Frequently Asked Questions - Advising

How is HDFS different from psychology? From sociology?

Human Development and Family Studies majors focus on understanding individual and family experiences within ecological contexts over time. Psychological studies tend to focus on an individual's thoughts, experiences, and behaviors, whereas sociological studies tend to focus on societal institutions such as income, religion, and government. HDFS majors understand all of these aspects of development. They not only learn about how individuals develop, but they also learn about how family relationships, income, religion, and governmental policies affect individual development. Additionally, students in other majors may study individuals or societal institutions at one particular point in time, whereas HDFS majors study how people change over time.

There are certainly exceptions to these generalizations about psychology and sociology. Many undergraduate psychology programs have courses that focus on the relationships between family members. Many undergraduate sociology programs have courses that focus on individual development. However, HDFS is unique in its interdisciplinary focus on individuals and families over the lifespan. HDFS also contains a focus on preventing and intervening in problem behaviors. HDFS majors learn how to implement and evaluate programs which are designed to improve the quality of people's lives.

The HDFS undergraduate program at Penn State differs from other programs in another important way: HDFS majors complete a semester-long internship prior to graduation which provides HDFS undergraduates with the opportunity to explore a career path, gain real-world experience, and put classroom knowledge into practice. Please see the Internships page for more information on Internships.

Please consult the HDFS Undergraduate home page and your academic or faculty advisor for more information on the unique perspectives and experiences of HDFS majors.

Is it advisable to double major in HDFS and Psychology?

Some HDFS undergraduates do pursue degrees in HDFS and Psychology at the same time. For entrance into most professional or research graduate programs, this is not necessary. Students should consider the degree they would need to pursue their chosen career and explore the entrance requirements for professional or graduate programs in their chosen field. Most professional and graduate programs will require a Bachelor's degree in “psychology, social work, or a related field.” HDFS is considered a “related field” or a “social science” for the purposes of evaluating entrance requirements. Students who are interested earning an HDFS and Psychology degree should discuss this possibility with their HDFS academic advisor and plan their coursework carefully so that they can satisfy requirements for both the HDFS and Psychology degrees. Students should consult the Concurrent Majors section of the University Undergraduate Advising Handbook. Students should also examine the entrance requirements for the Psychology major and course requirements for the Psychology Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees. Please note that students who double major in HDFS and Psychology generally need five years to complete both degrees.

What minor is a good complement to HDFS?

Many HDFS students pursue minors to develop expertise in areas that are related to their chosen careers. Information on considering a minor and links to popular minors pursued by HDFS majors can be found on the Optional Minors page. Students are encouraged to discuss the possibility of pursuing a minor with their academic advisor to ensure that they graduate in a timely fashion.

Why do I have two advisors?

You have two advisors: an academic advisor and a faculty advisor. Academic advisors assist you with administrative and academic issues such as scheduling courses, fulfilling major requirements, and planning when to take courses. Faculty advisors assist you with exploring and planning for careers and/or graduate work. Full descriptions of how academic and faculty advisors can help you are available on the Advising page. Details on how to contact academic and faculty advisors can also be found on this page.

What ENGL 202 should I take?

Students should generally take ENGL 202A. However, ENGL 202B is an alternative course.