Do you ever wonder how your mind really works? How does it learn? How does it “think”? For some people, this mystery can be very fascinating, and these are the people for whom the Cognitive Science program was designed.
Cognitive Science is a field that cuts across several distinct disciplines, and its focus is on the brain. More specifically, it examines how the brain thinks, processes information, and learns. This program involves huge amounts of research, and its goal is to know more about how language is acquired, how mathematics is comprehended, and how behavior is formed. And this program also studies how to optimize such processes.
As a high school student preparing to enter Cognitive Science you need to have good grades in the sciences, as well as in the language courses. You should also see if you have the proper mental and emotional outlook for this program. You have to be detail-oriented, a problem-solver, able to apply scientific concepts to daily situations, and emotionally stable.
Once in college, you may have to take courses in cognitive psychology, human learning, memory, behavioral studies, and artificial intelligence. Other courses may involve mathematics, philosophy, neuroscience, computer science, music, psychology, and linguistics.
You may also be asked to specialize in a particular area which can range from linguistics to computational models, to psychology.
As a graduate of Cognitive Science, you have special knowledge of how the brain works. As such, you can provide valuable insight to many firms associated with teaching.
For example, you can help software companies which specialize in educational software, by helping them design interactive programs that are effective in helping users learn various concepts. You can help in various programs designed to teach languages, or aimed at teaching how to play various musical instruments.
Or you can also help in designing programs that utilize artificial intelligence. Many programs can adapt to the actions of its users using AI, and with your help you can improve this aspect significantly.
You can also be a web developer or designer, and help websites come up with the most effective layouts and applications that can educate and entice their web visitors.
Graduates can also help as research assistants for companies or for academic institutions. You can also be a technical writer because of your background in the sciences, and your particular expertise can help you explain the material in a way that readers can comprehend more clearly.
Some even go into marketing, advertising or work in HR departments in private companies. You can help design product advertisements in a way that can effectively impart information to your potential customers. Or you can devise ways that can improve the training of company employees.
Best Schools for a Cognitive Science Degree
While not many colleges offer this particular degree, many of the top universities in the US do have a Cognitive Science Program. At the top of the list is MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), followed closely by Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and Vanderbilt University. Other top schools are Rice University, Dartmouth College, Vassar College, Brown University, and the University of California Berkeley.