You’ve finally made it….your SENIOR year!! Congratulations!! As you look back, you think about how fast it has gone and realize that now is the time for you to begin preparation for the next step in your life whether it is continuing on in graduate school or entering the workforce. Some helpful information can be found below as you prepare for the final phase of your undergraduate life.

Table of Contents

Preparing for Graduation

There are some key things you will want to do as you prepare for your final semester at PSU.

1. When you have scheduled for your final semester at PSU, you will want to plan a meeting with your advisor to review your degree audit to ensure that you have met all the requirements with your planned schedule. It is best to schedule this appointment immediately after you have completed your schedule so that problems can be caught while seats are still available in courses. For more information about scheduling an advising meeting please visit our Advising Office page.

Remember: Be sure to check with any double majors or minors you may have as well to ensure they will be completed with your schedule. If they are not appearing on your degree audit, you will want to contact the academic department.

2. Once you have scheduled your final semester and double checked it with your advisor(s), you are ready to go onto LionPath and click on “My Academics” to apply for graduation. Typically you will want to do this during the Drop/Add period of the semester you plan to graduate although there is a specific timeframe listed on the Academic Calendar. If you do not apply to graduate within that timeframe, your name and other information may not be printed in the graduation program.

This tutorial will demonstrate the steps to apply to graduate –

This tutorial will demonstrate the steps to check your graduation status –

NOTE: If you realize you forgot to apply to graduate, please email your academic adviser immediately. There is a deadline for us to be able to add you.

3. While you are on LionPATH to apply to graduate, be sure to UPDATE both your Local and Permanent Addresses. This will be important to ensure that you receive your graduation packet, your diploma, etc.


Many of your questions concerning Commencement may be found on the Commencement website. Here you will find current and future dates of commencement not only at University Park but at other campus locations as well. You will also find information for your family in terms of special accommodations if needed as well as travel and lodging information.

Prior to graduation, you will want to make sure your Local and Permanent addresses are up to date on LionPATH. Current addresses are needed to ensure you receive your Graduation Packet from Liberal Arts (NOTE: Liberal Arts typically does not send out these packets until a week or two before graduation). These packets provide you instructions on graduation and include a “name card” you must bring with you to the ceremony.

For students graduating in all semesters (spring, summer and fall), your diploma will be mailed to your permanent address. 

To obtain your regalia and announcements for graduation ceremony, you will want to visit the Penn State Bookstore. Be sure to allow a minimum of 2-3 weeks for the printing of your announcements. For more information on the regalia for the ceremony please visit the Commencement website.

Many students will graduate with distinction showing their hard work and dedication throughout their undergraduate career. Each year the GPA needed to earn each distinction is recalculated based on the previous graduate class. This distinction is acknowledged in the ceremony program, not on the diploma.

PSYCH 490 Descriptions

PSYCH 490 can be viewed as your final destination within the Psychology degree program. It is an all encompassing course that integrates your years of gained knowledge from your coursework and allows you to apply your knowledge in a small more intimate classroom setting. You can find a brief course description for PSYCH 490 in the University Bulletin. In this class you will review research literature around a specific topic of study. Each semester the topics available will change. Although it may be tempting to choose a section based on time, be sure to choose a topic most interesting to you.

Some example titles of previously held sections of PSYCH 490 include but are not limited to:

  • “Creativity and Innovation”
  • “Neuroethology: How Animal Brains Make Animal Behavior”
  • “Psychological Science in the Media”
  • ” Developmental Psychopathology”
  • “Assessment Centers: Research and Practice”
  • “Art, Language, and Creativity in Children”
  • “RJP in Managing Work-life Interfaces”

To view current topic descriptions of PSYCH 490 click here.

When the time has come for scheduling PSYCH 490 there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you must have successfully completed PSYCH 301W and 6.0credits of PSYCH 4xx. These are strict prerequisites to which no exceptions will be made (ie. You CANNOT take the prerequisites concurrently, they must be completed prior to 490). Second, if you are currently 6th semester standing (see your degree audit for semester standing) you will need to contact the Advising Office to enroll as the course is controlled to 7th and 8th semester standing students.

Reminder: Currently there are NO substitutions for PSYCH 490 or PSYCH 105

Current topic descriptions of PSYCH 490

Daryl Cameron

The Psychology of Empathy and Altruism

How do we decide whether to help others? Are people naturally prosocial, and is human altruism possible? Why do people feel empathy and compassion for others, and are these emotions morally praiseworthy or problematic? Philosophers across cultures have long examined these questions, and psychologists and neuroscientists have complemented these discussions with empirical studies over the past several decades. The aim of this class is to engage in a broad survey of the nature of human empathy and altruism, illuminate debates about limits of empathy and how to expand it, and evaluate the science in a way that will inform ethical discussions of empathy.

Karen Gasper

Emotions in Everyday Life

This seminar will examine how people’s feelings shape everyday life. The course is designed for students who are interested in how emotions influence topics relevant to social psychology, such as attitudes, motivation, the self, culture, creativity, decision-making, interpersonal relationships, and stereotyping and prejudice. We will discuss a range of emotions, including, but not limited to, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, awe, love, gratitude, and boredom. The course is discussion-based and will involve reading primary source materials, critically evaluating those materials, and using those ideas to develop your own research questions and hypotheses. Key course objectives are (a) to understand some of the mechanisms by which emotions shape thoughts, motivations, and action (b) to learn how to read and critically evaluate primary source materials and (c) to become more comfortable reading, discussing, and critiquing articles.

Aaron Pincus

Emerging Alternatives to the DSM-5

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is currently the dominant system for classification and diagnosis of psychopathology in the United States, with the 5th edition published in 2013. The DSM outlines a categorical model of mental disorders and a polythetic diagnostic system following the medical model of descriptive psychiatry. This capstone seminar will briefly review the empirical and practical limitations of the DSM system for classification and diagnosis of psychopathology and then focus on 3 emerging alternatives. First, the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) is a contemporary quantitative hierarchical dimensional model based on the empirical covariation of signs and symptoms of mental illness. Second, the NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) investigates the nature of mental health and illness in terms of varying degrees of dysfunction in general psychological, biological, and neurobiological systems. Third, the DSM-5 Alternative Model for Personality Disorders (AMPD) integrates impairments in regulatory and relational personality processes with an empirically derived personality trait structure to classify and diagnose personality pathology and individual differences in its expression. This seminar will be informative for students in psychology and the broader social and health sciences whose research and/or applied interests include psychopathology.

Joyce Furfaro

Healthy Brain / Happy Brain

This capstone seminar will explore current research on maintaining a healthy brain, including avoiding neurotoxins and toxic relationships, as well as strengthening your neuronal connections through meditation and continued learning. Students will be encouraged to practice healthy brain activities and report their experience to their classmates. Your critical thinking skills will be tested as we also find and discuss current research and related news items from popular press sources – what do they get right, and what do they get wrong? Some core topics will include cognitive reserve, mindfulness, dementia, and the effects of stress on the brain. This course is best suited for psychology majors who have taken courses relating to the neurobiological aspects of psychology. Objectives include Honing our critical thinking skills; Becoming more comfortable with reading, digesting, and discussing current research literature; and Learning ways to incorporate healthy-brain behaviors into our everyday life.

Katharine Donnelly Adams

Psychology of Reading

Reading is a human invention that allows us to share thoughts and ideas across time and space. What makes these squiggles on a page meaningful? Is it necessary for humans to read? In this seminar, we will explore the psychology of reading by examining the current research and controversies in the field of reading science. We will look at the neurological, visual, cognitive, and linguistic systems necessary for fluent reading. Topics include the neuroscience of reading, reading development, reading across languages, dyslexia, and what it means to be literate.

Roger Beaty

The Creative Brain

This course is designed for students who are interested in the psychology and neuroscience of creativity. It surveys scientific research on a broad range of topics, including the nature and measurement of creative thinking, the right vs. left brain controversy, the roles of memory and attention in creative problem solving, the relationship between creativity and intelligence, and the neural basis of musical improvisation, among others. The course will include diverse examples from the fine arts and humanities (visual art, literature, music), the sciences, and other relevant domains, largely from the perspectives of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Suzy Scherf

Myths of the Brain

The brain is a mysterious organ to the general public. Overwhelmingly people embrace beliefs about the brain and how it works that are complete myths! In this class, we will examine these myths, debunk them, and think about the socio-cultural factors that lead people to endorse the myths. To do so we will read popular press materials and watch movies that feature or defend these myths. We will use empirical evidence to debunk the myths.

Reg Adams

The Laughing Animal: The Psychology of Humor and Laughter

Humor and laughter are vital to human functioning, promoting physical and emotional well-being, social harmony, learning, and creativity. Humor and laughter can also be used as weapons against others and can transmit and perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice. This course is designed to explore these phenomena and to apply insights gained to broader research themes such as creativity, social cognition, attribution theory, and emotion theory.

Melvin Mark

Psychology and Program Evaluation
Social programs are commonplace. Many college students participated in a substance abuse prevention program in junior high school, for example. Companies use a range of diversity programs. A list of social and educational programs could go on and on. But how do we know if a program is effective? How might we identify ways to improve a program? Program evaluators apply social science theory and research methods, with aims such as seeing whether a social program works, or identifying improvements to an ongoing program, or designing a new and hopefully better program. Psychology, especially social psychology, has much to offer the field of program evaluation. Most programs are intended to change human behavior (e.g., to prevent substance abuse); correspondingly, psychological theories are relevant both for contributing to program (re)design and for guiding efforts to figure out why a program is (or isn’t) working. Program evaluators also encounter challenges in carrying out their work, such as how to collect and weight interested parties’ views (e.g., about which potential outcomes of the program are most important to examine), especially when the groups differ in power; psychology can help point to better ways of dealing with these challenges. Psychologists also have methodological skills that are relevant for the research involved in program evaluation. In addition to reviewing key linkages between psychology and evaluation, we will discuss training and career options in evaluation, as well as how to apply course content to endeavors other than program evaluation.

Brian Crosby

The Science of Sleep

The critical nature of sleep is evidenced by the fact that we spend approximately one-third of our life asleep. Our brains cannot function properly with inadequate sleep, impacting things like our ability to concentrate, process memories, and regulate emotion. This course will focus on the science of sleep with the ultimate goal of understanding the varied reasons for why humans sleep. This exploration will include the review and discussion of research on topics such as the study and measurement of sleep, changes in sleep across development, the importance of sleep for individual and family functioning, the function of dreaming, and abnormalities in sleep that occur in sleep and other mental health disorders. The course will be comprised of lectures, class discussions, and experiential activities related to sleep and dreaming. It is anticipated that students will leave the course with an understanding of the value of sleep and the important role it plays in our everyday life.



Planning Careers and Graduate School

As you enter your senior year, it will be important to begin to think about what is next. Will you be applying to graduate programs to continue your education? Will you choose to join the working force? Regardless of the choice you make for your next step, it will be important to start planning early.

Graduate School

If you are planning on applying to graduate school, you will want to follow a general timeline to ensure you have everything in order for application deadlines.

Graduate School Application Timeline

September – December (Junior Year)
January – May (Junior Year)
  • Plan Courses
  • Gain Research or Internship Experiences
  • Explore Career & Graduate School Options
  • Begin Work on Personal Statement
  • Visit Career Services (if you have not done so)
May – August (Junior Year)
  • Gain Research or Internship Experiences
  • Prepare for (or possibly take) the GRE
  • Explore Specific Graduate Programs
August – November (Senior Year)
  • Choose Programs – Get Applications
  • Take GRE’s
  • Request Letters of Recommendation
  • Continue Work on Personal Statement
  • Learn How to Request Official Transcripts
December – January (Senior Year)
  • Apply to Doctoral Programs
January – March (Senior Year)
  • Apply to Masters Programs
March – April (Senior Year)
  • Learn Admission Decisions
May – August (Senior Year)
  • Graduate from Penn State!!


  1. It is best to begin searching for Research Opportunities by your Junior Year as there is quite a bit of training to get you up and running in a research lab. Many faculty may require a year commitment from you just for this reason. You also may be required to have completed STAT 200 and PSYCH 301W as some of the work the faculty member may have you do will utilize the knowledge you would have gained in theses courses. Each requirement will be worked out one on one with you and the faculty member.
  2. Students in Psychology are NOT required to do an Internship although they can be a valuable experience in helping you determine a career path. If a student completes an internship for PSYCH 495 credit, up to 3.0 credits can count towards your PSYCH 400-levels (any credits beyond this fulfill elective credits)
  3. It is important to visit the GRE website if you are planning on post-baccalaureate work. Here you will find information to help you prepare for the GRE’s. You will also use their website to schedule your test date and seat. Once you have scheduled your date, you can go back to the website to order a free software program from GRE to help you prepare for the exam.
  4. Typically a graduate program will request 3 Letters of Recommendation. When asking for Recommendation Letters from faculty, be sure to give them at least 30 days notice. You want to give them enough time to ask questions about your plans as well as review writing samples and your resume so that they can write the most effective recommendation for you. If you plan to take a year off, still discuss your request with the faculty member you will want a recommendation from as they may ask you to give them periodic updates during your hiatus so that when the letters are needed they have the most up-to-date information on you.
  5. Career Services is not just for searching careers; they also offer guidance in researching graduate programs. A counselor can lead you to graduate school information for you to explore. Career Services also offers an Annual Graduate School Fair so be sure to check their website for the next offering.

Career Planning

If you are planning on entering the work force, you will want to begin job exploration. You can look up information on careers, find job postings and resume help through our Career Link page. This page does have many psychology related links but also entails

For more in-depth assistance you will want to visit Career Services. Career Services offers free services to you while you are an undergraduate student. You can meet with a counselor to discuss potential career paths, receive resume help, and even participate in mock interviews. You should also keep an eye out for when the Career Fairs are offered each year.

Exit Survey

Each year, graduating seniors are asked to complete a short, online survey concerning their experiences as Psychology majors. The information from this survey is used to evaluate and improve the Psychology program. This request will be sent to your PSU email address.