Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Cornell CoE MechE '12
I need to stop doing wall of text posts....
160 views when I post this and zero responses... I'll take a swing at this.
First off, very few have attended more than one college in undergrad and even fewer for grad so it's hard to compare at any level. I myself have only had a chance to meet engineers from UMass-Amherst, UConn, URI, MIT, Northwestern, BostonU, UIUC, UC-Berkley Bucknell, RPI, WPI and UPenn. That being said, I can offer only my opinion based on my experiences and discussions with said friends/acquaintances.
Also, it's hard to answer your questions as you've presented them as you imply that:
1. If Cornell Engineering has a unique offering amongst top schools for prospective engineers, then someone should choose it.
2. You also imply that if someone has chosen Cornell, then there must be something unique about it.
I don't really agree with either sentiment but here we go...
For the first perspective, I offer anecdotes. I will only offer things relevant to Cornell CoE in specific and leave things like “campus atmosphere”, “dorms”, “nightlife”, “location” out.
Cornell's CoE classes are probably more or less the same stuff as you would learn at other colleges. As a MechE and meeting students from other institutions, I feel that our curriculums are similar. It's not as if we've been treated to some magical corner of MechE that others have not been offered as well. Afterall, why should it? For a college to offer an accredited MechE program, the college must require of its students to have knowledge of key subject matter. However, I can offer two instances in which Cornell seems to have given me a deeper treatment of subject matter in Finite Element Analysis and in Matlab (computational software). It seems that while my acquaintances (MIT, UMass) have touched FEA, our professors went further and made us step through the "black box" that is used by professional programs such as ANSYS to calculate the results and present the pretty colours. Also, it would appear that Cornell students have a lot of practice with Matlab (all schools) through various courses and are a step ahead in being able to navigate through Matlab's extensive set of help files to dig up the functions needed to complete the task.
Our engineering math track is steeper (Berkeley) as in while all engineering programs end up with more or less the same material covered, Cornell demands this material earlier into the degree. At least in my year, we were expected have everything pre-calc to be background knowledge and we covered Taylor series expansion and power series in the first semester while Berkeley had the pre-calc treatment. As well, Cornell requires 1 semester of LinAlg and 1semester of DiffEq while Berkeley requires 1 semester of a combined LinAlg/Diffeq. I assure you we are not slacking and spreading out material lol.
Do these differences (I don't think they're "unique") give Cornell engineers an advantage? Perhaps, but I don't think it's enough to make someone choose Cornell.
Another anecdote that belongs here is my friend who transferred from Northwestern who simply enjoyed his time at Cornell more because he found the peer group to be more motivated. He feels that it is far more common to find a peer willing to discuss classes/materials beyond doing problem sets and attending lectures. I suppose I can only attribute this to Cornell’s “selectivity”. What is the value of this type of peer group? That’s up to you to decide. I will add though that going through engineering, no one goes through it alone and the benefits of the peer group are there. Can you find these peer groups elsewhere? Definitely. But at Cornell CoE, it’s pretty much everyone you meet.
A third anecdote is my experience with the academic supplements available to Cornell students. I’m not sure how “unique” they are. I feel that there are more opportunities to participate in a project team than other schools (I’ve flitted about a couple of these teams) in any of the disciplines, most of them multi-disciplined. Cornell has a ChemE car team, ECE’s have the Robocup, CS majors do their own things (hackathons seem popular these days) and dabble with MechE’s in CUAir, CivE’s have CUSD and Steel Bridge. MechE’s (most familiar with) have CUAUV (robot submarine), FSAE (racing), Baja (offroad racing), CUSat/Violet (satellites to be launched into space), CUAir(UAV), Design,Build,Fly(R/C aircraft). I found these teams to be tremendous extensions to what is learned in a classroom (some of them sobering you and making you realize that sometimes, engineering goes out the window and sometimes, whatever works, works especially in a time constraint lol). Aside from project teams, research opportunities with professors seem abundant if you are keen on finding such a position. I’ve yet to meet a student at Cornell who is motivated to do research and stuck saying “none of the professors want me”. Both research and project teams count as “engineering experience” that companies and grad schools look for.
I suppose I should also throw in that Cornell CoE requires 18 credits (6 courses ish) of liberal arts classes outside of engineering and two writing classes. Basically, CoE students get a taste of the other colleges at Cornell too. What’s this worth to you? I’m not you! To me, the classes I took gave me some powerful insights that I’m aware of when I read the news and gave me a greater appreciation for students/majors outside of engineering.
To summarize my response to the first sentiment: depth of academic material, peer group and abundant supplements to engineering, liberal arts tasting. This stuff isn’t necessarily “unique” to Cornell so again, I point out why it’s hard to answer your questions as presented, but these are some factors that I think prospective students should take into account.
For the second sentiment, I can think of a few things that some of my peers chose Cornell CoE for, but are not unique to Cornell. These things go beyond the things mentioned above and are even more subjective based on my experiences. First, financial aid. A friend desperately preferred Carnegie Mellon over Cornell and got into both, but Cornell was more generous and CMU did not match the offer. This isn’t unique because had she been accepted at MIT, she might’ve been able to secure more finaid (I know someone in similar situation on a need-blind 90% ride). Second, campus isolation. Some students wanted the middle-of-nowhere treatment that Cornell readily offers. We’re 1 hour away from anything you could call a “city” (Syracuse) and 4/5 hours away from a real city (NYC, Pittsburgh, Philly). Hmmm… I suppose this isolation IS unique to Cornell after all lol. Third, “nice campus”. Not much more to say – I’m sure students have chosen other colleges as well based on “nice campus”.
Congrats if you've read up to here lol.
Last edited by fallenmerc; 07-24-2012 at 11:12 AM.
Reason: 160 views actually, I wrote 150 beforehand