Question: In your opinion, what is the best school in Virginia for someone that wants to become an aerospace engineer? Also, what classes in high school should I take to get in?
by Grace, VA
on March 28, 2012
Both the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have Aerospace Engineering programs that have been accredited by ABET (the board that makes sure an engineering program meets expectations for granting engineering degrees). I did not go to school in Virginia and believe that the quality of education at both would be great, so it is up to you to decide which is best for you. You may like to look at the two programs (and maybe contact the schools to see if you can speak to students who are studying there). It is really up to you to decide which one might fit you best. You should also like the environment in general.
You can find Virginia Tech's Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at: http://www.aoe.vt.edu/ Since aerospace includes the study of fluids, air and water can be related in how they react... in other words, an airplane in air is similar to studying a submarine in water. You may find this interesting and the department offers degrees in both areas of study. Mechanical engineering study is in a separate department.
You can find the University of Virginia's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at: http://www.mae.virginia.edu/ This program concentrates on both mechanical and aerospace engineering and the department grants degrees in both areas as well.
In any engineering school, they will look for good grades and effort in math (strong Algebra Geometry and some Calculus if you can) and sciences (Physics in particular). But don't be deterred if your grades are not all straight As or if you struggle here or there in Physics or Calculus. I certainly admit that I did not like every aspect of every subject I took in high school! It doesn't mean you can't get in and do well! Aerospace is a fun curriculum. Good luck!
I passed your question to a professor of AOE at Virginia Tech. This is what she had to say:
Dear Grace from VA,
You are quite fortunate in that you live in a state with many wonderful Aerospace Engineering programs. For example, Old Dominion and the University of Virginia both have strong Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering programs. In my admittedly biased opinion, the best Aerospace Engineering program in the state is at Virginia Tech! As for what courses to take—I urge you to build a strong math and science background. Work hard at math and physics, and if you can take AP Calculus and AP Physics in high school that will certainly help prepare you for an Aerospace Engineering degree program. Seek out opportunities to learn more about planes and/or spacecraft. As just a couple ideas, you can get exposure to small airplanes by participating in an EAA Young Eagles Day (http://www.youngeagles.org/), and NASA’s website (http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/index.html) has all sorts of educational/motivational information. Lastly, Universities like to see strong students (high GPAs in rigorous courses) and well-rounded individuals (active in clubs, sports, music, student leadership, etc…) so being involved in your community is a good thing! I hope this helps answer your questions.
Dr. Leigh McCue
Aerospace and Ocean Engineering
I am a graduate of the University of Virginia and believe that you can get an excellent engineering education at many institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For aerospace engineering in particular, your two choices are Virginia Tech and UVa, both excellent schools.
You should take as much math as you can in high school, through calculus if possible, and in the sciences, you should have biology, chemistry and physics.