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4 years or 5?

bellyflop55bellyflop55 Registered User Posts: 176 Junior Member
edited March 2011 in Engineering Majors
It seems college is turning more into a 5 year program, which would you suggest for mechanical engineering. The lighter course load is nice but an extra year of tuition is very costly and would put me another $15000 in the hole and I wonder if it is worth it.
Post edited by bellyflop55 on

Replies to: 4 years or 5?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,145 Senior Member
    Why not start off aiming for graduation in four years? Only if it becomes academically too difficult, lighten the load and take an extra term.
  • PurdueEEPurdueEE Registered User Posts: 705 Member
    You can definitely graduate in 4 years, if you want to. If you do not plan on taking a co-op, study abroad, some kind of internship during a school semester, etc. you should really aim to graduate in 4 years, but if you have to extend it a bit - so be it.
  • skbryanskbryan Registered User Posts: 251 Junior Member
    If you take a full load and summer classes for one or two summers and you didn't start out in remedial English or Math, then you have a good chance graduating in 4 years (assuming your school isn't lame and they have enough seats available in classes you need to take when you need to take them).

    Some people can't handle a full load (16-18 units a semester/quarter) and they end up taking only 12 units. This will guarantee graduating in 5+ years. They think they get better grades this way.

    For me, I get better grades when I take 16-18 units a quarter! I feel like I have to dedicate most of my life to school and I study hard for each class. I took 12 units one quarter and found myself slacking off and got a lower GPA that quarter than any other quarter. So if you're thinking that taking less units means a higher GPA, you're probably right if you compared someone taking 20 units. If I took 20 units, my GPA would probably not be that good because there is not enough time to sleep and study and work.

    It depends on the person though. You might not be like me and need to take a lesser load to get a better GPA. It would suck to rush through courses, take a full load, know you're not understanding the material, have your GPA suffer, and graduate in 4 years.

    You should graduate in 5 years if that means you'll have a higher GPA.
  • entropy2009entropy2009 Registered User Posts: 43 Junior Member
    So many people are not getting hired if they have a bad GPA. Just sayin'
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 55,810 Senior Member
    What do you consider a "bad" GPA? My DS loaded up with 19-21 hrs to finish hischem E in 4 yrs, but GPA is only about a 3.4. Hope I dont need to worry. He has one more year...
  • BanjoHitterBanjoHitter Registered User Posts: 1,497 Senior Member
    You only run into GPA problems below 3.0 at most schools. Companies have hard cut-offs where they will not even accept your resume below some threshold but have no problem interviewing you even if you're just above the threshold. 3.0 is the big cutoff for engineering, with a smaller cutoff at 3.5 (mostly for non-engineering positions like consulting or finance). You'll run into some companies with non-standard cutoffs (I've seen 2.8 and 3.2 on occasion) but the two mentioned are the most common, especially the 3.0.
    It seems college is turning more into a 5 year program, which would you suggest for mechanical engineering.

    Most engineering programs are 130-140 hours. So that would mean that under a normal load and with no AP credits, you should be able to complete the program in 4.5 years (9 semesters). With a few credits and some 16 and 17 hour semesters, you should be able to complete an engineering program in 4 years (8 semesters).

    What will throw you off is if you co-op. Co-op programs generally require you to work some Fall/Spring semesters and go to school in one or two summer semesters. Since Summer semesters are shorter than Fall/Spring semesters (12 hours is a normal load, not 15 hours), you fall behind and have to attend for 5 years (10 academic semesters + 4 work semesters). Although in that case you graduate with 1+ years of work experience, so it depends on how you look at it.

    So why do so many people go 5 years without co-op? Either it's because they took a light load (12 hours semesters somewhere in there), they failed some classes, they had some remedial coursework to do (pre-Calc before going into Calc courses), they transferred and "lost" credits, or they changed majors along the way.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 36,528 Super Moderator
    jym, 3.4 is a good GPA for engineering! Your son will be fine. Wow, 19 to 21 hours is impressive. My son started with 17 hours his first semester and dropped down to 14. He was getting too stressed with 17. He placed out of a couple of classes, and he'll go to the local community college during summers. I still don't know if he'll finish in 4 years, though.
  • LakeWashingtonLakeWashington Registered User Posts: 9,299 Senior Member
    I've looked at the undergraduate engineering ciriculum at several schools for my aspiring engineer Lake Jr., and I must say that I don't know how in the world these universities expect a student to get his/her bachelor degree in 4 years, unless the student regularly enrolls for 17 or 18 credits a semester, or 16 per quarter. Oh sure, it looks as though it can be done, but some engineering alumni say that for them it was unwise to take more than three core engineering courses per-term. And forget about enrolling in more than one or two liberal arts classes if you plan to finish engineering in 4 years. One solution is summer school, which you would need to get out of the way after the Freshman year if you want to have internship or employment opportunities in the summers thereafter.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,145 Senior Member
    Which universities and which majors? The suggested programs that I have seen average 15-16 credit units per semester (a normal course load) other than for double majors.

    For example, go to Undergraduate Notes | EECS at UC Berkeley and read the PDF starting at page 20 for sample programs of study.

    A student who enters with a semester or year of calculus from AP credit effectively frees up a course or two for free electives, or taking reduced course loads. Same with AP credit for any other requirement like English writing.

    Also, course overloads can be handled by finding out which courses are more work than their credit unit ratings and which courses are less work. Load up on the less work courses during overload terms and save the more work courses for non-overload terms. More work courses are often those with labs, lots of computer programming, or big term projects (this can include humanities and social studies courses).
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 55,810 Senior Member
    Thanks, MaineLonghorn! I fret about this stuff, especially in this economy. Older s graduated with over a 3.7 with a Mech E degree, and finished in 4 yrs. Younger s switched his major from chem to Chem E his second sem soph yr, and still wants to maintain his minor too, which is why he has such a killer courseload. Oh, and he threw in all the premed requirements too, and because of the way courses are offered, took things like thermo III before thermo II. Ugh.

    DS had lots of AP credits, but has to take courses for distribution and for his major/minor. So he plans to take summer courses at our local flagship Tech U this summer as well. Unfortunately, this precludes doing an internship. Should I worry??
  • BanjoHitterBanjoHitter Registered User Posts: 1,497 Senior Member
    If his goal is to find employment at graduation, he needs at least one semester internship. Two internship semesters are preferable, and there are diminishing returns starting at three semesters.

    Even in a good economy, it is nearly impossible for students with no internships to find work- even with high GPAs from top schools. If he does not have an internship, he is better off finding one and delaying graduation. It's much worse to be unemployed than graduate a semester later.

    Now if his goal is grad school or professional school, things are different.
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 55,810 Senior Member
    I agree, banjohitter, but he doesnt see it that way, and he wants to graduate in 4 yrs. He did an internship last summer, but it was not an engineering internship. He may be able to do a part time internship around his class schedule this summer, but again it wont likely be in the engineering field.
  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Registered User Posts: 2,892 Senior Member
    It is kind of hard for me to comment on this issue. It seems like (to me) that schools have raised the number of credits to graduate above 120 since I was an undergrad. Granted I was on quarters but even then, all I needed was 180 credits which is 120 in semester hours.

    I am now seeing a bunch of 128-hour programs which basically means 16-hour semesters.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,145 Senior Member
    Graduating "late" due to taking a semester or quarter off for an internship is somewhat different from doing so because one takes a reduced course load. In the internship case, one still spends 8 semesters or 12 quarters in school (paying school tuition for that amount of school time), but in the reduced course load case, it would cost an extra semester or quarter of tuition.
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 55,810 Senior Member
    DS is fortunate to have a full tuition scholarship that covers 4 years (5 for Arch students). If he took an extra semseter to graduate in order to fit in all required classes for his Chem E major and minor. it would porbably be paid out of our pocket. Not complaining, but it isnt want he wants to do, and it isnt due to an internship or semsnter off. He's taken a grueling courseload every semester. So he will take them this summer locally (he tried last summer but got shut out of the needed classes).
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