Making an initial college list for S24 (average-excellent? homeschooled, undecided major, few strong preferences)

If you look at Lehigh maybe look at Lafayette, Bucknell and Scranton. Scranton is a Jesuit school in that middle range.


He would have a decent chance at Northeastern if he ED’s. For ED I Northeastern offers a financial aid pre-read. Based on reports here those accepted say it was accurate. If the pre-read COA is doable then apply ED I.


Vassar has, to quote their website, “the oldest undergraduate cog sci degree-granting program in the world.” Cognitive Science | Vassar College It’s a little more competitive than you want, but slightly less competitive than Northeastern overall, and even better when you look at male admissions in particular. Seeking gender balance, selective colleges are giving men an advantage in admission

Another reachy-but-possible program to look at (if the NPC is favorable) is the Engineering Psychology major at Tufts Tufts’ admitted student stats are virtually identical to Northeastern’s, but the admit rate is a few points lower, and there’s less of an ED bump.


Honestly, of all the ones you.listed, only Brandeis could hold a candle to what UMass Amherst would offer him, and theyd have to give him 50k a yr in aid to match the price. Most importantly, umass has the food and the dorm bathrooms that he needs.

I’d add Franklin and Marshall and Fordham to the “could hold a candle to U Mass Amherst” list.

For cognitive science, ling, and comp sci? Really?

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U Mass Amherst is the best option for linguistics-- hands down.

For a kid who is undecided- as this kid is- except that he likes interdisciplinary, which tells me he is looking to explore in college-- there will be fantastic opportunities that are NOT linguistics at a bunch of other colleges.

Unless this kid has done a deep dive and understands what linguistics is- which few HS students do-- I’m not going down that path.

But umass has great comp sci, has a large variety of mJors, research oppprtunities, etc.
Plus if there were anything it did not have, there are the other schools in the consortium. Honors college, great food, great dorms, cheap, close to home. Seems like a no brainer to me.

“But he wouldn’t think to do it on his own. So a place with proactive guidance by the school or where the other students are generally focused and go-getters would be helpful.”

U Mass’s guidance is there for the kids who seek it out and take advantage of it… which does not sound like this kid. And there is a solid cadre of fantastic and serious and highly focused students- and lots and lots of kids who are there to get their ticket punched. The description of a kid who wants proactive guidance doesn’t scream U Mass to me, despite its strong linguistics and CS offerings.

I’m a fan- don’t get me wrong- but it’s not the obvious choice for a kid who needs support unless none of the other options are affordable in which case- grin and bear it…


Take a look at St Anselm in NH. I know many who are/have gone there all with significant amounts of merit aid included. Some are more catholic than others and none run the Trump gamut. I’ve never been but people say the campus is beautiful plus you are near smaller cities, but not in the sticks. As far as majors go, I’m sorry I can’t help there but it’s a name to look up. Who knows, maybe he likes it, maybe he doesn’t. Good luck!


S24 has been researching the websites of the colleges I narrowed down for him to look at. He really is engaging with them, but his opinion is just “it’s fine“ for everything. :roll_eyes:

We are still struggling with the major dilemma, though. At each school he looks through the core requirements (or whatever plan the school has) and also the requirements of a few majors I thought he might be interested in. He also reads through the list of all majors offered and looks over any that he thinks sound interesting.

The trends I’m seeing— (1) He likes technical majors to an extent, but isn’t excited about anything that gets too detailed/specific technically. (2) He always looks more into degrees that have some connection to how people think or learn.

I think if he had no concern about money & was just thinking about the 4-year experience, he would study cognitive psychology or something like that. But when he looks at the jobs people with that degree get, he isn’t excited about either the jobs themselves or the pay.

A few degrees that have stood out as different and exciting for him are:
RIT: Human Centered Computing

Northeastern: Computer Science and Cognitive Psychology

Tufts: Human Factors Engineering

What are some other majors at other schools (ideally schools he would have a chance to get into) he could consider that are like these?


I think you are overthinking the major.

You can’t do brain surgery without being a board certified neurologist, but many jobs are not that specific and your kid is still in HS!!

Folks who major in psych go on to Marketing roles-- who do you think figured out that casinos should not have clocks? Or that packaging 5 cookies into a bag labeled “80 calories” means a LOT more profit than those same cookies in a bag containing 50 cookies? Psychology majors have two important skills in corporate America- they can analyze data, and they understand the connection between the mind and behavior. So they work in advertising, banking, consumer products, retailing, insurance, real estate development, hospitality, etc. Some of these jobs are highly compensated and some are not- like in any other field.

Why does he need to pick a major now? A university with a robust set of offerings will likely have SOMETHING he can fall in love with-- and a strong career services team to help him figure out “how do I earn a living once I graduate?”


I don’t feel like he needs to pick a major now. I do want him to apply to schools that have the best chance of having a major he can be excited about.

Pretty much every school has psychology as a stand alone major (he’ll have to look closer to see what strands of psychology are offered at each school). But not as many schools have these combined majors that he finds interesting, so I am trying to help him find schools that do.

His final list will probably have some schools with these technical/psychology combined majors and some schools with (cognitive) psychology departments that allow for combining or changing majors relatively easily.

Another benefit of finding more schools with this type of major is to get an idea of what types of classes he could take as a group at other schools to get a similar experience to these majors (if that is the direction he decides to go).

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Every college has a psych major. Every college has an econ major. He does not need a special major in Behavioral Economics (a very marketable field right now)-- he can just be a plain vanilla psych major who takes courses in econ. Which will likely happen when a professor in his psych class recommends a certain book and he falls in love with Behavioral Economics.

That’s my point about this all being somewhat premature. It is hard to predict what is going to excite him before he gets to college. A Cog Sci department may or may not “allow” a combined major. But there will be nothing to stop him from taking a genetics course (the intersection of brain and heredity is pretty exciting) or a chem course (chem and Cog Sci are exploding) or cog sci and programming (the whole field of wearables- devices which can help cure longstanding depressive illnesses)-- the sky is the limit.

He doesn’t need a standalone, special major with nifty nomenclature to study any of these fields!


Is Pittsburgh too far from home? Carnegie Mellon could be worth a look. The CS school is ridiculously hard to get into, but the Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences isn’t as bad, and it houses several departments that might be of interest. The Social & Decision Sciences department has several undergrad majors that could fit,

and the Psych department has a CogSci major Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Science - Department of Psychology - Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

There’s also Pitt, right next door to CMU - their psych department has a cognitive neuroscience major, and they share the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition with CMU (Pitt also has multiple focus areas within Industrial Engineering, if that’s still on the table.)

If you’re considering RIT, URoch could be worth a look also. Brain and Cognitive Sciences : Undergraduate Programs : Brain and Cognitive Sciences : University of Rochester

I think this is all well and good, but the reality is, do you really intend to pay 80K/yr for private college for him, when he can get an absolutely wonderful education at UMass Amherst for 33K/yr, maybe even a bit less if he does even better on the second take of the SAT, and gets awarded the in-state merit of a couple of thousand a year? For one of mine, it was obviously the best choice, since that kid had been totally obsessed with linguistics since 8th grade. I was thrilled when they got honors and the max OOS merit scholarship. But I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw how lovely the campus was, how good the dorms were, how fantastic the food was. After having visited the campus many times, and seen how much was going on there, it seems to me that MA families are incredibly lucky to have this as their in-state flagship option.


He will almost certainly apply to UMass Amherst (and you’re right it would probably be his cheapest option). My biggest concern with it, though, is the lack of flexibility/ability to change between majors. I want him to have some options for schools with different possibilities in case his thinking shifts between the time he applies and the when he needs to commit to a college. If he is thinking linguistics in October, but leaning more toward Industrial Engineering/Operations
Research in April, will UMass be a place he can make that switch? I just want to help him have some options so he has choices when the time comes to decide.


I don’t know if it’s so very difficult to change majors there. I know that my child was able to take the intro classes for their most selective major, do well in them, and would have been admitted to the major, had they wanted to continue with it.

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@Blossom is correct that there are ways to do interdisciplinary studies without having a pre-designed interdisciplinary major already created. But for some students, having something already organized without needing to envision it and figure out the pragmatics can be very helpful.

With that in mind, these are a couple of schools that you may want to dig into a little more to see if they appeal to your son. As I’m listing a number of majors for each school, I think I will do a separate post for each school (if CC will let me). Those four schools are:

  • Le Moyne (NY): About 2700 undergrads

  • Clarkson (NY): About 2900 undergrads

  • Quinnipiac (CT): About 6300 undergrads

  • Rensselaer Polytechnic (NY): About 5600 undergrads

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Le Moyne in New York with about 2700 undergrads offers some of these majors which may be of interest to your son: