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College Hunting! Answered

Hello, my dear Instructablonians!

Life has been busy, and I haven't been on here in AGES! I'm sure many of you have no idea who I am, and those of you who do know are either dead or are too afraid to admit they know me. But no matter! Let's continue!

In case you didn't know, I'll be graduating from high school next year! Yippee!

That means I get to go to college! Yippee!

But first I have to find a nice college so I will be happy and learn very goodly.

My dilemma is this: with 4000 colleges in the US of Awesome, there's really just too many apples in the basket, so it's hard to tell which is ripest (or, only a slightly cynical yet perhaps more accurate note, the least bruised).

So, my fellow Ibl'ers, this is why I've come to you: to ask you for opinions on good colleges!

Why you? Why, because I know we are similar! Instructables is full of inventors and makers and engineers! That's what I want to be when I grow up :-)

Also, many of you are either getting ready for college yourselves, or already in college, or have already finished college altogether! Perfect candidates, you see?

Anyways, just tell me about good schools you know of. Some of my criteria:
* I'm looking for 4 year institutions
* I don't wanna leave the US - too far from the nest, you see?
* I'm interested primarily in engineering (mechanical, aerospace, computer) and architecture (houses, not skyscrapers, in case you were wondering :-)
* Private or public - I don't really care

Assume that anything I didn't mention doesn't matter to me (oh, before I forget, I'm a guy, so no girls' schools, unfortunately). Also, feel free to discuss other colleges too! Good luck to anyone looking for a college, and TIA for anyone who helps out :D


I think of Stanford or MIT when I think of engineering colleges, but it depends on your level of devotion (how cool you want your resume?) to what you wanna do.

 I graduate the same year as thee :D

ASSUMING you've taken the SAT or PSAT or ACT or whatever, I've been poking around on collegeboard.com, they seem to have a pretty decent listing, and filling out the interest stuff really generates interest from colleges. For instance, I've got the SanFran College of Art and Design bugging me on the phone every week or so for industrial design. Free information NEVER hurts, and if the college is willing to up and call you and ask you to go, mucho better chances for SCHOLARSHIPS YO!!!!

Yeah, collegeboard etc are good, but they have their place. I'd go to CB and school sites for facts (ie, raw numbers) but there's too many subjective statements on their, obviously used to promote the school by highlighting its good qualities or otherwise stretching the truth. Which is why I'd like to get a few opinions from people who know a bit more about colleges than I do.

 sound points. Try also looking at like the guild of engineers for whatever, or whatever major society for them there is (for instance the Industrial Designers Society of America). They sometimes either have lists of accredited or recommended schools.

So I take it you're not staying in Texas? Are you looking anywhere in particular?

 I'd like to stay in Texas but only Rice university is acredited. My dad's family big thing was moving AWAY from Houston, I aint goin there :D Rochester Institute of Technology seems real keen for me, so does San Fran Academy of Art. It be a tough call, but once I'm gettin' real serious I'll do some more comparison and make it.

If price is no object, then you should go to MIT.  If you don't mind making a relatively long-term commitment to the government, you should investigate the Air Force Academy.  Beyond those personal suggestions of mine (and hopefully lots of other suggestions for you to sift through), you probably want to look up some of the "best colleges and universities" books, in particular those with an emphasis on STEM programs.

If price is an object, you should look at the public universities within your state, and sort the varying campuses by their STEM programs.  In California, for example, UCLA would be great if you want to do both engineering and architecture, but UC Merced would be a terrible choice.

Despite getting my Ph.D. at Caltech, I would not recommend it as an undergraduate institution.  While the academic environment is unparalleled (sorry, MIT :-), the social structure is extremely distorted.  A primary benefit of college is learning how to interact with adults as an adult out in the real world.  That includes learning how to treat your peers, of all genders, appropriately.  The social milieu at Caltech is rather hostile towards women, not because of any administration or formal bias, but just because there are too many hormone-enriched recent teenage males, who haven't learned how to treat women respectfully.

Keep in mind, as above, that this is all my opinion.  I am sure that there are plenty of Techers who would (will?) vociferously disagree with my characterizations.

What is STEM exactly? I know I've heard of it.

@Caltech: Just wondering if you're a woman. It's hard to tell on this Internet thing. Either way though, I understand how that would definitely get annoying. There's some of that at my school, and it's just irritating.

STEM is the latest business/guvmint buzzword for these sorts of courses; it stands for "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics."  You can sort of tell they shoved "technology" in there just to get something cute :-/

Nope, I'm male, as indicated on my profile (and as you can tell from my picture).  I'm just one of those sensitive modern guys who actually takes the whole "gender respect" stuff seriously ;->

I didn't even bother looking at your profile lol :/

 if you would pop into the chat room now and then, you woulda known that :P

I've been going on lately and you're never there!

I know right?? We need to work on our timing 

If it's the same as UK STEM, it's Science, Technology Engineering and Maths.


8 years ago

Maybe try to identify what “university culture” would be best for you. By culture, I mean something analogous to “business culture”. This can help find schools that will fit your style, maximizing your education and experiences. Some possibilities:
*Big / small : Do peers motivate you or do you prefer small interactions?
*Academic / professional : Theoretical or business orientation?
*Focused / broad : Learning a few things specifically or broad/have many options?
The plethora of American universities is a wealth of diversity, not just a headache. Identify what you want, then pare down the options. The many choices remaining can fit almost any situation.  For example, these two are bit out of normal discussions, but interesting:
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ , one of the top aerospace universities in the world. Has a nice focus on moving quickly into industry, such as fast-track degrees, (5-yr Bachelor of Science + Master of Science degree for ex). Internships at NASA, plus you get to study in Florida, beautiful coast and decent surfing.
The Copper Union right in NYC offers Architecture, Art and Engineering- a superb design atmosphere. The tuition is totally free if you can get accepted.
As an undergraduate, I had the privilege of escorting Dr. James Gates around my school for a day. His career advice:
The biggest opportunity a student has is in high school. At this time a student should explore and identify a field of interest (engineering, for example). Afterwards, determine acceptable profession(s) in the field during the first year of college. This is a merger of interest and commitment. Sophomore year, get a little ahead of the typically difficult last two years. Over the last summer, work a related job/internship and learn some of the work environment.
I like his advice, although it was too late for either of us at the time!

Ohhhh, I know one thing. I really do NOT want to stay in Florida :P

Thanks for the advice though! Definitely some things to consider. And wow, you got to spend a day with that guy - tbh I've never heard of him before, but to hang out with a theoretical physicist of his magnitude for even a day couldn't be anything less than awesome.

Fringe benefit of being the "Physics Club President".

Which leads me to two other pieces of advice for undergraduates.

1. Active leaders in professional clubs often have good networking opportunities.  Definitely pursue grades first, but participating in your respective professional society can really keep your learning fresher.

2. Try to be in the honors program at your college (if it exists).  More opportunities and much broader experiences.  At my school, honors students registered for classes second, just after handicap students and before matriculating seniors.

What about hanging out here on ibles with kelseymh? Somewhat awesome? tbh I've never heard of him before.  heehee

(Do I understand correctly that, in the US, you pick a university first, then select classes when you get there, earning credits that build up to a degree?

So Labot could get into Iblingville University, then select classes in mechanical engineering, marketing and Latin?)

It is really just a business deal.  You look for a college you think you can afford.  You pay the school every semester in an attempt to get the diploma.  The game is, they raise the prices every year and make it difficult to graduate on time by fiddling with the mismatched schedules and staff it with those poorly qualified "to teach".  You are given a goal of say 120 credits total to graduate.  No matter how you work it out you end up taking a few classes more and thus more money in their pocket, lab and other fees additional.  You don't like how things are going, change majors and take more required courses.  And if you stay for another year, how about they throw in a combined Master's degree in something.  Once they have you, they want to make you a perpetual paying student.  It's not really a focus on college or university as an academic pursuit but to say you have a piece of paper that gets you in the door to a job interview.  In today's economy, you might end up being overqualified by staying longer or miss out on having real world experience.   The trick is to work the system and make the most of it.    

That's the nail on the head, I've constantly been struggling to get one class to count as an elective just so I can graduate. I go to the dept, they say "no problem, your audit will be fixed in two weeks", repeat this every two weeks, I'm so )#)(&#(^( frustrated right now!!!

I'm afraid pottery class does not count as advanced ceramic coatings:application and refractory methods. Go Gators! Go 'Noles! Go whatever your school cheer is...

Yes, that's correct.  You don't even have to choose a major before applying and being accepted to University.  I was seen as extremely unusual when I entered UCLA having already declared my major in physics.  Some of my friends at the time stayed Undeclared right into their junior year!

Goodness me...

I don't think I'd ever finish taking classes...

 So how you Fn doing? 

I'll mention what you don't care to mention:
1. Possibility of any scholarships or some skill to get  you scouted?
2. You still have a year so it is good to start thinking about college choices now.
3. Is the school guidance counselor any good to offer suggestions?
4. Will your grades allow you to choose any college?
5. Are your folks footing the bill?
6. Have you ever been away from home for extended periods and can manage on your own.
7. Do you have a yearning to "find yourself"?
8. Is there any preference for the location - can't stand the cold or bear the heat? Like to be near a big city or in the hills?
9. Do you need to be near relatives or family?  Will your folks let you go out on your own? Do you have your own car? Can you get work?
10.  Any close friends or classmates you want to stick with?
11. Any family alumni that can put in a good word or $$$
12. Any idea of what company or specialty you want to work for after college?
13. Are you ready to deal with a "brain trust" pressure cooker type school or want a more diversified environment?
14. Does the school give you a free laptop?
15. Are the dorms roach motels?

Much more to list but probably the only thing I will say is not to pick the school based on it's name or reputation alone.  Hopefully you will find something that you will be happy in.

1. Are you referring to something that would make me stand out? I've got band, robotics team, academic awards, etc. under my belt if that's what you mean.
2. Yep.
3. Not really :| They like you to have at least SOME idea before you go to them. They really help more with the application/scholarship process rather than actually finding a college.
4. Pretty much. I'd say I'd even have a decent chance at some Ivy-tier schools.
5. No. I'll be responsible for it. I'm considering going to school part time and working. I'll also be looking into boatloads of scholarships. I don't want a huge college debt, but I'm willing to invest a reasonable amount into my college.
6. I can manage on my own. I haven't been away from home much, but I'm fairly self-sufficient at home as it is.
7. Haha, not really.
8. Anywhere in the US. I have more of a liking for urban areas, suburban's fine too.
9. I have a car. I can go far from home, it's not an issue.
10. Not really.
11. Not much of my family have gone to college. Those that have didn't attend prestigious ones.
12. Not really, tbh :/
13. I don't really understand?
14. Haha, I like your thinking. But this isn't an issue. I bought an awesome computer about a year ago, and I plan on it holding up for a while.
15. Good point.

Thanks for the input. Definitely some things I need to consider.

 They were rhetorical questions. I didn't need to know the answers.  But, that is what filling out  a college application is like anyway.

13.. Serious, look at the suicide rate at a school.  NYU has since glassed in the top floor balcony of their library to prevent the yearly attempts.