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I'm currently attending a small private college in NJ - Stevens Institute of Technology - for mechanical engineering. Initially I chose this school because it has a strong reputation, is small (2500 undergrads), and reasonably close to home. My initial plan was to commute there because I was not interested in the "college experience" and simply wanted my education.
Before even starting I realized the commute would be too inconvenient and I decided to dorm. I did so for my first three semesters. Now, in my fourth semester, I'm finally commuting because I was fed up with the cost and poor quality of the residence halls. Needless to say, commuting is terrible and I'm looking for a change.
My options: endure the commute for 2-3 more years, find off-campus housing (extremely expensive in that location), or transfer.
I will not dorm there again after my experience with that. The commute is something I can handle if necessary but would like to avoid because it is inefficient and managing a routine which may go from 6:30AM to 10:00PM some days takes its toll.
The third option has become increasingly appealing to me lately. Overall I've had poor experiences with professors and while I've learned a lot, I find it was mostly the result of my own efforts rather than the quality of education. I currently have a 3.8 GPA.
The environment at this school has never quite suited me and I'd come home every single weekend and whenever possible during weekdays. I do not enjoy the time I spend there despite keeping an open mind for over a year.
On top of that, I've visited some high school friends who study engineering at Rutgers University and I've actually taken a particular liking to that school and even the classes I've visited there. It is close enough to home that I can afford to travel home a couple times a month like I want to.
During my college search I dismissed Rutgers and other large universities because I was put off by the idea of a large campus (or several in the case of Rutgers). Having actually spent time at one, though, I find that this is actually the environment I seek and now I feel like I've short-changed myself by not starting my college career at a university.
In terms of satisfying my desire for a happy college experience, the obvious choice would be to transfer. Unfortunately though, my decision is not so easy. I lack support from nearly everyone I mention this to because of some preconceived notion that my current school offers superior education & opportunities. If this is the case with some many people, it must also be the case with companies. And in fact my school does have extensive local ties which yield a typical starting salary of $62k and place my school quite high in the rankings for return on investment.
I fail to see where this reputation comes from, but that is irrelevant. It is a fact that graduates from my school are generally successful.
Now, in terms of education, Rutgers' school of engineering is actually ranked higher and offers many research opportunities which is appealing to me. Having declined the cooperative education route at my school for personal reasons, I have no means of gaining experience except through undergrad research and internships. In both cases, internships would be attained through my own efforts.
Rutgers also has a much wider reach meaning I can be connected with a job outside of this region. The major downside, though, is that I may lose some credit and I will certainly have to catch up on Rutgers-specific core classes.
-fulfilling college experience
-possible loss of credit
-possible delayed graduation
-fewer strong local connections
-GPA not preserved after transferring
-GPA is kept
-more local connections
-difficult housing/commuting situation
Can anyone offer their thoughts to help me out? Don't hold back on anything. I greatly appreciate advice.
It would appear you've already made your decision, but just want to hear it from someone else
If you're not happy, I would move. University is more than just doing the required work and graduating with what ever GPA is required of you. I know in science degrees it is important to connect with not only professors, lecturers and grad students but also your fellow undergraduates which help form important relationships when it comes to you doing research. You also learn a great deal from them; whether about university and doing research or about your degree and it's stuff that they don't teach you in lectures.
Unless your goal is to be the next Steve Jobs or something, what school you get your BS from doesn't really matter too much. Might one school yield higher starting salaries than another? Yes, but...
...It can be misleading in that it may reflect what industry "favors" that school more than the quality of the education. Example: If the oil industry favors that school, the starting salaries are going to be higher than those for a school that is favored by the automotive industry. But if you want to go into the automotive industry, you'd still (most likely) do better by going to the "lesser" school simply due to the increased likelihood of finding a job in your desired industry.
...Too, even within a given industry, advantages associated with going to an elite school are somewhat transient. Sure, you may get hired at a higher rate, but after 5 years nobody is going to give a crap where you went to school and your salary is primarily going to be reflective of your industry, company, and the quality of your work. So that lesser school may put you behind the curve for a few years, but that's hardly fatal. If you're any good, you'll end up on top after all is said and done.
That's a shame you had to drop the co-op program... I would say that (and the experience gained with it) alone is worth more than just about any college name heading your diploma. I'm just across the river at Drexel and they typically do a 5 year/3 co-op program. Just about every student graduates with either a kick-ass resume from all the experience, or they choose to stay at their co-op for a job.
Good luck in your quest, a relative of mine graduated from Steven's back in the day (maybe 50+ years ago) and said it was once a top engineering school in the nation. He got his BS in ChemE from there and went on to help pioneer lithium power technology for military aircraft backup power supplies.
It's really not in where you graduate from, but what you do with your knowledge, whether gained from school or "private" research.
Oh and D_Hall, Steve Jobs might not have been the best example as he dropped out of college (I get your point however )
Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm taking everything into consideration.
That said... both schools offer an accelerated Master's program. (Stay a 5th year and graduate with both degrees) If I wanted to go that route, is it then more important to go to the "better" school?
I heard the prestige of the university matters more for the undergraduate degree than any post-grad stuff. Though I think that's because a lot of people don't do post-grad at the same university they got their bachelor's from, so a prestigious university where you studied your bachelors helps when getting in to Masters programs at other universities.
That's the end result right there!
Do what makes you want to be in school while the oppertunity is upon you. Your only young once! If your going to spend years in getting a education you may as well enjoy it after all, it's costing someone a mountain of money for you to be there...
When life gives you lemons...throw them back they suck!
Nope. I'll say it again... After 5 years nobody is going to give a crap about where you went to school (assuming it was a "real" school and not just "write us a check and we'll give you this cool looking piece of paper!").
True story: Once upon a time I found myself working on a small team of people hand selected from across the country. I walked in the door with a BS from State College. Every other person on the team had a Master's from an elite school. Was I intimidated? You betcha! Funny thing: By the end of the first month I wasn't giving it any further thought and I don't believe the rest of the team was either. I belonged every bit as much as they did. I didn't have the credentials that they did, but it didn't matter. What I had was the brains.
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