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Stanford vs. Caltech for science/engineering

o0CrazyGlue0oo0CrazyGlue0o Posts: 739Registered User Member
edited April 2007 in Stanford University
Stanford used to be my #1 choice, but after hearing some negative things about its undergrad for engineering, it dropped on my list. What are the academics reasons I should consider for choosing stanford over caltech if I plan to major in engineering or science, most likely aerospace engineering?
Post edited by o0CrazyGlue0o on
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Replies to: Stanford vs. Caltech for science/engineering

  • lordofthedark_89lordofthedark_89 Posts: 101Registered User Junior Member
    I would really like the above question answered too...
  • marlgirlmarlgirl Posts: 1,096Registered User Senior Member
    I'm not in engineering, so I'm not qualified to tell you much about that. Sorry.

    I'm not sure there's a good academic reason to choose one school over the other. They are both very strong in science and engineering.

    In terms of campus culture, they are VERY different schools! Caltech is much, much smaller. That makes a huge difference. There are a lot of required science classes that you will take with everyone in your graduating class. At Stanford you get more choice, and not quite as strong of a sense of community (although still very strong community in dorms, clubs, etc.). At Stanford you have the choice of taking it easy one quarter, or, if like you, taking tons of classes each quarter and never having an easy quarter. Stanford offers you a lot more freedom to explore your academic interests. Caltech has a very unique feel. If you love it, it's probably the perfect place for you. But you need to know that you love it, which probably means that if at all possible you should visit.
  • lizzardfirelizzardfire Posts: 1,576Registered User Senior Member
    Marlgirl's description is short and sweet (and from my PoV, quite accurate).
  • o0CrazyGlue0oo0CrazyGlue0o Posts: 739Registered User Member
    Still though, there has to be some more academic differences between the two. For example, why does stanford only offer a degree in general engineering with a concentration on aerospace rather than an actual degree in aerospace engineering? Also, is it harder to get into research at stanford? Id assume with the smaller student-faculty ratio at caltech, they would probably be more receptive. Caltech also lets undergrads participate on their DARPA team. Isnt Stanford's team all graduates?
  • superwizardsuperwizard Posts: 1,251Registered User Senior Member
    Still though, there has to be some more academic differences between the two. For example, why does stanford only offer a degree in general engineering with a concentration on aerospace rather than an actual degree in aerospace engineering?
    You can individually design an engineering program called aerospace engineering.
    Also, is it harder to get into research at stanford?
    Not at all. Everyone I know who wanted to do research was able to.
  • menloparkmommenloparkmom Posts: 8,223Registered User Senior Member
    If you want the best science education possible with a higher percentage of truly brilliant fellow future scientists arround you, go to Caltech. For a more well rounded education with a broader range of smart students, but an overall smaller percentage of true geeks, go to Stanford.
  • lordofthedark_89lordofthedark_89 Posts: 101Registered User Junior Member
    Just wondering, how would the workload and grade inflation in Stanford compare with Caltech or MIT?

    Also, I learned that most of Caltech tests are take-home tests thanks to their honor code, does stanford have a similar policy?
  • superwizardsuperwizard Posts: 1,251Registered User Senior Member
    workload is tough but I don't think as tough as Caltech. I know some people who study a lot and other who don't really study at all but in general, especially in engineering, people study but not 24/7.
  • viennariverviennariver Posts: 104Registered User Junior Member
    I recently had to tackle this problem from the grad school perspective. I was lucky enough that both schools flew me out for a visit. I'm an mechanical/aero guy as well.

    Simply put Caltech is unique. It is very different from a traditional university and the students and faculty openly admit this. The student body in general is extremely motivated and I was told the undergraduates are typically the ones driving the labs because they want to get published before graduating. Three words that would sum up faculty and grad students feelings about the undergrads are brillant, intense, and unique. There is virtually no school spirit but the bball team did just win its first game in a decade or something. Caltech isn't a place where you will see students out on a quad throwing a frisbee or reading a book, it really is different than most universities. But if this school fits your personality then it probably cannot be beat. Remeber, that it is an institute of technology in the fullest sense meaning there is very little outside of the sciences and technologies.

    Like others have said, Stanford is a much more traditional university. More school spirit around the sports teams, more emphasis on a broader education, etc.

    You really can't go wrong either way academically, especially in aero. If you are interested in getting involved in research it can happen at either school, but remember that since Stanford is larger they will have a more diverse range of research. For me personally, I couldn't find any faculty at Caltech that had the same research interests as me (experimental fluids and jet propulsion) which is the reason that I am going to Stanford.

    Its a tough decision but either way you will be at an amazing school next fall, congrats.
  • o0CrazyGlue0oo0CrazyGlue0o Posts: 739Registered User Member
    Is there a reason why Stanford beats caltech on the us news engineering rankings?
  • pyleelapyleela Posts: 772Registered User Member
    I guess there are more engineering opportunities in the Bay Area versus in SoCal? **shrug** That does seem weird...
  • o0CrazyGlue0oo0CrazyGlue0o Posts: 739Registered User Member
    vienna, I know that stanford pwnz for grad school, but ive heard different about its undergrad. In terms of aero engineering, I cant have a real major in it at stanford. Apparently, i can major in Mech E with a minor in aero or get a degree in general engineering with a concentration in aero. Maybe this isnt a problem since MechE and aero are closely related from what im told, not to mention that there are more job opportunities for MechE. And although I do care about research, the main reason for it is so that ill have a better shot at going to my top choice grad school. Its not like im planning on winning the noble prize as an undergrad.
  • o0CrazyGlue0oo0CrazyGlue0o Posts: 739Registered User Member
    Btw, is there a list of where stanford undergrads are going for grad school this year? On caltech's site, it showed that like 60% of those going to grad school were going to top places like Stanford, MIT, Princeton, etc.
  • viennariverviennariver Posts: 104Registered User Junior Member
    If your objective is Aero it won't really matter if you major in MechE and concentrate in aero. And I'd be willing to be that is essentially what you'd be doing at Caltech as well since it is so small, there is a lot of overlap between the two subjects, the only difference is in the electives really. This is what I did so I am speaking from experience

    If you want to go to grad school then you better want to get into research because that is all your life will be. This interest should begin early in your undergrad career.

    As far as placement, I can't give you a list but I'm sure Stanford holds it own in grad school admissions. I go to Hopkins, which is technically ranked 15th or so, and the top 1/3 of our graduating class get into top 10 programs (we get 5 or 6 students into Stanford and MIT each year) so I'm guessing Stanford does just as well, probably better. I believe that Caltech sends a higher percentage of its students to grad school then Stanford, probably because Stanford has great ties with industry and probably because of the nature of the students that go to each school.

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have other questions
  • datalookdatalook Posts: 645Registered User Member
    Stanford has built its huge reputation in engeering through its faculty and graduates. Stanford has 85 faculty members selected into the national academy of engineering, compared with Caltech's number: 30. Stanford has been the world's leading force in mile-stone technolgy inventions since 1970, more so than any other place on this planet. Stanford's faculty and graduates have changed the world through technology breakthroughs such as microprocessor, google search engine, gene slicing, internet protocol, DSL broadband internet connection, multiprotocol internet router, expert system, GPS, klystron (the basis of radar), over the horizon radar, atomic clock, laser, transistor, spy satelite, 1st programmable robot arm, 1st programmable robot cart, 1st UNIX workstation, and etc.
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