How important is college ranking in engineering?

This is for a kid who would be “in the lottery” for a T10 school. Super high test scores, 4.0 UGPA, lots of rigor, impressive extracurriculars . . .

He has his heart set on engineering at a school which ranks in the 100 - 150 range according to USNWR.

How much of a difference is there in outcome between a student that graduates from a school that’s a safety for them, vs. a match, or a the tippy top reaches?

ABET accredited engineering majors do need to meet a fairly high minimum standard, so there should not be low quality programs.

However, there are variations in academic fit, such as subarea emphases and electives, curricular organization, research versus preprofessional focus, whether there is secondary admission to major and how competitive, advanced placement policies, general education, etc. These are not necessarily tied to admission selectivity.

To the (relatively small compared to some other majors) extent that ranking matters, ranking in major tends to matter more than overall school ranking, except if aiming for traditional Ivy League careers like management consulting and Wall Street rather than working in engineering.

Note also that regional proximity to employers can matter in terms of employer recruiting, due to convenience.

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Let him see where recent engineering grads have gone. If he likes what he sees, there’s nothing wrong with the school and he could get decent merit aid to help with the cost. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he might want to start looking elsewhere.

Engineering depends upon specialty among other things. What type of engineering is he leaning toward? Different types/employers look for various things. eg Civil often likes to hire locally/regionally (for first jobs). Mechanical can look further afield. Many employers have schools they traditionally like (not “a” school, but schools) so if he likes what he sees from recent grads, all should be fine if he does his part with coursework and internships.

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That may not be where it is for Engineering.

UIUC and Purdue make it in to the T-50 for USNWR (Purdue barely), but for engineering, these are at the very top. There are many other colleges which are ranked relative low by USNWR (below their top 50), but are considered top schools for engineering , like VTech, TAMU, UMD, or UMN.

Of course, these colleges are reaches for engineering for most applicants, despite what their average admission rate happens to be.

Otherwise, what @ucbalumnus wrote.

There have been a few previous threads on the matter that will also help:

If he’s looking specifically at CS, this is also helpful:


No, I mean it’s in the 100 - 150 section of the Engineering rankings. It’s there for the “regular” rankings too.

He’s not looking at CS. He wants to be a biomedical engineer, but isn’t clear whether he wants to major in biomedical, or major in something else like chemical or electrical and work on medical applications.

See if the colleges in question of career or first destination survey results by major to see where graduates in various engineering majors end up.

You can also look up the pay levels of graduates by major at , but there may be insufficient data for small colleges or small majors.

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Is this for your own child or just a kid you know? Is the interest in this school because of finances, athletics, location, particular program, etc?

What are his reasons for wanting the school he wants? Is it affordable? Is his acceptance guaranteed? As far as rankings go, he can get a good education at most schools and will probably do well since he’s well prepared. At lower ranked schools, I would worry most about students persisting in engineering. This does not sound like your son.

My kid got into top 10 Purdue with merit but chose Alabama. This could be your 4.0. - Bama ?

If you are getting paid to go and they are happy - do it.

It’s their experience, not yours.

I’m confident that every state flagship in the country has Ivy level students on campus.

But if you go low, make sure you are getting paid.

My son has been at an auto manufacturer the last two summers - his goal. They have Ga Tech, Purdue, Wisconsin, Olin and so many more. He’s a Bama guy.

His two roomies last summer were ga tech and not invited back.

You may need to do more leg work to find an internship. But if he’s a go getter he’ll be fine. And guess what they all make the same, regardless of if they go to Ga Tech or Tn Tech (at his internship).

They have to own this. As long as they understand the pros and cons, it’s all good.

Parents look at rankings. Short of a few schools, employers mainly don’t.

But if they’re going low, hopefully you can cash in and save the college fund for another use. My kid will cost me maybe $70k over four years. That’s worth something too.

Have fun in the process.


If you look at College Scorecard and LinkedIn, you’ll quickly find that engineering is pretty egalitarian right out of the gate and then nearly purely meritocratic. No one has a lock on producing the “best” engineers. Pay attention to fit as @ucbalumnus has suggested. He may find that the type of school he’s interested in isn’t even ranked in with the big names. Add that to the fact that there’s no objective information ranked in the USNWR engineering rankings, and our approach was to give them minimal weight.

I’d look first and foremost at your state flagship and build from there.

If he’s a 4.0 high test score kid, why did he narrow to the 100-150 range? Nothing wrong with that, it just seems sort of random.

Lastly, I’d look deeply at the jobs BMEs get with a BS only. In order to do meaningful engineering a grad degree might be necessary. ME, especially with a mechatronics concentration might be better.

Good luck! Fun times!

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It’s a kid I know, but he is very similar personality to my younger kid so I am curious.

Not going to give the kid any advice. I’ll just say “congratulations” wherever he goes.

It’s an OOS school. He thinks he’d get merit there but our state flagship, which is strong in engineering, would still be cheaper I think. I think he wants to go further away, we happen to live close to the flagship.

He has a family member there so he’s visited and he liked it. And I can see why, it’s a great campus and environment. They also have a really strong program insomething he does as a hobby so that’s a draw.

My D has a bunch of friends who are engineers who have gone to schools ranging from T10 to schools in the 200s.+ They are all employed or in grad school, happy, and doing well.

The common thread for all was getting good internships and research experiences while in school.


No he didn’t narrow it to that range, he went to visit a family member at this school and fell in love. I just don’t want to name the school so I gave a range.

Yeah he says he isn’t sure he wants BME as a major. He wants to apply engineering to medicine but he’s aware that another concentration might make more sense. He has talked about Chem E for example with extra bio classes.

Do you guys know why there isn’t a lot of graduates from the Ivy League getting high paying jobs in Silicone Valley? I think i got the information from payscale.

Materials Science/Engineering can have a lot of biomedical applications as well, possibly more so than ChemE.

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Because the Ivies are on the other coast and their grads aren’t going to CA? Because the Ivies, other than Cornell, aren’t the top schools for CS and Engineering?


Yes, I am sure that’s on the list too.

The tippy-top in engineering would be Stanford, Caltech, MIT. Just about any engineering company would be delighted to get an application from a student about to graduate from one of these.

However the engineering field is pretty flat with respect to colleges. Companies know anyone who makes it thru with a good gpa (let’s call that 3.25 or better) and and internships is worth talking to. Engineering is a demonstrable skill and in interviews they can figure out whether you’ve mastered the material or not; you can’t bluff your way thru. A kid from ASU is going to end up working next to one from Cal or Stanford.

Furthermore after 2-3 years your school doesn’t really matter. It’s what you’ve shown you can do. And what your peers have seen you do. I know people who in an entire decades-long engineering career never sent out an unsolicited resume. After their first job everything else came by passing their resume on to former colleagues or sales engineers they worked with who could vouch for them at companies they were interested in.


No one will know who he is if you name the school. If he loves it though, he’s 95% of the way there. He’ll probably get in, likely with money. Anything else is a bonus.

If you are willing to reveal the school, we can give you analogs. If not, PM works too.