Expert Advice: Cures for the College Blues

Everyone gets discouraged, right? According to the experts, the answer is yes. In fact, the experts are quick to say that every student (no matter what their pursuit) will one day come face to face with some kind of disappointment or discouragement. That being said, we wanted to take our question one step further. We wanted to find out exactly what the experts did when they faced discouragement as students. How did they handle the college “I’m a psychology student” blues?

We found 4 successful psychologists who were willing to answer the question, “When you were feeling discouraged (in the process of earning your degrees) what did you do to persevere?” Here are their answers:

Jaynine HowardJaynine Howard is often referred to as “Coach Jaynine.” Howard is a retired Marine and college professor in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Most of her students are active duty military, veterans, or their family members. Quite notably, Howard served honorably for twenty years in the United States Marine Corps, earned a BA in Social Psychology from Park University as well as a graduate and post graduate degree-- while she was on active duty and raising three children as a single parent. In addition to those challenges, she was an active participant in her children’s lives via coaching youth sports and acting as a Den Mother for a Tiger Cub Troop. Here was her answer to our question about discouragement.

I stayed focused on the end goal. What is it that I wanted to do with my life? Why was I pursuing a degree? Talk to people who have similar goals. You will inspire each other to hang in there. Read psychology magazines and journals.

Lori WoodringDr. Lori Woodring is a PhD psychologist licensed in both New York and Connecticut. She attended Cornell University for her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development & Family Studies, and she received her graduate degrees (MS, PD, PhD) from Fordham University. She has also taught at the Graduate School of Education at Fordham (NYC) for a number of years. Her response to our question about handling discouragement was:

Becoming a psychologist is a long and sometimes arduous road that is often met with frustration. It is crucial to keep your eye on the goal and be sure to satiate yourself with the parts of psychology you love and enjoy. There will always be classes and subjects that you don't enjoy as much or find discouraging, but they are a means to an end, and once you have your degree you have the opportunity to choose the specialty you love. And remember, there are SO many areas in the field of psychology to which a degree gives you access.

Emma MansourEmma Mansour recently graduated with her PhD in Counseling Psychology and has been a college professor covering many aspects of psychology course training. For example, she taught the following college-level courses: Developmental Psychology, Group Counseling, Personality Psychology, and Counseling Skills. As a new graduate, Mansour is quite clear about how she handled discouragement:

There were many times that I felt discouraged. The journey to become a psychologist is a very long and winding road. Graduate school can take anywhere from 5-7 years. During that time, things don’t always go as planned. Your research may take longer than anticipated, you may not pass your qualifying exams the first time around, and/or you may not place on internship the first time around.

What helped me persevere was the love and support of family. Next was the belief that even though things were rough right now, I had made it this far. That others around me had struggled and were now ok. In short, I would advise students to reach out to others, share your struggles and ask for help when you need it.

Allison Buskirk-CohenDr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen has a PhD in Human Development with a specialty in Developmental Sciences from the University of Maryland. Dr. Buskirk-Cohen has devoted her research to the social lives of both children and adolescents, as well as to the dynamics of teaching and learning in higher education environments. She also has a marked interest regarding the impact of technology on the development of both learners and the educational process itself; as well as how it affects our interpersonal relationships and cognitive development. An Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Delaware College, Buskirk-Cohen’s work is globally respected and has been published in revered journals, advanced textbooks, and at academic conferences around the world. Her comments about discouragement were:

Self-care is such a critical concept in the field of psychology. Earning a degree can be difficult- it’s a long process that requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. It’s especially difficult in a helping profession, where you are giving so much of yourself to others. Always take time to 'check in' with yourself and make sure what you’re doing matches your priorities and goals. Reach out to others as well- classmates and professors. They are going through a similar experience and may be able to listen well, offer support, and help you identify resources that may help.

It is obvious from their responses that Howard, Mansour, Woodring, and Buskirk-Cohen have all encountered discouragement on the road to their dream jobs in the field of psychology. Additionally, they all handled discouragement in unique ways. We did notice, however, that they all did one thing while answering: they began to render aide to the person who might be suffering. Rather than focus on the recollection of their own experiences, they each switched their answers at some point, to the mode of helping someone else. Who knows--maybe it’s true that “Once a psychologist, always a psychologist.” Whatever the case may be, their advice is hard-earned and intended to encourage you to continue striving for your dreams in the field of psychology.