How I Became a Neuroscience Major: Real Students’ Stories
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by neuroscience majors Brooke Elkjer, Nishtha Trivedi, and Elise Turke in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
The study of the brain and nervous system seems a narrow topic, but some of your high school classes will probably get into the subject, even if just for a unit or so. Maybe you’ve always had an interest in the brain and how it all works, and while you don’t know the specifics of what a neuroscience major entails, you’re curious. This article will take you through the basics of studying neuroscience, from first glimpses into the subject to general education requirements, and discuss how you can fit the major into your overall college experience.
High School Classes
In high school, classes like Advanced Placement (AP) Biology and AP Psychology can point you in the direction of neuroscience. Both can include the study of the brain in different sections, so you’ll learn some preliminary information that a neuroscience major would expand on.
Advanced courses in the hard sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, should help you in studying neuroscience. If you do well on the exams, you could also get credit for some general education requirements in the basic science courses. Testing out of those classes will help you to jump right into the neuroscience classes that you want to take.
AP Psychology or a regular psychology class would also help you. You’ll learn some things about how the brain and the nervous system work, and that type of class might help solidify your interest in neuroscience as a college major.
The neuroscience major does require students to take general science classes like chemistry, biology, and physics. After you’ve completed those courses, you’re probably going to lean more heavily on either biology or biochemistry.
Studying biology will help you in studying neuroscience. The tactics for learning the material are similar; rather than working through problem sets, as in chemistry and physics, you have to figure out how systems work. Subjects like hormones and neural pathways will rely on a lot of studying and connecting the dots between different elements of neuroscience. While an understanding of basic chemistry, physics, and calculus will help you with some parts of the major, you’ll need more of a bio mind to be very successful.
Sticking to a Plan vs. Changing Your Major
Applying as a Neuroscience Major
Maybe, after taking a few high school classes, you’ve figured out that you want to spend college learning all about the brain and its functions. You went through psychology and biology and figured out what most appealed to you in those classes: neuroscience.
Certain units in those courses cover the brain, so it’s easy to become extremely fascinated by the subject and want to pursue it at a higher level.
Especially if you’re premed, you might have a better understanding of what will help you succeed as you prepare for medical school. Biology or chemistry seem like obvious choices for a major, but you might be interested in something more specialized. If that’s the case, then neuroscience could be right for you — it fits in well with the premed requirements, and you’ll get a strong background in an important part of the human body.
People say that, on average, students in college change their majors about three times. It’s not uncommon to realize that your interests are changing. Fortunately, most colleges are pretty flexible about letting you switch.
If you take some classes in neuroscience and realize your interest could be quantitative biology, then you can change. If you want to switch back to neuroscience, you should be able to do that. When you’ve got the required courses out of the way, all you need to do is take more upper-level classes.
You can also double major in neuroscience and another subject that you’re interested in. It doesn’t even have to be another science; you could get degrees in neuroscience and English literature or another one of the humanities. Majoring in two subjects will give you a lot of additional opportunities — you’ll be super familiar with both topics, and that can only open more doors for you in your career.