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Best Small Engineering School -- and Why

Father of the BoarderFather of the Boarder Posts: 372Registered User Member
edited April 2013 in College Search & Selection
S is looking engineering all the way -- probably computer engineering as opposed to civil or medical.

Small school believed to be best.

Good numbers, but really do not see him fitting into (let alone being lucky enought to get into) Harvey Mudd or Cal Tech. He would be the next step down from the few elite schools.

Question, I ask: what is the next tier? I can always pull up the USNWR list, but curious to know what other people think. Especially engineers. And, why some hidden school out there is loved or admired by engineers. That is what we nonengineers -- hell I can't even use the TI calculator -- wish to know as we are very much in the dark about the engineering world.
Post edited by Father of the Boarder on
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Replies to: Best Small Engineering School -- and Why

  • collegehelpcollegehelp Posts: 6,369Registered User Senior Member
    RPI, Rice, Lehigh
  • kyledavid80kyledavid80 Posts: 8,093Registered User Senior Member
    Harvey Mudd, Caltech, Olin, Rose-Hulman -- but this is just what I've heard.
  • ricegalricegal Posts: 1,350Registered User Senior Member
    I'm partial to Rice (being an alum), and my son visited it and loved it. CMU is ranked very highly for computer science, but might be a little easier to get into for someone from CA. USC, while not exactly small, is also the next tier down from CalTech and HM. Keep in mind these three are also very difficult to get into, but just a tad easier than the two you mentioned. We also looked at Lehigh, Bucknell, and Lafayette, although they don't have the reputation in CA that the others do. We visited all these schools. I was pretty impressed with engineering at Bucknell, but not sure it is worth the money compared to the larger state universities (various UC's, UTexas, UI-UC, UF, UWa), given that it doesn't have as much name recognition.
  • fireflyscoutfireflyscout Posts: 5,355Registered User Senior Member
    Stevens, WPI, RIT. But I think Rose-Hulman is currently my favorite
  • MADadMADad Posts: 1,422Registered User Senior Member
    RIT has 20,000 students (not small!). University of Rochester has 4,000 undergrads, and also has engineering.

    Bucknell has engineering and about 3700 undergrads.
  • MarinMomMarinMom Posts: 638Registered User Member
    My son and I just visited Cal Poly SLO and were very impressed. It is supposedly very good for Mech Eng (his interest) - don't know about its other engineering programs. We liked the laid-back, small-town atmosphere, undergraduate emphasis, and "learn by doing" philosophy. Biggest problem is housing, but they're building a huge new facility, ready by fall 2009. Anyone have any other feedback about Cal Poly?
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad Posts: 4,290Registered User Senior Member
    I'm an Electrical Engineer and part of my job is occasionally recruiting and interviewing new graduates. In my experience, the USNWR list for doctoral institutions is pretty accurate for the top 10-20 schools. Schools like Purdue and Georgia Tech are much harder to get through then to get in, and I highly recommend going for that top tier if one can handle the work. If we're going to invest the money recruiting at a school, we tend to recruit nationally only in that top tier of doctoral institutions and locally in the next tier. So if he must go beyond the top tier, your looking at much more of a local following and your S's choice should reflect the part of the country that he wants to live in. For example, at my company in the Boston area, there are a lot of engineers from Northeastern, WPI, Tufts and UMASS, but we also have a fair number from MIT, Illinois, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Purdue, Georgia Tech, Penn State, RPI and Carnegie Mellon. Our Washington office tends to get a fair number from Virginia Tech, George Mason, George Washington and University of Maryland.

    We've had excellent coops, all local candidates, from Olin and Harvey Mudd and I've met one or two really great engineers from Cooper Union. I've only interviewed one unsuccessful candidate from Rose-Hulman and have never met a Bucknell engineer. The problem with the small schools is that you meet so few people from them, that its hard to get a feel for trends on how much they actually learn. Also, since it costs as much in time and travel to interview at small schools as large schools it just makes more economic sense to target the pool of candidates at the larger schools.

    As a recruiter, I generally see a vast difference in technical capabilities between good candidates from the top tier and good candidates from the local schools; those from the top tier are way ahead because they've been worked so much harder and are used to a higher standard of excellence.

    Hope this helps.
  • OneMomOneMom Posts: 1,925Registered User Senior Member
    Catholic University is a fairly small, friendly school, with a good engineering department. It has good ties with the local defense industry (which is vast in the Washington, DC, area). The campus is in an urban area, but is nice. Catholic U also has an honors program for undergrads. It started about two years ago. A student who likes engineering but does not want a highly cut throat environment may be happy there.
  • RabbanRabban Posts: 734Registered User Member
    The problem with the small schools is that you meet so few people from them, that its hard to get a feel for trends on how much they actually learn.

    That’s absolutely correct. And that’s what I’ve been saying all along. For engineering, size does matter A LOT!!! The powerhouse engineering schools on the national level are:


    1. MIT
    2. Stanford
    3. Berkeley
    4. GT
    5. UIUC
    6. CMU
    7. CAL Tech
    8. USC
    9. Michigan
    10. Cornell
    11. Austin
    12. Purdue
    13. UCSD
    14. A&M
    15. Madison
    16. UCLA
    17. UMCP
    18. Princeton
    19. Columbia
    20. UCSC


    I live in Bethesda, MD and am constantly impressed with the high calibers of UMCP engineers (mostly EE) and CS graduates. I have been always urging local high students (Blair, TJH) to choose CP over JHU if he/she is set for engineering/CS career.
  • notre dame ALnotre dame AL Posts: 1,674Registered User Senior Member
    What about Notre Dame? Classic Rocker Dad, does George Washington have an engineering program? Son has a friend attending there, but I was under the impression it was more of a Liberal arts based school. Thanks-
  • collegehelpcollegehelp Posts: 6,369Registered User Senior Member
    Rabban-
    I agree with you about UMCP engineering. It is very highly regarded for ECE and CS. Their new building and facilities are great. Lots of nearby government labs and NASA. The most recent Nobel Prize winner in physics teaches at UMCP and works at NASA.
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad Posts: 4,290Registered User Senior Member
    Notre Dame - I think its a fine school, but as far as I know, we don't recruit there. I've met a few good people from there though.

    George Washington - yes, it has engineering. I don't know anything about it.
  • notre dame ALnotre dame AL Posts: 1,674Registered User Senior Member
    ClassicRockerDad--please keep Notre Dame on your radar for recruiting!
  • mikemacmikemac Posts: 7,355Registered User Senior Member
    I'd be hesitant about attending a small engineering school because the dropout rate in engineering is so high. I have no prediction about what will happen to your son, of course, but if we were to look at 100 people who are planning on being engineers then research shows most of them won't make it! According to a trade publication the majority of engineering undergrads drop out or flunk out of the curriculum within the first two years. With a few notable exceptions, U.S. engineering schools typically have attrition rates hovering between one-half and two-thirds. See the EE trade newspaper article at http://tinyurl.com/buzhg The EE curriculum is very demanding, essentially 4 years taking classes of applied calculus. Circuits, electromagnetics, signals and systems, etc. are all heavily math-based.

    I'll leave it to others to debate the merits of various schools. My suggestion is that unless your son knows from internships or other real-world exposure that he really wants to be an engineer and is willing to do what it takes to get thru school, it would be better to attend a school where there is a bail-out option that doesn't involve transferring.
  • ricegalricegal Posts: 1,350Registered User Senior Member
    mikemac: It's sometimes easier to transfer majors at a small school than a large one. At Berkeley, for example, it would be almost impossible to transfer into business from engineering as the business undergraduate degree is impacted. However, at Lehigh, it would be easy.
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