Looking at Programs
Before you begin looking at engineering programs, take a little time to think about what you need and want from your education. Make a list. Get some additional perspective by sharing your thoughts with people who know and care about you: family, friends, teachers, school counselors, and mentors. Then, start researching schools.
Do an Online Search
When you’re ready to look for colleges with engineering programs, an online search is a good place to start. Throughout your search, you’ll want to make sure that you are looking at programs that are accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). There are some excellent college directories online, including the database hosted by ABET itself and the “College Match” at COLLEGEdata.
Three Web sites with especially good information on how to decide what school would be right for you are JETS: Junior Engineering Technical Society, the American Society for Engineering Education’s K-12 Center’s student section and Try Engineering.
Once you’ve located programs that interest you, the next step is to make direct contact with them. You can start by calling or e-mailing a school’s engineering program to request materials. But don’t stop there. Set up an on-campus tour to meet with faculty or students. Through firsthand experiences like these, you’ll not only gain valuable information about a program, but also about yourself and what might work for you.
The Big Picture
As you look at programs, you’ll want to consider many of the same things you would for any college experience, including location, school size and environment, available extracurricular activities, and cost. All these elements are linked with your personal circumstances, including what you need and want, so they are important considerations.
And if you think you already know what engineering field you’re interested in, you can look for programs that offer the best opportunities within that specialty. (Don’t worry if you’re not sure yet! You’ll have a chance to figure it out in your first year or two of college.)
Look for Interesting Opportunities
See what interesting opportunities a program has to offer. For instance, many colleges host student chapters of professional engineering societies, like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The Engineering Education Service Center lists women in engineering programs around the country. These organizations provide the chance to meet people in the field and are valuable lifelong resources as you finish school and start your career. Some programs offer a freshman engineering practicum where you can spend time doing hands-on engineering right away. This gives you an early glimpse of where your degree might take you in the future.
Consider Your Options
A traditional four-year bachelor’s program is not the only way to go. For instance, some students start by getting an associate’s degree in engineering at a two-year program then finish a bachelor’s degree by doing another two years at a traditional four-year program. These kinds of arrangements can offer financial flexibility and a diverse learning experience.
Getting Into the College of Your Choice
The difficulty or ease of getting into an engineering program will depend very much on the individual college. If a college or university has very competitive admissions standards, then the engineering school will likely be competitive as well. Talk with your school counselor about the colleges that might be right for you.
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