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RPI vs UMich vs JHU vs CMU vs Northwestern for engineering?

Proteus77Proteus77 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
D has got it narrowed down to the above schools, after eliminating UWash WashU Case, GT and Purdue, and getting rejected from Stanford and MIT (her top choices, which would have made this easy).
Unfortunately those were all the lower cost options (UW was in state). No need aid and merit aid only from Case and RPI, so we'll be eating ramen or doing loans most likely. We're visiting the schools in title next week (except UMich), but its still a huge decision.

Some background. She used to love engineering design, but took bio this year and now thinks she wants biomed engineering (dabbling with the idea of premed, but she loves engineering). She was fortunate enough to get direct admit to Hopkins and GT for biomed (although not at UW which is a problem), but she's not 100% sure she wants to go this route. She tends to be a quiet, somewhat introverted kid but gets along well with others. Would be nice if the school she went to provided something more than just studying to death. She's also interested in a sorority as a way to meet kids/socialize

Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated!
- UMich - toured and loved the campus and options, about $10k cheaper. It is a state school though, and she's worried about getting lost in the crowd. Seems to have a ton of options and good first year eng program. Dorms seemed meh, and paying $60k for a state school is questionable...
- RPI - got a half tuition scholarship here, but the ratio worries her, and the school appears to have questionable mgmt. Ranking is fairly low as well, vs the others. Supposedly much stronger than the rankings though?
- JHU - Seems superb...if she's doing biomed. Not sure about other engineering options like EE or Mech?
- CMU - biomed program is double major only, and she didn't get into EE/CPE so she'd have to double in mech or chem. Great rep as a general engineering school though and the double major in biomed would be useful
- Northwestern - Seems to have a great first year engineering program, with a design twist that she'd like? Not sure of rep for biomed though, or flexibility to double major.
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Replies to: RPI vs UMich vs JHU vs CMU vs Northwestern for engineering?

  • Proteus77Proteus77 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    One additional factor, she learns a lot better in person, vs online or in large impersonal classes. Having 500 kids in a class taught by non-native English speaking TAs would be a huge problem (which is why UW is out)
  • insanedreamerinsanedreamer Registered User Posts: 1,525 Senior Member
    Considering that finances seems to play a big part, and the scholarship from RPI makes it much cheaper than the others, I'd recommend RPI. My D is an engineering student at RPI, and she says that the m/f ratio is really no big deal (it's mostly a big deal if you're a somewhat introverted male, as it makes it that much more difficult for you to meet females). It has a diverse, friendly and collaborative student body that she likes and feels comfortable with. The student body skews nerdy, but there are all types. There are also sororities (though my D isn't in one), frats and plenty of student clubs and things to do (finding time to do them as an engineering major is another matter - academics are rigorous).

    My D picked RPI over CMU as it offered her a large scholarship. I'd say CMU and RPI are peers in engineering (in fact CMU list RPI on its "peer institutions") - though CMU is much stronger in CS. My D also wanted a small school so didn't apply to any big state schools like Mich. RPI was actually her safety. I was originally disappointed as I was hoping she'd go to UChicago, but she's happy she picked RPI.

    Mich, JHU and NU are overall more prestigious than RPI and more well known and access to more resources. However, when it comes to industry, RPI has an excellent reputation and very high placement rates for engineering. Kids are smart and come out knowing their stuff. RPI also gets a lot of research money for a school their size.

    I'd pick NU over RPI if money is no issue, as NU has superb engineering plus the prestige. But whether it's worth the extra cost would depend on how much more it would cost and what that means for you and your family.

    By the way, double majoring in engineering - at least at RPI or similar institution - is really really tough; impossible to graduate in 4 years without killing yourself.

    Lots of good choices. Kudos to your D!
  • AlexandreAlexandre Super Moderator Posts: 23,890 Super Moderator
    edited April 6
    "Dorms seemed meh, and paying $60k for a state school is questionable..."

    If you consider Michigan to be nothing more than a "state school", then I do not think it is wise for your daughter to go there.

    Northwestern is a great option. It is strong in MechE, EE and BME (yes, it has a good reputation in BME). Also, NU's curriculum and quarter system makes it possible to double major with relative ease.

    JHU is obviously stronger than all those universities in BME, and it is still solid in other Engineering sub-discipline. But the campus vide is substantially different from Northwestern's Big 10 vibe.

    CMU is obviously excellent in EE and MechE. I am not sure about its BME department. The campus vibe will be decidedly more "techy" than at NU or JHU.

    It should be easy to choose between those three awesome universities. Best of all, those CMU, NU and JHU are private university, so they must by definition be better than a mere state school! ;)

    Seriously, I recommend against going to a university if you have a negative perception of it. Students have a much better experience at university when they actually want to be there and think highly of it going in.
  • insanedreamerinsanedreamer Registered User Posts: 1,525 Senior Member
    @Alexandre I think by "state school" the OP meant a very large school / college experience (as compared with a smaller private). At least that's how I interpreted it. I don't think it was meant as a negative.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Super Moderator Posts: 23,890 Super Moderator
    edited April 6
    insanedreamer, the OP insinuated that it is worth spending $70k for private universities but not $60k for a "state school". Sounds negative to me. But there really is no right or wrong here. We each have our personal preferences, and CMU, JHU and NU are all brilliant anyway.
  • Proteus77Proteus77 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    Thanks. Yes, she's lucky that she has a lot of great choices on her list. I know campus vibe is going to be really important, so I'm hoping it will just "click" when she visits. If we had time to visit all the schools, it would make things easier, so trying to filter as much as possible first. And no, nothing wrong with state schools (I went to one), but the value of $60k at Michigan OOS is questionable if she could just pay 25k at UW. The reason we dismissed UW was the viscous competition to even get into a major (which can take 2 years), and lack of available classes.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Super Moderator Posts: 23,890 Super Moderator
    edited April 6
    "The reason we dismissed UW was the viscous competition to even get into a major (which can take 2 years), and lack of available classes."

    Choosing a major, declaring a major or changing majors at Michigan is fairly straight forward. There are no impacted majors or restrictions and students do not compete for spots. Applicants are not admitted into a specific department, but rather, all students are admitted into the CoE and are free to select their major after their first year, assuming they have completed their major's prerequisites with a passing GPA. Electing one's major automatic.

    https://advising.engin.umich.edu/declaring-or-changing-major/
    Post edited by Alexandre on
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 6,379 Senior Member
    In terms of rankings in engineering, RPI does very well by some sources:

    http://college.usatoday.com/2016/11/18/top-engineering-colleges/
  • Proteus77Proteus77 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    Thanks! We're visiting the others next week, so I'll report back with more info. Hopefully we'll have good weather :)
  • wayneandgarthwayneandgarth Registered User Posts: 1,737 Senior Member
    "If you consider Michigan to be nothing more than a "state school", then I do not think it is wise for your daughter to go there."

    Wonder if the student feels the same.
  • Proteus77Proteus77 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    RPI was pretty dismal when we visited for admitted students day. The whole campus seemed a bit run down and Troy was a dump. Academics and curriculum seemed strong, but many kids seemed unhappy there, and when asked, said they wouldn't do it again. Seems like a great engineer factory, in the middle of a gritty town that has seen better days.

    CMU was pretty impressive, beautiful campus, great facilities, looks like a strong curriculum, although admissions seems to be very adamant about not being able to do multiple major/minors, etc. However, students there all said advisors make the system work, and you can get the classes you need? Graduating in 4 years with a masters in MechE is possible for example. Kids overall seems pretty happy here, very few complaints. Top of the list....so far.
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad Registered User Posts: 5,707 Senior Member
    Terrific options!

    One plus for Northwestern is the quarter systems. I kind of like it and you can get 48 courses in only 4 years taking 4 at a time. That seems like a good way to fit in all of the biomedical engineering requirements.

    You also get a little more for your money (30 weeks of instruction per year vs 28 at a semester school).

    Johns Hopkins is strong in other kinds of engineering too. It's a very intense school though.
  • Proteus77Proteus77 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    JHU was pretty amazing, but for biomed. Every other engineering department seemed heavily medically focused, so she'd have to be really sure about going the med track. Industry connections, coops, etc also seemed very tenuous. JHU seemed very research focused, but they admitted that most of the grads not going on to grad school or pre-med ended up doing consulting or finance.
    Northwestern has been pretty terrific so far, although seems like a different vibe than CMU. Assuming that mechE+Product design seems to be the preferred path..any recommendations on NU vs CMU? Rankings seem mixed between the two...
  • 11bawb11bawb Registered User Posts: 73 Junior Member
    NU indeed had a great 1st year and engineering design program and strong across the board disciplines. A sizable engineering program but within a university a fair amount more diverse than CMU with, as you say, definitely a different vibe. I'd say go with the vibe that better suits.
  • LakeWashingtonLakeWashington Registered User Posts: 9,026 Senior Member
    I think your complaint about the look of the RPI campus is misplaced. Aesthetically it is sort of routine. Perhaps not gorgeous, but nothing negative in terms of looks. However, did you take time to explore the EMPAC building? Sounds like you were unimpressed. EMPAC is a great asset for RPI.

    Also, a word of advice to your student. Choosing to major in a traditional engineering discipline is not an ideal choice for a pre-med. Engineering is tough everywhere and getting the consistent high grades required by med school admissions is not easy. Obviously it can be done but it is a tough road to trod. A poster here, M2CK, has a son who did ChE and successfully made his way to medical school. Perhaps the exception to the rule.
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