Psychology Conferences Are for Students, Too!

Attending a psychology conference moves learning beyond the classroom.

Posted Mar 15, 2018

Besides teaching and doing research, one of the other things psychology faculty do is attend conferences. Why? Psychology conferences—and there are many, many of them held annually in the Unites States and around the world—provide a forum for scholars and researchers to present their latest findings to peers. Besides psychology faculty and practitioners who work in educational, clinical, or other settings, graduate students in psychology are also likely to attend and present their work at these professional venues.

What many undergraduate students don’t realize is that undergraduate students are welcome to attend and often take part in psychology conferences, as well. Indeed, many psychology departments at colleges and universities around the country will encourage their students (usually majors who are juniors or seniors, but anyone is welcome) to go with faculty to a psychology conference. Besides getting students off campus and enabling them to experience a city they may not have visited before (think Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and so on), conferences also provide students with networking opportunities to meet with peers, listen to famous or on the rise psychologists present their research, attend panel discussions on applying to graduate school, and even presenting their work.

Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology, often hosts special talks or symposia at psychology conferences that are designed just for undergraduates. A psychologist whose work is well known is usually invited to give an enlightening and entertaining talk at the conference. Students have the opportunity at the end of the presentation to ask questions and even meet the speaker (and yes, selfies with the speaker are often taken).

Most conferences also run poster sessions that are either designed specifically for student presenters or undergraduates—with faculty sponsorship—are able to submit their posters for presentation in the general poster sessions. Doing a poster on your own research experience can be a great way for psychology majors to “cap off” their college experience by sharing what they learned with interested peers and professionals. Those students applying to graduate school can list the conference presentation in their vita (an academic resume); those entering the work force might list the presentation in their job resume if it seems relevant.

Undergraduate students are most welcome at the regional psychology conferences that are held annually. Search for the websites for the regional conferences listed below to learn where they are being held, when, and how to go about submitting a presentation or just attending. By the way, many graduate schools often host booths or tables at these conferences. They do so in order to meet undergraduates who are interested in find a graduate program that fits their needs and interests. The regional psychology conferences in the US are: Eastern Psychological Association (EPA); New England Psychological Association (NEPA); Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA); Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA); Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (RMPA); Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA); and the Western Psychological Association (WPA).

Most psychology conferences will run special orientation programs for first-time attendees and undergraduate students. These programs are designed to help you get the most out of the conference experience.

Besides these larger conference venues, there are also psychology conferences dedicated exclusively to undergraduate research. Students who attend can listen to talks and attend posters sessions, as well as submit proposals for presenting a poster or giving a talk (usually 15 mins in length). Though smaller in scale, these undergraduate conferences also work to invite prominent psychology figures to give a keynote address that will be of interest to the students who attend.

So, if you are an undergraduate psychology student or you know some psychology majors who want to broaden their intellectual horizons, consider the opportunities associated with attending or participating in a psychology conference.