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The 25 Best Engineering Schools in the US (and How to Get In)

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 13, 2017 12:00:00 PM

College Info

 

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Do you dream of building driverless cars or a space elevator? You should check out the best engineering schools in the US!

But with so many different engineering schools out there and intense competition for the top programs, how can you figure out where should you apply? To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of the best engineering schools in the US. We’ll explain a little bit about each school on the list as well as provide rankings within specific subfields of engineering.

 

What Is an Engineering School?

Engineering schools are colleges with a majority of majors and courses in applied sciences and mathematics. Rather than providing students with a broad liberal arts experience (of which science and math are just a small part), engineering programs center around taking the scientific and mathematical knowledge we have and applying it to real-world problems.

There’s also a difference between schools of engineering (which exclusively focus on engineering fields like mechanical and computer engineering) and larger universities that have strong engineering programs within them (like Cornell University’s College of Engineering). We’ve considered both types of schools in our rankings.

 

How We Ranked the Best Engineering Schools

In deciding which schools to include in our rankings, we focused only on the quality of undergraduate engineering programs. We did this by aggregating and comparing rankings from several different sources, including the US News & World Reports (weighted 2x the others because of their dominance), Niche (a student satisfaction-heavy ranking), and College Factual.

These rankings take into account factors like students’ salaries (both immediately after graduating and projected gains in the future), how popular that degree is at that school, student satisfaction, and how peers in the field view the program (mainly professors from other schools).

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The Top 25 Engineering Schools in the US

And now (drumroll please), our list of the best engineering schools in the US.

Note: All acceptance rates listed are for the school as a whole and are meant to give you a general idea of the schools’ selectivity. For more details on admissions for a specific program, you should contact the school directly.

Rank

School Name (Nickname)

Location

Admissions Rate

1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Cambridge, MA

8 %

2

Stanford University

Stanford, CA

5%

3

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

Atlanta, GA

32%

4

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Pasadena, CA

9%

5

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Terre Haute, IN

58%

6

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

24%

7

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

7%

8

University of California—Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

Berkeley, CA

15%

9

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor (UMich)

Ann Arbor, MI

26%

10

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

15%

11

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, CA

13%

12

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)

Blacksburg, VA

73%

13

Texas A&M University—College Station

College Station, Texas

66%

14

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (Cooper Union)

New York, NY

8%

15

Columbia University

New York, NY

6%

16

University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL

62%

17

Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

59%

18

California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly)

San Luis Obispo, CA

31%

19

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

13%

20

Penn State—University Park

University Park, PA

51%

21

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Troy, NY

42%

22

Colorado School of Mines

Golden, CO

38%

23

Duke University

Durham, NC

13%

24

Rice University

Houston, TX

16%

25

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Olin)

Needham, MA

11%

 

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Best Specialized Engineering Programs

While all of the schools on our list are highly ranked overall, certain specialties are stronger at certain schools. We’ve chosen the gold, silver, and bronze medalists for five different subfields:

  • Aerospace engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Mechanical engineering

The rankings here are based on specialty rankings from US News & World Report and College Factual, again for undergraduate programs only (not including the quality of masters or doctorate programs at the school).

You’ll notice some overlap over different fields (for instance, MIT is first or second place in every field and Georgia Tech ranks for most of them), but there are still clear differences in which schools are best for which specialty.

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Best Aerospace Engineering Schools in the US

Aerospace engineering is the field you go into if you’re interested in studying flight of any kind (whether that’s aircraft or spacecraft). The best aerospace engineering programs can be found in the following four schools:

Gold medal: MIT

Silver medal: Georgia Tech

Bronze medal: RPI and UMich — Tie

 

Best Chemical Engineering Schools in the US

Chemical engineering is at the intersection of chemistry, biology, math, and even some physics. The following three programs all do an outstanding job at turning out graduates skilled in chemical engineering.

Gold medal: Georgia Tech

Silver medal: MIT

Bronze medal: Stanford

 

Best Civil Engineering Schools in the US

Students in civil engineering programs learn about designing, building, and maintaining physical structures like bridges, buildings, and roads. The following three schools have leading programs in civil engineering for undergraduates.

Gold medal: MIT

Silver medal: Georgia Tech

Bronze medal: Caltech

 

Best Computer Engineering Schools in the US

Computer engineering programs focus on teaching students computer science and electrical engineering. The fours schools we’ve listed below have the best undergraduate computer engineering programs in the US.

Gold medal: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Silver medal: MIT

Bronze medal: Stanford and University of Michigan — Tie

 

Best Mechanical Engineering Schools in the US

Mechanical engineering programs teach students the theory and practicalities behind machine design, construction, and use. Of all the top engineering schools, the following four are known for their strong mechanical engineering programs.

Gold medal: MIT

Silver medal: Georgia Tech

Bronze medal: Stanford and Harvey Mudd — Tie

 

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3 Top Tips for Applying to Engineering Schools

Now that you know what the best engineering schools in the US are, the next step is to make sure your high school transcript and application show that you’re a strong engineering candidate.

We’ll go over three useful tips for planning your standardized testing, coursework, and extracurriculars to have the best chance of getting into top engineering schools.

 

#1: Ace SAT/ACT Math

If you want to get into a top engineering school, you need to get a perfect or near-perfect score on SAT or ACT Math. Getting an 800 or a 36 is best, especially for schools like MIT where only 25% of students got below a 760 or a 34 on the SAT or ACT Math sections.

For engineering schools in general, it’s way better to get 800 on SAT Math and 550 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (for a total SAT score of 1350) than it would be to get a 700 on Math and 700 on EBRW (total of 1400). Extremely high math scores (and mediocre reading/writing scores) are always, always preferred over medium-high math scores and medium-high reading/writing scores.

At a minimum, you’ll need to get at least a 700 on SAT Math or a 30 on ACT Math to have a chance of getting into a good engineering school.

If you take any SAT Subject Tests, it’s important to take and get a perfect 800 on a SAT Math Subject Test (preferably Math 2C) to show you’re strong in Math beyond what’s covered on the SAT or ACT. Getting a perfect or high score on SAT II Physics or any other science Subject Test as well isn’t required, but it also will help your application.

 

#2: Take Lots of Science and Math

If you want to get into top engineering schools, it's less important to be well rounded than to show that you have a solid foundation in math.

Showing that you’re strong in science, too, is a nice bonus, particularly if your strength is in a field closely related to the type of engineering you’re interested in (e.g. bio or chem for chemical engineering).

Demonstrate your strengths to colleges by taking (and excelling) in advanced math and science classes. This means taking honors-level, AP, or IB courses and putting as much effort as you can into getting top grades in them, even if it means you end up with relatively lower grades in other subjects.

 

#3: Excel in Math and Science Extracurriculars

As PrepScholar co-founder Allen Cheng discusses in his guide to getting into Harvard and the Ivy League, the key to getting accepted to the most selective institutions is to build up a “spike” in a certain area. For engineering schools, this area is (you guessed it) math and/or science.

Taking part and scoring highly on Math or Science Olympiads and participating in competitions like Intel or Siemens Westinghouse are crucial to building your engineering extracurricular creds. PrepScholar co-founder Fred Zhang particularly recommends going to the RSI science and math camp and scoring highly on the AIME to boost your chances of acceptance to top engineering schools in the US.

 

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What’s Next?

Where can you get the most money to study engineering? Find out with our compilation of the best engineering scholarships.

Not sure if engineering is the right subject for you? We go into what some of the other highest-paying college majors are in this article.

Liked this list of schools? Check out some of our other best-of-specialty-school lists, including the best film schools, best video game design schools, best journalism schools, and best creative writing schools.

 

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Laura Staffaroni
About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.



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