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 U-Idaho, 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 U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho, 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. U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho, 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. U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho 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 U-Idaho, 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 U-Idaho. 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, U-Idaho 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.