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UIUC vs. Tufts for Civil Engineering

andrea2021andrea2021 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
Hi everyone,


I was taken off the waitlist from Tufts University a few days ago, and I really don't know what to do. I'm choosing between Tufts and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). I'm OOS for both since I live in PA, and in the end, the tuition at these two schools is about the same after financial aid. So please, do not ask about whether I've discussed the finances with my parents, because yes, I DID. (Sorry for the attitude. I just see a lot of people respond with crap like this that really isn't helpful).

But anyways, I'm majoring in Civil Engineering for both schools, and I'm 99% sure I will stay in this field since I've loved highways and streets my entire life and never lost interest in the subject after numerous summer programs and internships. And as that suggests, I'm specifically interested in Transportation within Civil Engineering.

I love UIUC. When it comes to engineering, UIUC is spectacular. Its undergrad engineering is ranked #6 according to USNWR, and I was able to confirm this upon my campus visit; UIUC has the biggest engineering library (Grainger) in the country, an engineering quad, and brand new buildings for ECE and CS. I also heard that the startup culture is huge at UIUC, and that Intel has built its own fabrication lab on campus or something. Well if that's all true...wow. BUT, when it comes to Civil Engineering, UIUC kicks even more butt; it's consistently ranked #1 on USNWR. CivilE has it's own building with huge labs and brand-new lecture halls, its own career fairs, and about 10 research areas, one of which is Transportation. The CivilE major I shadowed has gotten an internship every single year since she was a freshman, and told me that companies come after her and that all of her friends find it really easy to find a job. Sooo yeah, pretty much UIUC academics is unbeatable for CivilE, I would say. However, not everything is perfect. Champaign-Urbana is about 2 hours from Chicago and is not a very big city in itself. The campus definitely provides plenty of opportunities to socialize and have fun since it's supposedly a "party school", but I don't know; living in the middle of cornfields for 4 years might get old after a while.

I also love Tufts. Mainly because, unlike UIUC, it's right next to a city (Boston). I've always wanted to go to a school where I could independently take the train into the city to shop for clothes and look at museums, which Tufts definitely allows for. Plus, Boston is absolutely beautiful AND student-friendly with all the other schools like Northeastern, BU, BC, MIT, and Harvard. Its overall ranking is also higher than UIUC (#27 vs #44), and the school has fewer students, which means smaller class sizes and more opportunities to talk with your professors. But on the down side, Tufts' undergrad engineering is ranked #58, and undergrad Civil is not even ranked.... (lol). And to me, it seems like a fair assessment. I saw that all the engineering majors are clumped into a single building, there is no engineering library, and there are only 4 research areas, none of which is Transportation. And when I surf all over CC and Quora to find out about Tufts' engineering program, I see both ends of the spectrum. One person said that all of his classmates were able to find a good job, while another (an actual employer) said that Tufts Engineers are really not prepared for the workforce when compared to the Northeastern students with the co-op experience. This variety in opinions on Tufts engineering really worries me, since for UIUC it's always a unanimous appraisal.

Although very different, I love both campuses and can see myself at both schools. I also always hear about Tufts' "small barrier between engineers and arts majors", but honestly I don't get what's so special about it since UIUC too has plenty of non-engineers and makes you take Gen-Ed classes outside your department. I didn't apply to schools like MIT, Caltech, Georgia Tech, and RPI for a reason.

But essentially, the main dilemma here is whether I go for:
1) UIUC's engineering with more resources, better employment, and a transportation program that closely aligns with my interests.
2) Tufts' smaller class sizes and proximity to Boston that allows me to have more fun options on the weekends.

Is it better to be happy with:
1) what you're studying?
2) where you're living?

I'm posting this thread on several forums to hear from students of both schools, because I don't have too much to make this decision, and AHHHH I DON'T KNOW WHAT DO.

But yeah, thank you so much for reading! And also, don't be afraid to share the drawbacks of your school if applicable, because really, no school is perfect, and hiding the negative aspects of your school will do more harm than good for me :) And I promise, I'll always love both schools no matter which I choose in the end.

Replies to: UIUC vs. Tufts for Civil Engineering

  • andrea2021andrea2021 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    Once again, really sorry about the attitude in the beginning! Didn't realize I said "crap" after apologizing....
  • gmfreedomgmfreedom Registered User Posts: 76 Junior Member
    UIUC is a better engineering school......Great campus, happy students, etc. Most major companies interview there, so you have a better probability finding a high paying job after graduation.
  • wayneandgarthwayneandgarth Registered User Posts: 1,785 Senior Member
    What you are studying is more important.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Super Moderator Posts: 24,108 Super Moderator
    UIUC is #1 in Civil Engineering. If you are serious about studying Civil Engineering, and eventually, a career in construction, this is a no brainer. UIUC by a mile. Also, Urbana Champaign is a decent college town, and UIUC's campus is fun and lively. You should have equally good social options on and off campus as you would at Tufts.

    Students usually spend most of their time on campus, and should they wander off campus, it is usually on foot to a nearby restaurant, club,bar, pub etc...

    If you want to go to the big city for the weekend to enjoy some shopping or museum tours, you can take the train to Chicago ($20 ticket, under 3 hour ride). It is easily done over a weekend. Take a friend, share a room and have a blast in Chicago.
  • MemeMan666MemeMan666 Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    I'd go with UIUC. This is purely anecdotal, but from what I've heard Tufts' engineering school has somewhat limited resources, and outdated workspaces, whereas UIUC has one of the most renowned engineering programs in the world. Only plusses with Tufts over UIUC are location and "brand" name, though for engineering the latter is probably moot.
  • andrea2021andrea2021 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    edited May 9
    Thank you everyone so much for the responses! I'm definitely leaning towards UIUC now.

    @MemeMan666 May I ask what you mean by "outdated workspaces"? I've heard someone else say that the buildings are either newly renovated or still under construction. But you said that your statements are purely anecdotal, so don't worry if you're not sure!
  • MastadonMastadon Registered User Posts: 1,369 Senior Member
    edited May 10

    Here is the actual data. There are six buildings that house Engineering facilities. Nearly all have been either built or renovated in the last 5 years, with two major additions within the last two years. Another new building is planned for 2020 along with a government funded extension of the Green Line branch of the subway to the Tufts campus. The Red Line branch of the subway was extended to Davis Square in the 1980's transforming the surrounding area.

    1. Tufts built a new 90,000 square foot facility for Chemical and Biological Engineering in 1990 - this is currently the oldest engineering "workspace"

    2. Not sure exactly when the Mechanical Engineering Labs were updated, but it looks fairly recent.

    3. As of 2013, at 200 Boston Ave, Tufts had added another 150,000 square feet for Research labs, The Center for Engineering Education Outreach, and the Gordon Institute (Masters in Engineering Management Program). Additional labs have been built out since then.

    4.In 2013 the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science building was renovated and expanded

    5.In 2015 another 100,000 square foot interdisciplinary science and engineering building was added. It includes a decendant of Sir Isaac Newton's apple tree.

    6.This summer (2017) a new 80,000 square foot Science and Engineering complex will open along with a renovation of the 100,000 square feet of space that houses the Mechanical, Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments

    In 2020 there are plans for another 100,000 square foot building plus an on-campus subway stop (the subway stop will be delayed due to project delays - which may delay the building)

  • andrea2021andrea2021 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    @Mastadon Wow that was really concise and helpful! Thanks
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 3,081 Senior Member
    @andrea2021, there's no "right" answer to this question, but probably a right answer for you. If you are pretty sure that you want to be an engineer, vs. using the degree to do something else (management in the industry), focusing on the place that'll give you the best skills for that makes sense. That sounds like UIUC.

    If you end up using the degree but not in a direct capacity (I know lots of people with engineering degrees that work on the business side of industries that are more technical), a school that makes it easy for you to explore related topics --everything from urban sociology to psych -- or even unrelated ones -- could be a better fit. That sounds like Tufts.

    Each school is better known and has stronger alumni ties in the geography where it is.

    Anecdotally, we have a friend who graduated from Tufts with a civil engineering degree AGES ago. His profs had helped him get internships over the summers, but when he graduated, the economy was so weak that nobody was really hiring CEs. He found that the Tufts brand was well enough known in the northeast that he had several other job offers (albeit not doing what he'd been trained to do.) I wouldn't advocate for picking a school based on the "insurance plan", but it turned out well for him. Unlike you, however, he wasn't passionate about engineering -- it was just a path that sort of opened in front of him because it played to his strengths.

    At some of the bigger schools with great graduate programs, access to professors and facilities isn't terrific for undergrads. I am not familiar enough with the UIUC to know whether that's the case there. At a smaller program, you'll have lots of access. But also less choice of what to study and with whom. This could mean great relationships with profs or getting stuck with the one you hate for several semesters.

    The schools are very different in so many regards, but you really can't go wrong with this choice. One of them must be calling you...
  • Torr40Torr40 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    edited May 10
    @andrea2021 I am a current civil engineering student at Tufts feel free to message me if you have any questions. And I agree with gardenstategal, it all depends on how you use your degree. Good luck with your decision!
  • andrea2021andrea2021 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    edited May 19
    Thank you everyone so much for the insightful advice! I ended up staying committed to UIUC, mainly because they offer a concentration in Transportation, but also based on the Civil-specific career fairs and frequent on-campus recruiting that they offer. UIUC students seem to be doing internships as freshmen and sophomores more so than Tufts students, and although Tufts has a better student-to-faculty ratio, getting research opportunities as an undergraduate doesn't seem to be a problem at UIUC. But once again, I still LOVE Tufts. I will definitely be missing out on the city life, but since I'm going to be spending most of my time on campus, I decided it's better to be satisfied with what I'm studying than where I'm living. I can live wherever I want after I graduate, so hopefully I can make my way to Boston then :) You all brought up some VERY good points, and I really appreciate it!

    Also, feel free to continue the discussion if there is anything else you might want to add, since there may be others faced with a similar dilemma whether that is now or in the future. I'm sure others would find this forum very useful as well.

    Go Illini! Go Jumbos!
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