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While psychology is reportedly, by Princeton Review, the seventh most popular major for undergraduates, neuroscience has an allure to those students interested in studying the workings, on multiple levels, of the brain mind relationship.

By its very nature, neuroscience is an interdisciplinary major. It studies the nervous system, the body’s command and control center, from a variety of perspectives including biological, chemical, physical, psychological, statistical, philosophical and anatomical. The major demands breadth and depth across virtually all subjects relating to the mind and how it operates.

Undoubtedly, to cover such an expanse of disciplines presents a challenge to even the most inquisitive minds. Yet, to those dedicated students, neuroscience might prove rewarding in its attempts to answer some of the most profound philosophical questions such as what is consciousness, self, or perception?

Moreover, for those who achieve command over the subject, they might pursue graduate work in neuroscience, medical school, law school, public policy, public health, or any profession where a combination of inquiry, examination and action are required — those are high-level transferable skills.

A slightly confusing aspect of neuroscience is that it goes by a number of different names: neurobiology and behavior (at UCI); biopsychology (UCSB); or, psychobiology (UCLA). At Yale University it actually goes by multiple names: cognitive studies, with the objective "to determine how the mind works;" neuroscience, under the aegis of Marvin Chun, the new dean of Yale College; molecular, cellular biology, with its neurobiology track; and, psychology with its neuroscience track. A lot of roads lead to neuroscience at Yale.

Additionally, there are a number of permutations the neuroscience major might take. For instance, Boston University just implemented a BA in philosophy and neuroscience, which includes seven courses in philosophy, such as reasoning and argumentation, and 11 neuroscience courses, which include physics, general chemistry and calculus.

Washington University in St. Louis has its own expanded neuroscience offering called PNP: Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology, which generously draws from linguistics, education, computer science and cultural anthropology to "better understand the mind." Entering freshmen with an interest in PNP begin their neuroscience journey by enrolling in Washington’s entry-level mind, brain, and behavior program. By sophomore year, within PNP, the student would join either the cognitive neuroscience or language, cognition, and culture tracks and begin applying "cutting edge research to some of the oldest questions in philosophy."

To truly get a taste of what neuroscience is about it might be useful to give it a test drive. A good place to begin the exploration is in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, which offers many of its courses, free, through OpenCourseware at Currently, 89 full courses are available on everything from Introduction to psychology and psycholinguistics to philosophical issues in brain science and infant and early childhood cognition.

All courses come with syllabus, readings, lecture notes, assignments, and many with videos of the lectures. They are full courses offered at MIT and will supply the depth and knowledge to gain a grasp of the material.

Alternatively, Harvard offers a solid introductory survey of neuroscience topics in fundamentals of neuroscience, This free online course uses artistic presentations, field trips, and DIY, at-home experiments to engage the mind while learning about the mind.

While searching and deliberating over majors, actually taking some sample courses through massively open online courses (MOOCS) such as EdX, are an excellent way to experience the subject and determine its promise for four-year study.

Ralph Becker, founder of Ivy College Prep, LLC ( and a resident of Long Beach, has been counseling students for the last 12 years. A former Yale Alumni interviewer, he holds a certificate in college counseling from UCLA Extension, and has published SAT* Vocab 80.

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