Help! Need to narrow down college list

Thank you for the replies! I may have to post separate questions as I think I put too many topics in my responses? We know it’s a long shot and definite reach however, any thoughts on Ivies as far as their Engineering programs and flexibility to take other courses and/or minor in a different area, and the general “feel” of the programs: collaborative, competitive, stress culture?

Ivies for engineering? Maybe read this thread. They don’t offer merit but do have good FA.

Considerations for UIUC :

  1. Systems Engineering - Students specialize in a Secondary Field Option: Some options already have a course outline (i.e. digital prototyping). Or you have the ability to customize (i.e. Industrial Design) :

  1. Undeclared Engineering - (NOT to be confused w/applying undeclared to the university OR Engineering Prep.) Student is in the College of Engineering & allowed more flexibility taking freshman engineering intro. electives. Students accepted into UNDECLARED ENGINEERING are guaranteed transition into any engineering discipline once they decide (usually by fall sophomore yr.)
  2. Also, UIUC has an alternative CS degree option (B.S.) ; "CS + X" :

*On the note of cutthroat v. pressure cooker. Course content can create the pressure cooker, but students not cutthroat. By contrast, collaborative - always more helpful to get through together.

*Another notation - in any engineering discipline, design is typically an inherent aspect of upper level courses.

My son is a junior at CMU (CS major) and while there is definitely a self inflicted stress culture, it is not at all cut throat. There is an emphasis on collaboration at every level and the students definitely work together rather than against each other. The stress culture can be avoided by not overloading, not striving for a 4.0, and not comparing yourself to your classmates, but this is obviously easier said than done.

My D is also at Purdue, a MechE Senior, and many of the other schools she applied to are on your list. Virginia Tech is the main one missing - it was her second choice and a difficult decision.

Ohio State also has a very good financial aid program for high performing out of state students - it would have been cheaper than our in-state Penn State cost.

Almost any accredited engineering program is going to have a plan of study that is quite full, considering GenEd requirements. A 4 year engineering degree is unlikely to provide lots of free course slots to explore other areas of study unless a lot of AP/DE credits come along.

Thank you to everyone for your replies! This is very helpful as it’s so difficult for these students to try and make such an important decision based on virtual tours only.
@RichinPitt: what were your D’s other top choices and what factors determined Purdue as her choice? Thanks again!

If your son wants a liberal arts college option you might want to check out St. Olaf College. They just began offering an Engineering minor, are renowned for math, science, music, the arts and global experiences. Lots of activities on campus as well and an amazing career center.

CU Boulder has Architectural Engineering and also a school of Environmental Design, within which students start out with a common first-year curriculum and then fan out into their chosen specialties (Architecture, Environmental Product Design, Landscape Architecture, or Sustainable Planning & Urban Design ). ENVD is a small program, close-knit and project based, which makes for a more personalized experience within the large university.

UW-Seattle is pretty far out of your target geographic range, but their HCDE program - Human Centered Design & Engineering - seems potentially very close to what your son is looking for - possibly worth the distance if he can get direct-admit to the engineering school. (At least it’s a hub with lots of direct flights.) Also in Washington State, Western Washington U has a highly-regarded Industrial Design program - nice mid-sized school in a gorgeous coastal location.

U of Utah’s College of Architecture & Planning has an undergrad program in Multidisciplinary Design that might also be a good fit. The university also has a very nice Honors College program that he’d probably qualify for with his stats.

Olin would be a reach and it’s a very small program, but could be worth an application if it feels like a fit. In addition to the small number of students they accept each year, they also make additional offers that are contingent on taking a gap year and attending the following year.

Thank you for all of your replies! Appreciate any thoughts on financial aid at these schools? I realize chasing merit is difficult as all of the applicants will be strong with high stats. Also, any suggestions for schools that offer Engineering, but have good financial aid? At this point, we are not placing too much emphasis on ranking/“prestige” as I think it really boils down to best fit for your student. Thanks again!

I think your son would get guaranteed merit aid at the following places:

  1. University of Alabama @mom2collegekids can elaborate.
  2. University of New Mexico @WayOutWestMom can give the details.
  3. Arizona

UNM’s Amigo Scholar give instate tuition plus an annual stipend to OOS students who have a 23 ACT/1130 SAT and 3.5 Cumulative GPA.

Annual tuition, fees, room & board is $19K instate.

Plus of SOE offer additional freshman engineering scholarships

UNM’s School of Engineering offer ABET accredit degrees in multiple engineering disciplines --including civil engineering, construction engineering, and construction management. Computer science, computer engineering also ABET accredited.

UNM’s architecture program is excellent and offers multiple sub-specializations including green design and sustainability. UNM’s architecture school is ranked #36 in the nation.

Thank you everyone! Appreciate your replies!

I was going to suggest CWRU but I see you have it on your list! Case is known for good merit (often 22-32K). He could consider a Civil Engineering/Pre-Architecture double major…e.g.,

Someone else mentioned NC State and I just wanted to second that. It’s a good school and worth checking out and seeing if it’s a good fit for your son. Raleigh is a fun city.

Thank you! We had not considered NC State and aren’t really familiar with mid-Atlantic schools, but we will look into it. (We tried to keep our search within 8-9 hour drive). From what I’ve been reading lately, it is very concerning as to what the financial status of all colleges will be for the years to come: will they be as generous with financial aid/merit packages, will they be able to return to in-person learning next Fall, etc and from what I’ve read on these forums, what used to be “safeties” for many top students are no longer…very difficult for all of these students to make important decisions at this time period. Are most students with strong stats offered merit at state flagships (if they’re OOS candidate)?

It depends on school rank. Top state flagships typically don’t offer merit to OOS applicants unless they’re NMSF level candidates competing for one of the school’s top scholarships but those are super competitive. S20 is at GT and got nothing with stats similar to your son’s.

Once you get outside the T40 or so there are schools that offer OOS merit to attract OOS dollars. Ohio State, Michigan State, South Carolina are a few that would’ve been about the same as our in-state flagships (Pennsylvania) with merit.

If you drop lower in the rankings like Alabama, WVU, Arizona, Kentucky you could do better than your in-state options but is it worth it considering you have a top school in UIUC?

Private schools are tough to get below $40k/year with merit. You might get more at lower ranked schools but then the question becomes is it worth it to give up reputation, opportunities, and surrounding him with peers at his level?

Of course, all this could mean nothing this year. No idea how Covid will impact scholarships. Many feel that the $ could decrease. Possible, but then what will parents/students do? Go to less expensive options like CC or state schools? If that’s the case then some schools will have to dip into the endowment if they have it or close programs. This is where looking at a school’s financial rating and reputation will be important the next few years.

As for need based financial aid you would probably have to run the NPC for each school. I don’t remember seeing your budget. Good luck.

@chmcnm: Thank you. Very good points to consider!

I’ll chime in about Cincinnati. My daughter is there for nursing, my husband went there for engineering and law, and I admin the parents FB page. So I hear a bunch lol.

UC is not in a bubble, and like any urban campus has sketchy areas surrounding it. The actual campus is safe, but street smarts are always advisable. The campus and city police have what I consider a good working relationship. It was a rough couple of weeks at the beginning of the year with bikers (really) hanging out near campus, but I think that’s been resolved with an increased police presence.

A few of the dorms are nice and updated. Many are not. If you are in the honors program you get priority housing picks that might land you in one of the newer dorms, but there are certainly no guarantees and there are tricks to the housing lottery that we seasoned parents can share if/when you get there. Many kids move off campus after freshman year, and definitely after sophomore year.

Don’t expect a lot of merit. They like to give a lot of kids a little, so there are very few options for large scholarships. Run the NPC and see what you think, given your stats. You’ll get something but not a lot.

Cincinnati invented the engineering co-op program. It will help students prepare for finding their own co-ops through advising, but students are responsible for finding their own co-ops (that’s the fine print). UC also has the world-class DAAP school (design, architecture, art and planning). You’d really have to sit down with someone who knows what they are talking about to find out how to combine all your interests. Engineering and DAAP are both intense programs, and I don’t know how well they play with each other.

Greek life is not super prevalent there.

There is a ton to do in the city, much of it a quick car or bike ride from campus. The Cincinnati Zoo is very popular. There are a few up-and-coming neighborhoods that offer cute restaurants and such. Most student activity, with businesses that cater to students, are within a block or two of campus.

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I’m not sure if UDayton would be a good fit for your son or not, but I don’t think the fact that some people refer to it as a party school will be the reason either way.

UDayton is listed as #17 on the Princeton Review list of party schools. For reference, here are some other schools and their respective ranks on that same list. It includes a mix of some well known universities and/or highly ranked/respected institutions - a mix of small LACs and super-large public Flagships with over 30,000+ students, from all over the American map.

1 The University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa

2 University of Delaware

3 Syracuse University

5 Tulane University

7 Union College (NY)

8 Bucknell University

9 Colgate University

10 Wake Forest University

11 University of California--Santa Barbara

14 University of Wisconsin-Madison

16 St. Lawrence University

18 University of Connecticut

19 Florida State University

Sometimes, the designation of a place as a Party School might simply indicate that the students at that institution greatly enjoy their time there. I think that is reflected by another category on Princeton Review, “Happiest Students.” Several universities that appear on the Party School list also appear on the Happiest Students list. Here are some of the schools on that list.

1 Kansas State University

3 Tulane University

15 University of Dayton

18 University of California--Santa Barbara

20 Florida State University

FWIW, regarding Princeton Reviews designations, UDayton is #11 on the list for Best Schools For Internships, and is on the top-50 list of schools for Entrepreneurship.

Good luck to your son in his hunt! :smiley:

Check out Olin in Needham MA. Small, personalized, project-bases, very selective (up there with MIT) and originally was tuition free, but still has good financial aid.