College Decision Debate -- Purdue, Penn State or Illinois for Engineering?

In summary: Penn State has a general first year engineering program, which IMO is a good thing. It means that you will be able to get a good feel for the field and not be pigeonholed into a particular area. However, Illinois has a reputation for being a good physics school, so if that is your main concern then Purdue might be a better option.
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cellist542
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I am currently a high school senior and intend to study engineering in college next year. I am currently considering 3 schools: Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois. All three are excellent schools with solid engineering programs, and all have different benefits and drawbacks.

I was admitted to the honors colleges at Purdue and Penn State, and I am still waiting for a decision on the Illinois honors program. I was admitted for mechanical engineering at Penn State and Illinois, and Purdue has a general first year engineering program.

Does anyone have any advice on which school to choose based on how well they prepared you for your career and/or graduate school, and if there is any significant academic benefit to one school or another?
 
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Do you get in-state tuition? Are there reciprocity agreements to where you are resident? These are all good schools. How much freedom do you have to switch programs at Illinois and Penn State? Penn State is in the middle of nowhere but pretty. Purdue is sort of near Chicago but really physically ugly in my opinion. Illinois somewhere in between.
Of course each school has particular strengths. How can you argue with the first and last human on luna? But Illinois is better known for physics. Tough decision but you will be well served by each institution..
 
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  • #3
cellist542 said:
if there is any significant academic benefit to one school or another?
Congrats on the acceptances! :smile:

Have you been able to tour any of those campuses, either in-person or virtually?
 
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First, IDK. Never been to or dealt with any of those schools. But...

Academics doesn't matter that much, IMO. Those are all good schools. Trust me, your Physics prof knows more about Physics than you will ever need to learn (at this stage). Don't get hung up on things like who has a Nobel prize, they all know the material. They aren't all good educators though. You get out what you put in academically speaking; I think it has more to do with motivation and hard work on your part.

So, a huge part of motivation is "will you be happy there". Research or go visit, if you can, and ask yourself, what will I do when I'm sick of doing Physics HW and reading Dostoevsky?
 
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cellist542 said:
I am currently a high school senior and intend to study engineering in college next year. I am currently considering 3 schools: Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois. All three are excellent schools with solid engineering programs, and all have different benefits and drawbacks.

I was admitted to the honors colleges at Purdue and Penn State, and I am still waiting for a decision on the Illinois honors program. I was admitted for mechanical engineering at Penn State and Illinois, and Purdue has a general first year engineering program.

Does anyone have any advice on which school to choose based on how well they prepared you for your career and/or graduate school, and if there is any significant academic benefit to one school or another?
I've worked with colleagues with various engineering degrees from all three universities, and I know some faculty members. All three are good engineering schools, so I'd point to what @DaveE mentioned, and reiterate what one gets out of an academic program depends on what one puts into it. It's a matter of one's effort and discipline.
 
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You have a pleasant problem. You probably cannot go too far wrong with any of the choices. However, you stated that you intend to study "engineering" but did not say what kind of engineering you wish to study.

I take it from that lack of specificity that you have yet to select a specific field. In that case, the Purdue "general engineering" might be a good way to go. You can select the specific field when you have a better feel for what you really want to study. Note that even with in "mechanical" or "electrical" engineering there are subfields and you will eventually have to concentrate on one of those. Until you understand what is actually available you will not be in a position to make any final decisions.

In fact I recommend that you keep your options open so that you can change major fields after a year or two at the university (or even later). It is certainly possible to do that. I changed into mathermatics for a Ph.D. after getting a B.S and M.S. in electrical engineering -- but I don't really recommend waiting quite that long to make your final selection and am just illustrating how late in the game you can make a switch. Lots of physics majors switch to an engineering field for their M.S.

In terms of academic benefit any of the schools that you named will do just fine, and there is nothing much to differentiate among them unless and until you select a real specialty -- and maybe not then depending on the speciality. Also recognize that most engineers wind up doing work that is not directly related to what they studied in school -- but the general preparataion and ability to solve diverse problems that you will gain in school is invaluable and the real benefit of an engineering education.

How much you will enjoy the experience is largely a function of your relationship with your professors, and there is no good way to assess that ahead of time unless you already know them pretty well. Academic reputation will not tell you how well your style will mesh with their style -- only experience will do that.

In any case the academic reputation of people at any of those schools will be more than adequate. You can get a good undergraduate education at most schools. Faculty reputation is based on advanced research and is only a significant factor in post-graduate education. Any decent professor can do a very good job with undergraduate courses ("can" but not all "do" and there is no good way to judge that ahead of time -- and student evaluations are no help in forming a judgement).

Given all of the above you might make your selection on other factors, such as cost, the location, or just flip a coin. You can't make a really bad choice from that bunch.
 
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Related to College Decision Debate -- Purdue, Penn State or Illinois for Engineering?

1. Which university has the best engineering program?

All three universities, Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois, have highly ranked engineering programs. It ultimately depends on your individual interests and goals.

2. What is the cost of attendance for each university?

The cost of attendance varies for each university and can depend on factors such as in-state vs out-of-state tuition, scholarships, and housing options. It is important to research and compare the cost of attendance for each university before making a decision.

3. How do I decide between Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois?

It is important to consider factors such as program rankings, location, cost of attendance, campus culture, and opportunities for internships and research. Visiting each campus and talking to current students can also help you make a decision.

4. Can I switch between engineering majors at these universities?

Yes, all three universities offer a variety of engineering majors and allow students to switch between majors within the school of engineering. However, it is important to check with each university for specific requirements and restrictions.

5. What are the job prospects for engineering graduates from these universities?

All three universities have strong connections with industry and offer opportunities for internships, co-ops, and networking. Graduates from these universities have a high job placement rate and are highly sought after by employers.

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