Colleges with Exploratory Engineering Programs


Colleges with Exploratory Engineering Programs

Many high school students know they are interested in studying engineering, but are unsure about the exact type of engineering they want to pursue. After all, there are dozens of engineering fields and subfields, from computer to material science to aerospace. It is not uncommon, then, for students to enter college feeling overwhelmed or uncertain of their engineering path. 

Fortunately, a number of schools allow students to explore their options prior to committing to a single engineering major. Rather than immediately specializing, incoming freshmen can take exploratory engineering courses that allow them to consider their options and learn more about different engineering specialities. In fact, some colleges (such as Purdue University and North Carolina State University) require all engineering students to enroll in a general first year engineering program prior to selecting a specific major. 

Students interested in such exploratory engineering programs may want to consider the following schools:

Harvey Mudd College

“Harvey Mudd College’s engineering majors earn a bachelor of science in engineering degree. Harvey Mudd College believes that its broad engineering program is most likely to produce engineers capable of adapting a changing technology to expanding human needs. Within this context, an engineering major may choose to emphasize a particular engineering specialty by choosing appropriate elective courses and Engineering Clinic projects.”

Hofstra University

The first two years in all the engineering programs are largely devoted to a common curriculum, with a strong emphasis on mathematics, physical sciences, and fundamental engineering tools for analysis and design. The third and fourth years are principally devoted to course work in the field of specialization.”

North Carolina State University

“All engineering students join the College as part of our Engineering First-Year Program. Our objectives in the Engineering First Year Program are to welcome students to the College, get them connected to important resources, help them learn about engineering as a profession and help them explore all of their academic options prior to joining a department.”

Olin College of Engineering 

“At many schools, degree programs are highly specialized. Students take many classes in their major, but few classes in other fields.

"At Olin, it’s not just about what students know, but what they do with that knowledge. We’ve shaped the curriculum to provide technical depth in the areas most relevant to what students are likely to do after graduation. Every student learns about software, electronics and mechanical systems, and has several chances to work with students from other majors on interdisciplinary projects.”

Purdue University 

"Beginning engineering students enroll in the First-Year Engineering Program and complete a common first year curriculum before moving to their major (Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, etc.)."

Rochester Institute of Technology 

“If you are passionate about engineering and all it encompasses – from science, mathematics, innovation, and design to processes and operations – but aren’t sure which major best matches your interests and career goals, the engineering exploration option is for you. Through a seminar offered in your first semester, you will gain an in-depth understanding of each engineering major, enabling you to identify the program that best meets your interests and career aspirations.”

Stevens Institute of Technology

“Incoming first-year students at the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science are not required to declare a major when applying to Stevens. The broad core component of the curriculum is structured to allow you to explore various topics in engineering or science through experiences like lectures, small group sessions, online modules and visits before declaring a major–and still graduate without delays.”

Swarthmore College

“The curriculum includes a core program of engineering, science, and mathematics as well as a broad selection of elective courses to provide a flexible base of knowledge and technique.”

Syracuse University 

"New engineering and computer science students enroll in ECS 101 - Introduction to Engineering and Computer Science. ECS 101 provides a broad introduction to each of our degree programs, allowing students an opportunity to explore each area before they choose a major."

Texas A&M 

“With 22 majors to choose from, we don’t ask you to make your decision your first year. Our common first-year curriculum was designed to allow you to explore your options while gaining a foundation in programming and engineering fundamentals that will carry you through your college experience.”

University of Cincinnati

“Students can apply directly to The Freshman Engineering Program (FEP) if they know they want to pursue engineering at an undergraduate level but do not know specifically what program they want to enter.”

University of Dayton 

“As a member of the Discover Engineering program at the University of Dayton, you will explore the academic programs in the School of Engineering before finalizing your major. With the help of a semester-long seminar and the assistance of your Student Success adviser, you'll discover the area of engineering that's right for you while staying on track academically. The seminar covers the curriculum and careers of each engineering program (chemical, civil, computer, electrical and mechanical), as well as the multitude of complementary minors, concentrations and programs.”

University of Colorado Boulder 

“New first-year freshmen may enter the College of Engineering and Applied Science as Open Option if they are not yet sure what they'd like to major in.”

Virginia Tech 

“All first-year and transfer students admitted to the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech are classified as “General Engineering” in the Department of Engineering Education. The program introduces students to the wide range of engineering majors in the College of Engineering so that students are able to make informed decisions about their educational pathways. After completing the first year curriculum students are eligible to declare any of the 15 undergraduate degree granting engineering majors.”


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