These are the schools I was trying to choose between about 4 years ago as a senior in high school.
So in light of the difficult decision, I thought I’d share some of my process in choosing a college. I’m going to list the major characteristics that I was looking for and how I decided what worked for me.
- Size: Most of the schools I was looking at were big schools, however, I was very worried about just becoming another number and not getting individual attention. This is why it’s always a good idea to ask for the faculty/student ratio, and whether classes are actually taught by faculty or by grad students. If this number is lower (like below 15:1), you’ll have a better chance to get to know your professors.
- Location: I grew up in a small town in Indiana, so I was drawn to go to college somewhere new, maybe… warm? Depending on what you’re looking for, you maybe want a quieter, college-y town, or a big city like Los Angeles. I could probably be happy in a town like Claremont where Harvey Mudd is, small, beautiful, and quite, but I wanted to come here to experience the LA culture, live in sunny SoCal, and have access to all the aerospace companies here.
- Engineering Reputation: Obviously, you’re going to want to choose a college with a good reputation for your chosen major. I was looking for technological vigor, but with plenty of support programs to ensure my success.
- Support Programs: I’m quite smart, but getting through 4 years of engineering is going to be difficult wherever you go. My greatest help has been the Society of Women Engineers. I’ve been a member since I was a freshman, and having a network of my peers is very beneficial. Also, I got my job through the company contacts with SWE. Other than that, programs that offer tutoring or professional development workshops can be very helpful.
- Extra Curriculars: I had plenty of other interests besides engineering coming into college, and I wanted to take advantage of the many opportunities here. My freshman year I joined Concert Choir, because I didn’t want to give up singing. Then last year, I joined the Equestrian Team, because I missed riding. Sure, sometimes balancing everything can be hard, but I’m glad to be able to keep doing the things that I love. Therefore, I was looking for a college and an engineering curriculum that had some flexibility.
- Cost: This is honestly one of the biggest factors for all of us I expect. I was so close to going to Purdue because I could never have afforded USC without a ton of loans. However, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to USC!! Schools that give scholarships tend to have alot of smart, likable people who are happy to be there.