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Recommend a college for undergrad math or engineering

  1. Jun 12, 2009 #1
    Hello all! I am a rising high school junior in Alaska who needs to start making a list of colleges to consider for undergraduate study. Here's some quick info about me:

    - Should have 9 AP classes by graduation (including Calc AB, BC, Stats, Physics, and Chem)
    - 4.0 unweighted GPA up to this point
    - 1410/2090 SAT from freshman year, will retake before applying and hopefully improve
    - Interested in an engineering or applied/computational mathematics major. I love problem solving and math in general.

    I would prefer a college with the following attributes:

    - Very rigorous academics in math/science/engineering
    - Opportunities for either coops/interships or undergraduate research
    - An on-campus community; not just a commuter school
    - I like the idea of a first-year general engineering program, since I doubt if I can say with absolute certainty what specialization I might prefer
    - No strong drug culture
    - Preferably located in the Four Corners, Northwest, or Canada. But I'm willing to consider other locations.

    I already have a list of my own, but I hope you can provide a fresh look to catch what I may have missed. Though I haven't posted much here, I have read many threads on this forum and I am impressed overall.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2009 #2
    Have you considered Waterloo University? It's very well-known for engineering.
  4. Jun 12, 2009 #3
    ^ Yes, it is on my list.

    EDIT: I might as well post what I have right now...

    Carnegie Mellon University
    Colorado School of Mines
    Georgia Tech
    Harvey Mudd College
    New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
    Northeastern University
    Purdue University
    University of Alberta
    University of British Columbia
    University of California - Los Angeles
    University of Cincinnati
    University of Michigan
    University of Minnesota
    University of Pittsburgh
    University of Utah
    University of Washington
    University of Waterloo
    University of Wisconsin - Madison

    Obviously a long list, but I'd like to start with lots of schools and then make cuts, visit, and make more cuts.
  5. Jun 12, 2009 #4
    I'm not quite sure what you mean by four corners since you mention northwest as well, but assuming that includes the southeast, you might look at Georgia Tech (which I am a student at) (edit: I see you posted a list and its on it, so nevermind). The co-op program here is very strong (something like 25% of all students co-op I believe), doing undergraduate research is as easy as asking a professor, and we have a reputation for being rather difficult (the average GPA here is something slightly below 2.8 I believe). There also isn't much of a drug culture (I'd say it has the smallest drug culture out of any of the schools I've been to).

    The engineering program here is very strong, ranked #4 overall in the country. You don't need to know what you want coming in - there is an undecided engineering major, and there aren't any restrictions on major changes (you don't apply to a specific school or anything). There is also an applied math major, and a discrete math major (I'm not sure if that's what you meant by computational mathematics, though).

    I can count the number of commuter students I know on one hand.

    In the interest of being honest, I'll list some downsides too. The most obvious one at first glance is a very skewed male to female ratio. I believe the school is only slightly below 70% male. You'll also work your *** off, though it sounds like that's what you're looking for. If you aren't careful, you can easily end up with a course load that will have you taking at least one all nighter per week (that's what I was doing for the first half of last fall). I say this as a physics major - I think engineering is more work than any other major. I seem to do less work taking 19-21 hours per semester than they do taking 12-14. That being said, I love this school. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

    Georgia is also rather far from Alaska. Let me know if you have any questions.
  6. Jun 12, 2009 #5
    Wow, that's great info. Here's some responses/questions:

    1. The list I posted is a general list of solid candidates that I am considering. They are not equal in my eyes, and I do prefer locations in the western half of the country. But I'm definitely considering Georgia Tech.

    2. How "Southern" is GT? I have family in Virginia, and even that is a bit of a culture shock. If you have lived elsewhere, how does it compare?

    3. What's the weather like during the year? I do badly with heat and humidity together...
  7. Jun 13, 2009 #6
    University of Illinois at urbana champaign is very good, it ranks very high on engineering charts. For electrical engineering, it's 3rd after MIT and Stanford according to US news, even higher than schools like caltech and berkeley.
  8. Jun 13, 2009 #7
    Atlanta and especially GT aren't terribly southern. I'm from the frigid nordlands as well, and I know I probably would have died if I went to a "real" southern school. Atlanta is definitely an island in that regard, though. Forty-five minutes in any given direction and you will be in The South.

    The first few weeks during the fall semester can be pretty miserable, but then the weather is generally pretty pleasant again until the summer. It doesn't get very humid, but it does get very hot. It gets cold enough that you can't wear shorts and a t-shirt during the winter, but I'm sure you're used to a bit of cold. I came to the south because I hate the cold and snow, and there is still too much of it for me (I want none at all!). This is the first summer I've spent on campus - it's been pleasant so far, but it's also only been a few weeks.
  9. Jun 13, 2009 #8


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    Good luck with that one.
  10. Jun 13, 2009 #9
    Urbana-Champaign is in the middle of the cornfields, right?
    Why? Is everywhere full of students whose lives are so pathetic that they have to dull their senses with intoxicants?
  11. Jun 14, 2009 #10
    anywhere you go, there are going to be people that use drugs. luckily for you, being in engineering or math, you wont be subject to as much exposure to those people. obviously there are exceptions, but in general the math/ engineering student aren't usually into drugs as much as arts students.

    Another vote for University of Waterloo, one of if not the top Canadian University for Math and Engineering. It's pretty serious business in the Faculty of Engineering and Math, though you will find some engineer or math parties if you wish to.
  12. Jun 17, 2009 #11
    ^ Good info.

    I just started reading about EngSci at the University of Toronto. It sounds almost ideal. There are some good threads about it already, but can anyone here attest to its reputation with employers? I may or may not go to grad school (too early to say at this point), and I would want to be able to get a job.
  13. Jun 17, 2009 #12
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  14. Jun 17, 2009 #13
    U of T is usually perceived as one of the more, if not most reputable in Canada, but reputation alone won't take you very far. if you want a basically guaranteed job, U of Waterloo has a great co-op program, where a lot students in their last couple co-op terms are offered a job for the company they are at. if you are not offered a job, then you already have cumulative of 2 years of work experience inside your field, which gives you a huge advantage over most other recent Uni graduates.
  15. Jun 17, 2009 #14
    In short, yes. Mainly art students.... fecking slackers the lot of them.

    It doesnt matter where you go, every Uni (no exceptions what so ever) has people who take recreational drugs, get used to it.

    You do realise that you can just not associate with these people, its not like because drugs are there they will tie you down and force you to take them.
  16. Jun 17, 2009 #15


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    I'd argue that the Canadian Universities are pretty equal, in terms of quality of undergraduate engineering education (however, some places have departments that are better for certain things than others, whether due to proximity of a NRC specializing in a particular field, or regional specialization). This may be more applicable for graduate / research work, but also affects the size of your department / class (e.g. way more petroleum engineers, and petroleum engineering specialization in Alberta than in, say, Ontario)

    Cost of education isn't super expensive (although it's usually at least double for foreigners what it is for Canadians), nor is the cost of living. Note that you may also be excluded from scholarships (again, because you're a foreign student).

    I don't know how it works in the US, but in Canada, you have a year of First Year Engineering before you get admitted into a discipline, and you get a chance to interact and find out more about the various disciplines. That is, if there isn't some burning desire to enter a particular discipline--note that I've known people that came in wanting to be X (say, an electrical engineer) and ended up doing something else, because it more appealed to them (say, environmental, or chemical).

    Many schools offer some variant of engineering physics (engineering science, whatever--a bunch more physics courses, and basically a mechanical or electrical engineering program). I believe it's considered the grad school prep program (although a small percent of the small graduating class usually go on to industry, or med / law / business school, etc.) Why is it usually a small class? Some combination of perceived esotericism (EngPhys--"Is that like engineering, or physics? can you get a job?"), perception that it's not great for going out into industry (that whole grad school prep thing again--and no, if you want an engineering type job, you can get an engineering type job), and, well, probably to ensure that you have a higher admission GPA (for whatever that means).

    As for drug culture... I think you may have been watching too many stoner movies. Yeah, you'll probably run into potheads in your first or second year (especially in residence--freedom from the parents can be a literally intoxicating feeling, but it carries the double-edged sword of all of a sudden being responsible for yourself), but they usually get weeded out first semester / year. I went to school with people that would occasionally toke up, but none that did it on a regular basis (and survived).

    Drinking age is 18 in Canada, but once again, it's up to you to discipline yourself. For the record, something like 40-60% of University students don't drink at all (this according to some informational campaign run out of the University--why bother lying about something like that?) You hear about people getting alcohol poisoning, but this is again the exception, and not the rule. As a former Orientation Volunteer, we always tried our best to let people know what they were diving into (but not in some paternalistic type of way--for better or for worse, you're a legally-recognized adult now, or soon to be one). We were also prohibited from recruiting people into Fraternities (or Female Fraternities, not Sororities--there's some hangup about that here in Canada), promoting them, or pushing people one way or another (ditto for religious groups, drinking societies, etc.) Nor were we to ever glamourize or trivialize drinking / drug use/abuse. And I believe that's the general culture you see.

    Maclean's offers a guide to Canadian Universities, but you have to decide for yourself what its metrics actually mean, as well as what deviations in rankings signify (every single school here has declined to officially participate in their rankings, and criticized their methodology). Still doesn't stop them from putting something together, though:

    Lastly, as an Alaskan, Canada may offer one other attractor: a really strong hockey culture! We also don't take ourselves too seriously (these are the Engineering Week videos from the Engineering Physics group at the University of Alberta):

    EDIT: No pun intended on the 'weeding out' part
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2009
  17. Jun 17, 2009 #16

    It's interesting the differences between the Universities in the UK and across the pond. I really cannot imagine univeristy life without the pub.

    I remember in the first year a couple of american students that came across to study and were completely shocked at the prospect of the pub. Even more so at people having 'another round' (tbh I dont think they got the concept of a round).

    I miss Uni so much.
  18. Jun 17, 2009 #17


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    Yup. I wonder if Americans under the age of 21 actually have any lowered accessibility to alcohol? Or whether they just end up imbibing that much more when they do get it and end up getting into trouble? Still not the culture you see in France or Germany where beer / wine are considered almost soft drinks and suitable for teens.

    At one point, we had 5 or so bars on campus (including one in residence) for the service of the student body, run by, or affiliated with, the SU. (There was also the Faculty Club, but that's the Faculty Club). I think they're down to 2 or so (things took a big nose dive after new management took over, prices increased, service decreased, and the quantity and quality of the live acts / performers went way down). Then again, there're the other 5 bars within a 2-block radius of the University, and the 30-something within a 10-minute walk (and the whole downtown district via a quick hop on the subway).
  19. Jun 17, 2009 #18
    BTW apologies to the OP for massively derailing this thread by talking about beer.
  20. Jun 17, 2009 #19
    Drinking age is 19 in Ontario, Canada.

    UofT has PEY
    UWaterloo has its own co-op
    Look into them and pick whichever
  21. Jun 18, 2009 #20
    It is but I prefer the whole college town experience (I'm a student there at the moment and I can't wait to go back). Plus, research opportunities and internships abound and employers recruit a LOT of our graduates in their junior or senior years. ;)

    But yeah, if cornfields turn you off that much, then go look for something else. It's an island of academia in fields of crops.
  22. Jun 18, 2009 #21
    I wasn't referring to Toronto as much as the EngSci program. From what I understand, more EngSci's go on to grad school than directly into industry, and I just wondered if it is possible to get a job straight out of EngSci.
    I've had no trouble finding a crowd that works for me in high school, and I doubt if I will in college either. My concern is more related to on-campus housing drug use...

    @MATLABdude: Thank you for all that information!
    I prefer a more urban environment to college towns. So I'll stick with other options.
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