Psychology alumni share advice with students

By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer

Students interested in psychology and related fields had the opportunity to speak to Washington College alumni about graduate school, thanks to a panel hosted by the Psychology Club via Zoom on Wednesday, March 9 at 3:30 p.m.

The panel included Gilbert Schaefer ‘06, Diana Raiffe ‘14, Brianna Jehl ‘16, Hjordis Lorenz ‘16, Kelsey McCurdy ‘17, and Joshua Samuels ‘19.

The discussion began with junior Jacob Lafferty asking how the panelists found internships that related to their field and how important those internships were when applying to graduate school.

Lorenz said that her internship at the Drug Treatment Center in Chestertown helped her gauge whether she wanted to work directly with people in clinical counseling. She said that she’s seen people who wanted to go into clinical work move in a different direction that is not direct because of how “draining and depressing” it could get.

She also said that most of her clinical research experience came from her involvement in the Douglass Cater Society for Junior Fellows, where she was able to pursue her interest as well as “see the need in,” clinical research. 

However, Samuels felt the opposite, saying that he didn’t enjoy the first research internship he participated in at Rutgers University which focused on neuroscience.

Regardless of his experiences, Samuels said to “not think that a bad internship is always going to be bad, you can always learn something from every single environment that you are in.”

Jehl advised students to look into local research opportunities and said they should “take that SCE very seriously because that could be a huge jumping-off point for you.”

In Lorenz’s time at WC, she realized that not many big-name universities offer the closely supervised research opportunities that are available to WC students. As an undergraduate, she was able to do research under Professor of Psychology Dr. Lauren Littlefield, develop her research project, and present her research at the Environmental Protection Agency, which at the time according to Lorenz, was only available to graduate students.

According to Lorenz, it was helpful when applying to Oxford for a graduate program when she had a multitude of experiences to pull from.

In McCurdy’s experience, she said to “think about the strengths you have and consider how certain internships will either further strengthen those skills or fill in certain gaps.”

According to McCurdy, most graduate programs look for applicants that have a diverse set of experiences that don’t just focus on their strengths and interests.

Lafferty also asked the panelists what WC graduates should know when looking at graduate programs, as well as what they should expect from these programs.

Samuels, who has been in his Ph.D. program for eight months, said that “[graduate school is] hard, but you are tossed into an environment where everyone around you is brilliant and everyone around you is there to help.”

Raiffe suggested students think about where they want to practice because most schools teach in accordance with their state’s practice licensing guidelines.

Samuels recommended thinking about a community that feels like home. Samuels recalled a time one of his professors at the University of Virginia called him ‘bro.’

“When you’re getting called ‘ ‘homie’ by your faculty, for me that is when I knew I was home,” Samuels said.

The last discussion point the whole panel discussed is how WC prepared the panelists for their time in graduate school.

McCurdy said that many of the general education courses repeated, or built off of information that she learned in her undergraduate classes at WC which also helped alleviate that “imposter syndrome” many first-year graduate students experience.

“It was also less of a culture shock when I had three long classes,” she said. “I definitely felt prepared going into my graduate classes.”

Samuels added that WC gave him a level of maturity that, according to his observations, most of his peers still did not possess.

“Small classes and a tight-knit community meant that I had to talk to janitors and my professors [with] respect, but I also had to talk to them like colleagues which I think that most people are still figuring out when they get to [graduate school],” he said. 

The panelists agreed that their time at WC allowed them to gain the communication and writing skills necessary to discuss their research experiences undergraduates, as well as their experiences as graduate students.

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