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Becoming a Psychology Major

Is Psychology the Major for you?

A core component of the Psychology Department’s Strategic Plan is the teaching of Psychology as a science.  Compared to other schools, our curriculum is one of the most rigorous, as students are required to take three courses (PSY 121, PSY 203, and PSY 299) that involve statistics and research methodology.  Many students (42%) also choose a 400 level course with a research emphasis and also choose 300 level courses with lab/research components.  Strong quantitative skills, critical reasoning and writing are necessary for success in this major and discipline.

All students will be held to the entrance criteria that were in place at the time of their admittance as majors.  If they declare a specialization within psychology (i.e. biopsychology, clinical, developmental, etc.), the course requirements they will be held to for the specialization will be those that were in place at the time of their admittance as majors in psychology.

Students are further advised to familiarize themselves with the existing retention policies of The College and the Psychology Department.

  • The psychology major requires a minimum of 5 semesters to complete our methodological core, which contains sequenced courses (PSY 101, PSY 121, PSY 203, PSY 299, and PSY 4**), with each serving as the prerequisite for the next. Students must achieve a minimum grade to advance to the next core course (PSY 101 and PSY 121 require a minimum of C+; PSY 203 and PSY 299 require a minimum of C-).
  • Other psychology courses require a minimum grade of C- to count in the major. If you have not met this grade, you may repeat a course only once (repeating more than once would require the Chair’s or Associate Chair’s approval PRIOR to taking the course). If the course is not required in the major, it may be able to count as an elective despite a grade below C-.

Students who do not meet grade minimums in courses required for the major may be dismissed from the major. To read the full policy on grade minimums, click here.

Non-Major Advisement

  • All majors must complete these five core courses in succession: PSY101, PSY121, PSY203, PSY299, and PSY4** (there may be “gap” semesters between them)
  • If you are not yet accepted into the major and would like to take PSY 121, you may register for the sections not restricted to majors and minors. Also, if there are seats available after registration, you can request to be added to an open section by sending your PAWS ID number and the section number you want to the chair or associate chair to be considered for that class. Students must earn grades of a C+ or better in PSY101 and PSY121.
  • Students cannot register for PSY 203 until they are accepted into the major.
  • Students can take foundation (200 level) courses or upper level courses in the same semester as core courses.

If you’d like to meet with someone from the psychology department to discuss entering into the psychology major, email Assistant Chair, Dr. Betsy Ruddy ( to set up a meeting.

Steps to Apply to be a Psychology Major

Freshmen Entering as Psychology Majors: There is no application process.

External Transfers (from outside of TCNJ): Follow the TCNJ application process.

Internal Transfers (current TCNJ students):

Follow the application process as follows:

Completing a Psychology Department Application:

  1. Plan ahead!  If you wish to be a psychology major in time for the spring semester, submit your application between September 10th and September 21st. If you wish to be a psychology major in time for the fall semester, submit your application between February 10th and February 22nd. Late applications will not be considered.
  2. Please be aware of the following two prerequisites for becoming a psychology major:
    Prerequisite 1:  C+ or higher grade in PSY 101 at TCNJ (or equivalent course, if completed elsewhere) or a 4 or higher score on the AP exam. You may apply even if you do not have this prerequisite; however, if accepted, you would be designated as a pre-major until you have met this prerequisite.
    Prerequisite 2: Essay:  Please complete a 400-800 word essay describing your past preparation and future plan for success in Psychology.  In your description, please make sure to include all of following elements:

    1. Describe any past coursework in social sciences, physical sciences, or math/statistics and how these coursework have helped you prepare to succeed in psychology.
    2. Describe any past non-classroom experiences in any of the sciences (e.g., volunteer work, internship, research experience) and how these experiences have helped you prepare to succeed in psychology.
    3. Describe your plan for successfully completing the psychology major, with attention to how you expect to complete all necessary coursework given your current class rank.  For example, If you are currently second-semester junior, you might include plans for taking courses over the summer or taking a fifth year in order to complete the necessary coursework.
    4. Discuss why, given your interests and plans, Psychology would be a good major for you
  3. The admissions process is an online application. This link is only active during the application window listed above. You can complete the application in its entirety by clicking here to complete the application.

Information about the Online Application:

  • In the File Upload portion you must upload a completed Change of Major form and you must upload your unofficial TCNJ transcript (available as pdf file in PAWS).  Both the transcript and the change of major form must be submitted as pdf forms. Submissions of forms that are not pdf forms will not be accepted by the Admissions Committee, and your application will be considered incomplete. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.
  • The Change of Major form must be typed. See this sheet for tips. The Change of Major Form linked on this website contains fields that can be completed electronically. It is recommended that you have both the transcript and change of major form ready for upload before you begin the online application. The chair of the Psychology Department does NOT need to sign the form before you submit your application.
  • If you have any trouble with the online application, immediately contact Dr. Jean Kirnan (, who will work with you and if necessary give you instructions for completing a paper application.

4.  Complete applications between September 10th and September 21st for spring registration and between February 10th and February 22nd for fall registration.
5.   Wait to hear back from the committee. You will be notified before the next registration cycle begins.

If you have questions about the application process, direct them to the Psychology Department Admissions Committee (