Undergraduate Handbook


Handbook for Psychology Majors Class of 2012 and later

Undergraduate Studies Office:

Levin Building, Room 123, 425 South University Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: 215-898-4712
fax: 215-898-7301

Dr. Robert Kurzban, Director of Undergraduate Studies (dus@psych.upenn.edu)

Dr.Caroline Connolly, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies (cconn@psych.upenn.edu)


Undergraduate Coordinator:

Ms.Claire Ingulli (cingulli@psych.upenn.edu)
Phone: 215-898-4712


The Undergraduate Major in Psychology

Background. The psychology major at Penn requires 13cus and provides an opportunity to study the principal areas of scientific psychology. It is designed to introduce students to contemporary understandings of how organisms perceive, learn, think, and interact with one another, how they develop, how they are motivated, and how, as individuals and as members of species, they may be compared with one another. The major provides a balanced treatment of the central issues in psychology, taking into account the particular methods of inquiry from which our knowledge is derived and the conceptual frameworks that organize the factual basis of the discipline.

Psychology at Penn may be studied as a core scientific discipline in its own right, or in conjunction with many other fields of inquiry, including cognitive science, biology, philosophy, linguistics, and sociology. The major is designed to provide a coherent and integrated intellectual experience that can serve as a foundation for advanced graduate work or as a basis for training and careers in other fields. Many students who complete the psychology major at Penn go on to further training as scientists and scholars, but many others undertake professional training in clinical, counseling, industrial or educational psychology, in the legal and medical professions, or in schools of business.

Structure of the Major

Introductory Psychology. The psychology major begins with Introductory Psychology (PSYC 001). This one-semester course provides initial contact with the facts and basic concepts that underlie the field as a whole. It is an integrated treatment of the scientific basis of the field, and its content is assumed, but not duplicated, in the other psychology courses. Psychology 001 is a prerequisite for all other psychology courses at the 100-level and above unless otherwise indicated.

Distribution. Following Introductory Psychology, majors take lecture courses which approach the various areas of the discipline in greater depth.  These courses cover such topics as perception, learning, thinking, biological psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, personality theory, and abnormal psychology.  Because Psychology is such a diverse discipline, majors are required to distribute their core courses across three content areas in order to guarantee broad coverage. For this purpose the lecture courses are divided into three lists: the biological basis of behavior; the cognitive basis of behavior; and the individual and group bases of behavior. Majors are required to take at least 6 psych courses from these three lists, distributed according to a 2, 2, 2 pattern.  At least one course from each list must be at the 100-level.

 The lists will change from time to time as new courses are added and others deleted, but the current lists are:


Psychology is a Biological Science Psychology is a Cognitive Science Psychology is a Social Science
109 (Intro to Brain & Behav) 111 (Perception) 162 (Abnormal Psychology)  100-level 
127 (Physiology of Motivated Behavior) 151 (Language and Thought) 170 (Social Psychology)
149 (Cognitive Neuroscience) 181 (Intro to Developmental Psych) 181 (Intro to Developmental Psych)
 /////////////////////////////////////  /////////////////////////////////////  /////////////////////////////////////  ////////////
217 (Visual Neuroscience) 207 (Intro to Cognitive Science) 253 (Judgment & Decision Making)  200-level
225 (Drugs, Brain, and Mind) 235 (Psychology of Language) 265 (Behavioral Econ & Psych)
239 (Neuroendocrinology) 253 (Judgment & Decision Making) 266 (Positive Psychology)
247 (Neuroscience and Society) 265 (Behavioral Econ & Psych) 272 (Evolutionary Psychology)
272 (Evolutionary Psychology) 272 (Evolutionary Psychology) 280 (Social Emotional Development)
  275 (Political Psychology)  
  281 (Cognitive Development)  
  259 (Human Memory)  


 N.B. Courses in italics are listed in more than one column, but can only be counted once.


Research Experience.  All psychology majors are required to complete one semester of empirical research.  Such first-hand experience is essential to a sound education in psychology. Students are offered two means of satisfying this requirement:

(1.) They may complete a 300-level course, which is designed to provide research experience. These courses are rarely offered.


(2.) They may complete an independent study (PSYC 399) doing empirical research. Such independent study courses are designated Psychology 399. (Psychology 299 is used for independent study projects involving only scholarly library research and does not satisfy the requirement). Individual research is especially appropriate for students planning to go on to graduate school in psychology. See the department website for more information about completing a 399 prokect.

Arrangements for independent study are made on an individual basis, at the initiative of the student, with a faculty supervisor from the Psychology Department. A list of Department faculty and their research interests can be found under Faculty with Appointments in the Department of Psychology

Statistics. Each psychology major must complete one semester of Statistics. Students who have taken the Statistics AP test will not receive credit for the statistics requirement in the psych major. The following courses currently satisfy the requirement: Biol 446, Stat 111, Stat 112, Soc 120, Anth 454, Econ 103, Nurs 230, Stat 431, Stat 101, and Stat 102. The evaluation of scientific findings requires the kind of expertise in the analysis and interpretation of primary data that comes from the study of statistics. For this reason, students are strongly advised to complete statistics relatively early in their education, if possible in the sophomore year. Students may fulfill the statistics requirement by taking STAT 111 offered by the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) in the summer, but not STAT 111 offered by LPS during the academic year.

Students who expect to pursue honors in psychology, or graduate work in psychology or a related discipline are strongly encouraged to take a second term of statistics. The most appropriate courses are Stat 112 or Stat 102 or BIOL 556.

Further Courses. The psychology major is completed by taking a sufficient number of additional psychology courses at the 100-level or above, so that the total is at least 13. Students are encouraged to include several 400-level seminars among these. The seminars focus on specific topics, often of current research interest, in depth.  The seminars are deliberately held to small enrollments and usually involve considerable class discussion, reading in original sources, and writing of original papers. Seminars are offered each year and the topics vary in order to serve a diversity of interests. While additional seminars are not required for the major, any well-conceived program will include them. When the topic of a seminar changes, a student may enroll a second time. However, a student should seek advice as to whether this degree of specialization is warranted at the undergraduate level, and students who have never had the seminar will be given admission preference if the seminar is over-subscribed. Courses below the 100-level will not count towards the major.

Non-Psychology courses and non-Penn courses.

Students are permitted to count two (2) of the following courses towards the "Additional Psych Courses" : ANTH 104, BIBB 240, CRIM 270, LING 255, STAT 430, or an advanced stats course (approval needed from the DUS). The non-psych courses cannot be used to fulfill any of the core distribution requirements in the major. With these exceptions, no course from any other department at Penn or any other domestic institution can count toward Penn's Psychology major . No student (except transfer students) may receive credit for a psychology course taken before coming to Penn, nor may any student who is currently enrolled at Penn receive Psychology credit for courses taken at other institutions over the summer months.

GPA Requirement. In order to receive a major in Psychology, at the time of graduation students must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the Psychology major.

Double Counting of Courses. Psychology majors who are double majoring in another subject must have a minimum of 7 Psychology Department courses that they count towards the psychology major and not also towards another major. Students minoring in psychology must have a minimum of 3 PSYC courses that they count towards the minor and not towards any other major or minor.  Students should also consult the College rules on double-counting when planning their curriculum:  http://www.college.upenn.edu/courses/policies/doublecount.php

A Typical Major Schedule. In order to help students plan their programs, we list here a typical schedule of a psychology major. Many variations on such a schedule are possible, but it is important to complete introductory courses prior to taking more advanced courses within a subarea of psychology. Note also that it is relatively easy to begin studying psychology in the sophomore year and still complete the requirements of the major.

Freshman Year
Introductory Psychology

Sophomore Year
Three lecture courses
One semester of Statistics

Junior Year
Three lecture courses
One 400-level seminar
(some juniors complete their research requirement: one 300-level research course or a 399 Independent Study)

Senior Year

Three additional Psychology courses at any level

Research requirement: one 300-level research course or a 399 Independent Study

Declaration of the Major. Students are encouraged to declare the major when they are in their sophomore year, before selecting their junior year courses. The declaration of the major involves these steps:

(1.) Meet with either your pre-major advisor or a College advisor in Cohen Hall, where an "official" online worksheet will be prepared, or updated if one is already available.

(2.) To declare a Psychology Major you must meet with Dr. Robert Kurzban, Director of Undergraduate Studies (dus@psych.upenn.edu), or Dr. Caroline Connolly, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies (cconn@psych.upenn.edu).  Your Psychology Major Worksheet must be completed prior to your advising meeting and brought with you to the meeting.

Advising and Course Registration

Advising. Majors and prospective majors should discuss their plans with Dr. Robert Kurzban, Director of Undergraduate Studies, who has regularly scheduled "walk-in" office hours in the Levin Building for this purpose. See website for advising hours.

General questions can often be answered by referring to the departmental web page or by asking Ms. Claire Ingulli, the Undergraduate Coordinator (Levin Building, Room 120).

Advance Registration Advising Sessions. Students should take the time to plan their undergraduate years thoughtfully and carefully. To help with this, the Director of Undergraduate Studies provides extended advising hours during the advance registration period each semester. During advance registration junior psychology majors must either meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (fall semester), or submit a Psychology Major Worksheet outling your course of study (spring semester). See the department website for detailed information about Advance Registration. Your Psychology Major Worksheet must be completed prior to your advising meeting and brought with you to the meeting.

Rules Governing Registration Holds. All junior and senior Psychology majors are placed on registration hold during Fall Advance Registration. All junior Psychology majors are placed on registration hold during Spring Advance Registration. See the department website for detailed information about Advanced Registration.

Admission to Seminars and Research Experience Courses. Admission to all seminars and research experience courses is by department permission only. Many of these courses have more applicants than can be accommodated, and admission is based on an application process. Students are asked to submit Seminar and/or Research Experience Request Forms to the Undergraduate Studies Office (Room 120 Levin Bldg.). These forms are due prior to advance registration (the due date will be posted on the department website).

Admission to Graduate Level Courses. Exceptionally qualified undergraduates who have exhausted the undergraduate curriculum may be permitted to take graduate level seminars. These are intense, advanced courses in topics such as cognitive, social, and abnormal psychology that meet for four hours per week. Such courses are very challenging and may include extensive readings. Students seeking to take one of these graduate-level courses must obtain permission from the director of graduate studies and permission of the course instructor.

Independent Study. Enrollment in PSYC 299 or 399 (Independent Study) requires the agreement of a faculty member in the Psychology Department to serve as a supervisor. Students have until the end of the "add" period each semester to enroll in an Independent Study. The usual procedure is for the student to meet with the faculty member and decide on the general nature of the project. All 299 and 399 courses have as their product a written paper. A copy of this paper must be submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Studies at the end of the term before a grade is submitted to the Registrar. Students can take two semesters of independent study 399 with the same or different advisors. If the independent studies are done with different advisors, papers must be completed for both projects. Students who take two semesters of independent study 399 with the same advisor must write a final paper and present a poster about their research at the Undergraduate Psychology Research Fair which will be held late in the spring term of each academic year. Students wishing to be considered for the Morris Viteles prize must also deliver a 15 minute oral presentation at the end of the Spring term. Although students are encouraged to take as many independent study courses as they wish, in order to ensure an adequately broad program, no more than two semesters of Independent Study may be counted towards the major.

Psychology Honors. Departmental Honors are available to majors who have especially strong academic records. The honors program involves (a) completing a year-long research project in your senior year (a 399) under the supervision of a faculty member (b) completing a second term of statistics, (c) participating in a year-long seminar (PSYC 400-301) designed especially for Psychology Honors majors, and (d) participating in the Undergraduate Psychology Research Fair in the Spring semester, at which honors students present a poster and give a 15-minute talk about their research. Finally, (e) a total of 15 cu's in psychology is required. See the Honors webpage for full details: http://psychology.sas.upenn.edu/undergraduate/honors-program-psychology

The Undergraduate Psychology Research Presentation is normally held during the first three days of the Reading Period in the Spring Term. To allow time for preparing the thesis, poster, and talk, students should complete their data collection no later than April 1.

Honors candidates should also note that there is a deadline in April for providing the College Office with Honors candidate names; these names will be printed in an "Honors" listing which the College will mail out to all graduating seniors. In order for the College to list a student as an honors major, the student's supervisor will send a note to the Undergraduate Chairman before the deadline certifying that the student is making satisfactory progress on his/her Honors project. All senior honors majors are automatically considered candidates for the Morris Viteles Award, which is given for outstanding research. The recipient will be determined by the Undergraduate Chair, in consultation with a panel of faculty members who will judge the posters and talks presented by each year's honors candidates.

Summary of Independent Study and Honors Requirements

One term 299 or 399
One paper
Two terms 399 (same project/advisor) One paper and one poster (presented in the Spring)
Two terms 399 (different project/advisor) Two papers (one for each project)
Two terms "Honors" 399 (same project/advisor) One paper, one poster, and 15 minute talk (presented in the Spring)


Transfer credit

Credit from U.S. Institutions. Effective Fall of 2003, no psychology course taken at another U.S. or international institution (except from a Penn Study Abroad program, see below) will be eligible for credit in the Psychology Department. This means that no student (except transfer students) may receive credit for a psychology course taken before coming to Penn, nor may any student who is currently enrolled at Penn receive Psychology credit for courses taken at other institutions over the summer months. A note to transfer students: Five (5) of the total credits towards the Psychology major must be Penn classes taken in the Penn Psychology Dept.

AP Credit.  

Waivers or credits for courses based on AP exams may allow students to enroll in advanced courses in the department but do NOT take the place of courses that are required for the major. Students who have taken the Psychology AP test and received a grade of 5 can receive a waiver for Psyc 001 (but they will NOT receive credit for PSYC 001), and they are allowed to enroll directly into any lecture course without taking Psyc 001. The AP waiver does NOT count toward the 13 courses required for the Psych major or toward the 6 courses required for the Psych minor. Students who use the AP waiver for PSYC 001 must therefore take one additional Psychology Department (PSYC) course.  This policy applies to all undergraduate students. Likewise, AP waivers or credits issued by other departments (e.g., AP credit for STAT 111) do NOT satisfy requirements for the Psych major or minor. 

Study Abroad. Study Abroad is an attractive option that all Psychology Majors are invited to consider. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will be glad to discuss its advantages and drawbacks in the context of your overall program in psychology and future plans for work in the field.

You'll find complete information about Study Abroad at the Penn Abroad website. Practical steps, including information about the necessary forms, are described in Philosophy, Policies, and Procedures of the Penn Abroad Guide.

For each Psychology course you want approved, first check to see if it is pre-approved on the Study Abroad Database. If it is, this item on your "Proposed Course of Study" form will be approved automatically. If it is not, submit the course on xcat, including a detailed syllabus. In order for a course to be approved, you will need to provide a course syllabus (not just the description) which contains a week by week listing of topics and readings, the name of the textbook, the mode of evaluation of your work in the course, and the number of hours that the course meets. Frequently, this information can be obtained from the web page of the institution you expect to attend. It is best to obtain this information and the approval of the course before going abroad. Unless special permission is given, no more than two psychology courses can be counted towards the major from a term abroad.

While you are abroad, all transactions with the Department, including application for seminars and Advanced Registration, will be carried out via e-mail, unless you make explicit alternative arrangements with the Undergraduate Coordinator.

Departmental Resources

Others in the Departmemt

Talks and Presentations. The Psychology Department encourages its students to take advantage of the fact that Penn has an outstanding graduate and research community. Therefore it invites undergraduates to attend the Departmental Colloquium series. This series brings in researchers from all over the country to discuss their latest work in a manner available to a general psychological audience.

Further information about the Department and the field of psychology can be found at our website: http://www.psych.upenn.edu

Preparation for Advanced Training. Many psychology majors will wish to continue their training beyond their undergraduate degree.  Of particular interest is a video stream about graduate schools: http://mediamogul.seas.upenn.edu:8080/ramgen/psychology/psychnov2002.rm. Students may also find the following suggestions helpful in planning.

The key to admission to many advanced programs is the obtaining of strong letters of recommendation. Such letters can only be written by faculty members who have gotten to know the work of the student intimately, as in a seminar or independent study. Therefore, it makes sense to take such small courses fairly early in one's program. Moreover, many graduate programs want students who have had research experience as an undergraduate. This is often facilitated by the prior taking of a seminar. For instance, if one takes a seminar in one's junior year, then it can often be followed by a related independent study project in the senior year. If one is to benefit from such independent study, it is best to have completed a statistics course earlier. Thus a good sequence is to take statistics in the sophomore year, one or two  seminars or research courses in the junior year, and then an independent study in the senior year. Students interested in advanced training in clinical psychology would benefit from some clinical experience obtained as an extracurricular activity either during the year or in the summer.

Students interested in advanced study/training in psychology should take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) early in the Fall of their senior year. Students with excellent records should consider applying for fellowship funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Applications may be obtained after October 1 at the Graduate Division Office, Suite 322A , 3401 Walnut St .

Career Advising. Penn has an excellent advising office in the Career Planning and Placement Service (Suite 20, McNeil Building). That office can provide information on both summer and longer-term employment and internships. They will help with resume preparation, letters of application, preparation for personal interviews, etc. Students are strongly urged to consult with that office regardless of their plans following graduation from Penn.


Please visit the department's website for a complete listing of the Psychology faculty.