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As part of a national essay competition, current and future psychology students were asked to explain their study motivation. Each student describes in 250 words or less (i) why I chose psychology as a major and (ii) how I'm motivated to succeed at psychology studies.
The best, most inspiring essays are published here. As you can see, psychology students are often motivated by personal experiences and a wish for healthier, happier communities.
The essays demonstrate the value from having a vision for your career – whether it's detailed or "big picture" – before you start a psychology degree. Having a long-term goal in mind offers a reliable source of study motivation.
We all know that there will almost always be something to do that sounds much more appealing than our studies, so why do we study if there is something better? Motivation, that’s why. Everyone has their own motivating factor that keeps them in line with studying. Mine is pretty general and that is my future.
I have dreams of becoming a psychologist and helping people throughout my life. I also have a huge passion for American Sign Language. I plan to merge these two goals into one for my future career. I don’t want to be just any psychologist, I want to be a psychologist that is open to Deaf people and hearing people alike. I want Deaf people to feel comfortable coming to me without the need of a third person interpreter who is usually a stranger. Many Deaf people feel uncomfortable visiting a psychologist because of the need for a third person. I plan to make a step towards breaking that barrier by being able to signor speak with any patient who comes to me.
With all these huge goals I know that I have to be very on top of studies and make sure I continue to stay on track and do my best. All of these reasons put together make up my ideal future and therefore my motivation to study.
~ Hannah Reis, Palomar College
2. My Dream
We live in a world filled with hurt and suffering, and a place that is not equal for all. My dream is to leverage my unique set of skills, abilities, privileges, resources, and knowledge in a way that increases equality and privilege for all (not just people with white skin). I am pursuing a degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology which combines psychology and business.
I feel most alive when I am volunteering with my family at The Christian Children's Home of Ohio (CCHO) which is a non-profit orphanage for children. I love working with the children there, and it hurts my heart when I see them being forced to leave once they are eighteen without any further aid or support. Due to this fact, I have decided that after I get several years of work experience applying psychology principles to the business world, I want to start my own non-profit organization that aids young adults who grew up in foster care or orphanages. Once they have turned eighteen the government will no longer provide very much aid to them; I want to supply them with the additional skills and services that they need to make it in the real world, and give them the emotional support that they may not have.
One of the main services I want to provide them is taking them to do mission work because the best way to grow as a person and gain perspective is through service and travel. When college gets hard, I hold on tight to this dream because I know my studies will help me achieve this dream.
~ Alyssa Powers, The University of Akron
3. A Catalyst for Change
The incredible transformation I have experienced in my own life from the power of the therapeutic relationship motivates me to immerse myself in my studies and move closer towards my goal of becoming a psychologist. Recognizing how the quality of my own life has been profoundly enhanced by self-reflection, the invaluable lesson of how to learn from suffering, and coming to a deeper understanding of who I am, encourages me to try and be a catalyst for this kind of change in other’s lives. I’m motivated to empower people to feel confident enough in who they are that they don’t feel the need to bring others down.
When life as a student feels exceptionally challenging, I remind myself of the impact that the work I wish to practice has on people’s lives and those around them. I strongly believe large scale change happens on the individual level first, and if we want to see a world where we value the earth and all the people living on it, we have to do the work with ourselves first. I want to help people in their transformation towards becoming more unconditionally loving, tolerant, and compassionate people. I think when people are more comfortable with, and accepting of, who they are, they are consequently kinder and more loving towards those around them. Encouraging this kind of growth first on an individual level, and ultimately on a global level, motivates me to not only get through, but thrive within my program.
~ Hannah Freund, California Institute of Integral Studies
4. Reshaping Mental Health
People who are given psychiatric diagnoses experience some of the worst prejudice and discrimination. They are more likely to be the victims of violence, have a harder time securing jobs and housing, and constantly come face-to-face with the harmful stereotypes that state that these individuals are violent and unpredictable. As such, much research needs to be done to understand the cause of such distress, as well as to develop effective interventions and achieve healthy minds.
Our current mental health paradigm positions mental distress as biological in origin and best treated with medical interventions. However this paradigm has conversely led to an increase in stigma and an increase in the number of people on disability for mental health related reasons. I was one of the fortunate few who was able to pursue a college degree despite being given a severe diagnosis and a hopeless prognosis. However, I know that much of my success has been due to luck and privilege, and the opportunities that I have been afforded are an exception, not a rule. I am striving to change that.
It is my hope that, through increased research and advocacy, society can come to understand that extreme distress is often a message about something that is wrong in a person’s world, and as such, is profoundly meaningful and can be understood. Furthermore, by understanding the psychosocial origins of distress – trauma, poverty, inequality, etc. – we can refocus upstream and create policies that protect against these stressors in the first place.
~ name withheld, Mount Holyoke College
5. C's Get Degrees
It is said that “C’s get degrees”, but that isn’t enough for me. C’s show an average amount of work, an average amount of time, an average amount of effort. “Average” is not something that I want to be known as. I want to be known as the girl who kept moving forward, went above and beyond, and never looked back. My driving force is making my family proud and reaching my ultimate goal—becoming a school psychologist.
I am the very first in my family to attend college. Every time the topic of school or my future is mentioned, I can see on their faces that they are overwhelmed with pride. When I received my Associate’s degree, seeing my grandpa cry made me realize how special my academic journey is to them. They have given up so much and have supported me in every way, making them proud is the very least I could do in return.
Becoming a school psychologist has been my dream career since I was in middle school. The thought of being able to connect and help a child grow both academically and socially is the greatest reward I could ever receive. Every time I am procrastinating typing a paper, not studying when I know I should have, or wanting to give up on a difficult problem, I think about my end goal. Making a difference to even just one child with make all of school worth it.
~ Haleigh Cordeiro, California Polytechnic State University
6. Find Your Unconscious
Psychologists have discovered reasons, stages, and correlations among our biopsychosocial make-up. Over the centuries, they have managed to explain why humans experience what occurs in everyday life. They provide answers when we have questions about ourselves; it is for this reason that I strive to major in psychology.
I believe that I can make people in my environment, as well as myself, healthier by providing some sense of clarity whenever life situations become foggy. My dream is to someday become a successful industrial-psychologist. Why not a clinical psychologist? Working one-on-one with individuals who are struggling would definitely bring me pleasure. However, I believe that I would have a greater impact within my society by helping larger groups. This dream of mine to become an industrial-psychologist would allow me to make the environment of common day people the most comfortable and enjoyable one.
Through the study of psychology, I will be able to know what qualities are the most necessary to enrich the daily lives of people and ensure that I apply them to my work. What drives me? The fact that I have seen psychologists help my family make sense of one of the most difficult things that we have gone through. Psychologists helped my sister facing anorexia nervosa deal with her disorder and helped my family become a strong support system to aid my sister’s recuperation. I want to know that I can help other people, psychology will open the doors to this dream of mine.
~ Iridian, Cal State University of Long Beach
7. My Dream
Over 22 million children in the United States do not live with their biological mother and father and reside with their grandparents. This means that 3 percent of children living in America face the same situation as me. My father and mother were teenagers when they had me, so raising a baby girl was a difficult task for them. Neither of my parents went to college either, so having me took a toll on their lives. For the both of them, college was an opportunity to better their education and be successful, but with me, that would have been harder for them. Living with my grandparents was the best option for me.
I am currently experiencing teenage life and I can understand why raising a child, when you are only a child yourself, is a daunting responsibility. I commend my parents because they choose to provide a better life for me. They wanted to prevent me from facing adversity, they shielded me from their struggles. When I enter college, my goal is not just to pass my classes, it is to make something of myself. I know my parents would want that for me.
My dream is to work up to my doctorate and become a psychiatrist, fulfilling every opportunity and experience that comes my way. Psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung once said “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become”, and through my hardship, I choose to overcome and prepare for my destiny.
~ Nina Grizzle
8. Art Therapy
My love for psychology began my junior year when I took the AP course. What was supposed to be a schedule-filling elective credit accidentally grew into a genuine fascination. I found myself going above and beyond the curriculum purely out of curiosity. My interest in what we were discussing in class every day would often send me down long, thought-provoking paths that motivated me to hunt down explanations to the answers of questions I didn't know I had. But once I had the answers, they seemed to be demanding further explanation, and I was always more than happy to oblige.
With my future education in this field, I hope to further develop new methods of art therapy that will aid those suffering from different mental disorders and cognitive declines. I feel that experimenting with the effects that art has on people's brain chemistry will open up a new type of therapy that can be clinically prescribed. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 43.8 million adults in the United States suffer from mental illnesses. This new form of therapy could possibly improve the mental state of the millions of people impacted while inspiring the creation of art.
~ Taylor Himes, University of Texas San Antonio
9. If You Put Your Mind To It
For as long as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I knew that the first step was to attend an accredited university, and that university happens to be Michigan State. I went into college with the dream of becoming a doctor, however, I had a change of heart.
At the beginning of my freshmen year, the unthinkable happened. My dad committed suicide. My world came crashing down. It was a complete shock. My dad always kept all his feelings masked. I never knew what he was going through, and everyday I regret not paying closer attention. Not a day goes by where I don't think about him. If only I had known. I could've done something. That experience then motivated me to change my major to psychology.
I always wanted to make a difference, and now I know just how I am going to be able to accomplish that dream. I want to help people who are going through what my dad endured. I want to be there for them, to help them overcome their inner demons. I want to let them know that their lives are worth living. Losing a family member to suicide is one of the most detrimental events that anyone can ever endure, and if I can one day prevent someone from experiencing that, then I would have accomplished my goal; I will make a difference.
~ Kayla Harper, Michigan State University
10. Motivated by God to Help Others
I’ve heard from so many different people how difficult college can be. Late nights, big tests, difficult and early classes, that doesn’t even sound like fun. The only thing that keeps me moving towards college is the idea of being able to help other people when I graduate.
In December of 2016 I travelled halfway around the world to the Philippines. While I was there I met 15 wonderful children with horrible backgrounds. The love these children missed out on for so many years is heartbreaking. My future goal is to study Psychology and Religion at Liberty University.
The dream that keeps me motivated to go back to school is the idea that I could help so many people, not just children, but anyone who needs someone willing to listen and talk about their problems. People need more people to care and who want to listen. If people would feel the love that God made for them this world would be a much better place.
~ Trinity Rake, Liberty University