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 the basic admission requirements for most schools. Applicants need to note that the exact requirements will vary from school to school, so it is crucial to evaluate the criteria, including deadlines, for the programs to which they hope to apply.

Standard Requirements for Engineering School Applications

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

The first is to apply to the school overall as undergraduate students, for example at Stanford University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They simply file a form to designate engineering as their major. Because these schools typically have high admission requirements and low acceptance rates, students must be competitive and be ready 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 considered positively.

Students declaring an engineering major after admissions to a college should be sure to spend time during their general education period taking advanced math and science courses, as well as introductory courses in the engineering department, to determine a specific specialty to pursue.

The second option is a school where students must apply to a 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
  • A personal statement
  • 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.

Though the range will vary, many engineering programs have GPA requirements for applicants. Most colleges expect a high school GPA of at least 3.0 or a 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 and SAT II subject tests in math and science areas.

Application Process for Engineering Programs

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 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 students’ questions. Contacting one to learn about the necessary steps can be highly beneficial.

Deadlines for Engineering School Applications

Most undergraduate schools only accept applications for fall admission, though there are certainly exceptions. Undergraduate applicants should expect to have deadlines for fall admission at the beginning of the year, usually around January. 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. Contacting a chosen school’s admission department must be up to date on all the important dates is critical.

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 applicants with an undergraduate experience different from their preferred graduate program, prerequisites will need to be completed before full admission is granted. Aspiring engineering students can find further admissions requirements in the following sections.

Master’s Degree in Engineering Admissions 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 different 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. However, 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 and several graduate certificate programs. Most of these programs can be completed online or in a hybrid format, although one or two programs must be completed 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. In addition, applicants to MS/PhD bridge programs, expect to present proof of an excellent academic background in engineering and evidence of research, publications, and other extracurricular and curricular contributions to engineering.

PhD students will almost always apply directly to the department 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. In addition, programs look for well-rounded, inquisitive applicants, so low GPAs can be substituted with publications, work experience, or completed research.

Application Process for Doctoral Programs in Engineering

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 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 for Graduate Programs in Engineering

Graduate engineering programs are more likely to offer rolling admissions deadlines and admit students for the spring and fall semesters. Those wanting to start a program in the fall should expect to apply by January, particularly if they seek scholarships or other financial aid. Spring admissions deadlines tend to be in the fall, with September and October being common deadlines for applicants.