Please help match/chance a rising senior for neuroscience


  • US domestic
  • Maryland
  • Public Title 1 School, STEM Magnet program
  • Female, Asian, Tamil (South Indian)

Intended Major(s)
Neuroscience/Cognitive Science (basically anything along those lines)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.85
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 4.6/5
  • Class Rank: 20/346
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 1500: 740 reading, 760 math


Freshman Year:
AP Environmental Science: 4

Sophomore Year:
AP World: 5
AP Stat: 5

Junior Year:
AP Physics C Mech: TBD (but I will probably drop the score)
AP Lang: TBD

Senior Year:
AP Psych: TBD
AP Chem: TBD
Electives: Organic Chemistry/Biochemistry

Foreign Lang (French) all four years
English, math, and sciences all four years
Doing a “capstone” independent research project through the magnet program @ nearby army base (will be 300+ hours) and will culminate in a research poster



Have been studying for 7 years, private lessons for 5 years
Concertmaster of school chamber orchestra all four years
First violinist in All - County Orchestra 2020
Concertmaster of All - County orchestra in 2022 (and hopefully 2023?)
First violin in our city youth orchestra for 9th and 10th grade (this orchestra is comparatively more prestigious then all the other ones)
Concertmaster of county youth orchestra 2023, assistant concertmaster 2022
Started a tutoring organization: Mentoring Musical Minds, which offers young kids free tutoring on the violin, viola, cello, or flute over zoom for 30 minute lessons

Carnatic (South Indian classical) Singing:

Been studying for 15 years, my mom teaches me
Member of Papanasam Sivan Vocal Group, audition based group that performs annually in Cleveland at the Tyagaraja Aradhana (weekly practices from Oct - April, meetup in Cleveland for full rehearsals)
Multiple prizes in regional Tyagaraja/Papanasam Sivan competitions (there’s a lot for me to list out but most are 1st/2nd place prizes)

Did Bharatanatyam (South Indian Classical Dance) for 6 years
Able to fluently read and write Sanskrit from ancient Hindu texts, have classes 20 minutes every weekday for 3 years

Other Things:
Youth and Government Program for two years (basically a mock government)
Youth Diplomats Program 2022 (through the world trade center)

Honor Societies/School Clubs:
Key Club all four years (50 + volunteer hours)
Rho Kappa for 2022, 2023(secretary for those two years)
French Honor Society for two years (14+ volunteer hours)
National Honor Society for two years (20+ volunteer hours)

Essay: TBD
LOR: Planning to get from APUSH teacher, Orchestra teacher, or French teacher (each have had me for more than 2 years so they know me the best)

Cost Constraints / Budget
90k a year

I really don’t have any other then UMD, UMBC, and UPitt (I haven’t started looking too hard yet)

Thank you all so much!!

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I forgot to add it in the actual thread, but I would like to stay on the East Coast, preferably 6 hours drive away from MD – thanks so much!!

For cognitive science, in particular, look into Vassar; for neuroscience, research Amherst.

If a small LAC is of interest my daughter goes to Skidmore College in NY. They are very strong in the arts and also science. You can apply for merit scholarships for both music and science. She is really happy there and is a Bio major, art minor. She’s been able to do research with a professor starting her freshman year and will again this year.

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Congratulations on all of your accomplishments!

You already have schools that you’re extremely likely to be accepted to. If you would be happy to attend any one of them for your freshman year of college, awesome! If not, you need to find other schools where you are extremely likely to gain acceptance. There is no rule that says you must apply to schools with a low probability of acceptance. If you absolutely love the institution, go on ahead and apply. But don’t apply simply because you think you “should.”

This list is categorized based on my very fallible sense of what might be your chances of acceptance. The schools with asterisks were those that I saw noted for both cognitive science and neuroscience.

Extremely Likely (80-99+%)

  • Drexel (PA )
  • Quinnipiac (CT)
  • U. of Delaware
  • U. of Scranton (PA )

Likely (60-79%)

  • Fordham (NY)
  • Providence (RI)
  • SUNY Binghamton
  • Syracuse (NY)

Toss-Up (40-59%)

  • Bucknell (PA )
  • Virginia Tech (leaning towards likely because of your major)

Lower Probability (20-39%)

  • Case Western (OH)
  • Colgate (NY)**
  • College of William & Mary (VA…leaning towards Toss-Up)
  • Lehigh (PA )
  • U. of Rochester**
  • U. of Virginia
  • Vassar (NY…2500 undergrads, so approaching small-school status)**
  • Villanova (PA )
  • Wake Forest (NC)

Low Probability (less than 20%)

  • Barnard or Columbia (NY)
  • Brown (RI)
  • Duke
  • Johns Hopkins**
  • Princeton (NJ)
  • U. of Pennsylvania**
  • Wesleyan (CT)
  • Yale (CT)

Is this at your high school or dual enrollment classes? If at your high school, great! If as a dual enrollment, are you prepared to take additional classes beyond organic & biochem in college? These classes will count toward your college GPA if you apply to grad school.


These are my STEM magnet programs, but I can’t really take any dual enrollment classes cause my schedule is full.
Thank you so much for all your help!!


You have fantastic academics, which will make you competitive at almost any school outside of the top 10 most competitive. But I fear your application is held back by your extracurriculars. You’re very accomplished in dance and violin, which you’ve done your whole life. Your other ECs are pretty generic.
You have no science-related ECs. No science competitions, no research internship. The top schools will expect to see neuroscience / STEM related ECs.
I’d try to find some summer activity that can show your passion for neuroscience.

Also, you will need a LOR from a science teacher.

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Thank you so much for replying!

Oh, I totally forgot to put it on here, but I do have a paid application - based internship this summer with my local army base – it’s a neuroscience project that I’m doing under a mentor who’s a professional. Last summer I did something similar, it was a 4-week “research foundations” program through RIT. I’m also in science national honor society but we don’t really do much there, so I don’t think it’s really that significant. Do you think that’s sufficient, or should I look for opportunities elsewhere?

I’ve heard a variety of advices on which teachers to get LORs from, so if I’m majoring in STEM does that mean that I also have to get those LORs from STEM, even if those LORs are not as good as the ones from humanities teachers?

I know that on common app we can only put 10 extracurriculars, and I do have more than that, so which ECs do you recommend cutting?

Lastly, do you know of any specific colleges/universities that I should look into for neuro?


The more neuroscience related ECs you can add, and the more advanced those activities, the better.
At least one of your LORs should come from a STEM teacher. It would be a major hole without it. They want to know you can excel in college-level science classes. They don’t care what a wonderful active student you were in French.

I don’t know neuro that well, but I’d suggest looking at Boston University, Wesleyan, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Northeastern and Northwestern, Emory, Boston College, Tulane, University of Rochester, to name a few.
Those schools would generally be the “high matches / low reaches” for you.

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I think the general recommendation is to have letters of recommendation from 1 humanities, 1 STEM, and 1 other (for institutions that require 3). Some universities may let you submit additional ones as well, but it is not required and if submitting more than the required, I would make sure the extra one would an exceptional LOR that describes you in a way that the other LORs can’t.

I’m not familiar with the Common App’s setup, but I would certainly find a way to include some of your science-related ECs.

But taking your classical music ECs as an example, I could see how it could go from 7 different items to the 3 asterisked items (assuming that City Youth and County Youth Orchestras are the same)

  • Private Violin Lessons: (First thing I would cut from this section…with all your orchestral experience, this will probably be assumed.)
  • School Chamber Orchestra: Concertmaster Gr. 9-12 (Would eliminate if there is not sufficient room for other ECs)
  • *All-County Orchestra: First Vioinist 2020, Concertmaster 2022 & 2023?
  • City Youth Orchestra: First Violin Gr. 9-10
  • *County Youth Orchestra: Asst. Concertmaster 2022, Concertmaster 2023 (Are the city and county youth orchestras different, or was it renamed between sophomore and junior years? If they are the same, combine all into one.)
  • *Mentoring Musical Minds: Explain the impact of what has been going on (How many kids tutored? How many 30-minute lessons provided? How long has this been going on? How many volunteers? Is there a plan for this organization continuing once you graduate high school?)

These are two resources you might look into:

Might compare UMD, VA Tech, UPitt and West Virginia. WVU has new neuroscience institute.
Sounds like you may end up with many AP credits and there may be opportunities to start a masters program early at state universities.


What is your long term goal? If it is medical school (I am reading tea leaves here :slight_smile: ) then focus on universities and colleges that have a medical school. I am sure a lot of people will disagree but that is my advise.
Your reaches could be Hopkins, Dartmouth, Brown
Slight reaches could be G’Town, Tufts
Matches could be Rochester, Baylor (a bit further), GMU
Safety could be UMBC

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By now you probably have learned that Amherst developed the first undergraduate neuroscience major in the nation. This serves to indicate the substantial breadth and depth of its current program.


At Wesleyan you probably would not be able to use all your AP credits towards a degree. But, they do offer a free 5th year, if you are in the middle of a STEM research project, along with a Masters degree.

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What are you aiming for after college? There are lots of options for STEM majors, but neuroscience is quite focused. Typically for jobs in industry they will want a PhD. Or are you looking towards medical school?

If you want to do research in neuroscience then heads towards the big universities with established labs.

Schools across a range of sizes are recognized for their opportunities for undergraduate research:


I do want to do research, so then I should value the universities with research labs over the prestige of the university?

I actually want to go into research (sorry!) so do you have any recommendations for research - based universities?

So the city and county youth orchestra are different, the city one is much better quality – would you recommend I cut the county one then?