Best technology and engineering schools of October 2017

Top 10 technology and engineering schools

How to choose a university for technology and engineering studies

The reshaping of our societal model into a technology-dependent system has created an increasingly high demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, and there's even an acronym that brings those fields of studies together: STEM. In addition to professional opportunities (which of course, vary across the STEM board) and a continuing partitioning of tech fields that calls for hyperspecialization, the prospects of being involved with new and exciting developments drive a great number of applicants to institutions that offer STEM degrees. 

Technology and engineering schools are expected to invest in continuous innovation; with state-of-the-art facilities and multiplying degree options varying from Computer Science to Aeronautics and Astronautics, choosing a university for your STEM degree is not an easy task. There are certainly many "pros", but also "cons" for each choice, including the financial burden of education for citizens in most countries, as well as growingly-competitive admissions. Every factor must be carefully weighed, and we hope to help you in your decision not only by offering detailed comparisons on leading technology and engineering colleges (such as MIT School of Engineering vs Cornell College of Engineering, or Carnegie Institute of Technology vs Yale Faculty of Engineering) but also by going through a list of crucial aspects to keep in mind.

Academics & Faculty

A college's year of establishment is not only linked to tradition, but it can also indicate more resources, like grants and other donation-based partnerships with corporations, private donors and successful alumni. As an example, the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation donated, in October 2017, $219.5 million to the University of Maryland, College Park. A record-breaking gift for the institution (home to the A. James Clark School of Engineering, named after the late engineer and philanthropist), the amount is set to fund scholarships, fellowships, professorships and other projects; according to the UMD, the donation will "increase college access and affordability, spark innovations that tackle the daunting problems facing the nation and world, and inspire the next generation of engineering leaders". 

The number of programs offered by a higher education institution can also influence an applicant's decision – with a wider range of study programs to choose from, chances are that the number of classes you can sign up for is also higher, and if you realize that your chosen program isn't right for you, you'd have more possibilities of finding your path within the same university. Moreover, many applicants seek double degree programs, which either means the possibility of simultaneously working towards two degrees at the same institution, or of obtaining two degrees at different universities (often in two countries). If this sounds appealing to you, bear it in mind as you check out our comparisons for leading engineering and technology programs, as not every college offers this possibility.

We also suggest that you verify the student to staff ratio, which represents the number of students per member of the academic staff. A very high student to staff ratio could suggest an academic underfunding issue, and a lower ratio can signify that professors have more time to dedicate to each student's academic needs (questions in class, corrections, theses advising).

Tuition & Finances

Sadly, many of the world's top universities are incredibly expensive to attend. You must take into account not only tuition fees (which can, in some cases, be higher if you're a foreigner), but also the cost of room and board – an amount that can be even more substantial if you need to invest in relocating, applying for a visa and paying for international health insurance. Student loans can haunt a person for plenty of years after graduation, and take a big chunk out of the paychecks you'll hopefully receive after completing your studies. Still, as a professional with a STEM degree, exploring an in-demand industry, you may find the investment worth it, but why not look into more affordable alternatives by comparing more colleges (ex.: California Institute of Technology vs University of Pittsburgh vs North Carolina State University, Raleigh)? Additionally, check out our data on each institution's average financial aid and grants available for students.  

Rankings & Prestige

If you plan to pursue professional opportunities at tech companies or if you intend to delve further into academia as a tech and engineering scholar, it's likely that the level of prestige attributed to the university you're affiliated with will be of importance. While your commitment and potential shouldn't be measured by whether you have the privilege of attending an Ivy League college or another highly respected university, it is undeniable that an institution's reputation can open many doors and have an impact in your future. With this in mind, we also feature data that can help you analyze the prestige of an institution. 

For starters, you can verify the number of highly cited researchers affiliated with each university. Released annually and published by Thomson Reuters/Clarivate Analytics, the list includes leading names in contemporary sciences and social sciences research – or, as the research organization puts it, "the world's most influential minds". According to the publishers, "Highly Cited Papers are defined as those that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science", Clarivate Analytics' subscription-based scientific citation index.

Versus also displays the position of each university according to the U.S. News World's Best Universities ranking, which encompasses institutions from 65 countries. This ranking takes into account elements such as global and regional research reputation, publications, conferences and international collaboration, among other indicators. Furthermore, we have also included the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) in our database; first published in 2003, this ranking is updated yearly, based on criteria such as the number of Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners among staff and alumni, number of highly cited researchers and number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science. In addition, data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings are also available for your comparisons. Student to staff ratio, doctorates to academic staff ratio and citation impact are some of the aspects considered by Times Higher Education.

Admission

The more prestigious a university is, the more competitive its admission process tends to be. Following your dreams and aiming for the stars is definitely something to encourage, whichever your passions are – so if your lifelong goal is to get a degree from a top technology and engineering program, that means you'll probably apply yourself to get stellar grades and make the cut. However, as equal opportunities are still not part of our society, and life sometimes gets in the way of our plans, it's also important to weigh both expectations and possibilities. To help you with that, we've also made the number of applicants and the admission rate (percentage of applicants accepted as students) available for your comparisons. 

Student Life

Besides academic and financial aspects, elements that impact student life should also play a key role when deciding which colleges to apply for; after all, you'll invest years in your studies, and more often than not, students move to different areas to attend college, starting fresh in a new environment. Engaging with the communities that are built around higher education can make you feel welcome and motivated, so make sure to look into information such as the number of extracurricular activities and sports facilities offered by each institution.

You may also want to consider the aspect of inclusion and diversity, represented by data such as the percentage of international students enrolled at an institution, as well as the percentage of female students, of Asian students and of black students. Although the tech and engineering world is still a male-dominated one, achievements are slowly being accomplished. Educational institutions have a responsibility towards bridging the gender gap by educating their communities and by offering incentives; as shown by StudySoup's ranking of top computer science programs that promote representation for women, Dartmouth College, Harvard and Rice University are some of the major institutions taking steps to ensure the visibility of women in STEM fields.

By Isabela Alzuguir

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