Cornell vs. Johns Hopkins for Engineering

Thanks, lots of good points. I will definitely call in the morning to get additional clarification on the classes. I appreciate your input.

I sent you a DM.

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I genuinely don’t think that you should do that. It is your call as to whether you are prepared to spend the extra $ / co-sign the loans for Cornell > JHU, but I don’t think the number of comparable courses is a good tie-breaker. It just puts a fig leaf of objectivity over a decision that is multi-dimensional.

If you aren’t sold on the value of the extra $$ that’s fine- tell your son that. He has a great option in JHU, and is clearly prepared to go there happily. But if you are opening the door for him to make a choice, then let him make- and own- the choice. If the # of comparable courses is an important metric to him, he should call.

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I too think Cornell is generally thought to be stronger than JHU in materials scicene. However, how much stronger depends the specialties within materials science. Cornell is probably more focused on electronic materials while JHU on biomedical materials. If electronic materials and microelectronic/nanoelectronic devices are what your son is most interested in, Cornell would likely be a better choice academically. Would it be $20k/year better? No one else can answer that question for you.


Both programs offer both. Where the emphasis is is what she needs to clarify.

…what the student needs to clarify- IF that is really the key metric…

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Good point. Thanks.

While Hopkins is in a city, the campus itself is leafy and green and not a city campus. If he can play his sport, he will likely find his “people” there. I would argue that the two are comparable in academics, but the non-academics at Cornell may be more to his liking.

If your incomes goes back up, and thus your financial aid is reduced, would you be able to afford either school? But in particular, Cornell? If that is the case, and he is willing to take on the loans, then he can go for it. How much will you lose in deposit at Hopkins?

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The JHU deposit was $600. He’s doing a bunch more research today and planning to decide this afternoon.

Good luck to him, whatever he decides!

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Excluding biomedical materials, Cornell MSE is generally better. Also, keep in mind that for advanced materials characterization, Cornell’s School of Applied and Engineering Physics (AEP) has some of the leading faculty in the world. There is a lot of collaboration and shared space there. Also, there are joint appointments with the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).

The center of the nanosciences and nanomaterials work at Cornell is at Duffield Hall, which is an impressive cleanroom space with characterization equipment. I believe that the material sciences department junior lab works in there.

Ask your son to do some research on where the undergraduate research opportunities are (both faculty and facilities). For the first year, he will be taking general engineering course. At Cornell, he will be in generally large lectures (and small recitations) with other engineers (AEP, MSE, ECE, Chem E, Civil, Mechanical, CS etc.). Does he think he would appreciate and thrive in this environment?


You’re not comparing Hopkins to a community college. It has a solid reputation and when compared with Cornell the name will open doors. If he wants to go to grad school later it also won’t matter where he went.

Other than Cornell doing a phenomenal job with Covid, it’s definitely not worth the extra difference in money. Kids will find “their” people money. There’s also no guarantee your EFC won’t increase (or decrease) in future years, so the difference may actually wind up being less. I have a friend who’s son’s contribution increased to almost 10k last year during covid when he couldn’t get a job.

Lots of parents are trying to help their kids find internships because it’s been a tough year for those. Not a ton have them and their career services are definitely lacking. Kids have to do a lot of the legwork on their own. If they’re not that kind of kid, it will definitely be harder. Clubs can also be more competitive. If he’s an athlete with a guaranteed spot, a free education at JH I’m not sure what the debate is? If he really hates it, he can always go somewhere else, but I wouldn’t go to a a school just by name. I have a kid at a public university that has programs higher ranked that Cornell, this kid had no interest in an Ivy, and her school goes out of their way to help kids land top internships etc. The negative was their lousy handling of covid. Fortunately my kid didn’t get it, but from an academic perspective way more impressive. My Cornell kid can’t believe how small the other one’s classes are while she’s just hopeful to have a class under 50.

There’s a max amount of student loans he can take per year, so if the EFC is higher in future years or his portion is, then you’ll have to be the one to take out loans because he won’t be able to. If he chooses Cornell, make sure you’re ok signing for those.

People have asked me many times if it’s worth the money there and prior to Covid I would have said absolutely not. Only because of Covid I would say maybe. Bottom line though is that my daughter is happy and is challenged, but a lot of it is about fit. Not getting in classes you need is frustrating and those restrictions on where you can take them if not at Cornell is one of my issues. Mine is a CS major and has had to change things around when she hasn’t gotten certain classes. It usually works out because she can substitute but for kids minoring in CS she said it’s much more difficult. No idea what your son’s plans are since you said Material Science but also mention CS.

Good luck with whichever choice he makes as he obviously has some great ones.

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When college costs 80k/year, I wouldn’t worry about losing the $600. In the scheme of things it’s non-consequential.

That reminds me, the financials don’t just end with the loans at Cornell, or free at JH. There are travel expenses, extras (Personal expenses), ubering around, greek or other clubs he may join, books (inexpensive at Cornell), etc. Make sure you factor this all in. Many don’t and then don’t realize how much more they need on top of the current loans they have.

College ALWAYS costs more than the COA…

Yep! Many people don’t account for that. Also subsequent years tend to be more because most leases are 12 months not 10.

Right now I have two leases - one at Alabama for my son…yep, August - July.

The other - his internship a 3 month Air B&B - he’s sharing a 3 bedroom - $1100…fortunately, his company gives him a $1K housing allowance.

there’s trips, late night munchies, greek…new bike…whatever…it adds up.

I almost had a heart attack when I got the sorority bill for one of mine last year.I definitely way under budgeted that one. The other one wasn’t that bad. But we got lucky with internships this year one of it is in person (still remote currently) the place is 10 mins from here and the other we only have to pay airfare and they give her housing and a food stipend but it’s in Israel and while we had been so worried about covid now the issues are the fighting even though it’s not really going on in Tel Aviv from what we’ve been told there are no flights going there. Their leases both start in August and then we get hit big for next summer :(. And one has to do an internship senior year as a requirement so while she’ll clean up doing it if it’s not in Austin or Chicago big ouch!

I’m still now trying to consider how much of her summer earnings she needs to contribute to next year. I don’t want her to feel like she’s working only to lessen my share but she should have skin in the game so she appreciates her earnings. Harder process than I expected.

Yep - my main point is - no matter who you are, no matter what you say about your kids will not do that or this and will keep costs down- the reality is - they won’t.

The schools do their best estimating - but at the same time, a lower published # benefits them.

But when people stretch to hit the # the school gives…that’s not a good sign because it will cost more.

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@HMom16 what school did your son eventually ended up choosing?

After further researching Johns Hopkins, my son decided that, although the Cornell Materials Science and Engineering programs might be a bit stronger, the benefit of smaller classes and (potentially) fewer depressed kids outweighed the differences in the programs.

In talking to Cornell kids, he heard that there were 5 kids that died this year. I’m not sure if that’s true - or what the circumstances were - but it raised a red flag for him in terms of the campus setting and potential pressure cooker atmosphere. Even though JHU has a reputation for a similar competitive environment, for some reason, they don’t have the same reputation for mental health issues. Again, I’m not saying that Cornell has more, just that its my son’s impression they do.

I also had a chance to speak to Cornell’s FA department and I must say they really aren’t committed to helping families affected by Covid and have no real understanding of economic instability, despite what they say on their website, etc. They calculated FA based on 2020 income, with no consideration given to our current situation. They said that they can’t consider 2021 until July but we could appeal (again) then which means we’d have to commit now without knowing what the finances would be.

So…my son will be attending Johns Hopkins this fall! I’m sure he will have a good experience.

Thanks to everyone who posted!