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Realizing you want to do Biomedical engineering late...

BundleaBeesBundleaBees 14 replies5 threads Junior Member
I wasn't sure whether to put this in Engineering or Science but if I'm wrong, please move me!

Ok, so in the past month pretty much, I've become very interested in pursuing biomedical engineering. This is a *drastic* shift for me because a month ago, I was convinced I would never major in anything STEM and that I'd do something like government or history. It's safe to say I'm in a bit of a confusing place right now as I think about my future (I'm a junior just starting the college process) but I'm really interested in biomedical engineering.

The problem is... because I was convinced I'd be heading down the humanities/social sciences route, I'm worried that if I applied anywhere as STEM major, I'd be overshadowed by applicants who've been catering their high school experiences for this very field. The only STEM extracurricular I currently have is math team (and I have no awards or anything to show), all the summer programs I've attended have been focused on social sciences, and... basically, if someone were to look at how I spend my time as a high schooler, they would never guess I'd be interested in this. I'm not planning on stopping anything I currently do because I like doing it, but I will try to participate in more STEM extracurriculars.

On the bright side, my transcript at the very least shows that I'm capable in STEM. I've taken the most rigorous math courses possible for me and I'm only a bit off from taking the most rigorous science courses offered. And I'm doing well. I plan to double up in science next year to compensate (and because I like science).


Basically my main question is:
1. Do I have a chance at getting into competitive science/engineering programs considering the fact that any STEM EC's I do will pretty much start half-way through junior year? It doesn't need to be like Berkley or MIT good, but I'm aiming for very respectable in the field.

Bonus Questions I'd really appreciate being answered:
1. If I double up in science next year, should I take AP Chem and AP Physics at the same time or take one with another honors science elective. Which do you think is most important to have thorough background knowledge in if I should only choose one (I'm thinking physics). If it matters, I'm thinking of being pre-med too.

2. Is my situation unprecedented? How have other stories been?

3. Is minoring in a humanities/social science field with a Biomed engineering major realistic. I mean obviously it's possible but will it be too hard to manage perhaps? Biomed is bound to be rigorous and time-consuming!

4. Some schools I'm looking into offer biological engineering/bioengineering but not biomedical engineering. What's the difference if there is one?
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Replies to: Realizing you want to do Biomedical engineering late...

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5988 replies1 threads Senior Member
    edited January 11
    "I've taken the most rigorous math courses possible for me"

    That answers what was going to be my first question. You are still a high school student. If you want to go into any engineering field at this point, the hardest thing to catch up on would be math. At a minimum to go into engineering you want to be ready to take calculus as a freshman in university. It sounds like you are well ahead of this pace. This is good.

    "I'm only a bit off from taking the most rigorous science courses offered"

    If you have taken (or will take next year) at least one chemistry class, at least one physics class, and at least one biology class, you are in good shape here also. Biology would only be needed for biomedical engineering, but that is your goal.

    What have your grades been up to now? Particularly, how have your grades been in math and science classes? I am guessing from "I'm doing well" that they are good.

    To me, assuming that you have good grades in math and science classes, I think that you are in good shape. MIT or Caltech or Stanford might be reaches, but they are reaches for everyone. In engineering, there are a lot of very solid schools, and employers care about what you can do. People really do not care about "prestige" in engineering fields.

    I don't think that you need to double up on AP science classes. To me physics is the science class that is closest to engineering, and is probably what I would choose.

    "Is my situation unprecedented"

    No. Lots of students change their majors much later than junior year of high school. To me it sounds like you are fine.

    "Is minoring in a humanities/social science field with a Biomed engineering major realistic."

    When I was in college I asked a humanities professor essentially this same exact question, but as a math major rather than an engineering major. I was told that there was no point. Just take the humanities classes that you want to take. Most schools will have additional requirements if you dual major. However, if you are an engineering major there will probably be some "general studies" requirements that you can fulfill by taking the humanities and social science classes that are of interest to you. I am not sure how a "minor" varies from a "dual major", but you can check the policies when you figure out what school you will be attending or when you show up as a freshman on campus.
    edited January 11
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  • BundleaBeesBundleaBees 14 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @DadTwoGirls Thank you so much for the quick response. I'll be taking AP Calc BC as a senior so hopefully, that's enough. And I've only ever gotten A's in my math and science classes (and in pretty much all my classes). I was thinking Physics would be the best class to take. I'll probably add an honors science class as well that I'm interested in. I forgot about gen-ed requirements. Perhaps those will be enough to make sure that I'm not *only* taking STEM classes in college.

    So you really think that I can be a strong applicant, even considering that I haven't necessarily developed a passion for engineering before? Should I apply as undecided? (In a lot of ways, I am undecided but this is just what I happen to be leaning towards now).
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35232 replies399 threads Senior Member
    The problem, and it seems you know this, is you have little to show experience, the mindset, or that you've tested this new interest. In fact, we don't even know where this comes from. One great teacher? Some idea about the innovations in the field? Is that enough to carry you through the actual studies?

    A month ago, it was law school. I dont see mention of grades or scores. They matter. And it seems you hedge about your rigor.
    "transcript at the very least shows that I'm capable in STEM. I've taken the most rigorous math courses possible for me and I'm only a bit off from taking the most rigorous science courses offered." We don't know how that translates. The top candidates to colleges like Princeton will have top grades in rigorous courses, top scores, including AP, when those classes are available.


    So your chances do depend on which colleges, finding the right matches, and the competition, their experiences. But there are many fine colleges where you can find a great opportunity.

    And there are many ways to work in the field, without being one of the engineers.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8737 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I agree with everything previously stated but wanted to caution you against applying undecided to schools that apply by major. It can be incredibly difficult at some schools to transfer into engineering. Do your due diligence on researching schools and how they admit and ease of changing major.

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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39963 replies2197 threads Super Moderator
    I was the only one of my college freshman friends who DIDN'T change majors. You will probably change majors even after you get to college.
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  • me29034me29034 1796 replies91 threads Senior Member
    You don’t give any stats but given what you’ve written, I don’t see any reason you wouldn’t be accepted to an engineering school at a state flagship and for engineering that is all you really need.
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  • mom517mom517 95 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited January 11
    My daughter is a freshman at UMD Bioengineering. Her interest is Bio Medical Engineering her interests were over the place from vaccines, to implantable devices to drug development, med school, at least they were when she was a senior in HS and that is okay so when she applied to colleges she knew she has to apply to the Engineering school to get in there--I think they all had Bioenginneering or Biomedical except Villanova so for that she went with Chemical Engineering. It is harder to get into the Eng schools at most of the colleges so make sure you apply to the CoE. Good luck! Not too late : )
    edited January 11
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5656 replies124 threads Senior Member
    My son attended a selective engineering program with only one STEM EC...math club.

    As for "Berkeley or MIT good," that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Plenty like their experience at those schools, but they aren't for everyone. No school is. You owe it to yourself to vet schools based on the things that matter to you rather than simply on prestige. Those things may or may not include class size, who is doing the teaching, not only of lectures, but of the labs and discussions. Labs? How easy is it to change majors? Is there support for your hobbies? Weather? Location? Price?

    In the end you should have a list from guaranteed acceptance to a reach or two (if you care about that), where you'd be happy to attend any of them and know you can afford.

    Good luck!
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  • BundleaBeesBundleaBees 14 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @lookingforward Thank you for your advice. If it matters, I currently have a 1470 with a 750 math score and 720 Reading (it's my first time but I did prepare in advance. I'll try again in March). I plan on taking Math 2 as well. I've always been interested in STEM but I didn't think I was good enough to have a career in it. I think that was primarily due to confidence issues rather than an actual lack of ability since I have always done well in those classes. I know I'm behind the pack but I want to believe it's not too late.

    @momofsenior1 Thanks! I think I'll talk a lot with my college counselors to figure out what I should put in that slot.

    @eyemgh Yes, I've had a list of top-choice schools for a while based on my own preferences and even though I'm thinking of changing my major, I don't really want to change my list. I wasn't interested in those schools anyway.

    Honestly what I've been thinking about is I'd mostly only apply to schools where they offer engineering as a major but not like a CoE. I'm doing this because, for one, I want a strong liberal arts education regardless of what my major I choose. And my top choice schools already don't have any CoE's or stuff like that. I also know that my chances of getting into an engineering undergrad school aren't great anyway. Do you think this is a good strategy? Maybe even have some schools I could look into?
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2811 replies64 threads Senior Member
    I would considering applying to at least one likely/safety school that doesn't require you to apply to a particular college or major. Not that I think your chances are low or anything. At some colleges, the engineering school is considerably more selective than the university at large. By all means, apply to such colleges. It may, however, come in handy to have a safety school where your shortage of long-term STEM-related ECs for sure won't hold you back.
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  • colorado_momcolorado_mom 9248 replies83 threads Senior Member
    It sounds like you have strong engineering qualifications. I suggest you take AP Calc next year - that will help you validate your interest in engineering.

    Do some research on these threads. You can work in the biomedical field with other engineering degrees . That would be less limiting for your options for schools and jobs.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8737 replies82 threads Senior Member
    "my top choice schools already don't have any CoE's or stuff like that."

    What does this mean OP? BME is an engineering discipline. If this is what you intend to do for your career, you want a college that will have ample courses for you to take and give you a solid engineering foundation.

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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23828 replies17 threads Senior Member
    My daughter majored in engineering and had no ECs in STEM. She only took Pre-calc and I think AP Chem. She started calc, chem, physics at the lowest level in college and just plugged along. In her Calc 1 class at least half the students had had AP Calc in high school, but she got an A.

    Most schools do not expect that you decided to be an engineer at age 8 and did everything to prepare for that. If there is a course you didn't take in high school, you take it in college.
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  • BundleaBeesBundleaBees 14 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @momofsenior1 Well one of my top choice schools is Harvard (I know, I know) and they offer biomedical engineering along with other majors that I'm really interested in. But to my knowledge, I wouldn't have to apply to a college of engineering there. I'd just apply to Harvard College itself and choose engineering as a major. Is that not how it works there and at other liberal arts schools? If not, then I have more thinking to do.

    @colorado_mom Yes, I'll be taking Calc BC next year and probably Physics. I've been reading about how BME majors are jacks of all trades which can be limiting for job prospects. Although I do intend to go to graduate school anyways, majoring in a field that I can start working in immediately after graduation would be nice, so I'm also looking into Mechanical engineering.
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5656 replies124 threads Senior Member
    edited January 11
    @BundleaBees said, "Do you think this is a good strategy? Maybe even have some schools I could look into?"

    No I don't think that's a good strategy. If you want an ABET accredited degree (and you do), the curricula are pretty rigid and tech heavy no matter where you go. You will get a fairly significant amount of arts, history and social sciences no matter where you go.

    People who hire engineers first and foremost, want them to be technically competent, the more so, the better. If you choose a second rate engineering program in order to have really cool general education options, you could very well compromise your ability to get the job you want. Only you can decide your priorities, but there are compromises you need to consider when choosing programs.

    As for schools, I don't have any basis for recommending schools for you to look at. I'd just be throwing out random names that could be wildly inappropriate for your wants and needs. Where do you want to be located? What's your budget? What about Harvard speaks to you? Do you have any hobbies? What schools are currently on your list? What's your home state? Budget?

    Now for Harvard, don't get your hopes up. Putting aside the fact that Harvard isn't well known for engineering (at the UG level no Ivy is besides Cornell), they only accept about 5% of their applicants. Given that roughly 30% of them are legacies who have roughly 3 times the likelihood of acceptance compared to non-legacies, that means your chance of getting in is well under 5%, assuming you aren't a legacy...regardless of your GPA, test scores and ECs. Certainly Harvard looks for SOMETHING when choosing their class, but that information is not public. You can't know what you have to do to look 'better' in their eyes.

    There was a great piece on NPR by a Harvard student who interviewed other Harvard students, asking them what set them apart to get them in. No one had a clue. Virtually all of them felt that they had HS classmates that were better qualified.

    Apply if you want, but know there's a certain randomness about their admissions (as with most of the other schools that get way more qualified applicants than they have space for. It's not a reflection on your worthiness if you don't get in.

    edited January 11
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35232 replies399 threads Senior Member
    You do need to reach beyond the tippy top tier. Not only are their expectations the highest (so many grand applicants that they can cherry pick,) but the week to week competition in class and the bar set by profs can be killer, considering peers' longer experience with the core academics and the depth and breadth of their experiences.

    You want the colleges where "you" can thrive. There are many excellent ABET accredited universities to explore.

    Yes, both the colleges and future employers want tech competence. But there's a engineering mindset that goes beyond that, that's equally important. Have you spoken with your math and science teachers, gotten some feedback whether they feel you have the goods- or have college suggestions?
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5656 replies124 threads Senior Member
    edited January 12
    @lookingforward said in discussing the "tippy top tier": "but the week to week competition in class and the bar set by profs can be killer."

    This is extremely variable. Brown, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Berkeley all have average graduation GPAs over 3.5. There's no competition there. Everyone gets to be above average. Caltech and MIT...different story. I do agree though with the sentiment of choosing a school where you think you'll thrive.
    edited January 12
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  • BundleaBeesBundleaBees 14 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @eyemgh I mean I wasn't necessarily aiming at a second rate engineering university but just not the absolute top engineering schools. What I'm looking for, academically, from a school is basically a school where the quality of education is pretty strong all around. I think that's one thing I like about Harvard. I know that it's not known for its engineering, but it's certainly not bad or even second rate, right? Is being top 50 considered second rate by engineering school standards? (I'm genuinely asking.)

    I like the school for many other reasons than prestige. And I'm very aware of how difficult it is to get in so I'm not setting my hopes high (but my school does regularly sends students to schools of that caliber and I think I'm 'hooked'). I'll probably make another thread later in a different forum to explore other options and create a healthy list of reaches, matches, and safeties.

    @lookingforward I definitely plan on talking to my college counselors and teachers about how competitive I am as an applicant and how likely I am to succeed as an engineering student. Taking Physics, Calc, and another science elective next year will also be an opportunity for me to see if I'm fine with/capable of doing mostly STEM for the next four years.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35232 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Just saying: it's too easy to say Harvard, a top among tippy tops, has a pretty strong quality of education.

    The admissions challenge is them seeing you as the sort of student they want, who has the right prep for the directions you state and can easily keep up with the pace they set (different from high school courses.) It has less to do with an applicant wanting "the best." The competition is fierce. A few highly competitive other kids applying from your area can mean they get the attention. You need back-ups.

    I think we're still missing what your gpa is, and grades. You said, "capable" in stem. That doesn't tell much. You implied you haven't taken a slew of the highest rigor math-sci courses. You have not yet taken AP chem or AP physics and plan on BC next year (no idea what AP sci or math you *have* taken, those grades andscores.) You can take missing courses next year, but it won't be a full year record for adcoms.

    I don't think we're discouraging you from a reach or two. But it helps to be rational about what makes you a match. Not just for the admit shot, but the week to week of being there. If stem is your new dream, find the right places for *you* to succeed in that major. Not where you run to just keep up.

    Many posters have their anecdotes. But often, their kids did choose their targets wisely, may have started with less experieince, but applied to colleges that offered them the right support, worked their tails off, and, so to say, caught up. Dont just pick targets based on their prestige.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9345 replies352 threads Senior Member
    If it matters, I'm thinking of being pre-med too.

    I think this does matter. A lot. If you haven't taken the most rigorous science classes available and try to jump into a top tier school with the intention of being pre-med it could have a negative affect on your GPA. That can affect your ability to get into med school.
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