursue an Honors Project in his/her lab.  If you have difficulty identifying a sponsor, talk with the Honors Director.  Not obtaining an appropriate sponsor is the number one reason why students who meet other program eligibility requirements are not admitted.
  • Fifth, apply on time, using the application form that is posted on this website.  The deadline is April 1, 2015. All applications should be submitted via email to Lori Shamblin (Davie 235). Have your faculty mentor sign the faculty mentor recommendation form, and turn that in with your application.

Current Honors Students

How will I pay for needed supplies, equipment, materials etc?

Some equipment may already be in your advisor’s laboratory or the Department, and you would probably be able to use that free of charge. Other materials might be covered under the advisor’s grant.  However, there might be other materials that you will need to buy on your own.  Students are encouraged to apply for research awards to cover necessary expenses.  Consult the Honors Director for information on applying for such an award.

What are the keys to a successful research project and thesis?

Explore possible topics by reading and talking with your advisor.  Be sure to choose a topic that is very interesting to you and one that you feel will be worth your intense efforts.

Stay in close contact with your advisor as you work through your research.  Keep the line of communication open and have a plan that you both agree on so you can complete the project on time. Be organized.  The process can be very time-consuming and some students do not allow enough time to work on their research and/or thesis writing. The more time you have allowed for this process, the less stress you will experience.

How do I prepare for my final defense?

In the spring, you should constitute a committee of three, including your advisor.  One (but no more) of the other members may be a graduate student in Psychology.  All faculty members who are affiliated with the Department may serve on honors committees.  Faculty from other departments may also serve on these committees, but they must be approved by the faculty sponsor.  At least one faculty member of your committee must be a psychology faculty member who is outside your research lab.

The thesis should be written in accordance with APA style.  (Note that this has not always been a requirement, so be careful in following formatting from previous theses.)  The completed thesis should be distributed to all committee members at least one week prior to the oral defense meeting.  You need to obtain an oral defense form before your final defense.  You should complete the top portion of this form and then give it to your faculty sponsor prior to your meeting.  Your committee will fill out the form and all committee members will sign it.

You should return the form to the Honors Director as soon as possible after your defense.

During the meeting, students typically present their research in about 15 minutes (though this length varies) and then committee members ask questions.  The meeting usually takes about one hour.  Any revisions recommended by the committee must be made before the deadline for submitting the final thesis to the Department.  You need to submit the oral defense form to Lori Shamblin in Davie 235, and submit the final copy of your thesis (after it has been approved by your faculty advisor) to the Carolina Digital Repository.

Is the Psychology Department poster session mandatory?

Participation in the Psychology Department poster session is mandatory.