Is the Specialized Honours Program Right for Me?

Date of the Event: January 11, 2017

Time of the Event: 5:30-6:30pm

Location of the Event: Norman Endler Room (Room 163) in BSB

Hosted by: Jennifer Steele, Specialized Honours Coordinator

During this informative event, Dr. Jennifer Steele explained the requirements, the application process, and the benefits of being a part of the Specialized Honours Program in Psychology. Afterwards, there was a question and answer period where Dr. Steele gave some tips on how to make your application stand out and how to acquire a Research Assistant (RA) position in a laboratory.

An Overview of Degree Options for Psychology Students

  • Students can minor in psychology or complete a double major in psychology and another program
    • These options are not available in the Specialized Honours Program
  • Students can major in psychology in the 3 year (90 credit) BA or BSc Psychology program
    • This option is best for students not looking to pursue further graduate studies
  • Students can major in psychology in the 4 year (120 credit) BA or BSc Honours Psychology program
    • The goal for the Honours program is for students to “become educators, users, and conveyors of psychological knowledge” and to “critically evaluate psychological research and theories” as stated by Dr. Steele
  • All of the above programs have less course requirements than the Specialized Honours Program

The Specialized Honours Program

  • “Prepares students for graduate studies in a research intensive field”
  • Provides training in research and statical analysis through specialized courses
  • “Provides assistance in finding a thesis supervisor”
  • “Ideal for students aiming to pursue a PhD in psychology or another research intensive field of study”


Specialized Honours Program Requirements

  • Need to be a Psychology major in a 120 credit program (i.e Honours Psychology)
  • Need to have completed PSYC 1010 (Introduction to Psychology with grade of at least C), PSYC 2030 Introduction to Research Methods, and PSYC 2020 Statistics 1 and 2 (or equivalent)
  • Need to have completed 53 credits at time of application
  • Need to have completed (or plan to complete by end of the summer of the year you apply) your general education requirements for your degree
  • Need to have a 7.0 (B+) GPA

Obtained from Specialized Honours website:

Dr. Steele said that students who do not have a B+ average but have relevant research experience or have confirmed an RA position in a lab may still be eligible for the program and she encouraged these students to apply. She also encouraged students who did not get accepted at the end of their second year to re-apply at the end of their third year. However, only the 3rd year students who have a confirmed thesis supervisor will be accepted.

The Application Process

  1. Applications may be submitted any time between May 1-15th
  2. Follow up interviews will be scheduled in late May
  3. Decisions will be made by early June

The Question and Answer Period

Question: Do you have any advice on how to acquire an RA position in a lab?

Answer: In the Specialized Honours Program, students are required to take a course titled “Professionalism and Communication in Psychology” which will help students obtain connections to labs. She then gave some general advice on how to acquire an RA position:

  • Search York’s Faculty of Health Directory to find information about psychology professors and determine whose research projects match your professional interests and curiosity
  • Determine which professors have active labs and are accepting RA’s
    • An indication of an active lab is if they have published research papers recently and if their website seems up to date
  • Students should start looking for RA positions at the beginning of second year
  • Keep in mind that RA positions are usually volunteer and require on average a 5 hour commitment per week
  • Students should email faculty members inquiring about RA positions
    • The email should be professional with no grammatical errors, it should state why the student is interested in that particular lab, and one’s resume and unofficial transcript should be attached
    • Students should follow up within 2 weeks if they haven’t received a reply

Question: For the Specialized Honours Program, how many applicants were there, how many were given an interview, and how many were accepted last year?

Answer: About 30-40 applications were received, 15-20 students were interviewed, and 8-10 were accepted.

Question: What are some mistakes students make in their applications?


  • Students write that they are interested in the Specialized Honours Program because a thesis supervisor will be found for them
    • This is a misconception, students will be assisted in finding a thesis supervisor but it is the student’s responsibility to confirm a supervisor
  • Students write that they want to enter a profession where they help people through therapy
    • This program is a good fit for people who want to conduct psychological research in their future careers (i.e as a clinical psychologist)


Question: What makes an application stand out?

  • A well written statement (as writing skills are essential to conducting psychological research and publishing research papers)
  • Prior research experience in a lab
  • Demonstrating excitement and passion for research

Question: Do you have any advice about the Honours thesis project?

  • Have a variety of interests and be flexible in terms of the topic that you choose
    • The importance of the thesis is to gain initial research experience and it’s okay if the topic is unrelated to the field or branch of psychology you later want to pursue
  • It’s a “learning experience and process” as stated by Dr. Steele

Question: Are part time students accepted into the Specialized Honours Program?

Answer: Yes, they can be but they must have flexibility in their schedule because many required courses for the program are only offered in one time slot.

Dr. Steele stated that there may be some changes in the required courses for the Specialized Honours Program so frequently check the website at :

For more information on the Specialized Honours Program, you can contact Dr. Steele at

UPSA’s next event is for students aiming to pursue a career in clinical psychology! How to Get into Clinical Psychology will be held on February 6, 2017 from 3-4pm in BSB 163 (The Endler Room) and will be hosted by Dr. Jill Rich! We look forward to seeing you there!


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