Olin College of Engineering vs Purdue for CS

I was accepted to some schools but am deciding between Purdue CS (40k/year) and Olin College of Engineering (full-ride).

I don’t know what should I take cause I need financial aid. Purdue has better prestige for CS but I’ll have to take all loans.

I’m also interested in creating tech startups while in college and possibly target a Ph.D. at Stanford.

Which would be the best choice?


Take the full ride! Olin is an excellent school. Don’t go into debt for a CS degree, it isn’t necessary.



Thanks! I’m also leaning towards Olin right now.


It’s a no brainer. Going into debt for an undergrad is a recipe for disaster. Take the full ride. For a CS degree, your programming skills, breadth and depth of your independent projects, internships etc. matter more than the choice of college. You can get all these at Olin.


Make sure it is what you want. Olin does not have CS. They focus on hardware, not software.

Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)

Electrical and Computer Engineering majors focus on designing and building computing and communication systems.

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You, the student, can take $5500 Direct Loan for freshman year. Anything above that would need to be either taken by parents or cosigned by them.

Purdue will require $160,000 in loans for 4 years…that with cost increases over your time in college plus interest could easily become $200,000 to repay.

Olin is a highly regarded school of engineering. In addition, it’s location outside of Boston provides opportunities for internships.

Purdue is also an excellent school for engineering and related majors.

I’m assuming you received the free tuition that all Olin admitted students receive PLUS some need based aid that would help you with additional costs like living expenses, books, transportation. Is that correct? If so, Olin is an excellent choice…if the major they offer IS what you want. Also, keep in mind that if you decide an engineering field is NOT what you want, you won’t have options to change majors at Olin.

Did you have any other acceptances that are more affordable?


I’m looking for the Engineering degree with a focus on computing though.


Yes, the merit scholarship combined with generous financial aid at Olin will lemme graduate by paying only 30K in total over four years.

I do have the following acceptances as well but would have to take loans to attend em:

  • ASU (15.5K/yr - NAU President’s Award…net cost: 30K/yr)
  • Uni of San Francisco (27K/yr - University Scholar Award, 18k/yr - financial grant…net cost: 30K/yr)
  • UC San Diego (coa: 60K/yr!!)

I’m also on the waitlist for the following:

  • UC Irvine
  • WashU St Louis (would be an almost full ride if I get in)

Olin is a very very small school. My student was accepted there and it was relatively high on his list. But he was concerned about the small student body, they didn’t have his major so he could create one, and the grading system (which if I remember correctly isn’t like other colleges so he was concerned if he transferred what happened with the classes he took). He likes the students he met and the teaching environment but those questions plus we still had to pay a substantial amount each year even after the half tuition (it was either the most or second most expensive school on the list). He got better merit packages at other schools.

I am in Boston, and around here Olin is as prestigious as MIT. But it is an engineering school. It would have been perfect for one of my kids but they wanted CS. Olin has a connection to Babson, a business school next door that is also well-regarded, which would be helpful for entrepreneurial projects like a start-up.

I would say that Olin has plenty of prestige but I would talk to them and ask questions about your desire to focus on CS.

Clearly size is small and Purdue is large. Think about cost, size, location, academics and “vibe.”


While I agree with the posts above about the differences in major and the vibe. The key point here is that OP will need to take massive loans for other options whereas Olin is significantly cheaper.
Coming from similar background as OP, I believe that focussing on vibe and slight differences in programs is a luxury OP cannot afford.
CS is one of the easiest industry to transition to. Every year, many graduates from math, physics, statistics, and a variety of engineering fields successfully transition to CS field either in industry or for grad studies and Computer engineering is not that far off. Just a few years back (okay maybe 20 or so), many schools didn’t even have dedicated CS programs and most people interested in CS took the Computer engineering path.

TLDR, IMHO Purdue and other schools are unfortunately not a real option for OP given the financial needs. However I don’t believe that OP will have to compromise a lot with the Olin option in their pocket.


Seems like another version of a choice between:

  • Free or cheap college that is not a good academic fit (limited CS offerings)
  • College with the desired academics (full CS major) that is too expensive

Is there any other affordable college with an actual full CS major?

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Take a look at this.

So basically, Olin is your only affordable choice other than maybe community college or some late-application-deadline colleges (if they offer big merit at this late stage, or they are in-state public and affordable to you).

So you choices are:

  • Attend Olin and try to fill in missing CS courses through cross registration at Brandeis and/or Wellesley (but CS courses may be full there and not available to cross registration students if they are).
  • Attend Olin and consider transfer to an affordable school with a full CS major (probably an in-state public, if any affordable school exists for transfer) if the CS offerings are unsatisfying.
  • Take a gap year (find something to do other than school, such as work to earn money to pay for school) and reapply to a new list properly curated to offer full CS majors and be affordable.

The OP started the thread saying CS, but then qualified it with this:

Given that, Olin really is the best option.

They have a powerhouse faculty working in the realm that the OP is interested in. And, Olin grads that cite CS on LinkedIn as what they studied get great jobs. They must create learning experiences that greatly expand on their course catalog with individual and team projects.



Just curious why you are staying on the waitlist for UIUC and UC Irvine? They will not be affordable.

Olin is a highly respected engineering school with unique opportunities. We have friends whose sons attend and are loving it. But it is a very specific vibe.

I agree with the unfortunate reality that best fit has to take a backseat to affordability. With the caveat that there still needs to be a fit, even if it is not perfect. While college can be exciting and full of new experiences and new friends, it can also be stressful and anxiety-producing if it’s a bad fit. So please consider your mental health and well-being when making a choice.

Before someone yells at me, I’m not at all suggesting taking on debt (more than the $27k federal) for a better fit school. But if the affordable options are not a decent fit, it is time to come back to this board to ask for more suggestions.


This OP needs to look again at the reasons they applied to Olin. There must have been good reasons to include this on their application list. What were they, and do they still apply?


Seems like the fit issues at Olin are in academic areas (limited CS offerings). It is still a partial fit, since the CS offerings that do exist do seem to be of decent quality, so it is not like no academic fit at all (saw one of those in a recent previous year, where the full ride school for a CS student only offered an IT-type major and not even courses that would prepare for transfer to another college with a proper CS major). So the OP can probably make Olin work academically (taking all of the available CS courses, using cross registration if possible, looking at transfer possibilities later if desired, self-educating what is missing in CS), even if it is not optimal.


Again, the OP has already said they DON’T want to strictly do CS. They to be an engineer that focuses on computing. That’s what that degree essentially is. If I’m reading their words correctly, the fit is just fine.


We loved Olin! A visit will help if you haven’t already.