Applying to engineering school is an essential first step on the path to becoming an engineer, no matter what specialty the student plans to pursue. The application process for both undergraduate and graduate students can be nerve wracking, since the results can have such a big impact on the trajectory of one’s career. However, with a bit of planned research and preparation, it is possible to apply for and obtain admission at top engineering schools for the best possible chance at a successful career.
Incoming undergraduates who know they want to study engineering at the collegiate level should take the time to understand what the basic admission requirements are for most schools. It is important for applicants to note that the exact requirements will vary from school to school so it is important to evaluate the criteria, including deadlines, for the programs to which they hope to apply.
Depending on the school, undergraduate students may be required to apply to the school overall, such as in the case of Stanford University, or to the specific College of Engineering, such as in the case of Cornell University. Either way, engineering applicants should expect to be able to demonstrate a solid background in mathematics and science, so the more courses high school students can take in these subjects, the better. Advanced courses, such as at the AP level, are also taken into positive consideration.
Students declaring an engineering major after admissions to a college should be sure to spend time during their general education period to take advanced math and science courses, as well as introductory courses in the engineering department in order to determine a specific specialty to pursue.
Many engineering programs have GPA requirements for applicants, though the range will vary. Most colleges expect a high school GPA of at least 3.0 or demonstration that the student was in, at minimum, the top 25% of their graduating high school class.
Standardized testing requirements are also quite common for engineering schools. Many schools require the SAT or ACT along with SAT II subject tests in math and/or science areas.
Undergraduate applicants to engineering school should expect to submit:
Each school may have slightly different requirements, particularly in regards to essays and specific applications, though some schools to accept a standard application, known as the common application.
The majority of undergraduate schools only accept applications for fall admission, though there are certainly exceptions. Undergraduate applicants should expect to have deadlines in the beginning of the year, usually around January or February for fall admission. Those applicants who wish to take advantage of early decision should expect to apply late in the year prior to their attendance (e.g., November or December).
The application process for graduate students in the engineering field is somewhat different. Firstly, most students should expect to apply directly to a specialty program, such as civil engineering, electrical engineering, or biomedical engineering. This means having a substantial background – either educational or practical – in that field. While programs may accept those applicants that have an undergraduate background that is different from their preferred graduate program, prerequisites will need to be completed before full admission is granted. Further admissions requirements can be found in the following sections.
Standard MS or MEng Requirements
Applicants to graduate engineering programs should hold a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by the ABET, the American Chemical Society or other recognized national body. International applicants may have to prove the validity of their undergraduate program in other ways.
Many graduate engineering schools have a GPA minimum of 3.0 for undergraduate work (this standard may apply only to major coursework) and require standardized testing. The GRE is the most common required test for graduate engineering schools, although programs such as the New York University Management and Management of Technology programs will accept a GMAT score in place of a GRE. Students for whom English is not a first language should also expect to submit TOEFL exam scores.
The requirements for PhD admissions can certainly vary widely from the MS or MEng program requirements. Most notably, PhD programs often have a higher GPA expectation (greater than 3.0) and may also have a higher threshold for GRE scores. For applicants to MS/PhD bridge programs, expect to present proof of an excellent academic background in engineering as well as evidence of research, publications, and other extracurricular and curricular contributions to engineering.
Graduate program applicants, in general, should expect to submit:
Different departments may have additional requirements. For instance, the Cornell University Biological and Environmental Engineering program requires a resume while the other Master’s of Engineering programs do not. Other programs may require additional letters of recommendation, essays, or test scores.
Graduate engineering programs are more likely to offer rolling admissions deadlines and to admit students for both the Spring and Fall Semester. Those wanting to start a program in the Fall should expect to apply by January, particularly if they are seeking scholarships or other financial aid. Spring admissions deadlines tend to be in the Fall, with both September and October being common deadlines for applicants.