Full disclosure: I am a political science professor. I may or may not have included my own program here, but I won’t say for sure to prevent any bias.
If you want to study political science while having ringside seats to the action, excellent choices are George Washington University, Georgetown, or American University, all located in Washington D.C. All three have outstanding programs and make full use of their location to further their students’ education and strengthen the program’s overall experience. If you are serious about going directly into politics, these schools are worth a look.
As for the Ivy Leaguers: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia have very prestigious programs, and each can call at least one president an alumni. Taft and both Bushes went to Yale. Wilson and Madison went to Princeton (so did Kennedy, but he transferred). Both Adamses and both Roosevelts went to Harvard (and so did Kennedy). Obama is a Columbia graduate. The connections and networking you can make through an Ivy League school may prove to be invaluable as you establish yourself in your career of choice.
Other major schools with solid programs include New York University, Washington University (Saint Louis, Missouri), Villanova University (Villanova, Pennsylvania), and the University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, Indiana). Each one has a robust political science program that will give you a well-rounded education as well as prepare you for a career after graduation.
Picking the college or university that is right for you can be an incredibly daunting task. Since already know what you want to major in, you can narrow the field considerably. Remember, too, that this is not a decision written in stone. While I do try to discourage my students from transferring without truly giving my school a try, know that you do have the ability to change your mind and look elsewhere to finish your education. A school can look perfect for you on paper but by your second year, you could be ready to drop out and work as a barista full time instead. The things you want as a 17 year old trying to predict your future might not be the same as the 19 year old who has actually tried living out the beginning of that plan. It is OK to change majors or schools. Students do it all the time. The important thing is to find something that is going to make your time at school worthwhile for you.
Finances can, and should, definitely play a part in your decision, but make sure you don’t rule out a school just because you don’t think you can afford it. Look into grants, scholarships, and financial aid before you eliminate a school based on costs alone. Be sure to exhaust all your financial options before crossing a great school off your list.
My other piece of advice is to consider the location when looking at schools. Do you want to be near family? How near is near? For some of my students, as long as there is a regular flight back home, they consider themselves near enough. For others, if they can’t drive home to do their laundry on a Saturday night, then the school is too far away. Others need to be able to commute for financial reasons. Decide how you feel about this before you fall in love with a school that’s half a world away. Once you’ve decided how much your home life is going to factor in, look at the area around the school. Is it somewhere that internships will be easy to obtain during the school year, or is it out in the middle of nowhere? Is there enough of a campus life there to keep you from getting bored? Is the school somewhere you always pictured yourself living after graduation? Answering questions like these honestly can help you consolidate your options and make the decision making process much less intimidating. I also recommend speaking to both current students and alumni at any school you are interested in attending. Current students can tell you about the admissions process and what the cultural atmosphere of the school is at presently; alumni can tell you about their experiences both during their time at school and afterward, for example, how hard it was to get a job upon graduation, what their favorite memories were, and what classes they enjoyed and why.