Help! Need to narrow down college list

Hi, I am the parent of HS Senior who needs help with choosing a major and narrowing down his college list! He’s interested in Engineering/Design (initially he was thinking Architecture however, after speaking with a few people who have gone through B Arch programs has changed his mind to Engineering or Industrial Design, due to better job outlook and perhaps more flexibility with the degree). He would like to find a major in which he can combine his love of Design/Architecture with a STEM degree. He prefers medium sized school with an intellectual vibe preferably Midwest or East Coast. He’s not really into Greek life (not opposed to it, just doesn’t think it’s for him) and would like a college community that offers many things to do on the weekends vs. partying. His stats: 33 ACT, unweighted GPA 3.88, weighted 4.6, NHS, Varsity tennis, strong leadership and extracurriculars, APs etc. His list thus far: Northwestern, Wash U, Purdue, Miami Ohio (too Greek?), Case Western, Univ. of Cincinnati, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Univ. of Illinois and Bradley Univ. (We live in Illinois). We realize some of these are reaches and may be too expensive. Ideally looking for strong schools that offer good merit and financial aid. Thank you for any advice!

Virginia Tech? Iowa State? Would have to look at prices if not offered FA or merit elsewhere.

Would he want to do civil engineering with a minor or out-of-major elective courses in architecture?

Another possibility is mechanical engineering with a minor or out-of-major electives in industrial design.

If so, check colleges on whether that is a possibility.

Start with the money, as it really won’t matter what he wants if you can’t afford it. Run the NPCs for all of them, and be realistic about how much you can change your current budget now and in the future. You didn’t mention how many other kids you have, but barely affording this one may leave you with some uncomfortable conversations down the road when siblings want similar resources. And it’s worth noting that many top schools don’t do a lot of merit awards because everyone is meritorious: top test scoring bright smiling athletic valedictorians are a dime a dozen at many of those places.

I also agree with culling the list by running the NPC and making sure they are in budget.

“We live in Illinois”
“offer good merit and financial aid”

You have really good choices in-state. Your son’s guidance counselor would know better than I whether they are safeties or matches (or …) for your son.

When your in-state flagship is UIUC, it is going to be hard to find a better school at the same or lower price. Again, whether it is a safety or not for engineering I do not know (we live way to the east of you).

1 Like

UIUC engineering is generally more competitive for admission than the school overall, but different engineering majors are competitive to different levels. It appears that ME, BioE, and CS are the most competitive, while CivE and IE are moderately competitive, while AgE, MSE, and NE are less competitive.

Miami OH is very greek and does not offer many other things to do because of its rather isolated location. Engineering is also not its strength. Try Valparaiso University for a stronger engineering environment, merit aid and a different approach to some, but not overwhelming, Greek life. UDayton Is worth a look as well. UCincinnati is an excellent choice given his interests. We were impressed by the engineering offering a at Marquette also.

I was also thinking about Dayton

Rose Hulman offers an Engineering Design major. Worcester Poly offers an architectural engineering major. Both are very strong schools.

1 Like

Northeastern has a low Greek presence, good engineering, and has been doing well keeping students safely on campus this fall. Coops are a big part of the package so your son would need to be on board with that.

Thank you for the replies! We have run the NPC for all of the schools I mentioned and our state flagship UIUC is actually coming out higher than quite a few of the others out of state. How accurate are the NPCs? (to answer one of the replies: one younger sibling Sophomore HS). Also, unfortunately with COVID affecting the financial stability of so many schools, who knows how this will all play out in terms of receiving fin. aid/merit money. Agree, with being realistic and starting with the money and that students with my son’s stats are a dime a dozen. This is why we are trying to come up with a balanced list of reach, target, and safeties to find the best fit for him (both academically, financially and socially). We are aware of Rose Hulman however they do not offer the language option he wants to continue studying (French). He is in AP French now. Northeastern, RIT, RPI, and Drexel were also on his list, however we have not been able to visit these schools. A few more questions: is Dayton somewhat of a party school? Surrounding area around Univ of Cincinnati high crime? CWRU more focused on pre-professional students? Should we be looking at only ABET accredited programs? Does this influence his job opportunities? What about a B.A or B.S in “Engineering Sciences”? This seems to allow the students a broader range of electives and/or opportunity to minor in something else? My son has accepted he may end up at a larger school as this may be the only option to find interdisciplinary programs within engineering and design courses. Thank you again for any further thoughts/experiences!

I can try to answer some of your questions:

Dayton does not have a party school reputation that I know of. They are a Brothers of the Holy Cross college like ND. Strong in engineering and known to give good merit.

D has a ton of friends at U of Cincinnati and no one has ever expressed concern about crime. (And the dorms there are actually pretty incredible).

I think if your child is interested in design and possibly civil engineering, ABET accreditation is going to be important.

My understanding is that engineering science is a major that would require an advanced degree because undergrad is so very broad.

My D applied to RPI and really liked it a lot. Felt to her like a smaller version of Purdue. RPI merit brought COA down for her to the same cost as Purdue.

(Our experience was it was pretty easy to get schools down to the $40K/year mark with merit awards. Much more difficult to drop below that unless you were going way down on the ranking).

Regarding ABET accreditation:

  • Should be considered mandatory for civil engineering, or any other type of engineering where the goal is to work on things used by the general public (infrastructure, buildings, etc.), because an ABET-accredited degree is useful or required for Professional Engineering (PE) licensing that is typically needed to advance in a career in those areas.
  • For most of the more traditional types of engineering like chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, materials, mechanical, ABET accreditation is generally expected. A few colleges with top-end reputations in engineering fields have dropped ABET accreditation for some non-civil engineering majors, but for most other colleges, ABET accreditation in these types of engineering should be expected if those majors are offered.
  • New programs may be seeking ABET accreditation, which can only be granted after some students graduate (but if ABET accreditation is given, it is retroactive to those students).
  • Some non-traditional types of engineering are less likely to have ABET accreditation.
  • Some colleges offer a non-ABET accredited engineering major that appears to be intended for those who want a background knowledge of engineering but will probably work in other areas (e.g. at Ivy League schools where the students aim for traditional Ivy League jobs like finance and consulting).
  • ABET accreditation in computer science indicates a technically based program of decent quality, but there are many colleges with technically based computer science majors of good quality that do not have ABET accreditation (but there are also some very poor computer science majors without ABET accreditation). ABET accreditation for computer science does require more math and other science than computer science majors may otherwise have.

The University of Dayton is a major party school & has earned that reputation over a period of many years.

The Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 awards 5 telephones for social life at Dayton. “It can be assumed that a college with a rating of 5 telephones is something of a party school, which may or may not detract from the academic quality.”

University of Dayton is on Princeton Review’s list of party schools.

Thank you again for the replies! I’ve been reading through some of the other posts on this forum and have a few more questions. Northwestern, Purdue, Wash U and Univ of Cincinnati seem to offer the most options/flexibility for my son being able to take design, computer graphics, or CS courses with an Engineering curriculum. He’s always been very creative and I think if he were in a rigid Engineering track, he’d be miserable. We are looking for Engineering programs with flexibility in coursework and/or the option to minor in another area. He thrives in a hands on, project based environment. Any thoughts on this or any other suggestions for schools in Midwest, East Coast with possibility of merit or Honors programs? I’ve read a recent thread about certain Engineering schools being a pressure cooker environment and we are hoping to avoid this. We realize any Engineering program is difficult, just referring to the culture/vibe of the school.

From what I’ve read, UIUC first of all is very difficult to get in to certain Engineering majors, and just as hard to switch majors within Engineering?

Also, would appreciate any information on:

CWRU: too focused on pre-professional/grad school vs. undergrads?

CMU: stress culture, cut throat, or is that mainly in their CS program?

RPI vs. RIT, Drexel?

Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell, and Union all have quite a few reviews mentioning party culture?

As for Ivies, we know they are a reach however, he may apply to a few. Appreciate any information on Ivy Engineering programs with some flexibility?

I’d love for my son to experience a different region of the country, but unfortunately we’ve not been able to visit many schools due to Covid. Thus far we’ve visited Northwestern, Purdue, UIUC and Wash U. (no tours or meetings, just walking the campus on our own over the summer).

@momof senior1- what were the final determining factors for your D choosing Purdue vs. RPI or others?

Also, how do I private message on this forum? Thank you for your time with all of my questions!

I don’t think you have enough responses yet to private message someone. I think you may need 12.

I will PM you about my D’s decision making about Purdue.

This seems to be an FAQ, but new users need at least 15 posts with significant content to be able to initiate a private message. However, if someone sends a private message to you, you may reply.

CMU would be a real reach. They have a page with all the stats for their schools. Don’t think they offer merit, just need FA. They study for fun. That said, it opens doors.

Bucknell and probably some similar schools have a party rep. Beautiful campus but isolated. Not much do but study and party.

Liked Case and Drexel more than I thought. Check out the Thinkbox at Case. The business schools also has some interesting classes on design and innovation. I was impressed with the kids at Drexel’s honors program. The co-op program looks good. Several of the kids said that they worked at Penn (next door). The Drexel kids were “more work ready”. I think they’re trying to make the surrounding area and dorms more attractive.

NC State has a pretty good school for design if I remember correctly. Same with Cincinnati. I lived/worked there a long time ago but spent some time around the campus. Seemed like decent place with things to do.

When i read your post I thought of RIT. they have something called immersions which is usually not in the field of study. They are very strong in engineering and industrial design . Def not a party/greek School