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If I want to major in Neuroscience and had to choose between high school courses of AP Calc and AP Psych, which should I choose to get into colleges?

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Olivia’s Answer

Hi Olivia,

This is a great question. I took both of these courses in high school and I could see them both being fundamental to neuroscience. However, if you are looking to take a class that will help you decide if you are really interested in the brain and its impact, I recommend AP Psych. This course takes you through the physical elements of the brain, while also teaching you about various fields of thoughts througout history of how people thought the brain, consciousness, memory, etc. It was incredibly riveting and very foundational to my knowledge of how the brain impacts life. You also learn about neurons and synapses, etc. It is not a science course, but it does expose you to scientific elements. Either way, you are going to have to probably take more courses in both of these subjects in college, so I recommend taking AP psych now so that you can solidify your interest in the study of the brain.

Just to play devil's advocate, however, AP calc would allow you to potentially check off a math course in college and get your degree done faster--especially if you get a high enough score on the AP test to get credit with your future univeristy. I recommend checking with your guidance counselor about the credit programs at the colleges you are thinking of applying to and see what he/she thinks is the best course for you to take given their curriculum.

Olivia recommends the following next steps:

Discuss with a guidance counselor!

Hi Ms. Walleser, Thank you so much for the response! I really appreciate it :) Olivia C.

I like this balanced answer. I agree. Camille Adams-Bain

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Cheryl’s Answer

First, take the class that interests you the most. Your interest is neuroscience, and psych also plays into neuroscience. Ideally, I'd like to see you take both Calc and Psych if it's not too much work for you. Calc is a different animal (lol) so maybe the compromise is to take AB Calc over BC Calc if that is an option. It also depends what the rest of your schedule looks like. I like to see balance, some stem mixed with non-stem, but admissions readers also like to see what interests you. Both classes have value, but kids who excel in calc have an advantage, but the risk is that you may find calc difficult. It can be humbling. One thing I recommend is contacting the admissions offices of colleges you may be interested in applying to. Ask them if they have a preference for students applying to their neuroscience program. If you do not take calc, you will still need to take an upper level math class. Hope this helps you with this decision. :)

Hi Ms. Haller! I really appreciate your response and thoughtfulness to my question :) Olivia C.

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Vince’s Answer

Hi Olivia,

One thing that I think not many students are aware of is that some schools offer dual-enrollment calculus classes with local colleges. This means that you would be taking a normal calculus class at your school rather than AP but simultaneously receive college credit for it. For some reason, many people I knew in high school were unable to get college credit through AP calculus (I think maybe the test was either very hard or the people that took it were attending colleges so prestigious/expensive that they had steeper test grade cutoffs). So that could be a potential third option if your school has that program.

Beyond that, AP Psych was both relatively easy and very fun, and does provide a great overview course for psychology. It probably would be a nice GPA boost and fit nicely into a harder course schedule.

Best of luck!

Hi Mr. Bottom, thank you so much for your feedback. I appreciate it! Olivia C.

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Natasha’s Answer

AP Calculus.

It may open a wider door into your long-term future outlook in Neuroscience - whether applied in AI, precision medicine, advanced robotics/autonomous systems, diplomacy, Adtech, biotech, public health policy (think data or neuralnet modeling), IoT or defense - as a career path.

Hi Ms. Bastien, thank you for your answer, I will definitely take it into consideration Olivia C.

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Michael’s Answer

AP courses may help you get into college by giving you a higher GPA and thereby pushing up your class ranking, but you do have to be certain that you score well in the classes in order for that to work. Here is the problem for someone who wants to study neuroscience--you are going to take those courses at the high school level from a community college teacher and then maybe use that experience to skip those courses at the college level. You WANT to take the psych courses in college, not at high school. Why? Because those are going to be (hopefully) connections to the world. I went to the University of Washington intending to be a Biology Major. I took Psych 102 from a professor named Gary Latham.

This was before he was who he is, but now he is "the worlds foremost expert on goal setting" and past president of the Canadian Psychological Association. https://www.humancapitalgrowth.com/podcast-dr-gary-latham-goal-setting-myths-and-truths.html

I know him because I took his class. If I had done it at Community College and skipped Psych 102 at the UW my life would have been different.

By all means, take all the GPA, 5 point classes, you can and graduate in the top 10% of your class. But take those courses in your area of interest from real professors.

It isn't the topic that will help you, it is the class ranking and GPA.