The Best Undergraduate Chemistry Program for You
The best approach to deciding the best chemistry program for you, which in itself is a very personal process, is to use all of these rankings as guides but not as a set of rules to follow. There are still many intangibles that you need to pay attention to that all add up to a successful undergraduate experience. Things like whether you feel at home and a sense of community at a particular school. What kind of support outside of the classroom will you get? Will you be nurtured and will your research be encouraged? Will you get to build personal one-on-one mentoring relationships with faculty?
Another ranking that will help in this regard is the U.S. News and World Report rankings of the best schools for undergraduate research. At these schools students work on their own research or creative projects while being mentored by a faculty member. The result is often a scholarly paper or public presentation of their research. Here is the 2010 ranking showing the top 10 schools in this category.
- Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
- California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
- Carleton College, Northfield, MN
- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
- College of Wooster, Wooster, OH
- Cooper Union, New York, NY
- Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
- Creighton University, Omaha, NE
- Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
- Davidson College, Davidson, NC
If you care so much about chemistry, chances are that you will want to go beyond the bachelor's degree. There is no better way to demonstrate to graduate school admissions committees that you are ready for research than doing your own undergraduate research.
Another list worthy of consideration is that of top chemistry colleges profiled in former New York Times education editor Loren Pope's famous book Colleges that Change Lives. Pope wrote of these schools: "The secret of these 40 colleges' magic is not in what they do, for they do many different things. It is in how they do it..."
Once you have these various lists, create a short list based on geography or other intangibles that may be important to you and then start looking at the research of the chemistry faculty at the various schools and the work of the chemistry departments in general. Visit and talk to other students. By so doing, you will arrive at the school(s) that will be ideal for you. Chances are you do not need to go to MIT now to get a degree in Chemistry, but if a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT is your long-term goal, you will probably make your journey toward that goal much easier if you are in an undergraduate chemistry program that is just right for you, even if it does not have name recognition. And the 'right' program is different for everyone.