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Advice From Your Elders

We asked some Psych Department veterans for some words of wisdom. Here's what they had to say!

(P.S: Don't foget to scroll down and see what tips a Prof had for you too!)


Patrick Carolan, Ph.D. Student (Cognitive and Neural Sciences)

Go to 910 office hours, and get to know your cohort!

Alana N. Cook, Ph.D. Student (Clinical-Forensic)

Seek out two or three solid mentors in the department (i.e., senior students or faculty). They have a lot of great advice and tips for maximizing your time in graduate school and preparing for your career. Aim to present research at a conference or publish as soon as you can. It is very helpful for funding applications. Write your term papers with the intention to submit for publication. Most professors are happy to continue to work with you on your paper to turn it into a manuscript after the term.

Killian Kleffner-Canucci, M.A. Student (Cognitive and Neural Sciences)

For international students, get your social insurance number (SIN) card, healthcare, and bank accounts sorted out ASAP. SFU has a day where health care and SIN applications can be filled out on campus, which is very convenient. Be proactive! Professors are very willing to give you detailed feedback on your work, however you often have to seek out this feedback from them (e.g. go to their office hours specifically to discuss your term paper).

Roanne Millman, M.A. Student (General Clinical)

Don’t try to do it alone – the members of your cohort are the most valuable source of support you have, so take advantage!

Patrick Poyner-Del Vento, Ph.D. Student (General Clinical)

Don’t stress over whether you get an A+, an A, or an A- in any given class. In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter.

Andrea Smit, M.A. Student (Cognitive and Neural Sciences)

Have confidence! I wasted a lot of time wondering (still do) if I am really smart enough and entitled to be in this program. The more I spoke to others, the more I realized that the majority of my peers seem to feel the same way. It is really just an illusion that everyone around you is more accomplished and deserving. Don’t spend time questioning yourself, you are brilliant and you can rock it!

Sophie Yeung, Ph.D. Student (Clinical-Neuropsychology)

I would greatly encourage students, particularly in the clinical stream, to have a rough idea of planning out and balancing their courses, research data collection, and practicum experience early on in the process. Taking courses as soon as they are offered, particularly area specializations, is also a very good idea because courses are not always offered regularly. With regard to clinical practica, I suggest trying to attain as much breadth as possible. If you are in a specialization stream, this helps with the internship match as long as you are hoping to get an internship that also specializes in your area. Trying to attain diversity within a practicum setting is also a great way to increase breadth (e.g., attending rounds, working on multidisciplinary teams, taking on a group or individual therapy case in an primarily assessment setting). Another helpful way of getting clinical experience is by trying to get 1-2 steady weekly clients through the Clinical Psychology Centre. Documenting your clinical experience and hours is important for internship applications. Another observation: it gets better! First year is generally a chaotic nightmare, but each passing year, I found grad school got better, and I managed my time more efficiently. Everyone pretty much gets the same grades and everyone works hard, so throw out any obsession with getting perfect grades. Finding the work-life balance and the course work-clinical-research balance will keep you happy.

Dr. Michael Schmitt, Professor (Social Psychology)

Keep a small notebook with you at all times for research ideas. Prolific writers make writing a matter of  routine. Set regular, specific writing goals. For example, you might set a goal of writing a certain number  of hours per week. Before writing a paper, make an outline. Use descriptive file names (e.g., "activist_ID_manuscript_April5_2012.doc"). Whenever you make revisions to a file, it is often helpful to  save under a new name before making any changes. That way you have copy of the old document as a   back up if you need to go back to a prior version.

Use your SFU email only for academic, research, and TAing purposes, and for communication with other people in the SFU community. Never, or as close to never as you can get, use this email for  "personal" or non-SFU related emailing.  Use another email account (gmail, etc.) for your personal  emails, and never use that personal account for work purposes. The last part is important because SFU can't control the security of other email providers, and if you're ever emailing about data or students (when TAing) you are potentially putting your participants', students', or clients' right to privacy at risk.  An equally important issue is that when you have one email account that is for work stuff only, you can better keep your work life and "non-work" life separate, which is important for maintaining a work-life balance.