There is an undeniable cultural bias in Asia towards studying engineering – it is perceived to be a largely safe and stimulating field of study regardless of future plans ahead. This notion requires careful deliberation on the part of any student.
Many students believe that success in the sciences and math in high school will consequently result in a flair for the Engineering sciences. This may be a deeply flawed idea. Let me explain with an example – a fluency in English does not necessarily indicate that the said student ought to one day become a writer of novels. While fluency in a language is necessary, it is hardly sufficient for a successful career in writing. Likewise, Math and Sciences are the building blocks for a career in Engineering – indeed, few engineers manage without it. However, it cannot be said to be sufficient. This flair for Math and the sciences must be complemented with problem solving skills – the ability to effectively convert theoretic understanding of programming, logic and sciences to effective and tangible problem solving.
This must be reiterated then – every student should carefully deliberate and be convinced of his/her reasons for studying Engineering. For students unsure of which career path to follow – the liberal arts are a better bet. Engineering is a great professional degree for only those who want to be Engineers.
Now let’s begin by talking about what you need to apply to Engineering schools in the U.S..
Advanced classes in the sciences and Math, complemented with good SAT scores will hold any student in good stead in the context of applications to Engineering schools. Additionally, the SAT subject tests for Math, Physics and Chemistry is a universal leveller and a great way to exhibit acumen of a student towards the sciences. Any student wishing to apply to among the best engineering schools must prepare to take the SAT subject tests for the aforementioned subjects early in their senior year in High School. This leaves some room for re-taking the exam in case you perform below your own abilities!
By backward induction then, the same student must plan to take the SAT reasoning tests by the beginning of the 11th grade, and should need be retake it later on in the same year.
Additionally, students aspiring to gain admission into the best Engineering schools in the United States should explore alternate avenues of exposure to the sciences, while still in school – internships or collaborations with University students and professors are a great way to start! You could begin by contacting professors working in laboratories in neighboring universities and asking if they are looking for a laboratory assistant. If you know anyone in a research and development wing of a corporation, or indeed, in a research and development corporation itself, let them know that you seek an internship. This will fulfill two purposes-
1) You will be able to gauge, of your own accord, your interest in Engineering. If the work doesn’t thrill you, or isn’t the reason you wake up in the mornings, you’re probably going to be unhappy working as an engineer for the rest of your life. Allow this to influence your choice of major. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the challenges such an environment offers you, go for it! (Also remember to write an essay about your internship experiences, it is bound to come in handy by the time the application season comes around.)
2) Having such an internship or collaboration on your CV is going to impress future admissions officers. It goes a long way to prove to them that you are, indeed, highly motivated towards the engineering sciences and can’t wait to get in the field and get started yourself! Try to have a flowery recommendation by your supervisor written out, articulating your conviction in yourself and interest in your field of study. Also, try to record your experiences interning, because those make for great “Why Engineering” essays! (You will have to submit many of those!)
If a PhD is what you’re eventually looking for, peruse the Internet for Engineering schools with a high number of eventual PhD’s in engineering – like Harvey Mudd, California Institute of Technology and MIT. It you want great research opportunities over the summer during your four years of college, it would be wise to spend some time mulling over schools with great post-graduate programs – even if you’re applying for an undergraduate degree. You can participate in research projects of students more learned and accomplished than yourself, you will find learning opportunities in abundance!
Many schools have special programs within the Engineering program like the University of Pennsylvania’s Senior Thesis, and Harvey Mudd’s Clinic. These allow you more than simply a theoretical understanding of your subjects, they lend you experience with use of practical skills as well! Also carefully consider what kind of Engineering you would like to study. Most schools will allow you to change your field of Engineering at the end of the first and second year. However, in your application, many schools will require you to choose a major. When you do, choose wisely. Analyze your interests- your internships, what your schoolteachers say, and pay heed to ascertain what field of engineering you are most likely to fit easily into.
Here is a list of Undergraduate Engineering programs that you should definitely look at.
Here is a list of Post-Graduate Engineering Schools that you should look at – though you are applying to an undergraduate program, the quality of the post-graduate program will determine the range of internship and research possibilities.
Remember though, when you begin your classes at University, only roughly half of your classes will be specifically related to Engineering. The others will be from a variety of departments at the university – the humanities, the sciences, business classes, and so on. Ergo, the quality of the other programs at the university of your choice is of equal importance. When you’re picking universities, try to account for the average university rankings rather than only the Engineering program rankings.
And start thinking about Why You Want to Study Engineering! It is the question you are bound to be asked most frequently once application season commences!
Note for Parents, Students, Counsellors: The information above was to the best of our knowledge at the time that this article was published. With every application cycle, or sometimes even during it, Colleges and Universities may change dates, policies, available majors and other relevant information. These updates will be reflected on the College and University websites themselves.
Please refer to the official college websites in addition to reading these articles. These articles are written only to provide general guidelines to students, not as a substitute for individual college websites.