Engineering: Berkeley, Cornell, UPenn, or Northwestern?

<p>I have my son's case I'd like all of you to tear apart completely.</p>

<p>Richard has Berkeley, Cornell, UPenn and Northwestern to choose from. All Engineering Undecided. No $ from any of them. We live in California. I am willing to pay the extra $100K if he is committed to take a full advantage of what a private school can offer over Berkeley, whatever those are. Currently his thought on his career is get a BS or MS, work for a while in Engineering track, get a MBA, and move on to Marketing and eventually to management.</p>

<p>Here is where my thoughts are on each school:</p>

<p>Berkeley: highest ranked Engineering school among those four, great school reputation domestically and internationally, close to a great city (I don't necessarily take this as one of the major criteria but it is very important for Richard), $100K less (but again I am willing to pay), but on the other hand, issues related to the school size is a concern: class size, accessibility and the level of relationship he can build with the professors. And he will miss out an opportunity to live on the other part of the country as a Californian.</p>

<p>Cornell: Engineering school comaparable to Berkeley and the best in Ivy, prestige as an Ivy domestically and internationally, great undergraduate program (very hard but still manageable enough not to lose too many student). But Richard hates the environment: middle of nowhere, study or drink, nothing much else to do other than those. My question is it is a private but a BIG private. Is he going to take the extra $100K worth advantage?</p>

<p>UPenn: An Ivy, great engineering/business program whether you do M&T or a double degree outside M&T. The best if you have Wall Street or business consulting in mind. But if you want to do just Engineering you are giving up too much Engineering ranking (compared to the other three). And he wants to be a pure engineering for a while before he makes a transition to Marketing or management. I personally think he will be more successful long term with a hard core Engineering degree and experience.</p>

<p>Northwestern: It was his top choice at the beginning: great Engineering school (although I would rank it after Berkeley or Cornell), private school setting and environment, a great city in the back yard. But he changed his mind after his visits to the other three. He and I were scheduled to fly to Chicago this morning. But last night he cancelled the trip knowing it would be difficult for him to put back on his list. So I guess at this point of time it is off the list unless you guys can give him a compelling arguments.</p>

<p>He is more leaning toward Berkeley for the time being. I say "for the time being" as he has had three different schools at the top of his list over last three weeks. Me personally it will be difficult for me to see him letting go of Cornell. Just a few more days to the final decision. Any advise will be highly appreciated.</p>

<p>my SoCal S did not like Ithaca for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Go Bears! (there is always east coast for grad school?)</p>

<p>why did NW drop off?</p>

<p>It was not that he found something he didn't like with Northwestern. He had pretty much only the private schools in his mind when he started the selection process. But he gradually got to realize how great Berkeley is. Especially after his visit last Monday he became comfortable with the rumors like never graduating in 4 years as you can't take the courses you want to take, cut throat competition, weeding out good percentage in freshman year, too much hippie liberal...</p>

<p>The surrounding city aspect is way overrated. Most students who live in schools next to big cities only go into the city occasionally (at most a couple of times a month). I actually live in Deerfield, IL and have talked to Northwestern students and most of them rarely go into Chicago. </p>

<p>As for Berkeley, when I visited, I did not like the surrounding city very much. It appeared to be run down and there were many bums around, not to mention constant student protests. The average GPA for Berkeley engineering is very low (around the 2.5-2.6 range). That's something he should take into consideration. I'm a big school kinda guy (didn't apply to a single LAC) but Cal was too big even for me when I visited on Cal Day a couple of years ago.</p>

<p>I'm probably biased because I chose Cornell over Cal. It has a great engineering program but is not as cutthroat as Cal's (my roommate's an engineer and plays computer games all day). I'm not sure where he got the notion that the only two things to do at Cornell is study or drink. Ithaca is not a city but it is a great college town. On campus, there are movie theaters, bowling alleys, seminars, entertainment (Snoop Dogg, Jon Stewart, etc.), sports, etc.</p>

<p>"my roommate's an engineer and plays computer games all day"</p>

<p>His GPA is probably down the drain.</p>

<p>norcal guy:</p>

<p>Not sure where you got your numbers, but your engineering stats for Berkeley are just incorrect. The minimum required for acceptance to ANY UC school is 2.8; The AVERAGE gpa accepted at Berkeley this year was ~4.2; Engineering was higher. </p>

<p>The campus turned down 10,000 apps with greater than a 4.0 gpa.</p>

<p>Duskstamper: Surprisingly no. Cornell represents a happy medium between having a great engineering program and having a life (although I don't consider playing computer games all day having a life).</p>

<p>bluebayyou: I was referring to the average COLLEGE GPA of engineering students at Berkeley. Considering the fact that most of them had 3.8-4.0 unweighted HS GPA's going into Berkeley, this means their GPA drops by more than a full grade point.</p>

<p>I chose Cornell over those 3 schools a few years ago. I didn't like Berkeley because of the reasons you stated yourself. I took off UPenn for the same reason actually (not as good as Cornell engineering) and I didn't like Northwestern for personal reasons.</p>

<p>Cornell being a big school and all presents a lot of opportunities. It's easy to get involved in research and there is a large diverse offering of courses. Although Berkeley may be large and has a rep of being impersonal, it's important to talk to students and find out if this is actually true. This rep may be false like how the reputation of "study or drink" is false at Cornell.</p>

<p>I also had the benefit of receiving similar financial aid packages from each school so money wasn't a factor. $100k is a lot of money.</p>

<p>One question (maybe it's a question for yourself also): when one comes into Berk as "undecided", does that mean he can pick any engineering discipline he wants when the time of declaration comes or he still has to fight for a spot and can potentially be bumped out from his first choice, particularly if it's one of the "impacted majors"?</p>

<p>It's unforunate he sorta gave NU up without visiting. It's really not much lower than Cornell overall (only couple spots on ranking) and actually better than Cornell in couple specialities such as industrial engineering, mat sci, and probably biomedical. It also has a very unique introductory engineering curriculum that exposes you to real engineering at the very beginning (the 1st quarter).</p>

<p>RichardDad-- I have experience with engineering research, programs & students/profs at UCB, Cornell & Penn, and for full disclosure, I went thru the Penn executive master equivalent to the M&T program, so I'm biased, but I empathize with the track your son aspires. I have no first hand experience with Northwestern's engineering program. All great schools, but I gotta admit, UCB would have my heart.</p>

<p>If your son wants to do true engineering for a while, and this is a good route IMO to build confidence & peer credibility, an important part of choosing a school may be in picking a strong department. What type of engineering does he want to get into? This matters because, for instance, Penn has a weak civil & environmental program, but Cornell's & UCB's are fantastic. He'll want to pick the school that has strong departments in his interest areas. Suggest you throw that factor into this discussion so we can further help inputting to your son.</p>

<p>By the way, its very common for the engineering>>>management track to go first thru a strong engineering program, not worrying about business or marketing academics other than your standard engineering econ, spend a few years in the real world, then go back for a full-time or part-time MBA. But, he doesn't necessarily have to get engineering AND business or marketing in his undergraduate IMO. Some engineering schools like JHU's Whiting School, offer an undergraduate minor (entrepreneurship & business) to their engineering majors....this may be a route for your son, although I do not know if any of the 4 universities you listed have such a minor.</p>

<p>Great! Thanks for all your feedback. This was my first posting. I was wondering what kind of response I was going to get.</p>

<p>norcalguy, I agree with you in the overrated surrounding city issue. I think you still can find lot to do on campus ( for example clubs) or in the college town which can give you the "happy medium". But I am a first generation immigrant who went to college in an underdeveloped (at least back then) country. The fun I would think it would be may not necessarily be a fun for a southern cal life-is-all-great type guy. I am not trying to critisize my is just way it is here (especially when compared to my past youth time).</p>

<p>shizz, you brought up a good point: research opportunity! I remember Berkeley emphasizing research opprtunity for Engineering honors program which they accept just a dozen or so juniors with GPA of 3.7 and up. Does this mean the research opportunity is limited for all other non-super students? Can any Berkeley student/graduate answer this question? Yes, $100K is lot of money. I think I am a typical (?) Asian dad. But at least I made a corresponding commitment from him a must.</p>

<p>Sam Lee, Berkeley calls it "Undeclared". I don't think I saw anything limiting the freedom. I assume he just can declare at the end of sophomore year. Anyone has a different idea? Yes, it was not easy for me to cancel the Chicago trip last night. No doubt...great school.</p>

<p>Papa Chicken, wow you have almost a custom designed experience for my son's situation. I've been trying to get him research further on his potential major. Unfortunately all I have so far is his plan to "explore" first year or so. I know though he doesn'e want to do anything Bio related including MD. If I make further progress with him I will let you know. I agree with you on your view on engineering>>>management view. As a matter of fact business minor is one of the possibilities he and I talk about.</p>

<p>norcalguy: thanks for the clarification....absolutely, the UCs do not have grade inflation: Berkeley sciences typically grade on a C+ curve...I had heard that Cornell did something similar, since it is the only Ivy w/o grade inflation ("the easiest Ivy to get into, but the hardest to get out of". </p>

<p>(H & S have Lake Wobegone students, where everyone is above average. LOL)</p>

<p>Hey RichardDad,</p>

<p>I went to NU so I am biased but then I am just selling you the facts (with a bit of opinion) here. </p>

<li><p>NU's quarter system, while kinda hectic, makes double-major quite easy (esp if your son has some AP under the belt) within 4 years. A popular combo is econ and industrial engineering (both ranked in top-10)</p></li>
<li><p>The co-op program at NU is well-established and popular--great way to jump start one's career. Many people graduate with the certificate--a year and a half of work experience upon graduation.</p></li>

<p>P.S. A friend actually did 6 quarters of co-op (hence getting the co-op certificate) and graduated with dual-degree in econ/comp engg in 4 years! I learned from another old friend that she's in Harvard biz school now. I know two others, an IE and a ChemE, are now in MIT and Northwestern b-school. I have no idea how they happen to be all in MBA at the same time. It's possible they plan it as they all know each other and came from Hong Kong. </p>

<li><p>Unique Engineering First curriculum through which you start solving practical engineering problem the first quarter of freshman year instead of just taking bunch of basic sciences/math like in most other schools.
<a href=""&gt;;/a>
<li><p>Other certificate programs like "Certificate in Engineering Design" under IDEA (Leadership in Engineering Design Education) <a href=""&gt;;/a> and "Business Basic Certificate". <a href="http://www.mccormick.northwestern.e...nessbasics.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.mccormick.northwestern.e...nessbasics.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;&lt;/li>
<li><p>I heard the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center is almost completed (or maybe it's completed already). I don't know much about it but you should find more info about it to see how/if an undergrad can take advantage of it. <a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;&lt;/li>

<p>Note: 3 through 5 are either new or fairly recent. The First Engineering curriculum has been receiving positive feedback from students since the pilot program started in 1997.</p>

<p>Sam Lee, thanks for taking time to go through all those points. Those were the very reasons why it was painful for me to calcel the visit on Saturday night. Again, a great Engineering program, great university, and great envirnment.</p>

<p>By the way I came across an interesting Berkeley statistic: Fall 2004 Undergraduate Engineering Enrollments by Department and Class. According to the data there is a huge discrepancy in enrollment by the class.</p>

<p>Freshman: 479
Sophomore: 275
Junior: 730</p>

<h2>Senior: 1,152</h2>

<p>Total: 2,636</p>

<p>My best guess on drop in Sophomore is attrition, a surge in Junior is transfers from outside as well as internal, and another surge in senior is because people can't graduate??? The numbers are outrageous though, no matter what the reasons are. So I have to believe that I am missing something big. If I am what is it? Can you guys help me? </p>

<p><a href="http://www%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www&lt;/a>.</p>

<p>The ponter mistyped. Here we go again.</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I can see the first three years playing out that way. Freshman come in, realize how hard engineering is, drop out by the time they're sophomores. The increase in juniors is probably due to transfers (since Berkeley has the agreement thing with community colleges about transfering after 2 years).</p>

<p>The # of seniors is puzzling though. It's very possible that Berkeley groups students in their 4th, 5th, and 6th years under "seniors."</p>

<p>Berkeley also has a auto acceptance program with UCSC into Engineering for Jr year.</p>

<p>Those are indeed funny numbers..;)</p>

<p>I chose Cornell over Berkeley (even with the extra 100 k!) because I wanted flexibility in my courses and major. Cornell engineering offers unparalleled flexibility into any of the engineering disciplines, regardless of what you start at. Also, there are a great variety of classes on campus, including wine tasting, drawing, etc. that I felt I would not have the opportunity to take at Berkeley! I have also gotten every class I needed to, felt that there were huge opportunities (co-op, research, etc.) and most importantly, the change in people (I am from California). So, I think that I made the right choice.</p>

<p>Neutral, I am quite positive that Richard will love the school once he goes there for all the reasons you listed and more. And I personally believe not having a city close by should not be a fatal defect. But I guess it still is his decision and his life.</p>