Pitt Honors vs Bing Vs Stony Brook (Neuroscience major)

I’ve narrowed my list down to University of Pittsburgh, Binghamton University, and Stony Brook University. I was also accepted to U of Michigan and NYU, however since we don’t qualify for need-based aid and I received no merit aid, they are completely unaffordable and both my parents and I agree that they are not worth the $70-80k per year, so they’re off the table. I am in state for the SUNYs so it will be significantly cheaper than Pitt (53k per year OOS), though we may be moving to PA before/during my first year since my dad has a job in the state, so I could qualify for in state tuition for at least the last two years, which would make the yearly cost roughly the same as SUNY. I was also accepted to the honors program at Pitt.

I intend to major in neuroscience, and am looking to go on to graduate school. I would love to hear people’s thoughts on the strength of the neuroscience program in all of these (or just biology at SBU since they don’t have neuro major) as well as how accessible research opportunities are for undergrads.

Knowing that the total student population are roughly similar in all three, with SBU being the largest, I’d also like to hear about the general student community vibe, i.e. are students helpful, collaborative, or too focused on academics and ultra-competitive (as I’ve heard about SBU).

I’m currently leaning towards Pitt however I have to convince my parents that the price differential is worth it. Open to all opinions.

Getting in-state tuition for Pitt is not that easy. Here are the rules.
If you plan on going to grad school go with the cheapest undergrad first.
My S19 is Neuroscience at Pitt and we faced a similar OOS option when he was deciding. But we are PA residents so Pitt made the most sense. We also don’t qualify for aid so your parents are correct and smart that OOS Pitt tuition may not worth it versus your in-state option.


I’m happy for you that you made financial safeties. When you go on to graduate school in neuroscience, you will have more options, since those will be fully funded programs with a living stipend.

You should be looking at Binghamton and Stony Brook. The simple fact is, they both offer an excellent education for you, at an affordable cost. Paying for Pitt OOS when you have those two excellent SUNYs available to you just doesn’t make financial sense. Counting on your family moving to the other state (and moving is a pain in the you know what, and expensive) doesn’t make financial sense.

The competition to get into PhD programs in neuroscience will be fierce. You will have as your classmates bright, driven students at any of these three schools. I suggest that you go visit Stonybrook and Binghamton this week. Tour the campus, see the dorms, maybe you can get into the dining halls, the labs, sit in on a neuroscience class. Try to connect with any students there that you know, or through any organization that you are part of, that’s on campus. If you’re a NYS resident, surely there are students from your high school there, and possibly some that you know through family, friends, and other activities.

My kid worked in a supermarket the summer before they left for college - long, hard, mind-numbing hours. After that experience, they viewed money in a different way than they had before, because they now understood the work that went into earning the money. Realize that if your family doesn’t qualify for any fin aid, it is likely that between federal, state, and local income taxes, they probably have to earn close to two dollars to spend one, and that’s not taking into account the property taxes and other taxes that they have to pay, too. So to pay for 4 yrs at the SUNY, they have to earn about 200K. To pay for 4 yrs OOS at Pitt, they have to earn closer to 400K. This means that they probably would have to work about two years longer, to pay for the difference between a SUNY and Pitt. You, of course, might not be earning 200K/yr any time soon - so for you, it might be ten years of labor.

Do you get my point? It’s not worth it, to ask your parents to pay that much more for Pitt than the SUNYs. Pick one of them, try to be a superstar there, and try for a fully-funded PhD program, or whatever else you want to do.


My son is at Bing and I can tell you that it is the opposite of SBU in vibe. Bing is very lively and social, with a work hard/play hard mentality. It is very rigorous though, so don’t get caught out thinking you’ll be able to coast (like my knucklehead son did, haha.) SBU has a substantial commuter population. It is academically rigorous though. My son attends college with quite a few kids from LI who wanted to get away from there, despite also getting into SBU.

Based on what you said above, Bing is the best bet. I would NOT pay an extra $80k for U Pitt., especially as you may be headed to grad or med school.


First of all, congrats on your admissions. As others have said, your choice of undergrad school won’t matter in terms of prestige. At whatever school you choose, get involved and knock it out of the park.

Getting into neuroscience PhD programs is not difficult in general. If you want to apply to prestigious programs, you can set yourself apart by 1) getting excellent grades, and 2) doing research as an undergrad. During your PhD, more important than WHAT you study or WHERE you study is WHO you work with. You need to have a good relationship with a good PhD advisor to be happiest in grad school. If you want to run your own lab someday, you should shoot for one of the fancier PhD programs. If you don’t want to run your own lab, the name of your PhD institution won’t matter.

Pretty much all US PhD programs in neuroscience give fully funded stipends. Some you might have to teach for your stipend (TA), but if you’re a great student you should easily be able to get a grad research assistantship (no teaching) anywhere you get in. You will make enough to comfortably survive on (with a few exceptions for snobby universities that give low stipends in high cost of living areas).

Now, as for major… What is your plan B if you change your mind about doing a neuroscience PhD? Unless your plan B is medical school, and even if your plan B is med school, you’ll want to think twice about majoring in neuroscience. The only things it’s useful for is neuroscience PhD or med school. If plan B is NOT med school, then you should major in something more general like biology, chemistry, physics, or psych, and supplement with neuroscience classes. Those majors offer much more flexibility in future plans, and the more quantitative (math-y), the better. If you don’t have a plan B, start putting one together.

SUNY Stony Brook has great neuroscience researchers! Focusing on a “neuroscience” BS or even a “neuroscience” PhD is totally unnecessary. You can study neuroscience for your PhD, but may end up with your official PhD in biology, chemistry, physiology, neuroscience, molecular biology, etc… Don’t worry about the labels. Go do your undergrad someplace where you can do research with a neuroscience professor all 4 years, and take a few neuro classes, and be a rockstar. That is more than enough.

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Just thinking out loud here… IF the poster does move out of NY halfway through their college career, do they lose in-state tuition for SUNY? Not sure what the rules are when your parents move out of state halfway through the initial 4 years. Anyone have experience with this? I did a quick search but didn’t find an obvious answer.