Help me choose an engineering school

(Cross-post from another forum)

Ok, I’m a Norwegian with one year left of my 3-year bachelor degree in engineering, space technology. It’s mostly an electronics course, not aeronautics, as you probably will connect space tech with.

Next year I’m planning to go to an American or Canadian school to complete a masters degree in 2 years. The problem is, I know nothing about the schools over there. So that’s why I’m hoping you could recommend some to me.

I would prefer a school that doesn’t cost more than $7,500 a year. But I fear that’s not very realistic. So with a little extra loan and a grant (that I will get only if I take the loan) I will be able to afford up to $21,000. Of course, if I’m very very lucky and get a Fulbright grant I can afford an even more expensive school. But I’m not really counting on that.

As I understand it, schools in Canada are cheaper. And it’s a safer country too. So do you think I should go for Canada?
I looked up rankings for Aerospace/Astronautics schools in the US. Looks pretty expensive.

*MIT: $29,400
*Stanford: $30,435
Georgia Tech: $15,400
*Michigan Uni: $27,376
Purdue Uni: $18,152
Texas Uni: $6,732
Illinois Uni: $18,412
Maryland Uni: $10,836
Penn State Uni: $19,914
California Uni: $18,807
Colorado Uni: $21,409

The ones marked with * I can’t afford. All are public except the first 2. I don’t know if there’s much of a difference, except that most public schools seems to be cheaper. Except University of Michigan.

Well, I studied EE at the University of Colorado, class of '88.

The engineering school is excellent, especially their aerospace department. They were the first to figure out how a bumblebee flies, as I recall. Ball Aerospace is just down the road, and (whoever it was that bought Martin Marietta) is not far away just west of Denver. Plus there’s lots of smaller aerospace and engineering firms in town… Orbital Sciences used to have a lab there, for instance.

There are other benefits: natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, along with all of the outdoor activities that they sustain… skiing, hiking, camping, biking, climbing, etc.

It’s also rated among the top 5 party schools in the country, consistently. I can attest to that, as well… it was certainly hard to keep my grades up with all of the babes, beer, and buds providing a constant distraction.

You should also look in to University of California at San Diego, University of Kansas, Virginia Tech… of the affordabel ones you listed, I think Georgia Tech has the aerospace department with the best reputation.

Also look into schools that have both a good engineering and good astronomy department (like Colorado and UCSD) for they often get NASA contracts to build space and satellite instruments.

Now, here’s another idea… come to work for my company, and they’ll pay for your master’s degree… if you want to attend University of Southern California or Cal Tech, we can offer you a good job and pay your tuition. We build analytical remote sensing instruments for earth science and planetary science. If you don’t want to work for us, I can suggest a couple other companies to work for… but we’re hiring and we don’t lay people off just because their programs end. Email me if you’re interested…

I’m not sure that University of Michigan is public. There’s Michigan State, which is. UMich has a fantastic aerospace graduate program, so if there’s a way to swing it financially, it would be a good choice. Ann Arbor is a prototypical US college town, so I don’t think you have to worry too much about your safety there.

Well, I graduated from MIT Aero/Astro, but it was several years ago, so you might want to make sure what I say is up to date.

What specific area are you looking into? If it’s avionics, you might want to check out what’s offered. At the time I was there, they had just discontinued avionics as a separate major within the Aero/Astro department, so it was just a selection of courses in our dept. and the electrical engineering. This may be more than enough for your purposes, though. If you’re looking at another area, (like aerodynamics, space, structures, etc.) let me know and I’ll tell you what I can.

Does this grant include being a teaching assistant? If not, you might be able to do that to make up the difference.

Due to the exchange rate, just about everything in Canada is cheaper. In terms of safety, one of the unfortunate effects of Boston’s excellent public transportation is that the hoodlums can use it too. When I was at MIT, there were a number of robberies and one murder. Of course, that was getting better by the time I left, so it may be much better by now. That said, the vast majority of people get through without any problems at all. I don’t want you to be scared off by a few incidents long ago, because you’ll risk missing out on many of the wonderful parts of Boston - the Museum of Science alone is worth the trip.

On your list, I’m only somewhat (or more) familiar with MIT, Stanford, UMich and Cal but you can get a good education at any of them. Be aware that there are many UC’s, and UC Berkeley is very different from, say, UC Santa Cruz. UC Berkeley is probably the one you’re thinking of.

That said, here is my standard speech on MIT. It is a wonderful place, and it gave me some of the best parts of myself, but it’s not for everyone. There’s a work hard / play hard ethic, and you really get to indulge your inner nerd. On the other hand, some people, who were used to excelling without a lot of effort, found themselves just another in the crowd. For me, that was kind of a relief, but some people hate it.

In other words, look at the atmosphere and find a place where you enjoy yourself and fit, not just the cost. There are plenty of universities where you can get a good education, but you need to find the best place for yourself.

I graduated from Penn State with a Mechanical Engineering degree. The engineering program there is pretty good. The Aeros I knew while there all either got jobs or acceptances into grad schools with their top pick (of company/school).

It’s been a while since getting that degree, so my grasp of the programs, etc. is a bit lacking. I am back there working on another degree now, though, so if you have any specific questions about Penn State - the environment, culture, etc. let me know.

I need to know more about want you want from the schools. I have no idea what engineering schools are like in Norway, but you will have vastly different experiences at the different schools in America. If you are the type who LOVES to spend all day in the lab or in front of the computer, and don’t want to be distracted by things like girls, parties, fun, etc., the hard core engineering schools (like Georgia Tech, MIT, CalTech, basically anything w/ “Tech” in the title, though some “Universities” are mainly engineering schools, too) are the place for you. If you want a more varied experience with some fun and girls thrown in and with many different types of peoople w/ different majors to hang out with, I’d look more towards the universities that offer many majors besides engineering. The Princeton Review will give you information about the quality of life and professors at different schools (I think it’s a pay site, though. You may be able to find information in the library for free). The US News and World Report College Rankings will give you rankings of the different schools (I think it’s a pay site again. You should be able to find this type of information in the library for free, though).

I can tell you that for Georgia Tech you will have a very powerful and well respected degree at a very good price, but it’s consistently ranked at the bottom for quality of life and quality of professors. Good sports teams, though. I’ve heard the MIT is essentially the same (but I have no direct experience), but with no sports. I’ve also heard the Colorado, Maryland, and Michigan are fun schools (but again I’ve had no direct experience). Which Texas? Austin? I’ve heard that’s a lot of fun.

Good luck.

Do you have any idea how large these schools are? You should investigate both the size of the whole school and the size of the program you are interested in.
Also, is there a particular area that you would like to do research in? If so, contact the schools and see which ones are doing research in that area. After that, you should try to see if there which programs that you are interested in have professors that you would be compatible with for doing research.

(Assuming that research is an integral part of the degree you hope to get, having an advisor whose style of advising is compatible with your needs as well as being involved in an area that you are interested in, and that stays at your University the entire time you are there is very desirable. The importance of choosing the right advisor for you can not be underestimated.)

I go to UIUC (University of Illinois) although I am not an engineer. However, my father is and his company, and a whole bunch of companies, recruit regularly out of the engineering school. It is ranked, overall, in the top ten engineering schools, I believe. I can’t tell you for sure about your specific department but you could easily go to US News and World Report’s website and figure it out.

The engineering school is money. Grainger Library is bar none, one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen. It is six stories high and honestly, it feels like entire sides of the building are made out of glass. Every chair is leather or cushy.

The University as a whole is up-to-date technologically as compared to my undergrad at McGill (which is located in Montreal, Canada and also has a decent engineering school). The student body is considered “moderate.” Its negative point is that it is located in the middle of nowhere.

I have some friends who are engineers there in the grad school although I’m not sure it’s in your area. Let me know if you want me to see if they could tell you more about it.

Like anu-la1979, I went to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for grad school (physics) and can attest that both their engineering and physics programs are excellent. It is in the middle of nowhere, though. Chicago is two hours away, at least.

I went to Michigan Technological University as an undergrad. I think MTU the best cost vs. quality of education you can find for engineering in the state of Michigan.

Not sure about their aeronautics programs for graduates, but its probably worth a look. You would find the climate similar very to Norway.

Cost of Education

Non-residents pay the same as residents for grad school. - link

The University of Michigan is a public school. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, though. I went out of state for less than it would have cost for in-state at UofM. (I grew up in Michigan).

I also second Keweenaw. da Tech is a great engineering school.

The question is: do you want to learn the material or do you want to pretend to learn it?

(Note that these are mostly based on overall eng. rankings, but I adjust when I know something about their AE programs. Some is from direct personal experience, some is from knowing faculty as those schools. Faculty in general know better than anyone the quality of the students produced.)

Georgia Tech is great if you want to slack off. Learn nothing, drink, still graduate and get a job (assuming jobs will exist).

But if you’re serious:

Of the public schools, I know that UIll and Purdue are very well respected in general by people inside and out. Mich. and PennSt are a small step down from those. MD and UTexas are another whole step down. Colo further down the list.

UCalB is a great school overall, but I don’t think it’s in the upper tier in most engineering areas.

This might be interesting to you. Toronto is a good city, similar to a lot of american cities but also significantly moer crime-free (since that seems important to you). Close to the States for travelling, etc. I don’t go to U of T though, so I can’t tell you much about it. This page has tuition and fees - it should be in your price range. AFAIK, you would also likely work as a teaching assistant and therefore get a stipend each year (something in the 12-18 000$ range)

I graduated from Ga Tech in Aerospace Engineering way back during the Clinton administration (OK, so it wasn’t that long ago. I may get jumped on for this, but one thing to consider is marketability. The company I hired on to out of college (see, it’s them, not me), went after specific “target schools”. These included Ga Tech, MIT, Stanford, Purdue, Cal Tech, University of Michigan, and probably some other schools that I don’t remember. They also recruited from the local schools, ASU and U of A. I’m sure the company that hired me is not the only company that has target schools.

Other schools that have excellent, well known engineering programs (IMO) include University of Illinois, Rensselaer, Texas A&M, and Penn State, off the top of my head.

So, while I’m sure Auburn has an excellent engineering program, your market base ends up being restricted to the Southeast, more or less. I’m not at all saying this is right or how it should be; it’s just my perception of companys’ hiring practices.

Eh, I don’t like my wording here. It sounds kind of dickish. There will be companies all over the U.S. (or wherever you’re planning to work) that will hire, say, Auburn grads, but there is a preference for “target schools” and local schools in any given region.

Thanks for all the answers! I looked for this thread a little while after posting, but didn’t find it, so I assumed no one replied and it just dropped off.

But I did a search for it now, and discover all these great answers. I’ll spend some time reading them now. (:

One thing… it’s not that I’m that worried about safety. I’m a pretty rational person when it comes to that. It’s just that Norway is a very safe country, and people have warned me that some areas of the US are a bit unsafe, and it should be a thing to consider.

Another UIUC grad checking in here. I got a BS in Computer Engineering there in 2002. I was constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the resources that engineering students have access to there! anu-la1979 had mentioned how beautiful Grainger Engineering Library is, but didn’t mention that it’s the largest collection of engineering books in the nation. The UIUC library system itself is the largest academic collection in the world! You’ll be in heaven if you like having such easy access to so much information.

There is an abundance of top-notch research facilities and is the home of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications among many other leading edge projects. All of my professors were tops in their fields and came from other top-quality schools such as MIT and Berkely and other international schools.

Sure, it’s out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a big school with 36,000+ students that are very active. The rural setting makes it a relatively safe place to live and is very inexpensive.

The best part is, UIUC has a great reputation with employers. You’ll have no trouble finding a decent job with a degree from there.

Go to Cal Berkeley. You can buy me a cheeseburger at Oscar’s.
[Ratso]I’m inviting you, goddammit[/Ratso]

Well, it’s more a matter of perception than reality.

For most Americans, their greatest risk of death and injury comes from highway automobile accidents, firearm accidents, and heart disease.

But just try taking away the average American’s cars, shotguns, and french fries! Heck, you’ll have a fight on your hands with half of us if you even suggest there’s something wrong with any one of the above.

Unless you live in a place like Harlem, South Side of Chicago, or South Central LA, you really have nothing to worry about from random violence. There are still places in the USA where people don’t even lock their doors at night.

But there are very few colleges in those neighborhoods cuz people don’t like waking up in the middle of the night to find a drunken frat boy sleeping on their couch. :smiley:

Actually, in terms of locales similar to those, I went to a school that was pretty close to it. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. Now, Troy isn’t too bad, I guess, but there are parts I wouldn’t even go to in the daytime with a full police escort. Most of the areas immediatly surronding the school, though, are decent enough, since a lot of the people living that close are students, faculty, and staff. But my last year there (this past year) was actually fairly bad…a rape 100 yards from campus, an advisory about a dude jerking off in a park (not the rapist, they actually did catch him,) muggings ON campus, and a rash of fraternity house robberies.

Anyways, safety issue aside, RPI is out of the price range anyways, altough they are pretty generous about giving scholarships out, especially to their master’s students. I know three guys who are on grad school now or starting in the fall, and all three have full rides, and are actually getting PAID to go once you factor in being a teaching assistant. Not a lot of money, mind you, barely enough to pay rent and food, really. But still, as long as you can find a professor who is doing a research project in your field, it’s not too hard to get some money out of them.