The what and why of Psi Chi

Opportunity knocks when you join Psi Chi.

By Martha S. Zlokovich, PhD

 Psi ChiIf you are savvy enough to have joined APA as a student affiliate, you may already have heard about Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology for psychology students at four-year colleges and universities and graduate student-only campuses. As stated in its constitution, Psi Chi’s purpose is “to encourage, stimulate and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology” (Psi Chi, 2013).

Thus, although it is certainly wonderful to wear honor cords at graduation and add that line about being a member of an honor society to your resume, those benefits will not be the sum of what you get out of Psi Chi during your academic career. Psi Chi is also a great place to obtain leadership experience related to your field of study. Each chapter has at least four officer positions (president, vice president, treasurer and secretary), and most also need energetic, conscientious, psychology-loving members to serve in committee and special-service or research-project leadership roles as well. It is through such leadership roles that chapter members (and the faculty who support them) develop programming of interest to their members. 

Chapters frequently ask faculty or graduate students to talk about getting into and succeeding in graduate school. They may invite psychologists, psychology researchers and many different kinds of professionals who started their careers as psychology majors to present on their chosen careers. Chapters also plan social and service events, supporting Habitat for Humanity, Adopt-a-Shelter and food drives among others.

Most chapters also allow nonmembers to attend meetings, talks, social events and service-project outings, so don’t wait to find out what your school’s chapter is doing. The earlier students begin participating in Psi Chi, the more benefits they will reap. Undergraduates may become lifetime members as early as their sophomore year. Joining as early as possible allows students to work on chapter projects and serve in a variety of roles within their chapter, gives them more time to apply for awards and grants (Psi Chi offers more than $320,000 in awards and grants per year) and provides support for their psychological research.

Would you be interested in attending sessions such as “Being a Rock Star Undergrad: Careers, Internships, Research, and More?,” “Leadership in Transition: From Psi Beta to Psi Chi and Beyond,” “Surviving Your ‘Freshman Year’ in the Workplace With a Bachelor's Degree” or “Preparing for Graduate School: Long-Term Preparation Strategies”? Every member is also invited to attend Psi Chi programming at one of the six regional meetings held at APA-affiliated regional psychology meetings. In addition to the presentations of cutting-edge research, there are programming hours specifically for Psi Chi student members.

Would you be interested in chatting with Robert Sternberg, Elizabeth Loftus, Phil Zimbardo, Diane Halpern, Janet Shibley Hyde or Albert Bandura at a Psi Chi conversation hour? These Psi Chi distinguished speakers have graciously participated in intimate student discussions after their talks. 

You can find out about Psi Chi programming and about submitting your student research project for presentation on the Psi Chi website in the section about conventions. There you will also find information about Psi Chi programming at the APA and APS national conventions. Members may submit their research and compete to win research awards of $300 or more at these eight conventions. 

So how can you join Psi Chi as early as possible? Be sure you take at least three psychology courses during your first three semesters. Undergraduates may join if they have completed 36 hours with a cumulative GPA in the top 35 percent of their class, completed nine hours of psychology with at least a 3.0 GPA and declared a psychology minor or major. As soon as you declare your major or minor in psychology, ask your chapter’s officers or faculty advisor about your school’s membership requirements because chapters may select more stringent academic criteria if they wish. Graduate students, if they did not already join as undergraduates, may also become lifetime members after completing a semester in a graduate psychology program with at least a 3.0 GPA.

There are Psi Chi chapters at over 1,100 universities across the U.S. and in 10 other countries. Through this single organization, more than 660,000 members can support each other via the Eye on Psi Chi magazine, the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, LinkedIn and Facebook and through personal interaction at chapter gatherings and conventions. In no time, you too can be connected to psychology enthusiasts all over the world. Join us today.


Psi Chi. (2013, June 20). Retrieved from Purpose and mission statements.

About the Author

Martha S. Zlokovich, PhDMartha S. Zlokovich, PhD, joined Psi Chi in 2008 as its second executive director, leaving Southeast Missouri State University after teaching there for 17 years. This move, however, was not her first involvement with Psi Chi. She served as chapter advisor since 1993, as Midwestern region vice president (1998-2000), and as national president of Psi Chi (2003-04). In 1996, Southeast’s chapter won the Ruth Hubbard Cousin’s National Chapter of the Year Award, and several chapter members have won Psi Chi Regional Research Awards at MPA and/or had their research published in Psi Chi's journal. At Southeast, Zlokovich taught child development, adolescent development, lifespan development, advanced child psychology and introductory psychology for majors. She also served as chair of the department. Her research interests have focused on student study habits, study beliefs, and persistence to graduation as well as adolescent and young adult contraception and sexuality. She earned her MS and PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Florida, and BA in psychology from UCLA.