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Penn State UP vs Univ MD vs CU Boulder

carrottopcurls2carrottopcurls2 55 replies4 threads Junior Member
Any advice when comparing these schools and their engineering programs? Mechanical Engineering or possibly Aerospace. DS was accepted directly in Mechanical Engineering for both PSU and UMD; CU Boulder he was placed into Exploratory Studies with the option to transfer into Aero or ME after first year (3.0gpa required).

PSU is in-state tuition for us. No other money has been offered from the other schools, unfortunately.

He is waiting on Virginia Tech yet.
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Replies to: Penn State UP vs Univ MD vs CU Boulder

  • colorado_momcolorado_mom 9334 replies83 threads Senior Member
    Colorado parent here, but I'm not familiar with CU Exploratory studies at CU ... I did find this link - https://www.colorado.edu/exploratorystudies/welcome-exploratory-studies

    key point: "CAN I STILL GRADUATE IN 4 YEARS? - Many academic programs can be completed in four years. Some majors require that courses be taken in a particular sequence; therefore, which course of study you choose, how soon you decide, and how quickly you can complete the requirements will all determine how soon you graduate. UEAC advisors can help you get there sooner by avoiding some of the pitfalls students might face without their help."

    PSU (or UMD) sounds like a more affordable and more predictable path. With Engineering, students likely won't be able to get the Engineering sequences completed unless they start in Engineering.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24113 replies19 threads Senior Member
    Even if not in the engineering program, students can still take most of the first year programs like calculus, physics, chemistry, etc. With good planning, it would be possible to graduate in 4 years from CU.

    However, I don't think you'll see any merit money from CU.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 2078 replies33 threads Senior Member
    Penn State has a very well-regarded Engineering program. With the cost advantage of in-state tuition (even the high one in PA), I don't think either of the other schools offer anything to outweigh that, unless money is a non-issue.

    I certainly wouldn't bypass it for a program with only a chance of getting into engineering and a chance of having to figure out whether to transfer, pick another major, etc.

    This is assuming he likes PSU and could see himself as a student there. My D didn't like it so it came off out list, but judging from her classmates and our neighbors, she was a bit of an outlier.
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  • MarylandJOEMarylandJOE 194 replies6 threads Junior Member
    My son is in Maryland and was accepted to Penn State and UMD for engineering. The cost difference and his preference leaves us with the obvious choice of Maryland.

    That being said they are both great schools.

    Penn State has an alumni network like no other. A graduate from Penn State has that "edge" for life. Being in-state that should be a no brainier. If we were in PA it would be Penn State all the way.
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5747 replies124 threads Senior Member
    I agree with the other posters, especially @RichInPitt and @colorado_mom. Boulder is a cool town, no doubt about it. They have a good aerospace program too. The added cost, with no better job or earnings prospects than the other two, coupled with the uncertainty of even getting into engineering would cause me to eliminate it.

    It looks like UMD OOS is roughly $80k more than PSU in state over 4 years. Is that affordable for you? If it is, have you considered what to do with the savings if he stays in state? For example, you could split the savings, gifting him $10k per year in a trust due upon graduation if he stays in state. That way he has some incentive to think about the money. It would be a really nice leg up for him to graduate not only debt free, but with money in the bank.

    Does he have a preference? Have you visited both campuses?
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  • musicmeritmusicmerit 1028 replies217 threads Senior Member
    At Penn State you are technically not in the major until you have taken a certain number of courses with a certain GPA, generally at the end of sophomore year. The entrance to major courses are very tough and often referred to as weed out classes. Because many students change majors due to low GPAs.

    Here is the link for Mechanical Engineering:

    https://bulletins.psu.edu/undergraduate/colleges/engineering/mechanical-engineering-bs/#howtogetintext


    ENTRANCE TO MAJOR

    This program currently has administrative enrollment controls. Administrative Enrollment Controls are initiated when limitations of space, faculty, or other resources in a major prevent accommodating all students who request them. Students must follow the administrative enrollment controls that are in effect for the semester that they enter the university.

    FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS ENTERING SUMMER 2019, FALL 2019, SPRING 2020

    In order to be eligible for entrance to this major, students must satisfy the following requirements:

    40-59 graded Penn State credits (excludes transfer and AP credits)
    completed with a grade of C or better: CHEM 110, MATH 140, MATH 141, MATH 250 or MATH 251, PHYS 211, PHYS 212
    earned a minimum of 3.10 cumulative GPA
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  • katliamomkatliamom 13349 replies169 threads Senior Member
    Unless money is truly no object, I'd say focus happily on Penn State. Yes, Boulder has a certain glamour (skiing, etc.,) and it has strong STEM, but I doubt it would seriously rival Penn State and the others in terms of opportunities, much less quality of education. You could always offer your child a great post-graduation trip to Europe with a fraction of the money you saved on Boulder's (very high OOS) tuition.
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5747 replies124 threads Senior Member
    @katliamom said: "but I doubt it would seriously rival Penn State and the others in terms of opportunities, much less quality of education."

    I don't believe PSU is any "better" than CU in either education quality or opportunity for engineers. Some specific programs may be better at one versus the other, but overall, they are very much peer institutions. All of them on the OP's list, including VT, are. The differences really boil down to the things on the margins germane to the OP's preferences.
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  • katliamomkatliamom 13349 replies169 threads Senior Member
    edited February 3
    @eyemgh I actually agree - I expressed myself poorly - what I meant is that neither school overall is dramatically "better." And that unless money were no object or Boulder offered some unique specialty OP is looking for, that Penn State would be a completely good choice.
    edited February 3
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  • carrottopcurls2carrottopcurls2 55 replies4 threads Junior Member
    THANK YOU ALL for your insight regarding these different schools. Your comments are very helpful. I did some number crunching and it looks the OOS schools would cost us about $88k for him to attend Maryland or Boulder, which in our books is a lot of money. However, we do have some money saved and if we felt one of these schools was superior to Penn State, we would make it work.

    As far as a preference for one school over another, my son did really like Penn State a lot and felt comfortable there. He said he could see himself there and being happy. The only downside is that it is in the middle of nowhere. As far as Maryland, he initially didn't love the campus as much (trash on the floors in the student union, parking garage had trash in the stairwells), but he really liked Maryland's engineering buildings and their tour. It showcases the engineering program much more than Penn State's engineering tour. Regarding Boulder, we didn't get a chance to tour Boulder's campus officially, but we did visit the area and campus in 2018 and of course, he loved it! lol! Plus his sister is going to school out there (PhD at Anschutz), so he has family right there. In the end, he would be happy at any of the campuses and would take the cons of a particular school if the program excelled.

    Long story short - he would be very happy at Penn State, but if there was a very compelling reason for him to go to one of the other schools (where he would be happy as well), we would stretch ourselves and find a way to pay for it. For everyone's advice, PENN STATE is an excellent choice!

    We do need to research further the Entrance to Major at Penn State though. If you meet the requirements, is it guaranteed that you will get into your major? At least at Boulder, you are guaranteed and are not competing with others. We haven't even looked at this at Maryland.

    And sure, my son would love for us to send him to Europe or purchase him a nice car with the savings! This would surely have him signing on the dotted line for PSU today! lol!
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  • musicmeritmusicmerit 1028 replies217 threads Senior Member
    You should probably ask Penn State directly, but I believe if you meet the requirements, you are in your major. They adjust the requirements periodically as needed to manage the enrollment. But you just have to meet the requirements in effect when you start.
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  • SophleySophley 463 replies2 threads Member
    Engineering is a very difficult major with lots of weed out classes. You may want to ask admissions what percent of students with the intended plan of going into engineering actually end up graduating with an engineering degree.

    At PSU, engineering is a controlled major so there is thinning of the herd. Some kids get to PSU and discover they don’t have the math skills or don’t want to commit to the extra work of earning that kind of degree. A few years ago, there were posts that, at PSU orientation, incoming engineering students were told to stand, look left, look right, and realize that only one in three would earn the degree. Sounds over dramatic and could be total BS, but there’s likely at least a small ring of truth.

    If she’s passionate about engineering, she may want to take this into consideration. Of course, this is also why PSU engineering is so highly regarded. Survival of the fittest.
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  • eyemgheyemgh 5747 replies124 threads Senior Member
    @Sophley, "weedout" classes tend to be more of a function of admissions standards than of true intention to cull the herd. Large state schools often have to take in state students that may not really be ready for the rigors of engineering. That said, it is hard. It isn't jokingly referred to as pre-business for no reason. ;)
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  • mommdcmommdc 11862 replies31 threads Senior Member
    How about University of Pittsburgh?

    It's not in the middle of nowhere, has an established coop program and he would be free to choose his engineering specialty.
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  • boneh3adboneh3ad Forum Champion Engineering 7492 replies132 threads Forum Champion
    Sophley wrote:
    A few years ago, there were posts that, at PSU orientation, incoming engineering students were told to stand, look left, look right, and realize that only one in three would earn the degree.

    I've heard this exact phrase said about essentially every major engineering program in the US. I have heard stories of it being said for at least the past 15 years (probably longer but I wouldn't have known before then). Despite that, I have never heard of anyone who actually said they have heard it first hand. Ever.

    Maybe statements like that were the norm several decades ago, but that isn't how modern engineering programs operate. They may have a high attrition rate, but they basically all would rather have a low rate of attrition because, cynically speaking, that's a really effective way to keep the budget balanced.
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  • carrottopcurls2carrottopcurls2 55 replies4 threads Junior Member
    musicmerit wrote: »
    You should probably ask Penn State directly, but I believe if you meet the requirements, you are in your major. They adjust the requirements periodically as needed to manage the enrollment. But you just have to meet the requirements in effect when you start.

    You are right, I called them directly and the ETM is straight forward. You must complete specific courses with a C or better, have a cumm gpa of 3.1, and have 40-59 credits.
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  • carrottopcurls2carrottopcurls2 55 replies4 threads Junior Member
    mommdc wrote: »
    How about University of Pittsburgh?

    It's not in the middle of nowhere, has an established coop program and he would be free to choose his engineering specialty.


    He thought about Pittsburgh, but didn't love very urban campus. Such a shame, I love that school and city!

    At this point, he has some excellent options, but by the way things look financially, the OOS schools are just way too expensive for us since we get zero aid. As they say, don't look at the school if you can't afford it. We were just hoping they would have offered something via merit to bring it down a little bit and since he doesn't have perfect SAT/ACT scores, he hasn't received anything. The only school to offer anything has been University of Delaware, but that isn't his top choice.

    As far as the weed out process, he is game and ready for the challenge. We happen to know this all too well since his father was weeded out many many years ago as an engineering student at Maryland! lol! Our son is a thousand times more prepared than he was, that is for sure! And our daughter went to Hopkins, so he knows what it takes to succeed. All we can do is support him and cheer him on.
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  • mommdcmommdc 11862 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Yes, Pittsburgh is urban but has the advantage of easy access to internships/coops.
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  • colorado_momcolorado_mom 9334 replies83 threads Senior Member
    @carrottopcurls2 - It sounds like Penn State is a great choice. Yes, it is in the middle of nowhere (supposedly chosen as geographic center of state). But I've heard grad say they really liked their years there. Since your daughter is near Denver, perhaps one summer he could arrange a summer co-op in the area.
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  • carrottopcurls2carrottopcurls2 55 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @carrottopcurls2 - Since your daughter is near Denver, perhaps one summer he could arrange a summer co-op in the area.

    Great idea!!!
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