How do I choose the right Engineering School for me?
When deciding on the right college, it is important to keep certain factors in mind—tuition costs, class sizes, and program accreditation—without also forgetting the value of a close-knit community, life in the residence halls, and real-world experience as well. At the University of Idaho, we seek to foster Engineering majors in all areas of university life, from academic and financial decisions to student-teacher interactions and exciting projects. Here are a few important things to consider:
- Make sure to choose a school that has nationally accredited programs. ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) is the U.S. standard. Within the United States, fewer than 400 colleges and universities offer accredited engineering programs and many employers will hire only graduates from ABET accredited institutions. At the University of Idaho, seven engineering degrees and computer science are ABET accredited. Programs are rigorously reviewed at least once every six years by a team of professional engineers and educators. These experts visit the campus for three days and study student records, review faculty credentials, and examine the curriculum. This process ensures the education you receive meets and exceeds national standards.
- As an engineer, you will want your education to be strong academically but also include lots of hands-on design experiences. At UI, we emphasize both! Our programs pride themselves on teaching students how to apply academic knowledge to real-world design challenges. Starting their freshmen year students can choose to join one of our 20 engineering specific organizations. Participation often includes design and building experiences in exciting programs from the Clean Snowmobile Challenge to Engineers Without Borders. Students also have the opportunity to seek research positions in faculty laboratories, working on grant-funded projects. Several project-based classes are also offered, such as Near Space Engineering, which teach and mentor students while involving them in meaningful projects. All senior engineering students participate in our award winning capstone senior design project in which they work on real projects submitted by industry, government or other sources. Students are placed in teams and experience the real-world demands of meeting client expectations. The National Academy of Engineers recently commended the University of Idaho’s senior design projects as one of seven throughout the United States that incorporate the real-world into the educational experience. These experiences set our students apart from students who are merely ‘book smart’. Finally during their senior year most engineering students across the country take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which tests their engineering and math knowledge, as well as their degree specific coursework. As you consider engineering schools, know that UI engineering students have a first time pass-rate of 90%, a full 13% higher than the national average.
- Research several different types and sizes of universities to find a school where you will feel comfortable. At UI, the student to faculty ratio is 18:1, the classes are relatively small, and the professors are world-class. At the University of Idaho, your instructors will know you by name. The College of Engineering has around 1200 students, with about 320 in the freshmen class. Each year we also welcome around 80-100 new transfer students. The largest classes, including chemistry and physics, accommodate around 250 students, but many classes are capped at 25 or 30 students. As you progress through your curriculum and take more engineering courses, the size will vary from less than 25 to around 60 students per class. Every student will be assigned a faculty advisor and will meet with him or her each semester to discuss future classes and career options. At larger institutions, class sizes are larger, and most professors have little contact with their students. At smaller or non-research institutions, there may be less opportunity to join clubs and organizations or perform research. UI is the state’s land grant research university and is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a high research activity university. At UI Engineering you will experience the best of both worlds where teaching and research matter and so do you.
- Determine if you want a residential or a commuter campus experience. Most UI students are full-time and our campus offers several engineering specific living options in addition to Greek life. All first year freshmen are required to live on campus. Theophilus Tower is a freshmen only residence hall, with the first three floors devoted to engineering students. Our students find it helpful to live close to other students who have similar academic demands. Each engineering hall has an Engineering Scholar in Residence assigned to assist freshmen with tutoring and study groups. If this seems like too much engineering, first year students can choose to live on other halls or in the Greek system. For sophomore students and above, the Engineering Living Learning Community (LLC) provides another housing choice to live and study with other engineering students. It is located right across the street from the Engineering complex, and there is an optional meal plan for LLC students. At UI we encourage engineering students to live on campus where it is easy to join study groups and participate in campus activities. The more engineering students engage themselves in the on-campus community the stronger that community becomes and in turn we believe the better academic experience you will have.
- If you are unsure of your choice for a major, find out what your options are. At UI, you have the flexibility to begin as an undeclared engineering major and commit to a specific major when you are ready. If you know exactly what major you want to pursue, by all means, declare. In the event you change your mind, you can still change your major at a later date. The first few years of any engineering curriculum is somewhat similar (math, physics, chemistry, English, etc.) so if you are not sure right away, you have the option of being an undeclared engineering major. Early in the fall, you will be provided the opportunity to attend informational seminars discussing the different majors and associated careers. We want you to make an informed choice and are committed to helping you. Some schools start students in a pre-engineering curriculum and then students need to apply to the specific majors during their sophomore or junior year. UI allows you to choose your major when you are ready – as a freshman or later. We do not have any quotas or separate applications to the different majors. If you decide engineering is not for you, there are 130 other majors at UI from which to choose.
- Think about the type of community in which you want to live. Moscow, Idaho (pop. 23,800) is located in the beautiful Palouse Prairie, ideally situated in a safe, rural setting with lots of music, arts and outdoor activities. If you are looking for a fast-paced urban environment – this may not be the school for you. Our students find many activities to be involved with, including outdoor recreation amid the scenic natural beauty of the Palouse, and enjoy the comfortable community which is within walking distance of the campus. With Washington State University located seven miles to the west, there is a sizeable college-aged community with all the sports and associated activities. The UI Student Recreation Complex provides the highest climbing wall of any campus west of the Mississippi, and offers exercise classes and a huge rental program to take advantage of all the outdoor sports like kayaking, camping and hiking. Moscow’s nickname is Heart of the Arts, and there is always some musical event, theater or art exhibit to take in, we are also home to the renowned annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.
- Look at the bottom line when comparing tuition and scholarship offerings. In addition to University scholarships, the UI, College of Engineering awards over $500,000 annually to its top scholars. Tuition and fees can vary greatly between institutions. A $2000 scholarship that would make little difference to the bottom line at a private school can make a considerable difference at UI. Find out if the scholarship offered to you is guaranteed for 1, 2, 3 or 4 years and if there are any G.P.A. restrictions or qualifiers. Some scholarship awards come from private sources, some are guaranteed by the institution and some are tied to and contingent upon the major selected. Living expenses are somewhat similar no matter where you go to college – and living at home is not free. The average starting salary for an engineer in 2012 was $62,500. You will be able to afford to pay back a few loans. So make a spreadsheet to help you compare costs, but remember, there are lots of other factors in helping you make the best choice for YOU.
- Student Support Services can play a key role in your education! From tutoring to help with your career goals, we pride ourselves on our friendly environment and helpful staff. At some point in your college career, you will undoubtedly seek advice or assistance. The College of Engineering has its own support staff to help students, both in your home department and in the Dean’s office. We also have the John C. Wahl thinkTANK, a state-of-the-art work-space created to help facilitate student collaboration. The thinkTANK provides a common area to congregate and study with peers, as well as attend tutoring/study group sessions and participate in workshops, seminars & colloquia on many areas of interest to our students. In addition, each year, UI Career Center sponsors a career fair with over 150 employers seeking out students for internships and full-time employment. The Career Center is a great campus resource to help you prepare for employment. Other campus wide services include disability support, veterans support, financial aid, and counseling and testing services.
Want to be a part of a select group of high-achieving students who will have an enhanced educational experience through unique opportunities, more personal interactions, and a richer learning experience?
The opportunity to be an Engineering Scholar is by invitation only and based on information you supplied on your UI application. Enrollment is limited; no more than 50 students will be selected from those who have been invited. For more information about the criteria, or to find out how you can be invited to join in the future, please contact JJ Petersen.
Engineering Scholars offers unique opportunities to:
- develop and participate in undergraduate research projects,
- attend on-campus guest lectures from world-class engineers,
- visit companies and meet potential employers in the engineering field,
- participate in community service projects,
- take engineering classes specifically developed for Engineering Scholars,
- attend social activities to meet more engineering faculty, staff, and students
- and more!
The Engineering Scholars program is not designed to add more work to your undergraduate education but to enrich what is already offered. Involved students become invested in their discipline and make better engineers!
One great way to get involved with real, live engineering experiences is to join a student chapter of one of the many national and international professional engineering organizations. These organizations encourage leadership, collegiality with your fellow classmates in an informal setting, mentoring by upperclassmen and graduate students and networking with area and regional professionals. This integral part of your college experience provides great opportunities to get involved and gain experiences outside of the classroom. Many of our student organizations travel to their regional or national meetings and compete in design competitions or technical presentations. Don’t wait to join! Future employers look for participation in these and other organizations to show that you are more than just a GPA!
Student Chapters of Professional Engineering Organizations
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
AIAA is a multi-disciplinary group of students interested in expanding their knowledge in the fields of aerospace science and technology. Students in this club have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of design competitions, research projects and other engineering activities throughout the academic year. Their projects include rebuilding and testing a turbocharger and designing an AUV for a future competition. AIAA is open to undergraduate and graduate students with disciplines involving mathematics, science and engineering. For more information contact president Peter Haley.
American Society of Civil Engineers
ASCE participates yearly in several exciting competitions including National Steel Bridge Competition, National Concrete Canoe Competition, surveying, technical paper competitions, and much more. For more information contact president Kade Dustin.
Association for Computing Machinery
ACM is the oldest organization supporting the activities of computing professionals. It has active student participation and regular meetings open to all who are interested. Recent projects have included the Tower Lights and lighting up the marching band. For more information contact president Jacob Bechler.
American Institute of Chemical Engineers
AIChE students have opportunities to compete in AIChE regional and national competitions such as the zero emission chemical car and WERC. For additional information on AIChE contact president Erin Wheless.
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
ASME members participate in many activities including department BBQs, meet & greets with professors and industry professionals, tours of major engineering companies around the northwest, conferences and competitions like the ASME MicroBaja Competition. For more information contact president Brandon Hilliard.
Biomedical Engineering Society
BME club is for undergraduate and graduate students, enrolled in an engineering program or related science, interested in exploring the field of biomedical engineering. Learn about research opportunities on campus, socialize with students from different departments, meet students conducting biomedical engineering research on campus, attend scientific conferences, discuss internship and job opportunities, and tour research facilities. For more information contact president Christina Gibbs.
Humanitarian Engineering Corps (formerly Engineers Without Borders)
HEC is an opportunity to take what you are taught in school and use it to dramatically affect the lives of people who are without basic human needs such as water and sanitation. HEC is open to students of all majors. For more information contact president Erin Poor.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
IEEE is a great way to keep current with the latest technological resources and to network with local and regional professionals. For more information contact president Tessa Aus.
International Microelectronics & Packaging Society
IMAPS members participate in many activities including the IMAPS Lecture Series, local high school outreach, national student booth competitions, industry tours and monthly meetings. For more information contact president Malvika Khurana.
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
SHPE is a resource and mentoring organization for minority students majoring in engineering, math and science. SHPE meets weekly on campus, attends a national conference and participates in high school outreach activities. For more information contact president Luz Villagomez.
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International)
UI Engineering supports two SAE International teams:
- Clean Snowmobile Challenge (CSC) Team — CSC is a SAE International Collegiate Design Series interdisciplinary competition held annual in Houghton, Michigan. The UI Clean Snowmobile Challenge Team reengineers an existing snowmobile to improve emissions, noise, and fuel economy. The UI team has competed in the CSC for sixteen years. The UI team won the competition in 2002, 2003 and 2007 and has accumulated more than 50 awards. UI is the only team in CSC history to win the coveted Founder’s Trophy award back-to-back in 2015 and 2016. For more information contact team captain Mark Woodland.
- Formula Hybrid Race Car Team — Formula Hybrid is a SAE International Collegiate Design Series interdisciplinary competition. Students collaboratively design and build a formula-style electric or plug-in hybrid racecar and compete in a series of events annually in New Hampshire. This educational competition emphasizes drivetrain innovation and fuel efficiency in a high-performance application. For more information contact team captain Justin Pettingill.
Society of Women Engineers
SWE empowers women to succeed and advance, and be recognized for their life-changing contributions and achievements as engineers and leaders. SWE is a sponsor of Women in Engineering Day for high school juniors and seniors. For more information contact president Alex Nuttman.
American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers
ASABE is the professional home of engineers and others worldwide who endeavor to find sustainable solutions for an ever-growing population. For more information contact president Lucas Sass.
National Society of Black Engineers
NSBE is committed to support individuals typically underrepresented in the engineering and science community by implementing programs that promote academic excellence, personal growth and career development. NSBE-UI hosts the annual Dynamic Engineer Lecture Series (DELS) in the spring. For more information contact president Paul Dania.
Technical Assoc. of the Pulp & Paper Industry
TAPPI provides a network for students interested in working in the pulp or paper industry, including scholarship opportunities and technical resources. For more information contact president Austin Porter.
Institute of Transportation Engineers
ITE focuses on integrating engineering students with the transportation engineering profession. For additional information contact president Shane Warmbrodt.
MatAdv focuses on the importance of materials for engineers and manufacturers in the design, quality and performance of products from the very inception of the design process. MatAdv meets monthly for meetings and guest speakers. For more information contact president Adam Grebil.
Tau Beta Pi
TBP is a national engineering honor society for top junior and senior students and is by invitation only based on GPA. For more information on TBP contact president Cody Barrick.
Other ways to get involved:
College Ambassadors work under the direction of the Engineering recruiting team. Ambassadors conduct visits to make presentations about the College of Engineering to local and regional schools as well as their alma maters. College Ambassadors give Engineering campus tours to prospective students and assist with the college’s annual Engineering Design EXPO event. For more information contact Joe Law.
Engineering Student Advisory Council
ESAC is comprised of members of all the above organizations to promote the College of Engineering. For more information contact president Jacob Bechler.
ES is an honorary and leadership program for the top entering freshmen, by invitation only. Engineering scholars are eligible to take honors engineering courses, provide tutoring, participate in fieldtrips, research projects and more. For more information contact Joe Law.
The ECE Ambassadors are comprised of Electrical and Computer Engineering students for the purpose of introducing and encouraging high school and middle school students to consider the opportunities of this discipline. For more information contact president Alexa Aguilar.
ENGR 205/206 Near Space Engineering (1 credit, max 6)
Sign up for this NASA-sponsored interdisciplinary class where you can help design, build and test instruments sent up in high altitude balloons. For more information contact Joe Law.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. For more information contact Joe Law.
The National Academy of Engineering has recognized the University of Idaho, College of Engineering’s Senior Capstone design program as one of the best in the nation.
The capstone program is among 29 engineering education programs chosen as exemplars in engineering education, and one of only seven capstone programs highlighted by the National Academy as, “Infusing Real-World Experiences into Engineering Education.”
As a graduation requirement all undergraduate UI engineering students participate in the senior capstone design program. Students apply their education to solving a complex problem, typically supported by an industry or academic sponsor.
As part of the Senior Design Program the college holds its annual signature event Engineering Design EXPO. Engineering Design EXPO showcases our senior engineering capstone projects and is the Northwest’s longest-running, interdisciplinary initiative featuring student innovations.
The Student Services team provides assistance on multiple issues to help you succeed both in and outside of the classroom while you are at UI working towards graduation and as you prepare to join the workforce. Visit our Student Services page to find out how we can help you.
- Joe Law — Associate Dean for Undergraduates
- Maria Pregitzer — Director of Student Services
- Shishona Turner — Lead Advisor
- Patrick Determan — Academic Advisor
- Rachel Otto — Career Development Liaison
The John C. Wahl thinkTANK, located in the Janssen Engineering building across from the Dean's office, is a one stop shop for academic success. Learn more about our innovative engineering workspace.
To schedule a thinkTANK meeting room or use for an event email Tanya Gale or call 208-885-6470.