These Are the Colleges Government Majors Need to Attend

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students listening attentively during a lecture.

These Are the Colleges Government Majors Need to Attend

We’ve highlighted some of the country’s best colleges government and political science majors should think about attending. This way, you can spend less time researching and more time applying. Let’s get into it!

1. Stanford University – Stanford, CA

Stanford is one of the best colleges government majors can attend. Its Public Policy major offers an interdisciplinary program where students can learn both the analytical and theoretical tools of law, psychology, philosophy, economics, and political science along with real-world applications.

Students can pursue a major in Public Policy to gain a fundamental understanding of the political framework facing policymakers or a minor which offers a shorter yet extensive overview to supplement other concentrations.

Group of female students studying with their laptop and book in the school library.

If you choose to pursue the Public Policy major, you’ll develop the knowledge and skills you need to evaluate the quality and impact of policies, assess the merit of different policy implementation approaches, understand the obstacles policymakers face, and respect the varying conflicts in human value systems that make policy debate so lively and engaging.

Stanford also offers a political science major for those who are more interested in the power dynamics within governmental and political functioning.

Both departments offer world-class learning opportunities for students to explore government studies. Any high schooler pursuing a degree and career in government would be delighted to attend Stanford.

2. Harvard University – Cambridge, MA

Harvard’s Government Department provides students with four world-class programs to choose from when pursuing a degree in government or political science.

Each course explores fundamental themes of traditional government subfields: political economy, public policy, tech science, and data science.

Students focusing in one of these concentrations will undergo dynamic coursework along with co-curricular programming supplementing standard classes with connectivity among other students sharing in the same interest.

These additional programs aren’t just intended to fulfill a student’s curriculum requirements but are also designed to give undergrads an extensive understanding of the subject matter.

Data Science – This relatively new field of studies is interested in how the gathering and understanding of “big data” impacts governments.

Tech Science – Known more commonly as public interest technology, this field looks at the impact of technology on society.

Public Policy – This extensive interdisciplinary field focuses on how public policy is developed and how it impacts the functioning of a society.

Political Economy – This subfield focuses on how politics at large can impact the economy and how the relationship works vice versa. This is fundamental to understanding how societies work overall.

3. Princeton University – Princeton, NJ

Princeton University’s Department of Politics is the premier government department in the entire school, providing a wide range of offerings to students in the form of majors, minors, and even master programs in the field of politics.

In fact, Princeton is home to one of the largest undergraduate political programs in the whole country. In any given year, the Department of Politics offers roughly 50 courses specifically designed for undergrads.

On top of that, the university oversees the independent work of over 150 upper-level students who are furthering their studies in specific concentrations. Princeton divides its political studies undergraduate offerings into four main categories:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory

Beyond these central concentrations, students will benefit from an interdisciplinary curriculum that features courses in political economy, quantitative analysis, political strategy, and much more.

As with all Ivy League schools, it’s safe to assume that the staff at Princeton will provide government and political students with a world-class education that will prepare them for a bright professional future.

4. University of California–Berkeley – Berkeley, CA

UC Berkeley has a renowned political science program for undergrads, making it one of the greatest colleges government majors should seek to apply.

This program is focused on helping students understand the power dynamics that shape government and public policy, how that power develops, and what consequences derive from it.

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Undergrads are asked to pursue a variety of key ideas related to the ethical exercise of power, the historical landscape of political ideas, the influence of social, economic, and historical forces on politics, the uniqueness of the US political structure, the diversity of various political systems spanning the globe, the interaction of international actors across the world, and the results of war and peace – just to name a few.

As you can see the UC Berkeley political science major is extensive, engaging, and dynamic. The courses in the program vary from intimate seminars of around 18 students to massive lectures of hundreds of students.

There’s a lot of analytical writing, and critical reading required in these challenging courses, but the valuable education you receive on the other end is worth it.

5. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, MI

The University of Michigan’s political science major usually isn’t declared until students reach their sophomore or junior years. This gives students plenty of time to explore various fields if they’re interested in government and political science but not 100% certain of this direction.

There are dynamic and comprehensive introductory classes relating to political science which offer students a great crash course into the field. Students need to take two of the following courses to prepare for upper-level material in the political science major:

  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • Introduction to American Politics
  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • Introduction to World Politics

High-performing students who want to challenge themselves academically should think about taking the University of Michigan’s political science honors program which sees students completing a thesis under the guidance of experienced and highly skilled faculty members. This is a great way to explore various aspects of the field and cement your understanding in a specific subfield.

6. Yale University – New Haven, CT

top colleges government majors would want to attend. Its political science program seeks to address how groups and individuals organize, delegate, and challenge power to collaborate in the decision-making process regarding public issues.

The major’s goal is to provide students with the ability to think analytically and critically about the institutions, incentives, and agents that end up shaping the political landscape within societies.

There are a number of subfields within the major including analytical political theory and political philosophy – both of which include quantitative and qualitative methodology.

These specific disciplines are designed to help students view various political phenomena through different lenses that can yield important findings and conclusions. Some other notable subfields include international relations, comparative politics, and American government.

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Cambridge, MA

A Political Science major at MIT provides a highly personal, hands-on learning experience. Small classes and seminars ensure extensive faculty contact, and the department’s emphasis on cutting-edge research gives undergraduates world-class training and exposure to the discipline.

A professor helping a group of students studying in the library.

There’s an optional senior thesis where upper-classmen have the opportunity to dive further into the field of political science by focusing on a special concentration or subject they feel passionate about. Despite being optional, this is a highly recommendable path for those who are seriously considering a career in government or a related field.

Both intro and advanced courses at MIT offer political science majors with all of the competencies they need to succeed. The curriculum is interdisciplinary in nature with a variety of subfields including:

  • Political Theory
  • American Politics
  • Public Policy
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Methodology

8. Columbia University – New York, NY

Columbia University has a leading undergraduate program in political science with standard programs focused 100% on political science along with interdepartmental majors through the Departments of Economics and Statistics for students who want a more dynamic curriculum.

The aim of the political science major at Columbia is to provide students with a better understanding of the power dynamics and exercise of power in different settings. There are four primary subfields within the Columbia political science program.

American Politics – This area of study focuses on elections, local and state governments, social movements, public policy, and party politics in the United States exclusively.

Comparative Politics – In this concentration, students look at a wide range of countries outside of the US to gain a better understanding of how politics is influenced by different cultures, social structures, developmental levels, and other factors.

International Relations – This discipline is characterized by a focus on the international system of interaction between various nation-states and territories and the governing documents and norms that undergird it.

Political Theory – In this tract, students will focus on a range of normative issues including legitimacy and justice in politics.

9. University of California San Diego – La Jolla, CA

UCSD ranks as one of the best colleges government majors can attend due to its large focus on the field, Political science is the campus’ sixth largest major with more than 9% of UCSD attendees graduating from the political science department.

Students can receive a general major in political science in addition to eight different areas of further concentration:

  • American politics
  • Comparative politics
  • Data analytics
  • International relations
  • Political theory
  • Public law
  • Public policy
  • Race, ethnicity, and politics

This specialization offers students a unique opportunity to further focus their government studies in a field that piques their interest. In addition to these programs, UCSD offers two political science minors.

Graduates from the program have no trouble furthering their education in various graduate programs including law, international business, political science, and economics. Whatever your academic or professional goals, this is an excellent school to receive an education.

10. Duke University – Durham, NC

Duke University’s political science department aims to provide students with a comprehensive, robust, and systematic understanding of the complex field of politics. This is achieved by exploring the political phenomena in both their normative and ethical dimensions.

This wide-ranging discipline has a broad curriculum that covers a variety of interesting and important subjects including democratic vs authoritarian politics, international relations vs local governments, behavioral psychology vs formal rules, and much, much more.

Four students solving a problem in the library.

Students who finish the undergraduate program in political science at Duke University will gain a thorough and worthwhile understanding of dynamic political processes while learning how to think critically and independently, write and communicate convincingly, and use the analytical tools wisely.

This major is strongly aligned with the school’s vision for liberal arts education overall in the sense that it: “aims to engage multiple forms of intelligence to create deep and enduring habits of mind, an active, versatile, integrative spirit that’s naturally disposed, when it comes upon a new fact or situation, to use existing knowledge to try to grasp it, while updating existing understandings in this new light.”

How to pursue a government major successfully

Now that we’ve discussed the colleges government majors should attend, let’s discuss some ways you can actually improve your chances of getting into these schools. Keep in mind that many of the institutions listed above are more prestigious than your average state school.

Although this means better education and superior preparation for a career in a related field, it also translates into a more challenging entrance process. For instance, Duke and Stanford – two excellent colleges government majors would do great to attend – have acceptance rates of 7.7% and 5.2%, respectively.

These admission rates are highly selective when compared to the average acceptance rate of four-year institutions in the US which hovers around 66%. But, don’t fret! With the right strategy, you can get into these top-rated colleges government majors love to attend.

Here are some things you should focus on to increase your chances of achieving your goal.

Take relevant courses in high school.

In high school, you don’t nearly have the amount of flexibility in terms of choosing your courses as you do when attending college.

However, taking advantage of the little freedom you’re provided can make a huge difference when applying to your intended college. When pursuing a government-related degree, it’s key to focus on taking related courses in high school.

Group of students sitting and enjoying working together in the library.

What exactly are some potential high school courses that are relevant to a degree in government? We’re happy you asked! Here are just a few examples of classes that will look great on your application when you begin the college admissions process:

Any versions of these classes will work great for sprucing up your application when applying to colleges government majors actively seek out. Keep in mind that many of these suggestions are AP classes.

Along with honors courses, these upper-level classes really catch the attention of admissions officers because of their higher difficulty. Plus, they help contribute to a higher GPA.

Focus on improving your overall GPA.

The vast majority of colleges and universities take a holistic approach to college admissions. In other words, they consider a wide range of factors when determining whether a student matches their requirements and expectations. That being said, GPA is one of the most important components in your overall application.

If you want to seriously increase your chance of getting into college government majors would love to attend, improving your GPA is a must. Here are a few tips for making that happen:

  • Take higher-level courses (i.e. AP and honors classes) since these can boost your overall GPA
  • Make sure your courses are challenging enough but not too hard to perform well in
  • Seek help from a teacher when you’re struggling in the class
  • Complete and turn in your homework on time

Admittedly, many of these recommendations seem obvious. But, they’re worth noting anyway. Achieving a high GPA is a simple process but it’s definitely not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment, but it’s worth it in the end when you get that coveted acceptance letter!

Participate in government-related extracurriculars.

As mentioned before, colleges take a comprehensive approach when reviewing your application. GPA is critical, but it’s definitely not everything. Admissions officers care what you do outside of the classroom in addition to how you perform in the classroom.

As a result, it’s a great idea to participate in government-related extracurriculars. What are we talking about?

  • Debate team
  • Criminal justice club
  • Mock trials
  • Joining a political campaign
  • Law club
  • Current events club
  • School newspaper
  • Political writing

All these extracurricular activities are related to a major in government and can help you stand out from the competition when applying to these prestigious schools. These activities show admissions officers that you’re willing to go out of your way to hone your skills and increase your knowledge of the field.

Increase your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.

AdmissionSight is a leading admission specialist with decades of experience helping high schoolers achieve their academic goals. No matter what degree you’re pursuing, we can help you get into your best-fit schools.

In fact, 75% of the students we work with get accepted into Top 10 or Ivy League universities. Contact us today to get started. We’ll set up a free consultation to answer all of your questions.

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