Which of these schools have good biology and political science programs?

I am trying to narrow down my college list to 12-15 colleges. I’m having trouble discovering which schools have good programs in what I am interested in - biology and political science. In regards to biology, I do not want to be pre-med. I am interested in something like marine/earth science, neuroscience, or biochemistry, wherein I would be a researcher. I am not sure which discipline of biology I enjoy yet, but I do really like neuroscience. If you have any suggested schools (especially LACs), please let me know as well. I also need them to offer somewhat generous financial aid (under $30k per year with an income of $162k/year). I also would like the school to be urban or suburban, and I do not care about class size.


  • University of Chicago
  • Columbia
  • Duke
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Brown
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Georgetown (I know they have good political science programs. I’m having trouble assessing the strength of their biology programs, non pre-med).
  • Barnard College
  • Emory
  • University of Southern California
  • Boston University
  • Tulane University
  • University of Miami
  • University of Maryland
  • Fordham University
  • American University
  • Rutgers University - New Brunswick
  • University of South Carolina (safety & no app fee)

If part of your interests lie in earth sciences, then I’d think you would want to look for interesting electives through solid geosciences/geology departments. This might be a distinguishing aspect for your schools of potential interest, more so than even strong biology and political science programs, which tend to be more widely available. Nonetheless, you could still identify stronger and weaker departments in your core fields of interest. Duke, for example, would be notable for its offerings across the biology spectrum. In terms of a school that would fit the theme of your tentative list, look into URochester. You could also screen by location: http://www.newsweek.com/25-most-desirable-urban-schools-71889; http://www.newsweek.com/25-most-desirable-suburban-schools-71867.

Have you run the NPC’s to see whether need-based aid can be expected to get you under 30K at the schools you have listed?

Tufts and Reed are two more possibilities that meet full need but don’t offer merit aid. Carleton is also particularly strong in your interests, but more remote than you prefer (about 45 minutes outside of Minneapolis). But academically it seems spot-on, so maybe worth pondering.

@aquapt I definitely plan to put most of these schools in the NPC to see how much I have to pay. I’ll definitely look into the colleges you’ve listed!

I majored in earth & ocean sciences at Duke with a focus on oceanography and have nothing but good things to say about it. You get very small classes (most were <15 students), tons of faculty attention, and more research and internship opportunities than you can shake a stick at. Duke’s environmental science facilities, especially the marine lab and the Duke Forest with the Primate Center, are amazing. I was just at the marine lab a couple of weeks ago to visit some friends working in the drone research lab; there’s some really exciting research going on there, and undergrads are in the midst of it.

Political science is also extremely strong at Duke, but you’ll have much larger classes at the introductory level than in EOS (the same goes for biology).

You may want to consider public policy as a way of combining your interests. Duke’s undergrad program in public policy is about as good as it gets, especially for environmental policy and health policy.

As for the rest of your list, you’ve assembled a great list of schools, but it’s a pretty top-heavy list, and some of your safety/match schools (e.g. BU) are not known for being generous with financial aid. Definitely take a look at some of the urban/suburban liberal arts colleges like Macalester, Lewis & Clark, Richmond, Rhodes, Trinity (TX), Franklin & Marshall, Wesleyan, etc.

I have no idea where you will match well. Best of luck. Not to parse but out of this list of possible or safeties and matches BU is not among them. UMiami Fordham American are also selective so make sure you put your best effort in these apps as well.

Boston University

  • University of Miami
  • University of Maryland
  • Fordham University
  • American University
  • Rutgers University - New Brunswick
  • University of South Carolina (safety & no app fee)

To be clearer regarding my post above, geosciences/geology/earth sciences departments can (or at least should) cover much of the same material. Based on your interests, I’d think you’d want a school with one of these programs, irrespective of its actual name.

@warblersrule I’ve heard lots of good things about Duke’s earth sciences program (through a presentation I attended from a Duke representative) and I think it would be such a great program to get involved with, which has only been confirmed by your post. One question - do you know exactly how selective the program might be? I’m worried that my extracurriculars may not be up to par to major in earth sciences anywhere and that’s why I was leaning more towards the biology side of things (especially since my school doesn’t even offer AP Environmental Science, but I may try to take it online sometime). If you could look at my chance me thread and let me know possibly if you think I have any shot at an earth sciences major, please let me know (https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/what-my-chances/2085107-chance-me-rising-senior.html). I think I could write a good essay explaining how much I admire the program; the only issue would be how my extracurriculars line up to this interest!

@merc81 I definitely am looking at schools that have programs in both neuroscience and earth sciences in the case that I want to do either major. I am going to look more into University of Rochester as well. I will definitely look into the geosciences and geology aspects of all the schools as well. Thanks!

@privatebanker Also what do you mean by don’t include Boston U in any of the safeties or matches? I definitely understand that BU is a very selective school and I never wanted to include it in my list of safeties, but I believe I did well on my previous ACT and I should be at or above their middle 50% range. My GPA is also a 4.0 UW (105.12 on my school’s scale) so I match up with their class. Do you believe I shouldn’t apply to the reaches I’ve listed? I definitely don’t expect to get in MOST of these schools, but that is why I wanted to apply to so many - so I’d have a good chance of getting in at least 1 (Penn is my first choice because my dad works in a place affiliated with Penn and so I get free tuition there).

Like most of the top universities, Duke does not admit by major within its college of arts & sciences. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you’re applying as a sociology or dance or chemistry major, and they don’t try to match extracurriculars with majors of interest. That said, Duke would like to increase student interest in earth & environmental science (e.g. they advertise for the major on posters in the campus buses), whereas the extremely high percentage of pre-meds at Duke makes biology one of the most popular majors on campus. I think a focus on Duke’s resources in this area could make a very good “Why Duke?” essay.

As for your stats, your grades and extracurriculars are in line for all of these schools, but your test scores - as you probably know - are a major weakness. If you can raise your SAT scores or score well on the ACT, you have a good shot.

I forgot to mention it earlier, but take a look at the New College of Florida. All admitted out-of-state students receive a $15,000 a year scholarship, which knocks tuition + room/board down to about $24,000 a year. It’s an excellent school for the natural sciences.

@warblersrule Thats awesome to hear! I took my first ACT this week and I am feeling pretty confident. I think I got around a 30-32, which I know right now is not good enough for Duke or other top schools, but with a lot of hard work and studying this summer I believe I can raise it to a 34+. I’ll also be doing subject tests in Biology M, Math II and US History. I’ll definitely focus on Duke’s earth sciences program in my application, as I have heard so many great things about it. I’ll also look into the New College of Florida as well. Thanks for all your great feedback!

EDIT: One more thing- as I mentioned previously, my school unfortunately doesn’t offer an AP Environmental Science class. I am already enrolled in a free edX environmental science class - would it be a good idea to make up for the discrepancy some more by trying to get it at my local community college? I know they offer a few environmental science courses and it is possible I could get them for free. And would it be a good idea to mention in my application somewhere that I can self-study for the exam?

Hi op. I was just mentioning that the list that includes usc in state UMiami Fordham etc are much more accessible in general than bu. It’s just more selective than the rest of the list. I think you are a fine candidate for all of these schools. But it’s not just stats and BU has surprised some similarly excellent students like yourself the past couple of years in my personal circle. It’s more of a higher match than the others. Imho You’ll be fine.

@privatebanker I see. I’ll definitely keep that in mind and not get my hopes up too much for BU when I receive my decision. I understand it’s a great school for biological sciences in general and thus I can’t be too sure about getting in. Thanks for the feedback!

@warblersrule Hey, I wasn’t sure if you saw my question, so I was just wondering if you could offer your feedback on the issue that I’m sort of worried about. I was just wondering if taking some free online environmental science classes and also taking a few at a local community college, as well as self-studying for the AP test would be sufficient enough to make up for the fact that the AP Environmetal Science class is not offered at my school. Thanks!

APES is a nice extra, but it’s really only expected that you take the three core sciences (bio, chem, physics). I wouldn’t worry about it if your school doesn’t offer it.

@warblersrule Awesome, thanks! I’m going to have AP Physics, AP Biology, and Honors Chemistry by the time I graduate - would it be okay that I can’t take AP chem? It isn’t offered but I still have chem.

On the marine biology side of things, you might consider New College of FL, which is Florida’s public Honors College. I https://ctcl.org/new-college-of-florida/
Their OOS sticker price is around $44K, but it appears that you could get $15K off that, which brings it in under your price point https://www.ncf.edu/admissions/cost-and-aid/scholarships/out-of-state-freshmen/

They are research oriented and have particularly good marine biology related opportunities because of their Gulf Coast location and marine research center. https://www.ncf.edu/about/our-campus/facilities/venues/pritzker-marine-research-center/

Major possibilities for you would include:

This could be a particularly good option if you discover that your EFC for the need-based-aid schools is higher than your 30K budget. NCF has a much different “vibe” from the more traditional elite schools on your list, so you’d have to determine whether you’d enjoy that. But it offers a lot of freedom to write your own ticket as far as pursuing your areas of interest, doing research, etc. https://ctcl.org/new-college-of-florida/

@aquapt I’m looking into this college and I think this school would seem like a good fit for my interests. I will definitely look even more into them in the coming months.