First year engineering programs' secondary admission to major criteria

Some colleges or engineering divisions start frosh engineering students undeclared, but have secondary admission to major procedures which may result in some students in good academic standing (usually minimum of 2.0 GPA and C grades) being denied their first choice engineering major due to departmental capacity limitations.

Here is information and links to some such colleges and criteria. Note: all GPAs referenced below are college GPAs, and all descriptions below assume (unless otherwise specified) that the student entered in the engineering division (if applicable), has completed the pre-major courses, is not beyond the limit of the number of semesters (usually four), and is in good academic standing.

Colorado (for students initially admitted to pre-engineering): 2.7 technical and overall GPA with C grades in technical courses automatically admits to major.
https://www.colorado.edu/pre-engineering/how-pre-engineering-works/admission-engineering

Cornell: minimum GPA varies by major (currently between 2.0 and 2.5); some majors have specific grade requirements (currently between C- and B-) for specific pre-major courses.
https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/advising/choosing-major (follow links to handbook)

Michigan: 2.0 GPA and C grades in technical courses automatically admit to major.
https://advising.engin.umich.edu/declaring-or-changing-major/

Minnesota: 3.2 technical GPA automatically admits to major. Otherwise, admission is competitive by technical GPA, although recently most majors admitted all applicants.
https://cse.umn.edu/college/application-major
http://www.advising.cse.umn.edu/cgi-bin/courses/noauth/apply-major-statistics

North Carolina State: 2.0 pre-major GPA minimum to apply to major; admission determined competitively (biomedical engineering also requires essay).
https://www.engr.ncsu.edu/academics/undergrad/coda/

Ohio State: minimum pre-major and overall GPA varies by major (recently between 2.0 and 3.4 for those with pre-set thresholds, but some majors determine thresholds competitively).
https://advising.engineering.osu.edu/current-students/applying-your-major

Penn State: minimum GPA varies by major (recently between 2.0 and 3.2); some majors have specific grade requirements for specific pre-major courses.
https://advising.engr.psu.edu/advising/entrance-to-major/index.aspx
https://bulletins.psu.edu/undergraduate/colleges/engineering/#majorsminorsandcertificatestext (click on major, then click on “How to Get In”)

Pittsburgh: “There are no limits or restrictions on how many students can enter a major. As long as first-year engineering students finish the first-year requirements and achieve a 2.0 or higher, they may enter the department of their choice.”
https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/First-Year/First-Year/Advising/Choosing-a-Major/

Purdue: 3.2 technical and overall GPA automatically admits to major. Otherwise, admission is competitive by GPA and various other criteria listed.
https://engineering.purdue.edu/ENE/Academics/FirstYear/T2M
https://engineering.purdue.edu/Engr/InfoFor/CurrentStudents/enrollment-policy

Texas A&M: 3.5 GPA automatically admits to major. Otherwise, admission is competitive by GPA and three essays.
https://engineering.tamu.edu/academics/undergraduate/entry-to-a-major/index.html

Virginia Tech: 3.0 GPA automatically admits to major (except biomedical engineering). Otherwise, admission is competitive by GPA and essays.
https://enge.vt.edu/content/dam/enge_vt_edu/undergraduate/coe_com.pdf

Washington: 2.5 GPA minimum to apply to a major, which also requires essay and resume. “Some majors will have more requests for placement than they can accommodate.”
https://www.engr.washington.edu/admission/directtocollege/faq
https://www.engr.washington.edu/current/placement

Wisconsin: minimum technical and overall GPA to declare or continue in major varies by major (recently 2.8 to 3.5 technical, 2.5 to 3.0 overall).
https://www.engr.wisc.edu/academics/student-services/academic-advising/first-year-undergraduate-students/progression-requirements/

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This is a great start to pulling all of this information into a single location.

Some more detailed information about Purdue:

A 2.0 is required, both overall and in first year engineering (FYE) courses, with at least 30 credits, and a C- or better in all FYE courses, to move from FYE to a major. Not meeting those requirements means re-taking courses.

https://engineering.purdue.edu/ENE/Academics/FirstYear/FYEReqs

The only sub 3.2 that my D knows that didn’t get first choice was not admitted to Aero and was put in his second choice in MechE. I’ve also heard that Biomed is somewhat restricted, due to being fairly new and of small size.

@ucbalumnus @RichInPitt - thank you so much for sharing the great information. Very helpful!

People should be aware that the data above is an overview of minimum requirements and students may need much higher qualifications in order to get into their first choice major within the Engineering Department For example at NC State you need a progressively higher GPA for the most popular Engineering programs, ex. Mechanical Engineering needs at least a 3.7 and Bio Medical needs a 4.0.

Also at NC State it is important to know is that for students who wish to take credit for AP courses taken in high school that the AP exam score can affect their Freshman GPA. For example a student who earned a 4 on the AP Physics exam could decide to take credit for the class at NC State BUT when the student CODAs to Engineering at NC State, the College of Engineering will translate the AP Physics score of 4 into a “B” or 3.0 on the GPA for the CODA calculation. So, unless you have earned AP Scores of 5s which would be scored as an “A” with an accompanying 4.0 you may want to repeat the class at NC State and earn an A if you aspire to enroll in the most popular Engineering majors.

That is why I wrote “admission determined competitively” for North Carolina State in post #0. For other colleges, some have pre-set GPA minimums, while others have competitive admission (and some have competitive admission for those below a pre-set GPA minimum).

Do you have a link to a web site that shows what the historical thresholds for each major were at North Carolina State?

No, I wish NC State made the information readily available. They very proudly share this information verbally at every in-person new student orientation session but for some reason they do not like to make it public in a written format,…which is most unfortunate because the information would help potential applicants understand what will be required to achieve their goals. It is also true that while the average ACT score at NC State is 28, the average for people accepted to Engineering is 31 and increasing yearly. Many engineering schools seem to keep these facts close to the vest. My guess is it is an effort to not upset the other Majors – because if the Engineering ACT average is that high, the average for some other majors must be quite a bit lower than the average ACT of 28. If COVID19 requires new student orientation sessions to be recorded and archived online, they could become a great public resource for this type of detailed information.

UIUC (for students initially admitted to pre-engineering in DGS): depending on major, overall and technical GPA requirements may be 3.00, 3.25, 3.50, 3.75 for automatic admission, or 3.75 to apply for competitive admission. https://dgs.illinois.edu/current-pre-engineering

This is the very reason why some students and parents are not admirers of schools that have additional requirements for would-be engineering majors. The schools listed above all have very strong engineering departments (and very competitive admissions), but there are several equally strong STEM universities that admit graduating high schoolers directly to their desired individual majors.

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How about freedom of choice where you are actually admitted to the University and not restricted to a major? There is a lot remaining to be discovered after secondary school graduation.

See this approach from WPI’s website @ https://www.wpi.edu/student-experience/career-development/majors

by way of example see: https://wp.wpi.edu/cdc/2017/10/09/2653/

I don’t believe this is the only university which runs this way.

This STEM university class of 2024 has an average UNWEIGHTED GPA of 3.9 on a 4 point scale. Smart students also get the opportunity to discover and select. Remember many of those first year courses are basic to many different majors. Of course courses above the introductory level have prerequisite courses. Basic courses become part of a selection/filtering process.

I have some understanding of a couple of colleges and how they do their department budget allocations. So this may not apply to all but it seems to explain at least part of the rationale behind how some colleges allow students to choose departments.

One college allocated money to each department and with that money and staff and lab considerations figured out how many students they could support. They then selected the best students that applied.

The other college had the students select their departments with no limiting by the department. The department’s budget from the college was then so much per student in the department. There were parties, open houses and the like trying second term freshman year to attract students to their department. That college had large research contracts in every department such that the variation in student signups were not a short term but longer term issue.

I personally steered my kids away from those colleges that had limited signups at the end of their freshman year. One went to a college in which you were admitted as an incoming freshman into the department, the other went to a college that didn’t limit choice at the end of the freshman year.

Arizona: 2.00 to 2.75 college GPA in technical courses (minimum 12 credits) with C- or better in calculus 1. “You can be denied even if you meet the GPA requirements for the chosen degree program if your math, science and engineering classes are not sufficiently strong.” “The major declaration process is non-competitive, with no caps or quotas.”
https://advising.engr.arizona.edu/
https://engr.arizona.edu/undergrad-admissions/freshmen

I think students also should consider what GPA they must maintain to keep scholarship status. GPA requirements vary widely!

American Society for Engineering Education stats for engineering schools in America:

https://ira.asee.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2018-Engineering-by-Numbers-Engineering-Statistics-UPDATED-15-July-2019.pdf

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Regarding NCSU stats on secondary admission to major, there is some information, but not that easily findable:

Current and previous (no GPA distributions): https://www.engr.ncsu.edu/ir/coda-statistics/
December 2018 and earlier (with GPA distributions): https://ir.engr.ncsu.edu/coe-coda-statistics/

That they no longer report GPA distributions makes it more difficult to tell how competitive a given major is.

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NCSU now has a “CODA calculator” that estimates the likelihood of admission to each engineering major based on the students overall and CODA (math, physics, chemistry) college GPAs. This makes it easier to determine which majors are more competitive. Currently, it appears the biomedical engineering is the most competitive, while biological (agricultural) and construction engineering are the least competitive.

https://www.engr.ncsu.edu/academics/undergrad/coda-calculator/

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The link above for OSU still works, but their process is changing (away from minimum gpas as above). After completing first year engineering courses students list their major preferences in order to apply for a major. There is a process to re-apply later if they want to switch majors.

Most students should be able to apply in spring of freshman year. Under the old system sometimes specialized classes were required to apply to different majors. This system makes it easier to be able to apply to multiple majors sooner.

I know they’ve built up capacity recently, both with faculty and facilities. I think this change might be driven by wanting students to declare majors sooner to drive up the four year graduation rate. Our state legislature has recently tied its funding to four year graduation rates.