What are the Admissions Requirements for Engineering School?

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Engineers use science and math to solve problems. These problems can range from how to build a bridge to the best way to move cargo to what kind of writing to use for electricity in a building. What kinds of problems an engineer solves is determined by their specialty and job description. There are many different kinds of engineers, including electrical, mechanical, chemical, industrial, structural, civil, and even aerospace.

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. Choosing a school can also be difficult as admission requirements can vary widely. Students can narrow down their list of schools based on ones that have their desired type of engineering, any concentrations that may interest them, and how strict or lax the admission requirements may be.

With a bit of planning, 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. Here is a useful guide on the admission requirements for engineering school including examples of top programs students might wish to consider.

Admissions Requirements for Undergraduate Engineering Programs

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.

Standard Requirements

Depending on the school, there are three paths to declaring an engineering major.

Undergraduate students may be required to apply to the school overall, such as in the case of Stanford University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then they simply file a form to designate engineering as their major. These schools typically have high admission requirements and low acceptance rates. Students will need to be competitive, so applicants should expect to be able to demonstrate a solid background in mathematics and science. 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.

The second option is a school where students must apply to the specific college of engineering, such as in the case of Cornell University College of Engineering. The requirements for admission include:

  • A completed Common Core application
  • $80 application fee
  • Cornell College of Engineering Supplemental Essay
  • Two letters of recommendation from teachers
  • Secondary school reports submitted by a high school guidance counselor that includes a recommendation and official transcript
  • Mid-year grader report submitted during a student’s senior year
  • Required coursework including one unit of physics, one unit of chemistry, and four units of mathematics, one of which must be calculus
  • SAT/ACT test score
  • IELTS or TOEFL test for international applicants.

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 percent 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.

Application Process

The application process differs based on the school, but most students must apply in the fall for admission for the following fall. Students will have to submit various materials, typically through an online application. Undergraduate applicants to engineering school should expect to submit:

  • An online application
  • Two to three letters of recommendation
  • Official high school transcripts
  • Standardized testing scores
  • Essay/personal statement

Each school may have slightly different requirements, particularly in regards to essays and specific applications, though some schools accept a standard application, known as the Common Application. Most schools have helpful admission counselors available to help answer student’s questions. It can be highly beneficial to contact one in order to learn first hand about the necessary steps.

Deadlines

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, for fall admission. Some programs may have applications open as late as February.

Those applicants who wish to take advantage of an early decision should expect to apply by November or December. These applicants will receive a decision usually by February or March, although some early decision students may have offers of admission by January. It is critical to contact a chosen school’s admission department to be up to date on all the critical dates.

Admissions Requirements for Graduate Engineering Programs

The application process for graduate students in the engineering field differs from undergraduate admissions.

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 Master’s of Science in Engineering or Master’s of Engineering 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 the first language should also expect to submit TOEFL exam scores.

The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering has 22 engineering-related master’s degrees, as well as several graduate certificate programs. Most of these programs can be completed online or in a hybrid format, although there are one or two programs that must be complete on-campus. Admission requirements to graduate programs at the school of engineering include:

  • Already have a bachelor’s degree in a technical discipline or be in the final semester of studies. Must be a regionally accredited institution
  • Have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA or higher. Work experience or a graduate degree may substitute for a low undergraduate GPA
  • Submit official transcripts
  • International applicants must submit a degree evaluation and proof of English proficiency
  • Meet any additional requirements for the program of interest including letters of recommendation, work experience, and letters of intent.

PhD in Engineering Admissions Requirements

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.

PhD students will almost always apply directly to the department where they want to study. For example at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering admission requirements include:

  • An online application
  • A one to one and a half page personal essay
  • GRE scores
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A current resume or CV

Many MIT programs offer students the opportunity to enroll in dual master’s and PhD programs so a graduate degree isn’t always necessary. Programs are looking for well-rounded inquisitive applicants so low GPAs can be substituted with publications, work experience, or completed research.

Application Process

Graduate program applicants for either a master’s or a PhD, in general, should expect to submit:

  • Online application
  • Statement of purpose
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Application fee
  • GRE or other test scores

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 even work experience. Talking directly to a program can be beneficial as they will outline the steps a student needs to take to submit a competitive application.

Deadlines

Graduate engineering programs are more likely to offer rolling admissions deadlines and to admit students for both the Spring and Fall semesters. 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.