Looking for smaller engineering schools

First time posting. Hope I’m doing it right.

We are working on college research for my son, a rising senior. Looking for suggestions for his specific situation:

  • Thinks he wants engineering, but prefers a small or mid-sized school (or if bigger, one known for smaller class sizes). Ideally not a big state school.
  • Not likely interested in the 3/2 programs, as he doesn’t like the idea of transferring out his senior year
  • We think he’s actually more of a liberal-arts kid and may switch majors in the end…so we are steering him away from the more “tech” institutes that focus mostly on stem.
  • Likely needs at least 30% acceptance rate, maybe 50%+ I think?
  • 1450 SAT, 3.7 unweighted GPA. Good APs, but average extracurriculars.
  • American but we live in Asia for his dad’s work…so he will be in the international pile which seems to make things more competitive
  • Willing to look anywhere in the US although prefers not deep south if possible, as he’s tired of heat and humidity

Here is what we’ve found so far. Obviously the first few are clear reaches. Looking for suggestions for any we may be missing that fit his criteria.

University of Rochester
Wash U
Case Western
[not sure re: Union through Bucknell; worries too Greek]
University of San Diego
Santa Clara University
Seattle University

Any advice or insights re: any of the above appreciate. Thanks!

Purdue, small? There’s 46,000 students at Purdue!

You’ve got most of the small ones with a diversity of majors. I’d add University of Portland.

I’d also suggest WPI. Although a tech school, they have other majors. That environment though might improve his likelihood of actually staying in engineering. It’s very collaborative and always a non-tech class every term. Study abroad is unparalleled for engineering.


Do you want small engineering programs or small universities?

So I’ll start with Rose Hulman where he’d get in. Wash & Lee - unlikely - and it’s not ABET but very good.

Here’s an overall list - so you can see - if you want an engineering school or a small school that has engineering.

Best Small Colleges for Engineering (■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■). Some he can get into, some are big stretches.

Also, check - depending on mid size- UAH, Missouri S&T, Michigan Tech - all are state schools but so is Purdue - which is anything but small. You might look at Embry Riddle and Florida Tech - you can get into both with money.

Here’s another list of mostly smaller schools.

2021 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (No Doctorate) | US News Rankings


I wonder what matches and safeties you may be considering?
How about
University of the Pacific
University of Dayton,
University of Denver,
Manhattan College

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I’d second the addition of Manhattan College (3300 enrollment) and note that it is not in Manhattan but in the upscale residential neighborhood of Fieldston/Riverdale. An established and very well respected engineering program in the NYC area with a breadth of engineering majors as well as a liberal arts school, a business school, and a school of education.

I’d also note that when you consider admissions criteria at any college, keep in mind that engineering schools are usually more difficult for admission than the college as a whole.


Clarkson for a safety.

I’m also surprised to see Purdue on the list if your son wants small.


Thank you! To answer your question - he started out wanting small or mid-sized school. But I think he is now open to a bigger school with a smaller engineering program. Basically he really values classroom and professor interaction, and would dislike a lot of large lecture halls. Re: Embry Riddle, Rose, Etc we looked at those and similar, but my gut is he may drop STEM…so I want him at a place with a lot of other options.

Thank you! A few on his list might be a match, but it’s unclear and I think most are reaches, with the exception of maybe Seattle, Gonzaga and San Diego. So this is helpful. Particularly Manhattan, which I hadn’t heard of.

Look at Union in NY.

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My S ended up at Quinnipiac because he also desired small classes. They cap classes at 24. Newish engineering program but 100% placement. Very impressed with the program and professors. Clarkson was up there until the end but their intro classes are large. Manhattan is a good suggestion.


It you really believe this could happen, you are better off targeting schools like on your original list where he wouldn’t have to transfer because they are strong in other majors.

As such, strike what I said about adding Clarkson. I also wouldn’t add Rose H or Drexel.

Quinnipiac’s rise has been amazing. 30 years ago it was mostly known for its business school. As it has grown in size, it’s Physician’s assistant program has become one of the best in the country. It added a Law School and then a Medical School, and now the engineering program. AND they won a national championship in hockey. Everything they’ve done in growing the college, they seem to have done right. I have a high degree of confidence that the “newish” engineering program will deliver


If the student does not want a fraternity/sorority-heavy social environment, W&L would seem like a poor fit from the student’s point of view.

What indications have you seen that he may choose some other major, and what are the other potential majors?

Also, what kind of engineering is of interest?

Is cost a factor?

It’s on the small side for a state school but I’ll add university of Maine. I think probably bigger than your son wants but I have known kids who felt like, in part because of its location, it had a more LAC feel than some others. I know nothing about how hard it is to move between majors if he wants to do that or class size.

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Bucknell is very Greek, so might not be a good fit.

One thing to consider with engineering, big schools have more toys offering more experiences. This is why they tend to be the top schools for engineering.

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In that case, I’d add Cal Poly to the list. It’s a big engineering program, with over 80 labs in the college of engineering alone, but classes are small The intro calculus series for example is capped at 32. They are all professor taught, not just lectures, but labs and discussions too, for all classes in all colleges.

Engineering accounts for about 25% of the overall student body. They have most of the other majors anyone could want, including a very novel one in the business school, Industrial Technology and Packaging. They are the ones that design all the cool origami like boxes, among many other things like supply chain management. They make engineer level money to start too.

The USNWR rankings for Cal Poly are a little odd. Of the 7 disciplines USNWR ranks, CP is #3 in 2, #2 in 4, and #1 in 1, yet they rank 8th overall. They rank just behind Harvey Mudd in ME, but Harvey Mudd doesn’t offer ME. :rofl:

There is a huge caveat though. Students apply to the major they want and only compete against other students who want the same major. Hence, the competitiveness can be all over the map. A 3.7 UW won’t be competitive for most, especially the most brutal ones like CS and ME. Things like IE, Materials, or Manufacturing might be possible though. They also have a non-ABET accredited Liberal Arts Engineering.

If you think it might be a fit and want to discuss further, feel free to PM me.

Lastly, make sure he’ll be classified as an international. At most schools it’s a double edged sword. Admission might actually be slightly easier, but that’s because internationals are largely full pay at international rates.

Best of luck to him!

As long as you have US Citizenship/permanent residency you will be a domestic applicant.


Here is a 5-year, joint-degree program offered by Butler University, which involves getting a liberal arts degree from Butler and an engineering degree from the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indianapolis (not from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN): EDDP Overview | Butler.edu. It seems a little different than the typical 3/2 program, as I understand them, because he would continue to take classes at Butler after the first three years.

Saint Louis University might be worth a look; it has a good liberal arts curriculum. Also, Miami University (Ohio); although it could be a bit too Greek.

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We have to get you on the Cal Poly payroll :slight_smile:

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