Looking for smaller engineering schools

For schools that have small programs but non stem how bout Miami Ohio, Bradley, u of San Diego, James Madison, Hofstra?

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I’ve visited a LOT of schools, but know more about that one than most since I have an alum in the family. :smiley: I try to keep my bias in check though as the reasons my son felt it was a good fit might not resonate with everyone. As Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts ma’am…just the facts.” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Pretty sure Dunshire is right that as an American, he’ll be a domestic applicant; the unfortunate part is that he won’t have in-state status anywhere. He should have plenty of good options, though, especially if you don’t have a lot of financial constraints.

Based on your list, I’d considering adding LMU, which recently gained ABET accreditation for its engineering programs.

Lafayette was the first to spring to mind as you described him. Maybe a little reachy but definitely worth a try. URoch and CWRU also seem like great ones to shoot for.

Wake Forest’s new engineering program describes itself as “confidently on the path toward ABET accreditation, although our target for program success goes far beyond.”

Also consider some smaller public U’s. Maybe SUNY Binghamton (SUNY doesn’t have a single flagship - Stony Brook and Buffalo lean more STEMmy whereas Binghamton leans more toward liberal arts but still has a solid engineering school - about 3K of Bing’s 14K undergrads are in engineering.) U of Delaware has an excellent engineering school with about 2500 undergrads, out of about 19K total undergrads at the university. U of Utah is a little bigger (3400 engineering, 25K altogether) but worth considering because 1) excellent STEM programs 2) path to state residency after the first year is rare and could save you $$$ 3) great honors college that he would have a shot at - this would make the school feel smaller.

Cal Poly is worth considering. The Liberal Arts & Engineering program is an option to transition to once there - you can’t apply to it directly. WPI does also seem like a good option - in addition to its own non-STEM offerings, it has consortium cross-registration with Holy Cross and Clark. WWU in Bellingham could be worth a look too - it has a more limited range of engineering majors but the programs it has are very good, especially Industrial Design.

Also, if he is interested in languages and an international focus, this could be interesting International Engineering Program – College of Engineering

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I’d second Utah and WPI with a couple of caveats.

The honors program at The U doesn’t integrate well with engineering. The classes aren’t replacements of engineering curriculum classes that are smaller with top instructors, but rather in addition to. The honors dorm is quite nice, but truth be told, nearly all of the dorms at The U are. They were mostly built for the Olympics. Even without honors it plays small. Some schools like Rice, students are on campus all 4 years. Others like USC, they bolt as soon as they can. Utah falls somewhere in the middle with about 10k students choosing to live on campus all 4 years. Lastly…The MUSS, probably the best student sports fan group in the nation. It’s not just hoops and pointy ball, they’ll get 15k at gymnastics dual meets! Lots to like there.

Also lots to like about WPI. The learning is more collaborative than probably any other engineering program in the nation. In addition to a senior project/capstone that all ABET programs have, they also have a major Junior Qualifying Project, and the option to do one first year too. These are all done in teams. Although they are part of the consortium, in practice it’s hard to take classes off of the WPI campus. They are on 7 week terms and none of the other schools are. Their study abroad is unmatched in all of engineering. There are hundreds of ongoing projects around the world that students are dropped into for 7 weeks.

Lastly, the secret to LAE at Cal Poly is choosing the right major to get into the school in the first place. As @aquapt mentioned, it is not a direct admit. They have areas of concentration. Students allowed to change into LAE are most likely to come from another major that aligns with those concentrations. You can find info on their web site. It might also be worth calling the department.


It’s not that there aren’t a plethora of schools with great liberal arts that offer engineering. It’s a matter of having room in an ABET curriculum for arts, history, and social sciences above and beyond the minimum ABET requires. Most schools that do have more LA focus in their curriculum like Dartmouth or LAE at Cal Poly are not ABET accredited. Students who attend 4 year ABET accredited programs at traditional LACs like Union, Lafayette and Bucknell don’t get any more arts, history and social science than they would at MIT, Illinois or Purdue.

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Two others I haven’t seen mentioned yet - Trinity College (Hartford, CT) and Valparaiso University (Indiana). I believe both have ABET accredited engineering as well as liberal arts.

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I’m teasing. It’s a great school. And I love your posts. And Bill Marsh’s. I’ve learned a lot.


We just see him as more of a humanities than a stem kid. For example, his reading portion of the SAT was almost perfect and way higher than math (he’s taking it again in hopes to get that up). Other “engineering” kids I see have ECs that “match,” such as the robotics club. His ECs are things like sports, tutoring, starting a sports clinic for a teen orphanage, etc. He’s just always said engineering, and he did take 2 engineering classes at school and LOVES them, loves AP Physics, took an engineering camp a Clemson, etc and keeps saying it. So we really don’t know! No clue what his fallback would be.

Not likely a factor.

Thank you - this is really helpful. I’ll add Cal Poly to the list to vet.

Our son didn’t have any engineering ECs unless you consider the math team an engineering EC. He played varsity soccer, ski raced, and played classical guitar. If your son says “engineering” then he wants to be an engineer. That’s all it takes (along with an aptitude for math and physics). Curiosity and drive are all he needs and it sounds like he’s got that!

The ones who don’t tend to fare well are the ones who choose it for the wrong reasons, like earnings potential or parental pressure.

Let Plan B form if and when a Plan B is needed. Just make sure he picks a school with options. It’s far, FAR easier to change majors out of engineering than it is to switch in.


My S went to CWRU and had a very good experience. One of the things that drew him initially was being able to go in without pre-committing to a particular engineering degree. He did not have a background in engineering except for one minor intro class in high school and there were no robotics club or other types of ECs at his school. That being said he liked having an opportunity to explore which area of engineering he enjoyed the most.

Like your S, ours enjoyed the humanities and being at CWRU gave him the opportunity to pursue a double major of Electrical Engineering and Economics. The Weatherhead School is excellent. Interesting enough several of his EE professors commented how they wished more students took some economic courses. He was able to take courses that actually benefitted his engineering like innovation and entrepreneurship courses among others.

So even with doing an internship (he did not do a co-op) he managed a double degree and even was admitted to the Masters EE program and ultimately was able to take some graduate courses while still an undergrad. Not that his course load was easy but rather the school made it possible to do all of that. (And in 5 years.)

So essentially what I believe CWRU offers is a chance to explore. It is so hard for some kids that age to know exactly what they want to do. That was part of the reason he hesitated going to some places where he had to commit to a particular engineering program from the start. Yes he could have transferred but some places like our state school for instance makes it difficult to do especially with needing a certain GPA to transfer into some degree programs. Engineering is hard on the GPA.

One last thing that is great about CWRU is their Thinkbox. Many schools have similar makerspaces but Thinkbox is excellent. Even better if you get the chance to work there which my S thoroughly enjoyed.

Many good options on his list but I do encourage him to look at CWRU.


My son and I went to visit CWRU after he was given a very generous merit offer ($100K, at the time the total COA was under $240k full pay). His favorite music masters teacher was an instructor at CIM which boosted his interest. Although he didn’t ultimately choose Case, both the school and Cleveland FAR exceeded our expectations. I’d highly recommend giving it a look.

Lehigh is also a school with many majors beyond engineering with a curriculum flexible enough to at. least minor if a student wants to. The number one engineering minor at the time my son was looking was Music!

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In the “real world” (i.e. people who are in the work force), I know people who do engineering or computing for a living, but have “extracurriculars” in things like sports or arts. It is not like someone who does something technical is interest in only technical things.

That does suggest strong interest in the subject.

What kind of score? 790RW / 700M would be very different from 790RW / 500M (if taken after completion of high school math courses covering the tested math topics) in this respect.

Remember, engineers do have to read and write in school and in their jobs.

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Thank you - these are good points. Just not sure how admissions views the “atypical” engineering kid though… I think his RW was 770 RW and 680 M. But took it summer after sophomore year coming off of Covid/online Alg 2 that didn’t go so well. I’m fairly confident he can get that up when he takes it again in August.

I think a math score under 700 could be a red flag for some of the schools on the list. He’s close enough that he should easily get the math score up with some practice.

You’re right.

A 670 score on math sat puts a student roughly in the top 10% of the country. There are good engineering schools who will take a student with a 670 math sat. 670 is at the 25th %ile at Worcester Tech, for example, an undeniably very fine engineering school. That means that a quarter of their students had scores BELOW 670. And it’s not like WPI is loading up on athletes or other non-academic types.

There are many highly successful engineers working today who had a similar score to 670 or lower. If a college won’t take a student in the top 10%, that’s their problem. The whole college admissions scene has gotten completely insane.


Agreed that it has gotten crazy competitive.