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Which Ivies have the best engineering schools?

catchmecryingcatchmecrying 3 replies6 threads New Member
Which Ivies have the best engineering schools? Is Penn Engineering better than Columbia Engineering?
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Replies to: Which Ivies have the best engineering schools?

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7802 replies65 threads Senior Member
    Why Ivies? Most of the T10 for undergraduate engineering are not Ivies.

    I would rank the Ivies for engineering:

    Cornell
    Princeton
    Columbia
    Penn

    (In that order).
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  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 14867 replies1005 threads Senior Member
    Ohio State, Purdue, Carnegie Mellon and Georgia Tech are regarded about the same as them.
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5600 replies122 threads Senior Member
    @MWolf said: "Best schools for engineering undergraduate are MIT, Caltech, HMC, Berkeley, GTech, CMU, UIUC, UMichigan, Purdue, Stanford, UWashington, and Cornell."

    This is HIGHLY debatable. Anyone looking into any school should look beyond reputation and prestige and try to figure out what the day in and day out life of an undergrad will be like. They also nee to know what their foundation will be like once they graduate.

    Two Caltech professors warned my son away from UG at Caltech and my uncle, a Stanford PhD, suggested he avoid Stanford for UG. Why? They all felt that the undergraduate programs lacked sufficient application of theory to produce highly functional practicing engineers right out of the gate. All three raved about the graduate programs though.

    In general Cornell is the only Ivy considered to have a strong engineering program, but like many on the list above, they have giant classes and rely heavily on graduate assistants for labs and discussions.

    Neither Penn or Columbia have the facilities or course depth of schools routinely looked right over, schools like Texas A&M, Florida and Iowa State. Is there a particular reason you are attracted to those two?
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    ^Not all engineers are the same. Those with better theoretical foundation are more capable of solving more fundamental and difficult problems. Practical experience is obviously important, but it's easier to acquire.
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5600 replies122 threads Senior Member
    ^but, there are programs where they teach full theory AND practical application. It's certainly not an exhaustive list, but Cal Poly and Purdue both fit that bill.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    ^I know you're a fun of Cal Poly, which is a fine school. But it's not in the same league as Caltech, not because of prestige. If you compare the actual courses/labs that need to be taken to fulfill degree requirements for any comparable major, you'll see these courses/labs aren't at the same level.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7802 replies65 threads Senior Member
    I just looked up the chem e curriculum at Caltech. Look very similar to my D's 4 year plan of study at Purdue.

    Curious @1NJParent as to why it's not "the same level" and how you would make that comparison?
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited November 1
    @momofsenior1 For engineering, curricula may look similar because ABET certification. One has to look at the actual courses: the materials used for the courses, the level of homework problems and exams, etc.

    For chem engineering, I believe Caltech no longer seeks ABET certification. They felt ABET certification was a constraint on what they want to teach their students.
    edited November 1
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78958 replies701 threads Senior Member
    edited November 1
    1NJParent wrote: »
    @momofsenior1 For engineering, curricula may look similar because ABET certification. One has to look at the actual courses: the materials used for the courses, the level of homework problems and exams, etc.

    For chem engineering, I believe Caltech no longer seeks ABET certification. They felt ABET certification was a constraint on what they want to teach their students.

    The Caltech firehose probably means that they can easily fit the course and curricular content that satisfies ABET into whatever curriculum they have.

    Probably the real reason that some colleges with top-end reputations in engineering are no longer doing ABET accreditation for some engineering majors is that it is more work to go through the periodic accreditation process, and they believe that their name prestige in engineering is sufficient that lack of ABET accreditation is not an issue for their graduates. However, they typically do retain ABET accreditation in civil engineering (if they have that major), since it tends to be very helpful at least for PE licensing that is commonly sought in civil engineering.
    edited November 1
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5600 replies122 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2
    @1NJParent, no one would dispute that Caltech teaches faster than any other school (see firehose reference above), including MIT or that they attract a very high caliber of student. Also, no one would dispute that there are lots of current and former Caltech students who had a miserable time as a result.

    What is in dispute is whether or not that translates to a more functional undergraduate degree, especially when compared with placing a high caliber student in a different environment.

    My data set is small, but two of my patients were Caltech full professors and both steered my son away. One of them managed one of NASA's most famous projects. He said two things that punctured the allure of Caltech in our eyes. First, he said that plenty of Caltech students (in his words: "students from my own institution") were fairly pedestrian and that some of the best contributors on his team went to "Podunk U." He also said straight up "Caltech is not an undergraduate institution." We were faced with balancing the institutional reputation with frank insider knowledge and the latter won.

    Now this is not in any way a throw Caltech under the bus rant. Nor is it an attempt to place Cal Poly or Purdue above Caltech or any other institution for that matter. What it is is a strong push back against the notion that the "best" engineering programs can be unequivocally ranked.

    At the end of the day, engineering is very egalitarian. That's why when you look high up the totem pole at places like Apple and Google and Amazon, that they have engineers with degrees from all over the place.

    The current director of JPL, Michael Watkins holds a BS from Texas. The remaining technical members on the Executive Council hold undergraduate degrees from the Air Force Academy, Colorado, Purdue, Caltech, Princeton, Texas A&M, MIT (x2), Cal Poly, UCLA and Cal Poly Pomona. Of those holding advanced degrees, there are 3 from MIT, 3 from USC, and one each from Colorado State, Stanford and Texas. You would think that if a Caltech degree was the be all end all, that it would have a higher representation among the employees that lead its most famous lab.

    Back to the task at hand, engineering is largely what one makes of it no matter where they go to school.
    edited November 2
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  • MWolfMWolf 1787 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2
    @eyemgh I think that Caltech is underrepresented because their undergraduate can only minor in aerospace engineering, while rest (except Col State which still has a space engineering concentration in the engineering science department) have an aerospace engineering major. So student who are really interested in that field will likely not attend Caltech.

    I agree with most of the rest of your post, though.
    edited November 2
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1666 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Caltech is under represented also because its much smaller class size compared to all the other schools listed by post 11, but I do agree with @eyemgh
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  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 14867 replies1005 threads Senior Member
    But the "common wisdom" is that an Ivy or Ivy equivalent is always better for prestige obsessed students and families.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2
    I don't believe in rankings. When my S was looking at colleges couple of years ago, we looked closely at some of these colleges. Besides visits (we visited some multiple times), we looked at their programs in details (I also had some prior knowledge from years ago). Among other things, we constructed all the courses he was going to take in these institutions for all four years, based on his interest and course prerequisites, and compared them. And we come to the conclusion that there're significant differences.

    Schools like MIT/Caltech are clearly not for everyone. Some will fail. I personally observed many failures years ago. If a student is in the bottom quartile of these institutions, it won't be a pleasant experience for him/her. Unfortunately, some students have to be in the bottom quartile, and that's the reality. At these schools, perhaps along with HMC, the system is less forgiving because of the pace and the lack of easy majors to switch to.
    edited November 2
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4569 replies18 threads Senior Member
    Here we go again. Seems this discussion is on like every recent engineering question....
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  • me29034me29034 1714 replies88 threads Senior Member
    OP, in another post you said you were a high school sophomore. It is way to early to be worried about which ivy is better for you. Right now you should be thinking about doing as well as you can in high school. If your grades, test scores, and other activities are in the range of Ivies or other selective schools at the end of your junior year, then start thinking about which may be best for you.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    @momofsenior1 For engineering, curricula may look similar because ABET certification. One has to look at the actual courses: the materials used for the courses, the level of homework problems and exams, etc.

    For chem engineering, I believe Caltech no longer seeks ABET certification. They felt ABET certification was a constraint on what they want to teach their students.

    The Caltech firehose probably means that they can easily fit the course and curricular content that satisfies ABET into whatever curriculum they have.

    Probably the real reason that some colleges with top-end reputations in engineering are no longer doing ABET accreditation for some engineering majors is that it is more work to go through the periodic accreditation process, and they believe that their name prestige in engineering is sufficient that lack of ABET accreditation is not an issue for their graduates. However, they typically do retain ABET accreditation in civil engineering (if they have that major), since it tends to be very helpful at least for PE licensing that is commonly sought in civil engineering.

    Here're the reasons Caltech gave for not seeking ABET accreditation for its chem engineering program:
    ...the restrictions and requirements imposed by ABET criteria and examiners have led to an excessively structured curriculum—one that our students and alumni have found to limit their opportunities to take full advantage of Caltech, both in research and in pursuing course offerings beyond the requirements.
    ...
    For example, our applied and computational mathematics course, which students view as critical preparation for their upper-level engineering courses, has repeatedly been declared by ABET's chemical engineering examiners as lacking engineering content, often in contradiction to ABET examiners for other engineering disciplines at Caltech who fully accept it. Other courses that teach methods for design and control of biomolecular processes have been excluded as engineering courses because they lack an "engineering" label.
    http://www.cce.caltech.edu/academics/graduate-programs/graduate-program-in-chemical-engineering/abet-accreditation
    edited November 2
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1232 replies16 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2
    But the "common wisdom" is that an Ivy or Ivy equivalent is always better for prestige obsessed students and families.

    Very superficial “common wisdom” that I suspect doesn’t survive very long once a student has an interest and starts doing research. Sure, a HS F/So and parents may know the Ivy reputations. But after starting some significant research towards Jr. year, reality typically comes out. My D was in the AP/STEM crowd in HS - I don’t know of a single Ivy application in the bunch. They’re all at Purdue, Virginia Tech, MIT, Case, Lehigh (legacy), etc.


    To the original question, Cornell certainly has the reputation/ranking as the best Ivy engineering school. But what’s important is finding what’s best for you. Yes, Harvard engineering may be best for some. But don’t be distracted by the overall school’s reputation/ranking. You don’t go to a school for an “overall” education, and employers don’t hire “overall” employees.
    edited November 2
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