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  • Writer's pictureMckenna Hildebrandt

Switching My Major to Psychology

To be honest, I never even considered studying psychology. My goal was to become an FBI agent, to fight crime and lock up the bad guys, with a little criminal profiling 'sprinkled' in there. But after my first psychology class back in my freshman year of college, my life (and my expectations) changed forever.

I took my first psychology class back in spring of 2020. It was your basic Intro to Psych class, studying basic processes and neurology, but after that semester, I realized my life would be changed forever. After that semester, I ended up changing my major from Criminal Justice to Psychology, which luckily wasn't too big of a deal as my minor at the time was Forensic Psychology. I was able to just switch the degrees around, making my minor Criminal Justice instead. I remember I was so worried about telling my parents I was switching my major. It seemed like such a big deal to me because I was worried that that first year was a complete waste of time (I reassure you, it absolutely was not) and that my parents would be upset with me, but deep down, I really didn't care. I had found the topic that I was passionate about, a topic I get excited to discuss and share with other people, and a topic that the world needed more information on. So, I began my journey into the world of psychology, having no idea where I was headed, but enjoying the journey nonetheless.

"So, I began my journey into the world of psychology, having no idea where I was headed, but enjoying the journey nonetheless."

Each semester brought with it new subjects, new professors, and most importantly, new information. I learned about the things I liked and disliked about psychology, the areas of interest that intrigued me, and then, in my junior year of college, I also learned about all the things I should have been doing since my freshman year of college to actually get anywhere in life with a degree in psychology (like, what??? you waited until now to tell me???).

Thinking about it now, I can definitely say that I was extremely annoyed at the fact that they waited to have us take the psychology seminar class until my JUNIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE. Way to wait till the last minute... but anyways, I found out that to actually be able to do anything with your degree you would need to have at minimum, a master's degree, but more likely than not, you would need to have a Ph.D. That was a big slap to the face if you ask me. Finding out that you would need to have an extra 4-6 years of university education to be able to support yourself was surprising, to say the least, but it wasn't the extra time at University that worried me. It was everything that I would need to do within one year to get INTO a master's program that had me on the edge of my seat. CVs, SOPs, letters of recommendation, research, applications, extra-curricular activities, volunteer services, and everything in-between took up the space in my mind from what was left of just trying to get through my BA. Luckily for me, my momma raised me well.

Within 2 weeks of finding out the plethora of information that we needed to know to get into graduate school, I hit the grind, hard. I emailed one of my previous professors, Dr. Rhonda Balzarini, to see if she was taking in research assistants at the time. While I waited on her response, I worked on writing my curriculum vitae or CV(it really just means an academic resume) and sending that to her. She emailed me back within a couple of weeks and after a quick interview, I was officially a part of her lab (now known as the Sex Partners and Romantic Relationships or SPARC lab). They were currently working on the project of relational self-expansion in virtual reality study, and I joined just in time as they were just getting off the ground. Little did I know that this short experience would "SPARC" my love for research (haha... get it?)(*facepalms*).

Within a couple of months, I worked my way up from research assistant to project coordinator of the study. I mainly scheduled participants and other RA's to come into the lab and run through the experiment, as well as dealt with keeping up with recording all of the data for the study. It honestly was a fun job. Getting to communicate with the participants added a bit more human factor to the experience, and even though we had a few hiccups throughout the time we were setting up and running through the study, the experience sparked a joy in me that I wanted to continue to feel. It made me excited to go to graduate school and continue learning about the research process and how it works.

During this time, I was communicating with a graduate student at Texas State Universities Master of Arts in Psychological Research (MAPR) program, which was the program that would become my dream to get into as it was everything I wanted and needed to gain more experience and have a better chance of getting into a doctoral program with. Taylor was amazing and helped me with quite a lot. She helped me create an amazing Statement of Purpose (SOP)(like a short essay about why this program was the right program for you and you for it), edit and update my CV, and deal with the pressures and timeline of filling out a graduate school application (which I'm almost done with by the way!). That time was filled with so much chaos, but it brought me so much joy and made me proud of how far I had come.

Also during this time, I was communicating with Dr. Balzarini to see if she would become my mentor for my independent study in spring of 2023, the semester before I graduated. I had fallen in love with both her and her class, as her personality and enthusiasm were everything I needed while going through this crazy experience of getting into graduate school, and her class on human sexuality gave me a love and passion for learning about and doing research on sex and relationships, which would be my primary niche in my studies and graduate school application paperwork. She helped me get in contact with incredible people, helped me navigate the world of psychology, helped me narrow down my niche, and hopefully, if I get into graduate school, will be my mentor for the next 2 years, guiding me through my research and helping me to get my masters.


Now, to the current day, I have almost completed my MAPR application (I just need my last 2 letters of recommendation to send in their letters), I have conducted research, and am about to be included in a publication next semester, I have worked on setting up my scholarships funds and GIA application information, and have found my mentor. So hopefully, I've kinda set my life up for success for the next 2-3 years of my life. Now, all that's left is finding out if I got in or not... We shall see, won't we?

After switching my major, my life took a crazy turn. My life and time in college changed so much and it is so weird to think that I'll be graduating next semester. All I can say is this, if you are thinking of switching your major, then do it. I know it's scary and stressful and everything in between, but do it! If that major was the right major for you in the first place, you wouldn't even be thinking about switching to another one. It would bring you energy and joy and you would never get tired of it. So again, if you are thinking about switching your major, my advice to you is this ...

do it.

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