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Nuclear Engineering with bad high school grades?

  1. Aug 11, 2011 #1
    Hi everyone. This is my first post so if this is the wrong section, I'm sorry.
    Skip to bottom for the basic questions; stay and read for lots of background info.

    Ok so I am a junior in high school. I have always found school easy, but I was verrry lazy and I hated my teachers my 9th and 10th grade years.
    I failed almost all of my 9th grade classes, not because they were hard, but because I didn't find them of enough importance and because my teachers stopped trying with me so quickly. Me failing was almost like my naive and childish way of getting back at those teachers.... it made sense to me at the time...
    My 10th grade year I did better, but still not great (D,C,B,B,B,A).

    Now I am about to enter 11th grade with some spontaneous motivation that I've never felt before. I refreshed my memory of Biology from when I failed it and taught myself geometry over the last month. I really want to go to college and do something with my life. I have been researching different careers and have decided on some sort of science or engineering. I am specifically looking at Nuclear Engineering. I know you need to do as much math and science classes as possible (my strong points) to succeed. So this year I am going to take Honors Geometry, Alg2/Trig, Biology, and Chemistry. This way, next year I can take Physics and AP calculus.
    If I try this year whole-heartedly, I know I can get a 4.0 or at least something 3.5 and above. I can get maybe a 2000 on the SAT if I do enough practice. I got a 1620 on the PSAT and I didn't really try. Uhmm, that's all the info I can think of.

    How hard is it to get into a normal 4-year college ((if you're 9th and 10th grades are bad but your 11th and 12th are 3.5 and above and have good SAT and ACT))?
    How hard is it to get into a nuclear engineering program ((^))?
    What are the best schools that offer Nuclear Engineering Bachelors programs?
    Would it be better to get a Bachelors in ME, then Masters in Nuclear?

    Thanks guys in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2011 #2
    I think that my situation two-three years ago could be described as analogous to yours, in many ways (right down to what I wanted to major in, in fact).

    I graduated HS with a 1.7 GPA, but knew full well that it wasn't my potential...I would describe my HS career as lackadaisical and aimless.

    It was my ACT scores (I believe) that ultimately got me into a 4 year college, and they weren't even very impressive (26 composite). I was actually accepted to a lot of schools on account of this alone (most of which I didnt even apply to -- the testing agency must have given them my scores and accepted me automatically, without even looking at my transcripts -- I certainly didn't send them these). I didn't really care to go to any of these schools though (because of money, mostly). I was pretty much set on doing well for 2 years at CC and transferring. (I ultimately decided that an in-state 4 year made the most sense, and was on par, price-wise, with CC)

    So, to answer your first question, it's not extremely hard -- and even if you don't get into a 4 year college it's not even close to the end of the world (it may even be better, depending on the situation. Personally, I think that I grew alot being away from home and going to a "real" college, taking a "real" engineering curriculum, but everyone is different).

    Second: Most nuclear programs are the products of well-ranked universities (texas A&M, UW-Madison, Ann Arbor, etc) -- universities with big budgets and relatively selective admissions. Because of this, it is more difficult than just getting into a 4 year engineering program. Chances are that you simply will not be able to get into these schools because of your first two years in HS (this is not a statement of fact, but merely probability). UW Madison, for instance (where I was looking at transferring to), requires two years of a foreign language just to be eligible for admission. These schools are just generally at the upper-end of selectivity (just for admission to the school -- the programs are a different story which I cannot speak to because I was looking at transferring directly into the NE program, not in as a first year THEN into NE).

    Here is a ranking page:


    but be cautioned, these rankings are 100% superficial. The first on this list is a medically oriented program (still Nuc Eng), and the very next is basically a pre-nuclear fusion/plasma engineering program. These two things are obviously very different, and if you go to the medically inclined program, but want to be a reactor designer...then that #1 really isnt worth a damn. I wouldn't blindly trust them.

    I personally think that getting a mechanical engineering degree is the smarter move (it is what I decided to do). It will be far easier (and more importantly, possible) for you to get into a decent mechanical engineering program than an NE program, and a mechanical engineering degree is much more versatile than a nuclear engineering degree, in terms of what you can do after you get it.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
  4. Aug 12, 2011 #3
    Have you considered going to a community college and then transferring to a 4 year?
  5. Aug 12, 2011 #4
    Honestly, I think you can still recover from your situation. Just do really well these next two years and if you don't get into a school that you wanted to. Try your hand at community college and transfer in.

    Honestly I'd use the graduate rankings http://grad-schools.usnews.rankings...ineering-schools/nuclear-engineering-rankings
    only for making the decision on your graduate school.

    You can get a pretty good undergraduate education at any Nuclear Engineering school, but it depends on what you are interested in. Each school has a different focus in their nuclear engineering degree program.

    Also, I'd avoid University of Florida's program for a few years, they are going to be struggling while they rebuild their program.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  6. Aug 12, 2011 #5
    Well, I know that here in Canada, universities only look at 6 of your final year courses, and there's no SAT-style test, so maybe try applying to some Canadian schools, at least as a backup. McMaster and Ecole Polytechnique (the latter being only if you're fluent in French, I think, but perhaps not) both have reputable Nuclear Engineering programs offered within their Engineering Physics programs. UOIT also, has NE, but I've heard mixed opinions. There are a few other schools around which offer some nuclear specializations without being explicitly NE programs, too.
  7. Aug 12, 2011 #6
    Undergraduate rankings do not exists for undergraduate nuclear engineering programs. Additionally, if you want to know what the "best" undergrad NE schools are (which was something jdav asked), you (a) cannot beat the schools on this list, and (b) can hopefully accept that, in the general sense, an undergrad program will be reflective of a graduate program.

    Furthermore, smart money is on not using rankings for any decision you make...if that's all that differentiates one school from the next in your eyes, I would reevaluate...

    edit: =O crazyisraelie!
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
  8. Aug 13, 2011 #7
    Well, I can't speak to UW Madison or Ann Arbor, but I was admitted to Texas A&M (and UT Austin, for that matter) with no high school background, but a 3.7 at community colleges. It wasn't nuclear engineering (aerospace, rather), but it should give you a good idea on how 'easy' it is to get into programs like A&M.

    You can definitely still get into a nuclear engineering program somewhere. It just depends on how hard you want it, and whether you're willing to settle (as stated in this thread by someone else) with a mechanical engineering degree and then doing grad school in nuclear engineering -- a totally viable option if a) you're rejected as a freshman straight out of high school, b) you're rejected as a transfer student.
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