Undecided students and STEM majors

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leftcoaster
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Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by leftcoaster » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am

Visiting colleges with my high school junior, who is interested in STEM but unsure as to which specific field.

Some schools (private, $$$$) admit students and put them through a rigorous core, with exposure to several engineering disciplines, CS, and math. Only after that do they choose a major. This seems wise - not many high school students know whether mechanical or electrical or chemical engineering are right for them.

In the UCs we’ve visited, you have to specifically apply to the School of Engineering and ask for a specific major - electrical engineering, for example- which you cannot exchange for another engineering major with any likelihood of success. You could change to sociology but not to some other stem fields.

Is this common at other public schools? How have BH families navigated? Little question that the first approach has great appeal but the price is triple.

Our guide at a private college had no CS experience at all, emerged from the core with that as her pick (no constraints), and will soon graduate to a job at a respected Megacorp. This path does not exist at the public universities.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by ramsfan » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:15 am

Not an expert at all, but I agree with you it seems odd for a 16-18 year old to need to declare a specific major in their application. However, our experience at large public universities is that my daughter put down Mechanical Engineering, but once accepted to the School of Engineering, she has been able to dive deeper and we have not seen any resistance to here changing to CS, Math, or another Engineering discipline. Most of the schools also offer .5 or 1 credit hour "exploratory" engineering classes in the disciplines, to help the student finalize their decision while attending school. Not the same as the schools who say "come in and you do not have a major", our curriculum is broad and we don't let you decided until XXX (which is healthy and beneficial in my opinion).

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djpeteski
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by djpeteski » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:23 am

If it was me, I would advise the student to pick up chemical if they are very interested in chemistry. If not then pick between electrical or computer science. Electrical if they prefer lower level, basic stuff, computer science if they are a big picture type person. No matter what discipline is chosen, there should be a decent amount of study and competence in writing software. There seem to be a lot more mechanical engineers then jobs these days.

Generally speaking state colleges are such a good deal (cost wise) that all majors are crowded and concessions have to be made.

The private school thing sounds very alluring, but is it worth the cost? Lets say your child goes into CS at a state school, but decides they want to later go into chemical. They could add on a minor in chemistry or chemical engineering to their BS. That would probably qualify them for a job in the field. They could then go for a masters in chemical engineering. All of that for less cost than the private school (probably).

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:29 am

Any good engineering school will require the basics of many engineering specialties to be learned. There is also some overlap and of course the basic sciences and math that all engineering students will take. My son changed his major from computer engineering to civil engineering after a year and a half. Since civil requires basic EE courses, he's got those taken care of. The math and physics and chemistry all carry over. He has now decided to double major civil/mechanical and many courses are dual listed as civil/mechanical, but are the same course as these majors are closely tied. Being a EE myself, although not required, I took a good number of computer programming courses.

For an undecided student, doing things like doubling up on sciences (take chem and physics at the same time) and taking shared required courses (statics, math, intro EE...but take the course EEs take, not EE for non-majors or it won't count for EE track).

In my college, we were in major courses by the second year. There can be some of the above strategy used to hold off but look at the sequence of courses. You don't want to miss a course that's offered once a year and is required for all following courses.

Summers are also a good time to catch up or spread out. At my BSEE alma mater, summer tuition is greatly reduced (although as a private college, it's still more than normal state college tuition).
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by JohnFiscal » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:32 am

I am an engineer and it seems unusual to me that a current student must declare a major immediately upon entering (or before). As was described, students entering the engineering curriculum may not have a perfect handle on the field they wish to go into.

In my experience and observations, the first year (or more) of classes is a common core curriculum, common to all engineering disciplines. That was my own experience in the 1980's and seems to be the case even now with the 6-8 young engineers hired at my company over the past few years (all fresh grads).

Admittedly, it may be necessary to enter the "College of Engineering" for traditional engineering fields or the "College of [whatever other]" for computer science, or biological sciences, etc. I do recall though that some of my student colleagues changed disciplines within the College of Engineering without too much trouble.

There is an accrediting agency for engineering curriculums, the ABET. Engineering students do not want to go to a non-ABET school (they may not realize they don't want to, but they don't). In order to be accredited, all undergraduate engineering schools must meet the same requirements on core curriculum, academics, labs, etc. Practically speaking then there is no special advantage to taking the undergraduate degree at a good state school or a prestige university. But schools definitely differ when it comes to graduate programs.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by leftcoaster » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:43 am

JohnFiscal wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:32 am
I am an engineer and it seems unusual to me that a current student must declare a major immediately upon entering (or before). As was described, students entering the engineering curriculum may not have a perfect handle on the field they wish to go into.
Both UCSD and UCSB admissions departments told me that there are size constraints on the number of students admitted to certain majors (chiefly engineering, CS, some physical sciences). So if you come in undeclared you may not get the desired major once you figure that out. At UCSB the admissions officer said it was “very unlikely” that an undecided student could get CS later. She also said that school of engineering admits are for precise fields only and that the resource constraints make changes “very unlikely.” Madness!


From UCSB

“STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO UCSB COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING ADMISSIONS
Step 1: Choose your engineering major
Each applicant must apply to a specific major. ”

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:58 am

There are usually so many core required courses for engineering that you can't graduate in 4 years if you didn't start out in engineering cranking out those requirements. It is common for students to start in engineering then transfer out, but very unusual to start in something else but then transfer to engineering. Ah, yes, thinking back on the freshman chemistry and calculus "flunk out" classes in the large auditoriums makes me almost nostalgic. But there are a lot more students that think they want to do engineering without knowing much about it than there are students who can handle college multivariable calculus.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Glockenspiel » Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:15 am

I'm an engineer who got a B.S. in Civil Engineering and I find that really odd that once you declare your major that they wouldn't be able to switch to a different engineering major after a year or so.

In my experience, the vast majority of the first 1.5 to 2 years are core science and math classes that most/all engineering students will have to take. These include Calculus, Calc 2, Calc 3, Differential Equations, Physics, Physics II, Chemistry, Chem II, Computer Science, maybe Statics, Dynamics, and Thermodynamics as well. In those classes, you will find many different engineering majors grouped together. I had classes with many Electrical, Mechanical, Construction, Industrial, Computer, and Chemical engineering majors in my first 2 years.

The 2nd semester of sophomore year or beginning of junior year is when you typically start taking discipline-specific classes.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Glockenspiel » Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:18 am

NotWhoYouThink wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:58 am
Ah, yes, thinking back on the freshman chemistry and calculus "flunk out" classes in the large auditoriums makes me almost nostalgic. But there are a lot more students that think they want to do engineering without knowing much about it than there are students who can handle college multivariable calculus.
I'm getting nostalgic there with you. Freshman year, sitting in Chemistry class with 400 other students in a large auditorium, knowing 25-50% of them will change majors because they can't handle Chemistry I and II.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by barnaclebob » Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:37 am

NotWhoYouThink wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:58 am
But there are a lot more students that think they want to do engineering without knowing much about it than there are students who can handle college multivariable calculus.
Ah, the only math class I got an A in. It wasnt too hard to add the third dimension IMO. And now I just got paid $30 while my computer takes forever to install updates and boot. If only they could see me now.

OP, at my state school, Purdue 10 years ago, you would apply to the college of engineering and all freshmen took the same courses except those that got scammed into honors freshmen engineering. After that you appy to the specific engineering school which only really had minimum gpa requirements.
Last edited by barnaclebob on Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by rob65 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:41 am

I suggest taking the admissions officers at their word. I understand what other posters are saying that this doesn’t make sense and that it didn’t used to be that way, but some public universities are facing enormous enrollment pressure in popular majors and there really might not be any available seats in some majors.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by LadyGeek » Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:52 am

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (career guidance).
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by afan » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:30 am

As people have noted above, it is a matter of resources. The expensive private colleges have low student/faculty ratios and lots of classroom and lab space. They can admit students and let them figure out their majors once they get there. The admissions office trys to build a class that will include a broad range if majors, but if they get a higher then expected number of EE majors one year, the university could deal with it.

At some state schools, particularly the UC system, the demand for positions in the engineering fields is so high that they enroll the maximum they can handle. The only way to be sure the students can get their courses is to limit the numbers. As it is, in many engineering programs it is common for students to be unable to enroll in all the courses they need to graduate in 4 years.

At many private universities these courses would have capacity far beyond the number of students who will sign up. So there is effectively no cap in the numbers. I have seen unexpected spikes in enrollment in courses handled by booking extra lecture halls, recruiting more grad students to teach sections and labs, bringing in extra professors as needed. All of which is possible only if a department is not at capacity from day one.

The students already admitted to specific majors will be taking the same introductory classes. But once they move on to the courses unique to their majors the university can handle more engineering students if they are required to pick their majors from the start.

Now one could ask why they don't expand capacity for engineering students given the demand, but that would be expensive.
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Watty » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:43 am

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:43 am
Both UCSD and UCSB admissions departments told me that there are size constraints on the number of students admitted to certain majors (chiefly engineering, CS, some physical sciences). So if you come in undeclared you may not get the desired major once you figure that out. At UCSB the admissions officer said it was “very unlikely” that an undecided student could get CS later. She also said that school of engineering admits are for precise fields only and that the resource constraints make changes “very unlikely.” Madness!
Part of the problem is that as an incoming freshman getting admitted to some degree programs like some Computer Science programs is very competitive and only a fraction of the high school students who apply will be accepted.

One thing that a rejected student might try would be to enroll in the University in some less competitive degree program or as some sort of undeclared major program and then try to transfer into the selective program later on. Universities try to discourage this "backdoor admission process" by making it harder to transfer into the selective program than it is to get admitted into it as an incoming freshman.

My experience is very dated but one of the important distinctions at the state university that I went to was that within the university the different programs were divided into different colleges, like the college of Engineering or the college of arts and sciences. It was easier to change majors within the individual college, like from electrical to mechanical engineering, or from chemistry to geology since they were in the same college or department within the college. It was not automatic though and you still had to apply needed a specific GPA which depended in how selective the major was. Changing majors between something like chemistry and mechanical engineering was harder because you were switching colleges and the GPA requirement was higher.

Of course when some major had openings and looking for students it was pretty easy to transfer into that major so the requirements varied from year to year depending on the enrolment.
leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am
Visiting colleges with my high school junior,....
Many colleges have will have summer or weekend programs for high students going into their senior year. You might see if you can find one that gives an overview the STEM majors to help her figure out what she wants to major in. Within reason it probably does not matter which college she takes one of these at.
leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am
How have BH families navigated?
With a state university system it is also more complex since they have multiple campuses and they all have different admission and transfer requirements. When I was in college I ended up changing majors to a degree that was not offered at the campus I was at so I had to transfer to a different much smaller state university that was about a hundred miles away. If she finds that she wants to change majors and cannot get into it the major at the flagship university she may be able to get into that major at a different campus.

For a fallback plan it would be good to check out what the transfer rules are in your state and what other less selective campuses might have degrees that she might want to change to later on.

In the state I was in college credits would all transfer between the different university campuses so that was not a problem for me.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by adamthesmythe » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:46 am

> In the UCs we’ve visited, you have to specifically apply to the School of Engineering and ask for a specific major - electrical engineering, for example- which you cannot exchange for another engineering major with any likelihood of success.

Historically some private institutions (i.e., my former employer) have gone through periods of restricting enrollment in particular engineering disciplines. Not right how, but it has happened. Depends on how well the school has matched resources to current demand.

> Some schools (private, $$$$) admit students and put them through a rigorous core,

mm, not all. The core is smaller in scale some places, partly as a result of more flexibility in accreditation requirements. State schools, especially mid-ranked state schools, hew closer to the traditional core.

> the first approach has great appeal but the price is triple.

Make sure you know whether you would end up paying list price, or discounted.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Sarah Saverdink » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:49 am

Do you have any local universities that offer summer programs to explore different fields of engineering, aimed at High School students? The Boston area has several colleges with 1-2 week programs for pre-college students to explore various technical disciplines.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by bert09 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:54 am

This might be a little bit pedantic, but I think it's probably good to just say "engineering" and not "STEM". I have noticed that a lot of people fall into what I consider the "STEM" trap where you are still doing science, but will have very different job prospects. For example, someone graduating with a Chemistry degree vs. a Chemical Engineering degree is probably going to have different job opportunities and probably a different pay scale as well upon graduating.

In my experience, getting only a BS in a plain "science" degree is going to be far less lucrative than getting an engineering degree in a related field. Even between engineering majors this can be a problem - for example, I would be very cautious about majoring in Biomedical Engineering unless you are planning on getting an advanced degree or going to med school.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by itsgot8 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 11:18 am

bert09 wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:54 am


In my experience, getting only a BS in a plain "science" degree is going to be far less lucrative than getting an engineering degree in a related field. Even between engineering majors this can be a problem - for example, I would be very cautious about majoring in Biomedical Engineering unless you are planning on getting an advanced degree or going to med school.
This is good advice to heed. A friend of mine got a degree in physics yet has been working in the IT field for the past eight years. He would have been far better off going for an engineering degree. I can't imagine how frustrating it would have been to get a b.s. only to have to help people reset the password to their computer.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by btenny » Fri Apr 06, 2018 11:43 am

When my daughter was looking at UC schools they told us flat out that they had severe class crowding problems. This was in 1999 at UCB and UCSLO. The graduation time in those days was at 5 years for most degrees and sometimes 6 years for some engineering and architecture degrees. This was one of the reasons I did not like those schools. She ended up going in Arizona along with hundreds of other California and Arizona kids. She started in Architecture and changed to Computer Science after 1.5 years. She was a little frustrated with the extra class time she had to spend getting all the right classes for the CS degree. She had lots of extra class credits in non related fields that were not usable for the CS degree. But she graduated in 4.5 years so the switch was not that bad.

So I would not be too worried about forcing your kid to choose a major right away. The issue is how much time it will take them to graduate if they switch. If they are willing to go slower when they decide on a exact major and get "in sync" with the classes for the major they select they will be fine.

Good Luck.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by snowman » Fri Apr 06, 2018 12:26 pm

I am not an engineer, but we went through the admissions cycle 3 years ago with my son, and this time around with my daughter. They both wanted to study engineering, they kind of knew what they would prefer but weren't really sure. I say that's typical for 17-18 year olds. So it was very important that they apply to engineering schools where they can receive substantial financial aid/scholarships, and where they don't have to commit to a particular major right away, and where it's easy to switch majors if needed.

What we found (and later confirmed with my son's experience) is that most public and private engineering schools ask you to declare expected major on your application, but there is no real commitment to it. His freshman year, your son will take math, physics, chemistry etc. classes with everyone else, plus he will have an option to sign up for easy engineering classes where they will have people from the industry come in and talk about that specialty. By the fall of sophomore year, your son will have better idea what he wants to major in, and that's when he will apply to a specific major.

Now, having said all that, there were schools and/or specific majors that required commitment up front. UC schools were at the top of that list, due to high demand and not enough space. Not only that, graduating in 4 years is nearly impossible due to overcrowding. I kind of feel bad for CA kids in that regard, and it's one of the reasons why so many of them go out of state for their engineering degree.

I also remember that there were specific majors that required commitment upfront at engineering schools that don't usually require commitment. There was one at UIUC, I think CS, not sure. Same was true for CS at CMU and Biomedical major at JHU, if I remember correctly.

So overall I would take admissions people at their word, they are not lying to you. But outside of CA it works very differently. If your son did well on PSAT and will be named NMF, he can get free engineering degree at a number of schools outside of CA. I think that's the best deal around.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by feh » Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:48 pm

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:43 am

Both UCSD and UCSB admissions departments told me that there are size constraints on the number of students admitted to certain majors (chiefly engineering, CS, some physical sciences). So if you come in undeclared you may not get the desired major once you figure that out. At UCSB the admissions officer said it was “very unlikely” that an undecided student could get CS later. She also said that school of engineering admits are for precise fields only and that the resource constraints make changes “very unlikely.” Madness!

It varies by school While these UC schools apparently try to lock you in early, there are other public universities that are more amenable to a change of major.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by blevine » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:31 am

Sometimes in life, you do get what you pay for.
Sons at a private college both had opportunity to switch.
ME and b-school both to CS.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Marylander1 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:26 am

blevine wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:31 am
Sometimes in life, you do get what you pay for.
Sons at a private college both had opportunity to switch.
ME and b-school both to CS.
I suspect it's more correlated with school size (and the bureaucracy and resource constraints that grow with size) than cost. My undergrad was a small public engineering and science school, where we were free to change majors anytime until filling out the form to graduate. Tuition was one-twentieth of friends' private schools.

Marylander1

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by dbr » Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:20 am

Both my daughter and I went to schools where a person's actual concentration was not really fixed until graduate school. In fact our actual careers were/have not even been fixed through a duration of employment. We both have/had careers in science and engineering. I grant this was not as holders of actual engineering degrees, which is different. but STEM is supposed to be Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, not just an actual degree in engineering.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by craimund » Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:07 am

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am
Visiting colleges with my high school junior, who is interested in STEM but unsure as to which specific field.

Some schools (private, $$$$) admit students and put them through a rigorous core, with exposure to several engineering disciplines, CS, and math. Only after that do they choose a major. This seems wise - not many high school students know whether mechanical or electrical or chemical engineering are right for them.

In the UCs we’ve visited, you have to specifically apply to the School of Engineering and ask for a specific major - electrical engineering, for example- which you cannot exchange for another engineering major with any likelihood of success. You could change to sociology but not to some other stem fields.

Is this common at other public schools? How have BH families navigated? Little question that the first approach has great appeal but the price is triple.

Our guide at a private college had no CS experience at all, emerged from the core with that as her pick (no constraints), and will soon graduate to a job at a respected Megacorp. This path does not exist at the public universities.
I switched from Computer Systems Engineering to Materials Engineering during my Sophomore year back in the 1980s. Wasn't a problem at all. It would have been more difficult going the other way since systems engineering was in much higher demand at the time.
"When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose"-Bob Dylan 1965. "When you think that you've lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more"-Dylan 1997

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:20 am

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:43 am
JohnFiscal wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:32 am
I am an engineer and it seems unusual to me that a current student must declare a major immediately upon entering (or before). As was described, students entering the engineering curriculum may not have a perfect handle on the field they wish to go into.
Both UCSD and UCSB admissions departments told me that there are size constraints on the number of students admitted to certain majors (chiefly engineering, CS, some physical sciences). So if you come in undeclared you may not get the desired major once you figure that out. At UCSB the admissions officer said it was “very unlikely” that an undecided student could get CS later. She also said that school of engineering admits are for precise fields only and that the resource constraints make changes “very unlikely.” Madness!


From UCSB

“STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO UCSB COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING ADMISSIONS
Step 1: Choose your engineering major
Each applicant must apply to a specific major. ”
This is absolutely right and consistent with the Canadian public universities.

They are massively oversubscribed especially for EE and CS Engineering streams. Thus, they cannot offer this flexibility to students. Very unlikely translates as if your kid is not the next Claude Shannon, then probably no dice (and I don't know what Shannon's undergrad grades were like).

When students are paying far more to the cost of their education (at private colleges, the undergrad programmes, at least the lower years, subsidize the research and postgrad) the universities have more resources to offer the students, and need to provide a more "customer oriented" service-- thus flexibility.


I don't know if you are considering U of Washington but the Comp Sci (engineering) was very good there in my day. Also, it sounded like a cool place to be a student-- coffee shops, hip vibe. OK Berkeley, but if you cannot get in to Berkeley. Don't know the other UCs as well. Major tech employers in the Seattle metropolitan, so easy to get summer job interviews etc.

Engineers in undergrad tend to provide their own entertainment/ social system. And that's really important in undergrad. That, along with opportunities to actually be exposed to good professors, are probably the most important things, in retrospect. Otherwise, it's very easy to get lost on the campus of a big public university and to have a poor experience-- at such an important time in life. Also, your best friends in life, the ones you keep, seem to come from that 18-22 years old period, if I look back at my life (a couple left from high school, a few from since, but the core 5-8 friends from that time).

That would be my reservation with UCLA say. Fantastic academics in many areas, as good as a state U gets, probably. But -- a commuter school?

I understand U of C system has a particular admissions system based on HS grades? I.e. not SATs ?

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:30 am

Sarah Saverdink wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:49 am
Do you have any local universities that offer summer programs to explore different fields of engineering, aimed at High School students? The Boston area has several colleges with 1-2 week programs for pre-college students to explore various technical disciplines.
This is fantastic advice. The colleges that do do this sort of thing, I believe, make an effort to make it enriching and to "sell" the college. Maybe that can be a false note (actual undergrad profs are seldom such good teachers). But it's really important.

Of course all colleges have outreach programmes to non traditional student demographics if that is relevant. I know a daughter of a friend who is one of 4 women in a class of 154 in Computer Engineering at her university (a North American public one).

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by harrychan » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:44 pm

Leverage contacts and connections you have who are in engineering. Set up a meeting with your friends and relatives who are in the engineering field. heck, some of their own friends parents may be a good resource to interview and see what working as a particular engineer is like. That mwill help narrow the field.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Mudpuppy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:32 pm

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am
In the UCs we’ve visited, you have to specifically apply to the School of Engineering and ask for a specific major - electrical engineering, for example- which you cannot exchange for another engineering major with any likelihood of success. You could change to sociology but not to some other stem fields.

Is this common at other public schools? How have BH families navigated? Little question that the first approach has great appeal but the price is triple.
By "UCs" do you mean University of California? Most likely what you are seeing are "impacted" majors, which means the campus has higher demand for that major than they have capacity to teach. So there are a limited number of seats for that major. People must apply to specific majors, not just specific campuses, and be given one of the seats in that major to be allowed to pursue that major. Impacted majors is common at University of California campuses, and can be found at some of the California State University (CSU) campuses, but not all CSU campuses.

Edit: Didn't notice the post where you said this was University of California. Yes, what you are seeing is impacted majors. I think the only UC that is not majorly impacted in STEM is UC Merced. Most of the LA-area CSUs also have a lot of impacted STEM majors. You'd need to look up at the Central Valley or Northern CA CSUs to find non-impacted majors. Another option is to start at a California community college and get an Associate's Degree for Transfer (ADT), which is a legally mandated community college degree in California. The ADT specifically, and not any other degree offered by a community college, gives a student guaranteed admission to a CSU campus and a guaranteed 2-year path to the degree. UCs are not mandated to take the ADTs, but most of them do if the student has good grades.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by jalbert » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:18 pm

Engineering majors are so popular right now that many universities are using a competitive process for admission to the major when admission is granted to the university. While this has many downsides, the benefit is to avoid overbooking the slots they have available for required classes. There normally will be two separate admissions decisions: admission to the university and admission to the major. If a student applies say for computer science and is not competitive for such a slot, they may still be admitted to the university.
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ReadyOrNot
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by ReadyOrNot » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:27 pm

You still have time to get more information. Ask Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona if they allow more flexibility. (I would guess they should be.) The UC schools have more prestige, but may not be best for all students.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Mudpuppy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:55 pm

ReadyOrNot wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:27 pm
You still have time to get more information. Ask Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona if they allow more flexibility. (I would guess they should be.) The UC schools have more prestige, but may not be best for all students.
Both Cal Poly campuses are actually CSUs. Cal Poly SLO is impacted campus-wide in all majors (they're also short a dormitory right now due to a mud slide into one of the dorm buildings during last spring's rain storms that's still being repaired). Cal Poly Pomona is impacted in most STEM majors. You can see all impacted CSU programs here: http://www.calstate.edu/sas/documents/I ... Matrix.pdf

Edit: Fun fact about Cal Poly Pomona, they have an Arabian horse breeding facility on-campus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._K._Kel ... rse_Center

curmudgeon
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by curmudgeon » Sat Apr 07, 2018 4:04 pm

The Efficient Market Hypothesis does not apply to state universities in California. There is a tremendous amount of turf protection and backstabbing going on behind the scenes as departments try to protect their tenured slots and budgets. The needs and interests of the students come way down on the priority list. The result is the stronger schools and campuses have "impacted" majors which are difficult to get into as a freshman, and nearly impossible to transfer into later. The current system is pretty well entrenched, so I don't see much prospect for change.

The most highly regarded programs are probably the worst in this respect. I suspect some of the schools may have "paper" restrictions on major change, but not actually be such a problem. Others, like Berkley, UCLA, UCSD, CalPoly-SLO will, in fact, be very difficult to change to certain majors.

Doing 2 years at a community college and then transferring is one option, but it would be important to be self-motivated to excel when the peer group may not be strong students. Alternately, a less prestigious university campus may still have a decent program and more flexibility.

Private universities are often much more market driven and responsive to student needs, but after the top tier may not have as strong of facilities or as broad of programs.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Shikoku » Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:26 pm

JohnFiscal wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:32 am
There is an accrediting agency for engineering curriculums, the ABET. Engineering students do not want to go to a non-ABET school (they may not realize they don't want to, but they don't). In order to be accredited, all undergraduate engineering schools must meet the same requirements on core curriculum, academics, labs, etc. Practically speaking then there is no special advantage to taking the undergraduate degree at a good state school or a prestige university.
That is an extreme generalization.

"UC Davis, UCLA and UC Berkeley have ABET-accredited computer engineering programs, UC San Diego and Stanford do not."
Source: http://www.cityonahillpress.com/2016/09 ... editation/

I do not think student want to go to UC Davis and UCLA instead of Stanford to earn a computer engineering undergraduate degree. I prefer a non-ABET-accredited computer engineering degree from Stanford over an ABET accredited degree in the same discipline from UC Davis or UCLA.
"I don't worry too much about pointing fingers at the past. I operate on the theory that every saint has a past, every sinner has a future." -- Warren Buffett

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Mudpuppy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:04 pm

Shikoku wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:26 pm
I do not think student want to go to UC Davis and UCLA instead of Stanford to earn a computer engineering undergraduate degree. I prefer a non-ABET-accredited computer engineering degree from Stanford over an ABET accredited degree in the same discipline from UC Davis or UCLA.
That's great.... if you're okay being hired as a "technician" instead of an "engineer" at the industry jobs that want ABET accredited degrees for the people holding the "engineer" title (which usually means a lower pay scale), if you're okay spending 4 more years as an Engineering-in-Training (EIT) in California before sitting for the Professional Engineer (PE) exam (and not even being allowed to become a PE in some other states if your degree is not ABET accredited), if you don't want to work as a civilian contractor in engineering for the military (you must be from an ABET accredited program to work for the military in an "engineer" position), and numerous other "engineer" positions that are only available to accredited degrees. That still leaves other career paths available, but it's a lot to give up just to have a degree from Stanford.

Note that Computer Science does not have this restriction since there is no PE exam for Computer Science and NCEES is in the process of discontinuing the Software Engineering exam. But there is a PE exam for Electrical and Computer Engineering: https://ncees.org/engineering/pe/electrical-computer/

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Shikoku » Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:00 pm

Mudpuppy wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:04 pm
Shikoku wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:26 pm
I do not think student want to go to UC Davis and UCLA instead of Stanford to earn a computer engineering undergraduate degree. I prefer a non-ABET-accredited computer engineering degree from Stanford over an ABET accredited degree in the same discipline from UC Davis or UCLA.
That's great.... if you're okay being hired as a "technician" instead of an "engineer" at the industry jobs that want ABET accredited degrees for the people holding the "engineer" title (which usually means a lower pay scale), if you're okay spending 4 more years as an Engineering-in-Training (EIT) in California before sitting for the Professional Engineer (PE) exam (and not even being allowed to become a PE in some other states if your degree is not ABET accredited), if you don't want to work as a civilian contractor in engineering for the military (you must be from an ABET accredited program to work for the military in an "engineer" position), and numerous other "engineer" positions that are only available to accredited degrees. That still leaves other career paths available, but it's a lot to give up just to have a degree from Stanford.

Note that Computer Science does not have this restriction since there is no PE exam for Computer Science and NCEES is in the process of discontinuing the Software Engineering exam. But there is a PE exam for Electrical and Computer Engineering: https://ncees.org/engineering/pe/electrical-computer/
Anyone wants to hire Stanford computer engineers as "technician" should keep dreaming. People who hire Stanford computer engineers do not care about ABET accreditation. That is why Stanford computer engineering program does not care about ABET.
"I don't worry too much about pointing fingers at the past. I operate on the theory that every saint has a past, every sinner has a future." -- Warren Buffett

random_walker_77
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by random_walker_77 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:12 pm

EE is a field where it's important to attend an ABET-accredited program. But, as an EE, while you could become a licensed PE, most EE's I know don't bother as it matters only for certain subspecialties (power transmission?). If your plan is to work for a silicon-valley type job in microelectronics, computer hardware, and the like, you won't need it and no one cares whether you get a PE. Contrast this with, for example, Civil Engineering, where you're really going to want to get the PE.

Big Dog
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Big Dog » Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:28 am

UC schools were at the top of that list, due to high demand and not enough space. Not only that, graduating in 4 years is nearly impossible due to overcrowding. I kind of feel bad for CA kids in that regard, and it's one of the reasons why so many of them go out of state for their engineering degree.
Generally not true. The UC's are extremely generous with AP/IB credit. They are impacted and want to get you out as fast as possible, or at least in 4 years. My son's good friend from HS just graduated from UCLA engineering and when he showed up, they gave him a schedule for four years, with few spots for electives.

Sure, many may take 5+ years to graduate but that is not necessarily due to overcrowding. Rather, its due to a failed class Frosh year, requiring remediation, or it is due to the fact that UC admits many low income kids (Pell grantees total ~30% of student body), and those kids have to work to support themselves and their families. Thus, they take a minimal course load.

fwiw: Berkeley EECS has a mean time to graduation of 7.9 semesters, i.e., <4 years!

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by cherijoh » Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:34 am

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am
Visiting colleges with my high school junior, who is interested in STEM but unsure as to which specific field.

Some schools (private, $$$$) admit students and put them through a rigorous core, with exposure to several engineering disciplines, CS, and math. Only after that do they choose a major. This seems wise - not many high school students know whether mechanical or electrical or chemical engineering are right for them.

In the UCs we’ve visited, you have to specifically apply to the School of Engineering and ask for a specific major - electrical engineering, for example- which you cannot exchange for another engineering major with any likelihood of success. You could change to sociology but not to some other stem fields.

Is this common at other public schools? How have BH families navigated? Little question that the first approach has great appeal but the price is triple.

Our guide at a private college had no CS experience at all, emerged from the core with that as her pick (no constraints), and will soon graduate to a job at a respected Megacorp. This path does not exist at the public universities.
That sounds odd to me, but it has been a long time since I was looking at colleges for undergrad.

One suggestion for your junior is to start doing some informational interviewing with your friends, parents and older siblings of their friends etc. That might help to narrow done the field by finding out what types of jobs people have who get a specified type of degree. See this link for some good informational interview questions.

FYI - If your child is considering Math, I would suggest looking at Statistics or "Data Science" instead. I expect "Big Data" will be providing lots of jobs in the future. I wouldn't recommend a pure science or plain Math as it may require a graduate degree to get a decent job. My undergrad degree is in ChemE and was able to find a job, the chemistry majors were either pre-med or headed for a PhD program.

deikel
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by deikel » Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:17 pm

leftcoaster wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:09 am
Some schools (private, $$$$) admit students and put them through a rigorous core, with exposure to several engineering disciplines, CS, and math. Only after that do they choose a major. This seems wise - not many high school students know whether mechanical or electrical or chemical engineering are right for them.

In the UCs we’ve visited, you have to specifically apply to the School of Engineering and ask for a specific major - electrical engineering, for example- which you cannot exchange for another engineering major with any likelihood of success. You could change to sociology but not to some other stem fields.

Is this common at other public schools?
My local Community College has a great AA degree that covers all aspect of ENG including computer science, math, physics, electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering....basically a very solid STEM base the kids can decide later on what they want to do after having had two courses each and figure out where their telent/interest is.

So, not at all limited to expensive private schools, more an indication of actually thoughtful course management IMO.
Everything you read in this post is my personal opinion. If you disagree with this disclaimer, please un-read the text immediately and destroy any copy or remembrance of it.

RetiredCSProf
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by RetiredCSProf » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:11 am

One option in California is to go to a community college (CC) for 2 or 3 years before transferring to a UC or Cal State. STEM students at CC's are encouraged to focus on math, science, and computer science classes instead of trying to fulfill the general education requirements (e.g., instead of sociology 101, music appreciation, ...). That is, they are encouraged to "spread out" the non-STEM classes over their undergraduate years.

Another option, although more pricey, is to go to a private liberal arts college (LAC), which usually offers more flexibility in switching majors. A couple years ago, I had one student in my CS class (at a LAC) who had switched her major from Bioengineering to CS at the beginning of her junior year, and another student who switched her major from CS to Journalism in the middle of her junior year.

Cal Poly SLO is for engineers. One parent told me her daughter went to Cal Poly SLO for engineering, but later decided it was not for her. She had to transfer to a different school to change her major to something other than engineering.

I think the difficulty in switching majors may be unique to public schools in California in the current decade. I remember a few years ago (well, OK maybe it was 40 years ago), when UCLA offered a BS in Math/CS - basically, students took half the math classes they needed for a BS in Math and half the CS classes they needed for a BS in CS.

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Mudpuppy » Mon Apr 09, 2018 1:53 am

RetiredCSProf wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:11 am
One option in California is to go to a community college (CC) for 2 or 3 years before transferring to a UC or Cal State. STEM students at CC's are encouraged to focus on math, science, and computer science classes instead of trying to fulfill the general education requirements (e.g., instead of sociology 101, music appreciation, ...). That is, they are encouraged to "spread out" the non-STEM classes over their undergraduate years.
To get an Associate's Degree for Transfer (ADT), a STEM student will need to complete a lower-division general education pathway approved for that ADT. If there is any intention to transfer to a CSU, the student should spend the extra money / time needed to get the ADT at the community college. An ADT provides legally mandated rights and protections for transferring to CSUs that other community college degrees do not provide. It's the smartest choice to make at a California community college for any major that has an approved ADT (not all of them do). See the following CSU page for the guarantees given to ADT transfer students: https://www2.calstate.edu/apply/transfe ... nsfer.aspx

Valuethinker
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by Valuethinker » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:35 am

cherijoh wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:34 am

FYI - If your child is considering Math, I would suggest looking at Statistics or "Data Science" instead. I expect "Big Data" will be providing lots of jobs in the future. I wouldn't recommend a pure science or plain Math as it may require a graduate degree to get a decent job. My undergrad degree is in ChemE and was able to find a job, the chemistry majors were either pre-med or headed for a PhD program.
Ok here's my take, and I am 30 years out of date on this.

Someone with a math major can take additional stats courses and position themselves for "Data Science". It's largely a matter of 3rd & 4th year electives PLUS getting experience with "R"?

The problem with Data Science as a degree might be (besides popularity and thus challenges getting in) that you unwittingly narrow down your range of post graduation choices?

The flip side is grades. At a large Canadian public university, 30 years ago, a math major was just about the hardest liberal arts major. Maybe even harder than physics. Certainly harder than all but the most high level engineering disciplines. Most of my friends switched down to Applied Math, or Computer Science.

Maybe Math with Statistics or Applied Math with Statistics is the way to go?

bert09
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by bert09 » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:44 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:35 am
cherijoh wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:34 am

FYI - If your child is considering Math, I would suggest looking at Statistics or "Data Science" instead. I expect "Big Data" will be providing lots of jobs in the future. I wouldn't recommend a pure science or plain Math as it may require a graduate degree to get a decent job. My undergrad degree is in ChemE and was able to find a job, the chemistry majors were either pre-med or headed for a PhD program.
Ok here's my take, and I am 30 years out of date on this.

Someone with a math major can take additional stats courses and position themselves for "Data Science". It's largely a matter of 3rd & 4th year electives PLUS getting experience with "R"?

The problem with Data Science as a degree might be (besides popularity and thus challenges getting in) that you unwittingly narrow down your range of post graduation choices?

The flip side is grades. At a large Canadian public university, 30 years ago, a math major was just about the hardest liberal arts major. Maybe even harder than physics. Certainly harder than all but the most high level engineering disciplines. Most of my friends switched down to Applied Math, or Computer Science.

Maybe Math with Statistics or Applied Math with Statistics is the way to go?
I don't have a great pulse on this, but I do have some friends currently going down the "data science" route right now and work at a big tech company - I think you might be understating the importance of being proficient at programming, including being able to write database queries, etc. Machine Learning/AI is also somewhat synonymous with "Data Science" as well.

If it were me going back top school right now, I would probably get some combination of a major/minor in computer science/math/statistics.
If you can't make it specifically in "Data Science" because that field has cooled off or was over-hyped, you would still be able to fall back onto a more conventional software programming job.

LawEgr1
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by LawEgr1 » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:37 pm

I'm well qualified for this question. I have one liberal arts STEM B.S. and another B.S.E in ChemE. Two entirely different animals with two entirely different career prospects and reputation. Quite frankly, I may as well leave the LA STEM off my resume.

At the undergrad I went to (ABET - D1 State University), the following was very true. Keep in mind this is within 5 years of graduation.

1) One must qualify for the College of Engineering and get admitted. These requirements are quite different from, say, the business school and typically more competitive.

2) Upon admission, you apply for a major. ChemE, EE, MechE, Civil, BiomedE, etc.

3) The first year everyone essentially takes the same classes. Engineering foundational courses, upper level mathematics, liberal arts, etc. For example, chemE majors would take the chemical courses (inorganic & organic) along with your typical physics, etc. Additionally, the core foundational classes all majors took. So all majors took circuits, statics, dynamics and thermodynamics. These essentially were weeder courses and dumbed down for everyone to take, but it gave you a flavor of other engineering disciplines (ish). For ChemE, you still took the basic thermo course, but then you took two more courses after that. Same with other disciplines and their respective cores.

4) By year 2, you are beginning to open up the more concentrated courses. At that point, it was in the students best interest to commit or change majors. This was the point where people typically flunked out and went to business (this was typical, not suggesting anything) or switched to Industrial Engineering or something less intensive.

5) By year 2.5+, you could switch but you may have committed yourself and you essentially reset the clock. It's expensive and stressful, but you could switch, so I'm surprised they won't let you switch.

6) By year 3&4 it was all engineering specific work to your major including more theory / design work. At this point you'd be nuts to switch but you could do it.

Other Items

Strongly suggest avoiding a generic stem degree like biology, biochemistry, chemistry unless PhD / Grad school is in the future. General pay and career paths for that are <<<less than an engineering degree. The engineering degree has made me $$ and given me opportunity. The STEM degree? Not so much...

Also echo what someone mentioned about Biomedical, etc.

Edit: Wanted to add that the individual, if interested in chemistry, should understand and research the difference between chemistry and chemical engineering. It's not remotely close although people not associated with the field tend to think it is, which I understand.

JohnFiscal
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by JohnFiscal » Fri Apr 20, 2018 3:37 pm

Shikoku wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:26 pm
JohnFiscal wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:32 am
There is an accrediting agency for engineering curriculums, the ABET. Engineering students do not want to go to a non-ABET school (they may not realize they don't want to, but they don't). In order to be accredited, all undergraduate engineering schools must meet the same requirements on core curriculum, academics, labs, etc. Practically speaking then there is no special advantage to taking the undergraduate degree at a good state school or a prestige university.
That is an extreme generalization.

"UC Davis, UCLA and UC Berkeley have ABET-accredited computer engineering programs, UC San Diego and Stanford do not."
Source: http://www.cityonahillpress.com/2016/09 ... editation/

I do not think student want to go to UC Davis and UCLA instead of Stanford to earn a computer engineering undergraduate degree. I prefer a non-ABET-accredited computer engineering degree from Stanford over an ABET accredited degree in the same discipline from UC Davis or UCLA.

It may be extreme to say that engineering students "do not want" to go to a non-ABET school. But when it comes time for them to get their state Professional Engineering registration/license they will feel an "oops" moment if they did go non-ABET. While providing a reference this week for a colleague applying for our state's mechanical PE exam I noticed the instructions extremely clear, indicating that [state] "requires an ABET engineering degree. If you do not have a Board approved engineering degree, pursuant to [statute] YOU DO NOT QUALIFY FOR LICENSURE IN [STATE]. All emphasis is theirs, on the instructions. I think they really meant it.
Last edited by JohnFiscal on Fri Apr 20, 2018 4:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri Apr 20, 2018 4:02 pm

It depends on the career path. I am an engineer and know lots of engineers. The only one I know with a PE is a civil engineer working for a construction business. The rest of us EEs, MEs, ChEs and AEs just zip along without our PE.

On the other hand, the Engineering Union at Boeing, SPEEA, cares about whether you went to an ABET accredited school, even though most of those engineers don't go for a PE.

MathWizard
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by MathWizard » Fri Apr 20, 2018 4:44 pm

No it is not the same everywhere.

Both kids went into Engr. programs. Both declared a major, then switched.

The first took longer because he switched to MIS in the Business college, and
that added lots of Business College credits.

The second switched to another Engr. major and graduated in 4 years plus
a summer, but only because he started with over a year's worth of credits.
(AP credits and college classes taken during HS.)

CedarWaxWing
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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by CedarWaxWing » Fri Apr 20, 2018 5:23 pm

3 boys went through college... U of Washington for 2, and WSU for 1.

Eldest: UW
Biology was his major, Minor in German
Had 3 yr status by end of his second quarter due to AP
Was undecided at admission, had no trouble getting most any course he wanted in part because he had early upper division status.

Middle: WSU
Undeclared on admission... had trouble getting Gen Chem class at first, so he changed his major to something that required it.
(This was likely a bad advisor not a real restriction....)
Ended up in Accounting BA and Finance BA for his second degree in 4.5 years... now a CPA

Youngest:
Entered UW as a declared CS major, but they require certain classes at a certain level of performance and also an application to the department by the time one finishes the prerequisites.

His intent was to get a double major.. .the second in EE and a math minor (most everyone in those things does a math minor, right?
By the end of his first quarter he had satisfied all his pre requisites and had to apply to the CS program only, because they made him make
a choice between EE and CS. CS is in the Coll of Arts and Sciences, as EE is in the College of Engineering so there are barriers to doing both concurrently.

After getting into CS and doing a quarter of that he had to petition both programs to allow him to do each concurrently... and at the time of the petition had to demonstrate that he could pick a schedule of classes that could fulfill both EE and CS requirement concurrently by the end of 4 years. Once he got accepted to both he was able to change his class plan as necessary during the next 3 years since scheduling conflict arose sometimes.

A friend's experience: His son (decades ago) was an excellent student, but could not get EE at UW. So he transferred to a private university that is very competitive, and was accepted to the EE program with no issues. Their impression was that if a student is good enough to get accepted at most private schools they can more easily gain access to any program that they can handle the classes of.

It may be that since classes are smaller at most private universities, it is easier to accommodate one more student in most classes?

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Re: Undecided students and STEM majors

Post by jharkin » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:09 am

LawEgr1 wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:37 pm
I'm well qualified for this question. I have one liberal arts STEM B.S. and another B.S.E in ChemE. Two entirely different animals with two entirely different career prospects and reputation. Quite frankly, I may as well leave the LA STEM off my resume.

At the undergrad I went to (ABET - D1 State University), the following was very true. Keep in mind this is within 5 years of graduation.

...


This sounds about right, but my experience is older than yours (went to college in mid 90s). I went to a mid tier private polytechnic school and started as an Aeronautical Enigneering major, but changed to Mechanical in sophomore year. Agree its fairly easy to move so long as you do it by middle of year 2.... later than that and you should plan on going to a 5th year with all the make up classes.

Year one was common curriculum for all of the engineering school -
Calculus 1 &2
Physics 1 & 2
Chemistry & materials chemistry (polymers, metals, etc)
electives

Then year 2 we started to get into the real engineering, and the tracks started to diverge...
First semester was statics, differential equations , thermodynamics 1, etc
Second semester was linear algebra, dynamics, thermo 2, circuits and the first programming course, etc...

Year 3 was when things got specialized and it was into fluid mechanics, heat transfer, control systems engineering, machine design, manufacturing lab and so fourth for the MechEs.

djpeteski wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:23 am
If it was me, I would advise the student to pick up chemical if they are very interested in chemistry. If not then pick between electrical or computer science. Electrical if they prefer lower level, basic stuff, computer science if they are a big picture type person. No matter what discipline is chosen, there should be a decent amount of study and competence in writing software. There seem to be a lot more mechanical engineers then jobs these days.
Are you a STEM major? That line in bold really surprised me, why would you say that?

Electrical engineering and computer science are two vastly different fields. Yes its true that in today's world many electrical systems have an embedded software component, but not everything does.

An EE would learn both analog and digital circuit design. They could could specialize on anything from the world power generation grid (not exactly "low level"), to consumer electronics, communications, industrial automation, robotics, military applications, computers (though they have less of a foundation in compute architecture than a Computer Systems Engineer would)...

A Computer Science major might be working on anything from embedded systems, to traditional desktop software, to web services and social media apps.

I dont think either discipline is "easy" or "basic" ... it all depends on ones interest and aptitudes. I know that at the basic level I took in engineering electives, OOP and data structures came easier to me than analog circuits :twisted: but I know that when dedicated majors get into the advanced courses neither discipline is easy. CS majors still have to take things like operating system design and learn low level languages like assembler and I doubt I would find that a cake walk.....

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