Devinder Singh Khera
Congratulations and welcome to Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Reflecting on my first day at KPU I am reminded of the mixed emotions I experienced – overwhelming feelings of anxiety and excitement; however, I wish I had an opportunity to speak with a fourth-year psychology student to acquire the essential tidbits of knowledge that only a senior student could provide. I write this in the hope that you may find this informative.
KPU offers students a unique opportunity to forge relationships with peers and faculty. The KPU learning experience benefits significantly from small classroom sizes, allowing students to develop a rapport with faculty and engage in meaningful discussion. The ten-minute window before and after a lecture provide an excellent opportunity to talk with your professor about lectures, current events, or to even set up meetings to discuss your academic future. The faculty members are always willing to discuss their own educational experiences and help guide new students. Take full advantage of these chances to develop relationships with your instructors, because these may lead to future research, volunteer, conference, or employment opportunities.
Kwantlen has numerous research labs that are seeking to provide students with the opportunity to gain research experience. Research experience can include both faculty-driven and student-driven projects. For more information on research conducted at KPU visit www.kpu.ca/kpupsychresearchlabs. Join a lab, you won’t regret it!
I wish you the best of luck in your future academic endeavors. Make the most of your opportunities early in your academic careers. Third and fourth year sneak up all too quickly.
Do not stay silent. Silence will be your greatest enemy throughout your time as an undergraduate. This applies to a multitude of situations, and the many causes of your silence. Whether it be due to nerves or an increased ego, speak up and speak often. University is a place to learn what you enjoy and tailor your learning to what you find interesting and intriguing. By asking and answering questions in class and adding to the debate you’ll not only increase your knowledge and skill, but also make each class memorable. I have been in too many classes that have fallen silent with a lack of engagement from students. If you want your classes to drag on for hours and gain little personal growth from the classes, then sure, continue scrolling through your social media feeds on your laptop.
Silence is not only an enemy of the classroom; lack of social networking is too. Let me share a little secret with you: professors are not these scary beings that are insistent on seeing you fail. They provide office hours on all of your syllabi not as a meaningless addition, but instead to give you access to someone with a wealth of knowledge who is ready and willing to share that knowledge with you. For many years I assumed office hours were meant for students who were struggling with class material, and I was getting decent grades. So why would I go to office hours? I was wrong in this assumption and regret not making greater use of their time during the first half of my degree. So, use as much of your professor office hours as possible! Even if you just go to their office to ask questions about how they found their area of study or their personal reflections of their educational journey. Please do not undervalue how rare of a situation it is to have this much access to your professor during your first years in university. So, what are you waiting for? Send an email or ask after class today even to meet them! Just remember, do not stay silent.
As a senior in the program, there are some recommendations I feel I should share with you that may help you on your journey to graduation. Some things that you have likely heard but which I believe are important are to always attend class, do your readings, devote ample time to studying for exams and completing assignments, ask for help when you need it, get to know your peers and profs, stay organized, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. There’s nothing special or unique about that advice, but it bears repeating because when I failed to do any one of those things it greatly impacted both my GPA and my mental health. Beyond what everyone else has told you, there are two further pieces of advice I’ll share, both having to do with making the most of your time here as a psych undergrad:
First, take courses that cover a wide variety of topics and ideas. Taking courses in criminology, philosophy, math, and sociology in my first two years was not specifically required for my degree but did help inform and contribute to my work in psychology classes. It is tempting to take ‘throwaway’ courses to fulfill the need for elective credits, but you should not waste your time taking a course in which you learn little to nothing. Expose yourself to disciplines outside your core focus because it can help you generate better research questions, and will keep you from having a narrow perspective when approaching research problems. Second, find out as soon as you can if you want a career involving research. An easy way to do this is to take a research methods course, where you can learn whether the sometimes frustrating and thrilling process of conducting research is something you enjoy and can see yourself doing in the future. If you find you are passionate about conducting research, then join a research lab. When you apply to graduate studies programs, your past research experience is very important. I regret not gaining more research experience. Beyond what I have said, enjoy your time here, and make the most of it. Now is your chance to explore your interests and gain valuable experience, so make good use of your own time and don’t let opportunities to expand your knowledge go by.
Welcome to KPU psychology! Over the last four years in this program, I experienced ups and downs in my academic and personal life that shaped who I am today. As you begin this period of immense personal and professional growth, I have some advice I wish I knew when I was in your shoes. First, join a research lab to be introduced to the process of applying to a lab, research, interpreting journal articles, and learning from experienced students. All these skills are critical for success in psychology. Record your academic experiences as you go. A breakdown of your accomplishments will give you confidence and encouragement to continue. Eventually, you will assimilate them into a curriculum vitae (CV) for applying to graduate programs and jobs in the field. Second, network: Networking comes in all places – unique connections are an asset, so never miss an opportunity. Build relationships with your professors early. Strong references can only come from instructors with whom you have worked closely. If you are nervous, approach your instructor with a friend to build the confidence to converse with them one-on-one. Asking for help also demonstrates you are taking responsibility for your success by utilizing all resources available.
Lastly, a healthy social life is critical for keeping a sound mind. Make new friends and get involved with a student club or on-campus activity. Do not be afraid to expose yourself to people and ideas from different fields and backgrounds. Enrich your life outside of university by setting quality time for yourself, family, and friends and by taking responsibility for your physical and mental health. Many students struggle with time management, so I recommend developing this skill early on to succeed in your own studies and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Self-care is crucial for performing at your best and finding yourself. Because this is a time of self-discovery, you will frequently change your mind about your aspirations. So, be open to facing the new challenges and exciting experiences ahead.