Two Dawson alumni came back to their alma mater on February 20th to share their experiences as Concordia Psychology students, and to dispel popular myths about university.
The name value of McGill often influences people more than the approaches of the two universities in teaching psychology, especially when it comes to classroom sizes and environment. Invited by Dawson’s Psychology professor Rajesh Malik, two Dawson alumni dispelled the myths about how Concordia’s Psychology program is inferior to McGill’s and the ‘unspoken rule’ of universities.
Kajamathy Subramaniam, a first-year Psychology student, and Shira Azoulay, a fourth-year Honours Psychology student, said that the classroom size was a decisive factor in their university choice.
“[Concordia classrooms] range from [60 to 100] students. You have more opportunities to talk to the teacher. On the other hand, McGill has classes of 500 students and one teacher for everyone,” explained Subramaniam.
Many students find this aspect of McGill very intimidating. For Anaïs Charbonneau-Poitras, a third-year Dawson Psychology student, the environment is “too competitive. The expectations are high. [McGill] expects students to continue being as effective under severe stress, anxiety and pressure. It’s not very realistic.”
According to Malik, the competition allows McGill to “weed out” their students, and only those at the top are accepted in the Honours Program after their first-year. Meanwhile, Concordia allows its students to enter the program upon their admission. “I didn’t have to stress about being accepted [into the Honours Program],” stated Azoulay.
Additionally, Concordia exposes its Psychology students to research laboratories earlier than McGill does. The university is generally more research-oriented and has a stronger clinical program.
“If you get to work in a lab that’s also a clinical lab, you can start getting clinical experience as well as research experience early on. [This is] beneficial if you’re interested in going into clinical psych [in graduate school],” said Azoulay.
Another of Concordia’s key features is its Science College. Students get paired with a professor in their field of study and they immediately begin to conduct research. According to Concordia’s webpage, this program “both sharpens their understanding of science and gives them first-hand experience with what to expect from a scientific career”.
Both alumni also pointed out that the ‘unspoken rule’: the school one chooses for their undergraduate studies will likely not accept them for their graduate studies. Only three Concordia Psychology students were accepted into the Concordia graduate program. “If you want to go to McGill grad, then go to Concordia undergrad and vice versa,” said Azoulay.
According to Malik, this rule is in place to benefit both the university and the students. “It’s kind of an incestuous relationship you begin to develop. Students should have a different perspective. Ideas from different places will train your brain very differently. If you come from a university and have done well, you go elsewhere, and you speak highly of the university you come from, the university gets known,” he explained.
Students do not have to worry about their university choice at the undergraduate level. “In Canada, the choice of the university doesn’t matter too much. The quality of what’s available between the best and the worst is not huge no matter what people think,” stated Malik.
Other factors can influence one’s university choice, but “in the end, it’s what you feel more comfortable with,” stressed Azoulay.