Best college for my major-neuroscience

Hey! I’m just starting my college search. Where can i see the best undergrad schools for my major?

  1. US News ( seems to be based only off of grad programs, not undergrad.

  2. Niche (2021 Best Colleges with Neuroscience and Neurobiology Degrees - Niche) shows the best colleges that have a neuroscience major…not necessarily the colleges with the strongest neuroscience department.

like how do i know which colleges have the best undergrad programs for my major? is there a list? how come I cant find it.

My intended major(s) are neuroscience/biopsych/psych-related. and possibly a minor/major in early childhood education. (related note–if i intend to double major do i just look at 2 diff sites and choose the colleges that have high rankings for both the majors?)

  • other notes: UW GPA 3.95, SAT 1520.
  • my mom: If I am to apply to LACs, I should only apply to California LACs
  • If I apply to schools out-of-state, they should only be private, because she said the UCs are good public schools and why spend more money on out-of-state publics.
  • I should stick to the top 30 national universities (after considering major ranking) when applying out-of-state, because she and I know I will likely change/add majors, and she says I might as well go to a school that has excellent majors across the board.

Thanks so much!!

Shopping is fun! and that’s what you are doing now. But: it helps if you know what you are shopping for. You want a list of the “best” so that you can shortcut the process -but you don’t know what you want them to be the “best” at. Instead, build a list based on the whole package, not just what a 1 dimensional rating says. So:

*learn about the specific programs that are interesting to you by looking at the college websites, reading program and course descriptions.

*learn about how the school works: how easy/hard is it to add/drop/change majors? what are the resources and expectations wrt internships? are they expected/supported/available from Year 1? (those will be especially important for you, as they will help you figure out your path)

*think about what you know about yourself- how you work and what sort of environment you thrive in- and what sort you don’t thrive in! build a picture of the type environment you think will suit you best.

The good news is that if you are looking at “top 30 national universities” + the top UCs you won’t go wrong no matter what your major is.

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My son took this same approach from Oregon too, because Oregon State has sold engineering. There was one caveat though, WUE can open up affordable OOS public options. Utah for example gave him a scholarship better than WUE, one year free, followed by three years in state. It was by a reasonable margin his cheapest option, even though it was out of state. Barrett, the honors program at ASU can be very affordable too. There’s a very good chance that you’ll find OOS WUE options that are cheaper than CA publics in-state.

What’s the long term career goal?


Thanks! Long term career goals are either healthcare or education.

i would def not want rural. my parents prefer CA, but im ok w anything as long as not in the center of america. my school counselor suggested BU, emory, JHU, CMU, Uchicago, northwestern, rice, NYU, washu, case western, tufts, vanderbilt, barnard (i expressed interest in that, even tho it’s not highly ranked for neuro), the UCs.
are there any other school u suggest i research, based on what ive told u ? thank you

Those schools are all VERY expensive unless you get aid. Some of them offer little or no merit aid. Unless you and you parents have more money than they know what to do with, I would strongly urge you to not spend a lot on undergrad if a health related profession is a possibility in your future. Professional schools are full pay. You can get loans, but for the most part there’s minimal to no aid for either merit or need. “Prestige” of the undergraduate institution absolutely does not matter to the schools of medicine, optometry, dentistry, podiatry, etc. I know a second career physician who didn’t pay off his student loans until he was in his 60s! That puts a significant damper on retirement savings.

I think the UCs are dropping tests, so make sure you go deep on your UC list, even as deep as UCM and include a CSU or two. Without tests, it’s harder to differentiate and some students are getting disappointed.


The UC’s are test blind through the 2025 admission cycle.


The description of a particular major at a school may look really interesting, but how do you know it’s top-notch? Each school’s website will try to make the major look really good, so it’s hard to differentiate.

As was stated above, what’s “best” depends on the metrics YOU want to measure. Rice is not the best if you hate Texas or the heat. Cornell is not the best if you hate the cold or the East. Start by narrowing down what YOU want your college experience to be like. Do you want a small, medium or large campus? Do you care about weather? What about support for your hobbies? Like the outdoors? City life? Do you care about class size? Once you’ve narrowed, you can look at curricula, etc. Just know that nearly all of your success will depend on you and not the school you attend.

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Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.


Remember, you are shopping! So, be an informed shopper. Yes, each department will put what it sees as it’s best things forward- but that will also tell you what they think is important! As you get familiar with the lingo you will get a better sense of what appeals to you. And if you dig, you will learn more about not just that particular program, but about different aspects of the field(s) that you are interested in. You will even learn things by looking at the research interests and backgrounds of the profs in the department. There is more serious content there than you might realize.

You do understand that there really isn’t an objective 'best", right? There are too many variables for that to happen. For a start “neuroscience” is a big range (which you already know, as you have listed other related areas above). Like any kind of shopping you learn as you go. For example, from the bits you have posted, it sounds as if you might be a good candidate for a multidisciplinary program. You can test that theory by looking at the program descriptions to seeing if they spark your imagination. For example, read the Cognitive Science section on the Vassar website (About - Cognitive Science Department - Vassar College) and the Neuroscience section of the Johns Hopkins website (BS Requirements | Neuroscience | Johns Hopkins University). Super different in lots of ways- so does one innately appeal to you more than the other? If so, follow that lead, and look for other programs that offer the things that appeal to you- both in the subject and in the school.

Calling it “shopping” may be a little flip- but the reality is that this research process is an important part of the college process. Trying to shortcut it by finding a “top 10” list won’t really work as well.


An (mostly) objective assessment of the strength of a department in the academia is the quality of the faculty’s publications, which can be measured by the number of publications and the impact factor of the journals in which the research are published. One can start from the publication lists of selected professors, and then look up the impact factor of the journals. For example, the impact factors of Nature, Science and Journal of Chemical Neuroscience are about 42, 41, and 4.2 respectively; the higher the score, the higher the impact. Talk with a librarian, preferably at your local university to learn more, if it interests you.

Respectfully, this is very useful for someone seeking a doctoral candidate position, but it’s really a proxy for department size. It’s virtually meaningless for prospective undergrads.

The Universities of California are indeed all very good universities. However, I do agree with @eyemgh that WUE opens up some other very good affordable options for you since you live in a WUE state.

My understanding is that at least neuroscience and psychology are majors where there are a lot of universities with very good programs, and where graduate school is very likely. I will admit that I attended graduate school in a very different major. However, my experience is that very highly ranked graduate schools get undergrads from a very wide range of other universities. You do not need to attend a “top 10” undergraduate school in order to get into a “top 3” graduate program. In fact, I have two close family members who attended universities that were NOT in the “top 100” in the US overall, but one attended an Ivy League university for graduate school and one will be starting at a “top 5 in the world” graduate program in September. The key is not the ranking of your school, it is a little bit how good their program is and a lot what you do with it.

I do not think that rankings are important. I do think that you should avoid debt for undergrad, and that you should think about what will make a school a good fit for you. Finding a “good fit” is a lot more work than looking at rankings, but in the end will be worth it.

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Wash U in St. Louis has a program that might interest you - a friend of my daughter’s is in it. Philosophy - Neuroscience - Psychology. Undergraduate | Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology

“Best” is what fits best for you based on interest, cost, can you get in, etc.

Why do your parents restrict your choice of LACs to California college but not your choice of national universities?

Vassar and Mount Holyoke College offer interesting programs for your combination of interests

UC’s are good public schools, but they’re overcrowded, lack housing in many instances, have impacted majors, and can be very difficult to switch majors and large class sizes. For example, the student-faculty ratio is 18:1 at UCLA and 25:1 for UCSC.

And the COL is very high around towns like Berkeley, Westwood, Santa Cruz, Irvine, San Diego, SLO, etc.

I sent my D18 to Michigan from CA. Housing is cheaper, COL of cheaper, housing choices galore near campus, class sizes are 14:1 and you can switch majors almost on a whim, but for Ross Business School. And there are at least 45 LSA majors that are Top 10 and that doesn’t even include the Nursing, Kinesiology, Business and Engineering schools.

And they get 112,000 fans to attend football games. Not so much at Cal or UCLA. So, I saw value in sending my D18 to Michigan and not the UC’s.

Also, Michigan has the 2nd largest R&D budget in the US, behind only JHU and has a $12.5 Billion endowment, Top 10 in the US, and is more than double UCLA’s endowment (largest UC endowment).

Now, D21 didn’t apply OOS and will be attending Cal Poly SLO, where they have her major and have a “learn by doing” hands-on academic philosophy. She also gets a 2-year on-campus housing promise and off-campus housing options seem readily available, but a bit on the expensive side, which is CA.

Michigan does a “brisk business” of getting CA students to come and they do have financial aid available for OOS students.

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If you were to relax your restrictions, you might want to consider the first undergraduate neuroscience major in the U.S., Amherst’s: About the Program | Neuroscience | Amherst College.

Emory and Tufts came to mind.
Emory has a very popular and robust NBB Major (Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology). Tufts has a biopsychology Major (or maybe psychobiology?).