Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

10 Things to Do in High School to Become a Neuroscientist

6 minute read

Embarking on the journey to become a neuroscientist is an exciting and intellectually rewarding path. High school is a crucial time to lay the foundation for a career in neuroscience. Whether you're a high school student fascinated by the intricate workings of the brain or captivated by the mysteries of the mind, here's a comprehensive guide on what to do in high school to pave the way for a future in neuroscience careers.

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1. Develop a Strong Academic Foundation

The first step in becoming a neuroscientist is to excel academically. Focus on building a solid foundation in subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. These subjects are fundamental to understanding the complexities of the brain and its functions. A strong academic performance will not only open doors to reputable universities but also equip you with the essential knowledge needed for advanced studies in neuroscience.

2. Cultivate a Passion for Science

Fuel your curiosity by engaging in extracurricular activities related to science. Join science clubs, participate in science fairs, or volunteer at local science events. These experiences will not only deepen your understanding of scientific principles but also demonstrate your commitment to the field. Consider conducting independent research projects to explore specific aspects of neuroscience that intrigue you that will also help open up career opportunities.

You can challenge yourself by enrolling in AP and honors courses, especially in science and mathematics. These advanced classes provide a more rigorous curriculum, preparing you for the academic challenges you'll encounter in college. Additionally, excelling in these courses can enhance your college applications and demonstrate your commitment to academic excellence.

3. Explore Psychology Courses

While neuroscience has strong roots in biology and chemistry, understanding the human mind is equally essential. Take psychology courses to gain insights into behavior, cognition, and the underlying mechanisms of thought processes. This interdisciplinary approach will provide a well-rounded foundation for your future studies in neuroscience.

4. Participate in Research Opportunities

Look for neuroscience summer research opportunities for high school students, either through school programs or local institutions. As a high school student, reach out to professors, researchers, or professionals in the field and express your interest in gaining research experience. Participating in a research program can significantly enhance your understanding of neuroscience research and demonstrate your practical skills to future academic institutions. Polygence has a plethora of mentors with expertise in neuroscience that you can embark on a project alongside with! 

5. Attend Science Conferences and Workshops

Stay informed about the latest developments in neuroscience by actively participating in science conferences and workshops. The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) Annual Meeting serve as prominent platforms, offering opportunities to engage with global experts, delve into diverse neuroscience topics, and contribute to discussions shaping the future of the field. Additionally, specialized workshops, such as those focusing on the neurobiology of diseases or neuroimaging methods, provide hands-on experiences and practical skills essential for neuroscientists. These events not only broaden your knowledge but also facilitate networking with peers and mentors, fostering a collaborative environment for intellectual exchange.

Complementing your conference and workshop engagement, explore influential neuroscience journal articles for in-depth insights into the latest research. Notable articles like "The Neurobiology of Memory" by Kandel et al. in Nature Reviews Neuroscience and "Decoding Neural Representations in the Human Brain" by Serences and Postle in Trends in Cognitive Sciences offer comprehensive perspectives on memory mechanisms and decoding neural representations. Engaging with these resources will help you build a strong foundation for your career path in neuroscience.

6. Develop Strong Analytical, Critical Thinking, and Communication Skills

Neuroscientists must be adept at analyzing complex data and drawing meaningful conclusions. Hone your analytical and critical thinking skills through activities such as debate, problem-solving competitions, or even philosophical discussions. These skills will serve you well in both your academic pursuits and future research endeavors.

Effective communication is a crucial skill for neuroscientists, whether you're presenting research findings, collaborating with colleagues, or explaining complex concepts to the public. Join public speaking clubs, participate in debates, or take communication courses to enhance your ability to convey scientific information clearly and persuasively. These efforts will help prepare you for a future in neuroscience as a viable career option.

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7. Build a Strong Relationship with Mentors

Seek guidance from teachers, professors, or professionals who have experience in neuroscience. Establishing mentorship relationships can provide valuable insights, advice, and even undergraduate research opportunities or collaboration. Mentors can guide you through the complexities of academia, undergraduate research, professional development, and career planning, offering valuable perspectives from their own experiences. Polygence’s mentors can also help you every step of the way!

8. Pursue Summer Programs and Internships

Take advantage of neuroscience summer programs for high school students and internships offered by universities, research institutions, or neuroscience-focused organizations. These experiences provide immersive learning opportunities, exposure to advanced research methodologies, and a chance to work alongside established neuroscientists. Participating in a neuroscience internship and Summer program also enhances your college applications and demonstrate your commitment to pursuing a career in neuroscience.

9. Excel in Standardized Tests

Perform well on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. Strong test scores can enhance your college applications and increase your chances of securing admission to a reputable neuroscience program. Consider taking SAT Subject Tests in relevant subjects, such as biology or chemistry, to showcase your proficiency in specific areas of science. Excelling in these areas can be particularly beneficial for those aspiring to neuroscience careers.

10. Choose a Neuroscience-Focused University

When selecting a college or university, prioritize institutions with strong neuroscience programs. Look for schools with good faculty members, well-equipped research facilities, and a comprehensive curriculum that aligns with your interests. Neuroscience is a dynamic and evolving field, and staying curious will drive your passion for exploration and discovery. Be open to exploring various subfields within neuroscience careers and adapting to new technologies and methodologies as the field progresses. Additionally, consider the possibility of a psychiatrist career path if you find an interest in the intersection of neuroscience and mental health.

As you dive into the world of neuroscience, be mindful of the ethical implications of your work. Stay informed about the ethical considerations surrounding research involving human subjects, animal testing, and the broader societal impact of neuroscience advancements. Understanding and addressing ethical concerns is an integral part of being a responsible and conscientious neuroscientist.

Ultimately, the journey to becoming a neuroscientist starts in high school with a combination of academic excellence, hands-on experiences, and a genuine passion for understanding the intricacies of the brain. By following these steps, you'll be well-prepared for the challenges and excitement that await you in the fascinating field of neuroscience.

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