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Are you ready for the true cost of a psychology degree?

Teagan shares her experience of studying a Bachelor of Psychology, one of top 5 most popular university courses. 

I recently finished my first year at university studying psychology and I absolutely loved my course. But what I didn’t realise until now is that my success all came at the expense of those around me, the friends and family that I cared about the most.

After almost suffering from an anxiety attack before an exam that I actually did really well on, I decided to take some time to reflect on the whole experience. Before that exam, (which I did well in) I went almost 6 weeks without seeing my mum. Now I see that my family and friends felt pushed away all in exchange for my grades.

Psychology is competitive, and I mean it!

A psychology degree won’t get your very far unless you’re prepared to go on to do an honours year and then a two-year long masters course to finally become registered as a psychologist.

You’ll most likely be sitting in a class with 300 students (and another 300 online) who all want to get into honours. Here’s where it gets tricky. To get into honours, you need an average of around 80-85. That’s right, you need at least a distinction average, if not straight HD’s. What’s more, this is a course that often doesn’t like to give a mark over 90, because often there’s no right or wrong answer!

This means for the next 3 years, you will have to make a lot of sacrifices, especially if you pay rent and bills.

You used to play sport on the weekend? Not anymore! You don’t want to spend your entire Sunday in the library? Too bad! You don’t want to be up against your friends for a dream spot? Sorry! And all this just to get into the second stage of your educational path!

This is all sounding pretty hard for a subject many don’t consider a science (WRONG), right? I don’t mean to scare you, but I think this should come as a warning, especially for those of us who aren’t so mentally tough. The competitive nature of this course can induce a lot of anxiety, loneliness and frustration.

Perhaps it’s because many people who have experience with mental disorders are drawn to psychology, but I’ve never seen a cohort of students so utterly stressed, competitive and at breaking point, as psychology undergraduates. If you want more of a warm “do your best” kind of environment, then maybe psychology isn’t for you.

In fact, you should probably know that you’ll hurt others, without wanting to.

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You probably want to start psychology because you want to help people, but to get there, you will have to tread on someone’s toes.

I’m not suggesting you slip someone else the wrong answer in an attempt to make them fail. But you will have to beat many people to get to the final class excepted into honours year. Many of your friends who fought just as hard as you may end up with a 79.5 average when you got an 80, that’s all the difference that it takes. The degree can really put strain on all your most important relationships – classmates, family, and all your other friends.

So, what’s my advice for all you do-gooder, future psychologists?

Remember to put on your extra layer of skin! I have a pretty thick skin, however since first year, I’ve really worked on my balance. You have to be resilient in the face of crazy high expectations. You also need to learn how to create balance, making sure self-care is a regular part of your routine even when it seems like your whole world needs to be about study.

Finally, make sure that in your quest to help others, you don’t forget about the people right around you. You will have to make sacrifices if you want to be a psychologist, but you shouldn’t forget about those who helped you get there.

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