Small School or Large Technical University?

I am currently taking courses at a junior college, but I am looking to transfer either in the fall or spring. I have been accepted to Smith College and I have heard it is a really good school, but I'm not sure it is the best for engineering. They don't have specific disciplines to major in. I would like to major in biomedical, nuclear, or a combination of both. Would it be better to go to Smith and get a general degree, or would it be better to go to a school like U of I or Purdue?

What schools do you suggest I look into?

Thanks,

Marie
posted by Marie, Illinios on March 29, 2012

Answer 1 by Patricia Eng P.E.

Hello, Marie. Good questions.....First off, I think that it is important that you get a degree from a school with a strong technical reputation. Smith is a good school, but when I went there, there was no engineering school. They have been very active in encouraging women to go into engineering, but having been to both Smith and the University of Illinois, for the money, I would go to Illinois. ( I believe that you are an Illinois resident? Much less expensive, although Purdue is also a good school ) I would think that you would get a better education from the U of IL, on the other hand the competition will be more than at Smith. I went to Smith because I thought that having a degree from a Seven Sisters school would look good on my resume, but in the end, I left Smith because at the time, I felt that their physics department wasnt preparing me for the working world. When I got to the U of IL, it was a real culture shock. I went from a small girls school of 4000 women to a school of 40,000 students. It took me a while to get used to the pace of things. After I got used to it, I found it challenging. One thing I learned at U of IL that I dont think one can get from Smith is how to work in teams with both men and women. That happens a lot in the work place. I am somewhat partial to the nuclear engineering department, or NPRE as it is called now, and sat on the advisory board for them for a few years. I do not have first hand experience with their biomedical department, but I know that Illinois is working hard to improve the faculty and expand their department. What I can tell you, is that when I review resumes, I like to see graduates from a strong science and engineering school and U of IL certainly is one of those. There are some pitfalls in co-ed engineering schools - if you have a chance to take a quick look at a book written in 2002 by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher entitled, Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Although it is about computer science, it talks about some of the social issues faced by women going into technical disciplines in college. Dont let it scare you - but it might help you make up your mind. It is a short book and you can probably get it at the library. Well, this is a long answer to your question, but I hope it helps. I wish you the best of luck - and keep on going! Patricia Eng

Answer 2 by Christine Schmidt

Not sure if I am the best person to answer this, but here are my thoughts… Most of my experience has been with students who have a more specialized degree from a larger university. I have had one graduate student in the past who came from a smaller school with a general degree, and this person ended up having to take many additional “specialty courses” as pre-requisites before starting their graduate program. In general, I think for engineering, the specialized degrees and the larger more “engineering” or “technical” schools are the better option for later jobs and graduate programs.