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Which colleges offer the most flexibility in changing Engineering majors?

Scubaski1Scubaski1 79 replies11 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
My daughter is applying to schools and wishes to study engineering, however she’s not sure exactly which specialty. She’s considering ChemE, MechE, BioMe, Materials, or possibly another STEM major, (but not computer)... We’ve toured many schools and understand that switching engineering majors is much easier at some schools than others.

She is deciding now which schools she will apply EA or ED. She is also considering an engineering/music double degree or music minor, so some schools on her list have stronger music than engineering programs. I know some of these schools don’t offer the breadth of engineering major choices she’s looking for.

Of the following schools on her list, how would you rank them on ability to easily switch between engineering majors (assuming all the privates, Ivies) and which make it more difficult (assuming all the Big 10/“direct admit” to engineering schools)?

Carnegie Mellon
U of Washington
U of Minnesota
The Ohio State
U of Illinois

Note - She does have the academics/extracurriculars to qualify for these competitive schools.. E.g. 4.6+ GPA, SAT 1580, Math 2 800, Chem 790, National Merit, etc. We will do a “chance me” on another post.

edited August 24
10 replies
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Replies to: Which colleges offer the most flexibility in changing Engineering majors?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77688 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Many Midwestern schools admit to first year engineering, and students declare specific majors later. Unfortunately, most of them have high GPA requirements or competitive admission for the more popular majors. Note that Cornell is similar, but the thresholds are in the 2.x range instead of over 3.0. Wisconsin has a variant where students need to earn high GPA to stay in the major. UIUC admits directly to majors, but changing can be very competitive.

    Some GPA thresholds for students admitted to first year engineering. There may be space available for competitive admission for students be who miss the threshold.

    2.0: Michigan, Pittsburgh
    2.x, varies by major: Cornell
    3.2: Purdue, Minnesota
    3.5: Texas A&M
    3.x, varies by major: Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
    Competitive: NC State

    Less selective schools (e.g. the non flagship public serving commuters from your home town) may be less likely to have capacity limitations that require them to ration admission to major, probably because natural attrition due to course rigor reduces student interest.

    At the other end of the scale, smaller wealthy universities like MIT may have big (in a relative sense) enough engineering departments that they always have reserve capacity to admit any student who is passing the courses.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77688 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You may want to web search for "[college] change major chemical engineering" (or other majors of interest) to try to find whether there is a secondary admission process or GPA requirement. Sometimes, this information can be hard to find.
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  • Ballerina016Ballerina016 1613 replies69 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It’s very easy to change to another engineering major at MIT.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77688 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    University of Washington now admits to a first year engineering program ("Direct to College"). Students must earn a 2.5 GPA to be eligible to declare a major, but some majors may have competitive admission beyond that: https://www.engr.washington.edu/admission/directtocollege/faq

    Because Direct to College is new, there is no past history of which majors may be more competitive beyond the 2.5 GPA minimum (previously, it was a free-for-all competitive admission process where students from the entire university were eligible to apply, resulting in high levels of competition for many engineering majors).
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5575 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Schools like Tufts and Union might be more flexible in this regard. If you've already looked and decided they aren't a fit, that's fine, but if you missed them, they are kind of ideal for people who want to do engineering and music.
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  • monydadmonydad 7817 replies158 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 28
    I don't know about other schools, but FWIW at Cornell one does not commit to a specific engineering major at the time of matriculation. Major selection is not made until some time sophomore year, after one has the basics and a few relevant courses to help guide that decision. So there is less likelihood of needing to change majors than at some other engineering schools, because you have not been forced into a premature choice at the outset.
    Matriculation to a major has some gpa requirements that are mostly really low, see here:

    As for changing engineering majors after that :
    "To apply to change engineering majors fill out a change of majors form.
    Students must be accepted into the new major. Majors are under no obligation to accept students who have already affiliated with a different major".

    I would imagine most students who were academically qualified and wanted to switch would have no problems, but it is at least theoretically possible some majors might be "full up" by that point, I guess. Though not likely chem e or materials, IMO.

    I think the biggest problem at that point is there may have been some major prerequisite courses you were supposed to take sophomore year that you didn't take because you were pursuing a different major.

    I cant recall anyone changing engineering majors when I attended, but there were certainly students who switched out of engineering to arts & sciences.

    edited August 28
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6971 replies49 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You don't declare a major at Cornell until second semester sophomore year.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77688 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 28
    http://courses.cornell.edu/content.php?catoid=36&navoid=9189#Affiliation_with_a_Major describes the grade and GPA requirements for Cornell first year engineering students to declare each major.
    edited August 28
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  • monydadmonydad 7817 replies158 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 28
    No, it is for second year engineering students to declare each major.
    "..although earlier affiliation may be granted at the discretion of the major. "
    edited August 28
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  • racereerracereer 128 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Not on your list, but one of the top schools for all the engineering majors she is considering is Ga Tech and they allow major changes very easily. Even though you still apply for a specific major, this past year they allowed a major change before orientation. S19 applied and was accepted for Chemical Engineering but changed to Material Science Engineering. They actually allowed the incoming class to change to any major offered at Ga Tech with the only exception being the new Music Technology degree which required an audition. Also once you have started there you are allowed one "free" major change anytime after your first semester. After that I think it is on an approval basis.
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