Help Me Decide Which College

I am currently a high school senior interested in Electrical Engineering. After applying to college, I have a number of options. The main ones that appeal to me are Columbia's Fu Foundation (School of Applied Sciences), University of Pennsylvania Engineering, and University of Washington Engineering (Through the honors program).

I am having a terrible time deciding between these different institutions. Here are things to keep in mind:

-I want to have a life during the 4 years that I'm at college

-I want to have many great options for job/grad school

-Penn/Columbia cost about $155000US for 4 years, while UW is about $55000 (My parents gave me $120000 towards whatever education I get. Anything extra I pay for. Anything left over I keep.)

- At UW I am in the honors program and admitted directly into the Electrical Engineering department

I was wondering if you guys/girls could give me some advice on where to spend my next 4 years and any general college advice you have.

Thanks for your time! Jeff

Reply to
Jeff M
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What kind of weather do you prefer?

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Jeff,first realize that these two different goals go in opposit directions.

If you go to a first rate school, which optimizes your chances for having great options later, you won't have much of a social life while in EE undergraduate school. Then too, the universities that you mention are not generally considered first rate in EE, except arguably the U of P. Given what you've posted, you'd probably be wise to avoid the Moore School, since it is nearly as tough as Cal Tech., MIT, or even Drexel.

With your goals in mind, I'd strongly suggest law, political science, or business as your career options, since a first rate, undergraduate, engineering education required a 25-hour/day commitment leaving no time for girls, booze, or party!

Harry C.

Reply to
Harry Conover

Then forget about Electrical Engineering, if you are at all intereseted in passing. With the workload put on you there is very little time for a "life".

Reply to

Your education should come first above all. There is a saying at MIT - when you arrive, you have three choices: grades, friends, or sleep. Pick two.

You could have a fun "life" at college, get mediocre grades, get a mediocre job, and then have mediocre fun. OR, you could devote 4 years of year life to learning everything you can to the best of your abilities, get excellent grades, land an excellent job, and then have EXCELLENT fun.

Washington is not a bad school, there is lots to do there when (and if) you have free time, and there are several technology centers / opportunities in the Northwest (Seattle, Portland, San Jose, Vancouver B.C.). Get excellent grades as an undergrad, make some good connections with your Profs., then choose a good grad school. Without a good undergrad career, you can't get a good grad school. Undergrad lays the foundation - worry more about name recognition for your grad school. But do the best you can as an undegrad, because without that foundation it won't matter what school you go to.

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At Rose-Hulman you could only pick one. Maybe even less than that. We had valedictorians come in who left after the second quarter with GPAs of less than 1...I knew some who were under 0.5. I finally realized that Rose-Hulman and other small, insanely difficult schools like Harvey Mudd and Cooper Union are for smart kids, but perhaps *just* this side from being smart enough. The work is so difficult, but in the end you have this degree from a very difficult school that not many people know about, and probably with a lower GPA than what you'd get at a less intense school. The really smart kids probably end up going to an easier school with a bit more name recognition. They can "pick two" or maybe up to three, plus have time to work on their own projects, take some more specialized classes, etc. At the tough schools you can definitely feel the results of being pushed hard, but after a couple years of being unable to find work in the business, that really starts to wear off.

Reply to
Garrett Mace


1) Whatever school you pick, study as hard as you can. Good grades are a sure way to keep options available at graduation. But, since you've been accepted into an honors program, you know that already.

2) Do some other stuff rather than study 24/7. In today's "touchy-feely" corporate world, how you relate with others is just as important as what you know technically. Granted, keep the extracurriculars very limited, but definitely find time to enjoy other "diversions".

3) Thank your parents. Use that money only for your educational expenses. You can buy the toys after you graduate.

4) Comparing costs, you save $100K by going to UW for the same degree. Maybe not as prestigious a name on your diploma. If I was interviewing people for a position with my company, what school they went to would be down the list pretty far.

5) Personally, I had a part-time job as a technician/designer for the enitre 5 years (yes 5, it's not that uncommon) I went to college. Looking back, I spent too much time working and not enough studying. Treat your education as a full-time job where you work 50-60 hours (sometimes more) a week.

Good Luck !

PS- thank your parents, again.

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I would definitely say this is very important. There is much more to just knowing how to build something nowadays. You need to meet other people and hang out with them and all of that stuff. Of course, you must plan to do that since you want to have a lot of fun in college, but be sure to balance your time well. College not only lays the foundation for your future work, but also teaches you life long skills not related to your field of study. For example, some of the most important things I learned doing an EE major at UIUC is time management, balancing fun with work, and discipline.


I would agree with this statement as well. UW is a pretty good school, and you can get a good education there. College just costs so much now that you may want to see what is the better long term option based on your scholarships/loans/etc. Personally, I only applied to public schools b/c I did not have that much financial backing, but I am confident that I got a very good undergraduate education.

This depends a lot on whether you pick classes that are challenging, or if you just take classes b/c they are easy. A bit of extra studying during your years in college will be worth it in the end. And you might as well take some challenging classes since college years are probably when you are most able to absorb knowledge.

Good luck with your decision.

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4 years? How important is this to you? It can be done, but 5 years is becoming the norm. If I were starting over, I would seriously consider cutting back on the workload and spreading it over an extra year, allowing myself more study time for each class.

Don't worry about grad. school yet. That is a long way off, and your statistics (GPA, GRE, etc.) and knowledge will have more influence on which doors open for you than the name at the top of your diploma.

Living frugally in college will give you a lot of breathing room afterwards. You are fortunate that you will not be burdened with college loans for 20 years after you finish. I found that I actually did better in school if I was holding down a job, plus I got some experience that helped both in my classwork and in the job hunt after college. Time management is the key.

Don't look at it as 4 years that you have to "spend" in order to reach your goal of an engineering degree. You are investing a few years to prepare yourself for the rest of your life. If it takes you 5 years, fine. Your schoolwork is your full-time job for the next few years of your life, and you must treat it as such. If you don't feel like going to class one day, tough. Think of how much you are paying for that one lecture-- figure it out and you will be suprised how expensive they are! You must do the work, and you are rewarded in knowledge. Later that work ethic will serve you well when you are working for dollars (or dinars).

Good luck!

Reply to
Travis Hayes

That's a little harsh. I had plenty of time to party, and get married, and have a job, and get hired by a top company. The fact that I could hold it all together was a big feather in my cap when looking for a job. Companies liked the fact that I worked and still did reasonably well. Doing it all while being married showed that I could manage it all.

Though I don't recommend getting married in college, a job *IN THE FIELD* is a huge plus. Slinging burgers isn't so much, but still interesting.

Reply to
KR Williams

Hmm, I too am a UIUC EE major. I worked for the EE department in the repair-cal lab all through college (four years, minus a week, IIRC ;-). I also did a ton of "special-problems" stuff and spent unknown hours in the labs after-hours (working there I had keys to the labs - hint,hint). ...and I still found time to go out with the guys for a beer and have a wife (though she may disagree). College is what you make of it. Even UIUC.

Toys and rewards are *always* good. Reward yourself for small things too. A beer with the guys after 16hrs work is goodness too.

Of course the bottom line is surviving. I had a bad semester and damned near didn't (mono is a bitch). Thanks to my lab-partner (she was recovering from a badly broken leg) we both made it through.

I had no backing either. I was a "townie" at UIUC (my father was an EE Prof years before) and lived off-campus all four years. I owed some money when I left, bit not so bad. IIRC, the OP has plenty of cash from his family, so I'd be looking at the investment/payback here. I see no use for an MS, unless you want a PhD.

...and yes, schools matter. Some companies only hire from the biggies. If I graduated from podunk-U I'd not be looking at retiring (and getting a real job ;-) in a short time. ;-)

Maybe. The first couple of years make all the difference. Nail the math and the rest is easy. In the last two years take what's interesting. That's what you're signing up for for the next thirty (well, nothing lasts thirty).

Indeed! ...but I still recommend a top school, if you can afford it. UIUC did very well by me. It was *CHEAP* too (and I was paying every cent). ;-)

Reply to
KR Williams

I dunno. I paid the same per semester, no matter how many credits. After four years (plus summers) I simply couldn't afford to go any longer. FOrtunately I realized I was within striking distance the summer before and worked it out so I could "escape" in four years. I could make some "real" money (less than minimum wage today ;-).

I agree 100%. Grad school is a waste for most. See what your interests are in four years. You may want to go there, but may not. I wouldn't put that at the top of my priorities. I'd be looking to get past the first two years and then figure out what

*interest* you. ...not necessarily in that order, but you do have to get past the first two years. ...and what *interests* you is the real key to being an engineer, IMHO.

No question. I held down a job working for the EE department. If you can get a sweetheart deal like this, take it! I got to know the profs and I had access to the facilities (priceless!). It also looked rather splendid on my resume. :-)

I'm not going to argue here. but...

There were *many* classes I skipped (not encouraging this at all). Some were so boring all I needed to know was when the exams were (Econ comes to mind). Others didn't really teach much in the lectures, but the action was in the lab or graded "study" sessions.

It *is* all about time management (and that often means "screw the irrelevant"). It's also about taking the courses that are going to get where you want to go. IMO, math is the real key. I wish I'd done far better.

No, good hunting. "Luck" follows the competent.

Reply to
KR Williams

I was in college the first time around for 4 years, as well. I was glad to be out, not so much because I was looking forward to "real" money, but because I just HAD to be done, I couldn't take another semester at the time.

I'm just now finishing up my masters, but I spent two years figuring out what I wanted to study before I dove back in. My wife and I decided that if I ever was going to do it, I'd better get cracking, because waiting would only make it more difficult. I did it mainly because there were a lot of classes that I wished I were able to take during my undergrad. I definately didn't do it because I wanted to earn more money, but I feel a certain sense of accomplishment and pride for having done it. Was it worth the cost? I dunno. Who can say?

This is an important lesson. Sometimes, something's gotta slide, whether it's your Biology class, your dating life, sleeping in on Sunday mornings, whatever. It's all up to what you value and what your goals are; is learning the material what you want to achieve, or is passing the class good enough?

Math is indeed the key. All of your engineering classes will be math classes. Sure, you'll have a technical writing class or a project management class here or there, but these are the exceptions. With a solid understanding of what's happening, by understanding the math involved, everything else will fall into place. Math is the language that you have to learn. Without mastering the language, you cannot describe the problems or follow the answers.

Reply to
Travis Hayes

Well I don't know about your experience, but let me just say that the people who "partied" in my year didn't make it much past first year.

The workload at the school I went to pretty much precluded "having fun". Sure, there was SOME time for "extra" stuff, but mostly it was go to lecture, go to lab, go to tutorial, study and sleep (with sleep definately being optional). Eat was usually DURING one of those other events (except sleep I suppose...).

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Jeff, One thing to keep in mind is that getting a BSEE degree is simply a test. (a really hard, hellish, 4-5 year test). In reality, you will not learn much that you will be able to use on day one at the factory, or office when you graduate. (I was really disappointed that I didn't learn the NEC or how to program a PLC in college) What you will learn, is how to learn. You will be able to quickly find the info you need, and understand it to solve a problem. Your grades and to a lesser extent the name of the school where you got your BSEE will only serve to open the door at your first employer and maybe help to establish your starting salary. After that, its pretty irrelevant. Everything else depends on your personality, intelligence and ability to deal with people. How you communicate, motivate, and interact with the people you work with, will determine where you end up in life not your GPA or university name..

From a personal example, I got a BSEE from a mediocre school and had 3.4 GPA. It was good enough to get a job working for the company I wanted in the city I wanted to live in. After 4 years in engineering, I was able to move into management and now have many engineers working for me. Most of these engineers went to better schools than I and had better grades than I. However, they were unable to communicate with the factory workers or the accountants or what ever. You see, you must become well rounded.

My advice to you is to look at who you are today. If you were kind of nerdy in High School don't go MIT to get more nerdy. Go to state U, get a 4.0 GPA and join a fraternity. One day you can have those MIT guys working for you. You will find that its a lot more important for the guys in the union or the guys with the business degree to be able to talk to you, understand you, trust you, and depend on you.

Reply to

Amen to that I have a similar story, understood this very well You gotta be a people person to get ahead today.

Reply to
Larry P

While I agree with the well roundedness and people skills, I have to object to your complaints about what one learns in an EE program. The programs prepare you to be an electrical engineer. Not an electrician (NEC) or a manufacturing and automation engineer (PLC). There are, in fact, programs for those two purposes. Conversely most positions that require an electrical engineer will not require them to ever know anything about the NEC or PLCs.

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