Columbia 3+2 Program Benefits?

This discussion was created from comments split from: Engineering as Undergrad major versus Grad degree?.

I am curious what people’s thoughts are on the Columbia 3+2 program offered by many LACs. Is there any benefit to have two undergrad degrees as opposed to getting a MA?

Many students who start out intending to go through a 3+2 program do not follow through because they don’t want to leave their friends or they rethink their goals.

My son is pursuing the dual degree engineering program between Hamilton College and Dartmouth College and he loves it. I believe the Columbia program used to be guaranteed admission, provided the student meets many specific requirements, but from what I have heard they have also switched to competitive admissions. The primary benefit of this program is that it prepares more well rounded students. If the student pursued an engineering degree directly, due to the significant number of math and science prerequisites the student is limited in how many electives/liberal arts courses they can take. By pursuing this program my son was able to broaden his horizons, take more discussion based courses and learn to communicate better. The biggest drawbacks are an additional year of education before they can begin earning money and additional cost of an extra year of college. You have to weigh whether the benefits outweigh the costs for you and your student. has the information.

Note that there is no longer a guaranteed admission option for students starting college in fall 2019 or later; all 3+2 transfer admission is competitive.

Also, Columbia says that “We do not guarantee that we can meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students” (emphasis added) in the 3+2 program, unlike for frosh and other transfers. In addition, a 3+2 program has an extra year of costs to begin with.

There may be other restrictions based on the “3” school, since some “3” schools restrict the major there, while others allow any major as long as the pre-engineering requirements are completed.

I think for students who are sure they want to pursue engineering a traditional program is safer option. There are plenty of liberal arts colleges that are ABET accredited where students are needing to take a number of liberal arts courses to graduate. Personally I would take the extra year and get the MA.

I am not a big fan of 3+2 programs. All ABET accredited engineering schools require a substantial liberal arts/general education component. While of course engineering requires many prerequisite courses (as would any “first professional” program in most fields) most schools require humanities/liberal arts/non-technical courses in each semester. Keep in mind that the math, physics, chemistry, and basic foundation science courses required in engineering are also part of liberal arts. As the other posters have stated, in the case of the Columbia program, admission to the “2” school isn’t guaranteed, and they do not guarantee that the student’s full financial need will be met. If one is certain that he/she wants to be an engineer, one is better served by starting out in engineering from the beginning in a four year school.

@Happy4u - the comparison of two bachelor’s degrees (in a 3-2) program as opposed to an undergraduate and MA degree is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison. If one wants to be an engineer, one really needs an undergraduate engineering degree. A liberal arts undergraduate and a liberal arts or non-engineering graduate (if that’s what you had in mind with regard to the MA) isn’t going to qualify one as an engineer. If your intent is to go to graduate school for engineering, many engineering schools require applicants to have an undergraduate degree in engineering. If one desires to enter an engineering field (such as civil or environmental engineering for example) in which PE licensure is required, most state engineering boards require holding an ABET accredited undergraduate engineering degree to sit for the exam (some states will accept an ABET accredited master’s degree - but few are ABET accredited since ABET mostly is concerned with undergraduate accreditation - to sit for the exam). A master’s degree in engineering however isn’t a substitute for a bachelor’s degree in engineering, since it is usually specialized in a particular engineering subspecialty and doesn’t contain the fundamental science, non-discipline specific foundational engineering coursework, and capstone design courses that an undergraduate program would provide.

I think about 15 credits are required, with 2 courses in writing and one in humanities. I think a lot of students get at least some of the requirements met with AP classes. Substantial?

As a 3-2 alum, I don’t think the admission will be as “competitive,” I believe easier for them to begin weedout some poorer students who would have made the bar in past guaranteed admissions (they began raising the bar each year until they scrapped the entire thing.) Many of my entering classmates were woefully prepared and failed courses and a few straight out dropped, which also corresponded with the quality of the initial “3” school.
Likely will begin to use the caliber of the initial “3” school as the major metric along with meeting 3.3’s or 3.5’s IMO from that school. For example, the Williams, Amherst, Wesleyan, Pomona, Claremont, Middlebury’s of their old affiliated list will be looked at favorably at onset and not the Arcadia’s and Bethany College’s.

My cohort was the last group to enter under the MOST LENIENT guaranteed admission guidelines 3.0 was all you needed with finished courses to be GUARANTEED admission. Was likely changed after my year because my entering cohort, along with the 2-3 years above me, effectively doubled the enrollment of the engineering school, the MechE/Civil departments doubled in size after the 3+2’s enrolled over those years likely prompting them to find ways to clamp down, and they’ve settled on doing away with guaranteed admissions 5 years later now.