If you love solving problems and using STEM skills to come up with new ideas, then the field of engineering might be a perfect fit for you. The first step towards entering this noble profession is to find a college-level degree program that will train you to become an engineer. In this article, we discuss the main engineering degrees universities typically offer, and we discuss five tips to help you build a compelling application for any engineering program.
What Is Engineering?
Engineering is a broad term that covers the field of designing, creating, and building new things. While there are many subtypes of engineering that require special knowledge and training, most university level programs are centered around engineering degrees these main areas:
Mechanical Engineering: the design of machines, engines, vehicles, weapons, military equipment, robotics, farm machinery, tools, devices, and household items.
Electrical Engineering: the design of electronic devices and the accompanying processes for testing, manufacturing, construction, and monitoring.
Civil Engineering: the design of buildings and infrastructure (roads, intersections, bridges, tunnels, dams, railways, etc.)
Aerospace Engineering: the design of aircraft and spacecraft.
Biomedical Engineering: the design of equipment, systems, and devices used in medicine.
Chemical Engineering: the design of new processes, systems, and equipment for mixing, compounding, refining, and processing chemicals.
for Applying to Engineering Programs
Becoming an engineer requires a lot of dedication. Unlike many other collegiate-level programs that encourage students to experiment with their curriculum, most engineering programs have a highly rigorous, highly focused, STEM-heavy curriculum.
Accordingly, building a strong math and science foundation in high school is the best way to position yourself as a desirable engineering applicant. Chart your course to an engineering program and beyond with these five tips:
1. Do Your Best in High School
While it may sound cliche, doing your very best in high school is the first essential step to becoming an engineer. Before you can even apply to an engineering program, you will need to work hard in your high school math and science classes to build your technical skill set. We suggest:
Taking the most challenging math and science curriculum that will allow you to succeed
Writing organized notes and reviewing them often
Doing all of the practice problems your science and math teachers assign
Going for extra help whenever you need it
Spending ample time studying for assessments
Not only will this demonstrate to colleges that you are ready to handle an engineering program, but it will also give you the skills you need to succeed once you’re there.
2. Stay Active
In addition to learning the theoretical side of engineering through courses like algebra, precalculus, chemistry, physics, geometry, and calculus, try to find experiences that will allow you to put your knowledge into practice. Consider:
Joining a Club. Sign up for engineering-related activities like robotics club, math league, coding club, STEM club and/or anything that will let you exercise your STEM skills. These opportunities may be available both at your school and within your community.
Taking an Elective. If you have free space in your academic schedule, consider classes that will enrich your understanding of engineering concepts. If your school offers an engineering elective, this class is a must!
Doubling up. Many future engineers love math and science so much, they decide to double up on their favorite technical subjects. If you have the time and energy to devote to an extra math or science class for the year, don’t be afraid to seize the day.
3. Stay Busy During Summer
While there are lots of fun things to do during the summer, don’t forget that you can also use this time to strengthen your STEM muscles. This not only helps build your practical skills and experience, but it also signals to colleges that you are committed to becoming an engineer. We recommend:
Trying a STEM camp. First, review your school’s summer activities offerings to look for any STEM-related summer camps. Next, check with other schools in your area to see if they have any exciting programs running, or even do a Google search for national STEM camps that you might be able to attend.
Doing research. Keep an eye out for companies and universities that are looking for high school volunteers or interns to help with research. Working with an engineering firm or helping with a research project will definitely make you stand out and provide valuable practice with engineering.
Engineering on your own. If you love to build and experiment, why not create your own engineering projects this summer? You could download TinkerCAD to create your own inventions, take a free online engineering course on Coursera, or you could simply run science experiments to help you better understand the world around you. Either way, being proactive will bring you a few steps closer towards your dream of becoming an engineer.
4. Make a List of Programs
As you move through high school, you will start to learn more about the college process and decide which schools you would like to visit. Thinking about college can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t quite sure which field of engineering (or even STEM in general) is right for you. Here are some tips to help you feel more confident about navigating the college process:
Find Your Field. Most schools will require you to apply to a specific engineering program. Spend time researching each field of engineering to see which type best matches your interests. Speak with your math and science teachers too!
Use Your Counselor. Work with your school’s college or guidance counselor to create a list of schools that are a good fit for you academically, culturally, locationally, etc. Many engineering programs post a minimum SAT/ACT and/or GPA for their programs, which will help you narrow down which schools to put on your list.
Learn From School Representatives. Attend any representative visits (usually hosted by your school’s college counseling office) for schools that interest you. Ask the same questions about each school’s engineering programs so you can compare notes.
Schedule College Visits. Visit schools, and try to schedule a one-on-one meeting with an engineering student whenever possible to learn more about the engineering program.
5. Apply Wisely
Engineering programs can be competitive, so it’s important to have a well-balanced list. Here are some suggestions from a college counselor about how to maximize your chances of being accepted to a program:
Balance Your List. When applying to engineering programs, ensure that you have a well-rounded group of schools. We suggest aiming for one or two reach schools, two or three target schools, and one or two safety schools – your counselor can help you better understand what this breakdown might look like. You may also want to apply to a few schools/programs with a broader scope (like liberal arts, physics, or computer science) just to diversify your application pool.
Consider a Liberal Arts School. While most engineering programs are found in large, public universities, a number of small, liberal arts colleges are developing engineering programs as well. Union College, Elizabethtown College, and Trinity College all offer engineering programs designed for students who want a more personal college experience.
Understand Your Chances. When considering acceptance rates and academic profile of an engineering program, remember that the acceptance rate, testing profile, and average GPA for individual engineering programs can be vastly different from the school’s overall acceptance rate.
Once you have been accepted to a college-level engineering program, you should celebrate! But then you should get immediately back to work because the first year of any engineering program is no joke. If you are an aspiring engineer or know a young scientist who might be on this path, browse our selection of STEM-themed jewelry today for some inspiration.