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Engineering at Harvard?

geekgurlgeekgurl Registered User Posts: 297 Junior Member
Personally I quite like the idea of having a strong liberal arts background with engineering (one of the main reasons why I'm applying to US colleges for engineering in the first place). But apparently Harvard's engineering is small and "not as good" as engineering programs at similar tier schools or as their other programs. So is it a good idea to apply to Harvard if I have intentions of studying engineering? (I might change to physics major)
I understand that the area of interest I submit with the app won't be binding but if I'm doing it totally wrong by even applying to Harvard for engineering then I guess I better not do it.
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Replies to: Engineering at Harvard?

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 4,554 Senior Member
    "one of the main reasons why I'm applying to US colleges..."

    Where are you from?

    What is your budget?

    In terms of applying to Harvard for engineering, I have to admit that I don't understand why anyone would. However, clearly someone does study engineering at Harvard. My understanding of the requirements for getting an engineering degree is that the required classes do not provide much time to also get a general liberal arts education.

    I was a math major. Harvard is quite good for mathematics, although I went elsewhere.
  • chercheurchercheur Registered User Posts: 1,137 Senior Member
    I would not select Harvard for engineering. There are so many other colleges that are great engineering schools.
  • geekgurlgeekgurl Registered User Posts: 297 Junior Member
    @retiredfarmer Is it true that grad schools/employers don't like Harvard engineering students as much as other schools'? Their website sounds otherwise, they talk about all the great things about liberal arts fused with engineering and how their grads get hired by top tech companies like Google etc or how their grads are preferred by the grad school admissions...
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,902 Forum Champion
    edited November 25
    Harvard is not especially well known for engineering. That said, it is not worth worrying about until you are accepted.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 647 Member
    edited November 25
    In the Early 60's, Case Institute of Technology (CASE) took on the issue of a broadly educated engineer head on. After interviewing with their admissions representative, I went back to my father and told him how CASE had a five year program for a BS degree in engineering with a broader educational perspective. Although my father was educated in the classics, he could not see paying for five years when other respected engineering programs were only four years. The new CASE program did not succeed and later merged with Western Reserve University. Not enough people would commit to the time and expense. Their Dean of Research came over to WPI at that time.

    There are other versions of this approach which are still available:
    1. Dartmouth College has a five year program which awards an AB and a BE degree. They do not offer the range of engineering courses offered at well developed STEM universities (e.g., ME,EE,Chem Eng,CE,BME).
    2. Brown University offers a five year program leading to a Sc.B. and an A.B. They have a range of concentrations not available at Harvard or Dartmouth and many are ABET accredited.
    3. Cornell has a very large and fully ABET accredited four year engineering program just as most established STEM universities offer.
    4. Union College, et al. colleges have their own engineering programs on campus.
    5. Columbia University runs a number of five year programs where one spends three years on the affiliated LA college campus and two years on the Columbia University campus.

    Solution three does not really address the broader educational issue within a four year time frame.

    WPI has attempted to improve the impact of interdisciplinary thinking, humanities and SS through a more intense, individually designed, experiential approach, but it is not a five year, two degree program.
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 8,743 Senior Member
    edited November 25
    Though Harvard may never be Rose-Hulman, its engineering program would still seem to be more than credible for those students who seek engineering within a broader liberal arts context.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 647 Member
    @geekgurl
    The only way to get a truly straight answer on graduate placement questions is to look at the job placement records by major for some recently graduated classes. I cannot find this on the Harvard website. Otherwise it is "I said, she said,etc." I do know that the placement records at the well established STEM universities are often available and tell you what majors were employed by which companies and where students went on to graduate school. Average salaries are also given. Companies who know the American educational system know where to find them.

    Within different disciplines there are information networks. Musicians know where the best music schools are, etc. I don't believe Harvard is in the engineering network for a number of historical reasons. They are not always located at the most well known university.

    See https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/21716694#Comment_21716694

  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 647 Member
    @geelgirl
    I noticed you have been considering Duke. Duke has a well developed and respected engineering program. About the only major branch they are not developed in is Chemical Engineering.

    When I think of Duke, it calls to mind Vanderbilt which also has a well developed engineering program which also includes Chem Eng. For Vanderbilt, see https://www.vanderbilt.edu/academics/disciplines/degree/bachelor. Both universities are well endowed. I have no idea how they operate their international FA programs.

    Another very highly regarded and broadly established engineering program is at Rice University. See https://engineering.rice.edu/

    All three of these universities are well endowed, very highly regarded and very highly competitive for admission, but no university has more money than Harvard. All three of these Universities have a well established breadth of engineering programs. Once again, I am not familiar with their FA program for international students
  • Engineer80Engineer80 Registered User Posts: 425 Member
    All ABET accredited schools of engineering require a significant humanities/liberal arts component. While engineering does have many required courses and many must be taken in a specific sequence due to prerequisites, one does not take only engineering courses.
  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff Registered User Posts: 1,491 Senior Member
    @merc81 you need to send that quote to Rose - Hulman. I think they might make a t-shirt out of that... Lol.....

    I would think there are much better options for engineering then Harvard. Look at the big ten schools.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 3,360 Senior Member
    If you want strong engineering with liberal arts, Cornell fits the bill much better than Harvard.
  • HPuck35HPuck35 Registered User Posts: 1,857 Senior Member
    A good engineering education requires a breath and depth of professors, labs and other facilities that make it hard for a college that doesn't specialize in engineering to provide a good quality engineering education. Over my 40+ year career in engineering, I've worked with graduates of just about every engineering school you can think of; but can think of only one (of the top of my head) that went to a college that was primarily a liberal arts school. That's not to say you can't become a good engineer from a liberal arts school, just not the typical path.

    The other primary problem, as I see it, is that there is such a volume of knowledge that must be gained in engineering school that it doesn't leave a whole lot of room for the number of classes that one would need for a liberal arts degree. Therefore, you see the 5 year programs discussed in the above posts. However, engineering schools typically require a number of "humanities" classes for an engineering degree. It would seem to me that one would get enough liberal arts if one planned those humanities classes well. Many engineering schools have cross school programs that allow the student to meet those humanities requirements another college more focused on liberal arts.

    Bottom line; I wouldn't rule out engineering at Harvard, although there is a school both down the street and down the river that would be better for engineering. I'd just keep my options open.
  • RightCoasterRightCoaster Registered User Posts: 2,504 Senior Member
    I believe the new STEM facility that Harvard is currently building is going to change their engineering program for the better moving forward. It is incredible. I think the kids entering the engineering program at Harvard over the next few years will have a great opportunity to be part of something on the rise. There is a lot of excitement regarding the new facility and what it can do for the students and professors.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,213 Senior Member
    HPuck35 wrote:
    However, engineering schools typically require a number of "humanities" classes for an engineering degree. It would seem to me that one would get enough liberal arts if one planned those humanities classes well.

    An ABET-accredited engineering bachelor's degree program needs at least 25% of the course work in math and natural sciences, plus an unspecified general education requirement (humanities and social studies). For the latter, the low end seems to be around 13% for schools like Brown, while some other schools like MIT require about 25%. So liberal arts courses (including math and natural science) would compose about 38% to 50% of the course work for an ABET-accredited engineering bachelor's degree program, although they may not be concentrated enough in any subject to easily make another (liberal arts) major out of them.
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