Victoria Perko is currently a senior Psychology major graduating in May of 2016 from St. Joseph’s University. She will graduate with a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. She is also a part of the five-year master's program in psychology and will be taking master's classes this coming year and graduating with her M.S. in experimental psychology in May of 2017.
What has your experience in psychology been like at St. Joseph's University? Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?
Before I committed to Saint Joseph's University, I was also looking at University of Delaware. I am on the dance team here at Saint Joseph's, which was an important factor in my decision to attend this school. University of Delaware also has a great dance team, but I was pulled to Saint Joseph’s University due to other amazing qualities it has. Just a few of the many qualities I love about Saint Joseph’s are its community, small size, and mission. It has been the best decision of my life thus far! I feel that the curriculum I have experienced at Saint Joseph's University has influenced me to see the world in a different way. I love the person I am becoming as a student here, and I am so thankful to be a part of the psychology department. My courses always challenge me to think outside of the box. The interesting topics we discuss are usually on my mind for hours after class has ended. I like that the small class size allows me to make more personal relationships with my professors. In my experience, the psychology faculty is incredibly educated yet also willing to learn new things from their students. Seeing that my professors are open to new ideas helps me realize how this field always has something new to offer, and I admire them for this quality.
What influenced you to pursue a major/career in psychology?
I actually applied to college as an accounting major at first. I knew that I could make a lot of money in that trade, but my heart would not have been in it. In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to be in psychology. I had a "What are you doing?" moment and changed my major to psychology before freshman year even started. My drive to study psychology stemmed from my interest in why people act the way they do. I have always been interested in crime and I am fascinated with why people choose to commit crime. I knew that following a psychology path with a minor in criminal justice would give me insight on this topic. I am so thankful I made the switch because attending my psychology courses is fun, and I am sure I would not have said the same about accounting!
Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many, how were they, and did you find the schools resources to be helpful in helping you find this opportunity?
The psychology department has an entire list of sites available to look at in order to find an internship. I had a little bit of trouble finding a place that would take me in the beginning, since sites normally like to take upperclassmen. Through my stepfather, I was able to work as an intern in the Navy Yard at McKean Defense Group for two summers. It was hard to put my true aspirations on hold, but I still enjoyed the experience of a professional setting. This summer, I am an employee at Clarity Service Group as a Personal Care Assistant. I found the company through a family connection, but they did have a table at the career fair as well. It has been a great way for me to begin my career as a psychologist, and I love that I am finally working with a company that specializes in psychology.
What are your future career plans and aspirations?
I must say that my career plans keep changing as the budding psychologist inside me grows. My aspiration would be to find the perfect combination between psychology and criminal justice. I have put deep thought into what career would fit me best, and I find the most gratification seems to be with children. My passions are leading me on a path to help children that may not have the opportunities others have. It would be amazing to work in or run a juvenile detention center that focuses on rehabilitating the adolescents for their return back to society. This is currently where I think I might want to follow my path, but I am still debating on the prison aspect. I think I would also be happy working as a school counselor or a child psychologist, as long as I am able to help children!
What has been the most challenging aspect of studying psychology, and was this something you had originally anticipated?
I think the most challenging aspect of studying psychology is coming to terms with the fact that there is still so much research to be done to understand the brain. Growing up, you want to believe that scientists have the answer for everything, but a lot of times, the discussion ends with "This area needs more research" or "We are still not sure why this happens". It is also tough trying to decipher the good research from bad. It was a surprise to me how many factors can skew data and how much it can limit the research. I did not anticipate this at first, but with my professors’ help, I have become a better critical thinker through understanding not all research is good research.
Is there anything you wish you had known about psychology ahead of time before choosing this career path?
I still feel that I have so much to learn about my career since I am not yet in it. I have ideas, but I am still in the process of figuring out which path I want to go down. All of the possibilities of career paths in psychology can be overwhelming, especially since I am the first person in my family to pursue this profession. If I were to give advice to someone who is interested in pursuing psychology, I would tell that person to network as much as possible. It is incredibly helpful to get advice from people who have experience in the field. Look up the career that most interests you and contact someone with that job in your area. Keep an open mind. There is so much that can be done in psychology, you never know where you might end up! I think even if you have a set career in mind, life has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans to shift you down different paths. Even if plan A does not work out, everything will fall into place if you keep looking in areas that interest you!