College Admissions Question

I’ll start with the question give some background and hopefully you guys can help me out a bit.

I’m looking into getting into certain college engineering programs…

I’m a Junior this year in high school and I’m program lead of Nashua NH Team 151 (hall of fame team). I’m not really a stellar student, in fact 90% of my Nashua team probably gets better grades than I do.

I’m taking all honors level classes, my hardest math and science classes are AP Physics and Calculus. It’s comparatively a rather difficult schedule. The rest of my classes are pretty much reqs for graduation. All high school I’ve been getting mostly B’s and A-'s. I’ve accidentally let 2 C+ slip in there in 16 different grades. I dont have my gpa since the system is being altered.

I’m looking into getting into some of the larger Big 10 engineering schools probably in electrical or systems engineering. Heres a short list. Some of them are reach schools

  • Purdue
  • Ohio State
  • Michigan State
  • Penn State
  • Northeastern
  • UNH (instate school option :-/ )

For the most part thats also the order from favorite down. How difficult is it going to be when I go to apply to these schools next year to get into their engineering programs? I’m also involved in a bunch of other extra curricular like mock congress and newspaper to name a few. In nearly every club I hold a leadership or higher role. I’ll have taken from Algebra 1 to AP Stat by graduation and from Physical Science to AP Chem (including ap physics) as well. I’m also in a 2 year engineering class and a java programming class.

How is my situation looking for getting into any or some of these schools. I don’t have any idea and my guidance counselor sucks and my parents aren’t much more help.

Thanks for any advice and help… I much appreciate it.

Dave Stewart- Junior
Nashua NH Team 151 (Hall of Fame)

  • Program/Systems Lead

I’d think you’re good for Purdue. I was accepted and I don’t have half that stuff… I opted to go elsewhere, though. Something about cost and not applying for a scholarship…

Now, for the scholarships, that’s another story. I’m not sure what the requirements are on that.

Of course, anything I say could easily be wrong.

Hmm… Does Olin have a EE or Systems Engineering (or, related, Industrial Engineering) program? (Not Big 10, but fairly close to you. If you get in, you don’t have to worry about tuition.)

I can honestly say I haven’t looked into a lot of smaller schools after visiting a couple of them in NH and Mass. It may become a more realistic option if I were to find one that really grabbed my attention… or gave me money. I guess we’ll see.

Thanks for the input though… I’m looking at some of the Olin college stuff right now out of curiosity.

I’m an Olin '07 alumnus, my degree is a Electrical / Computer Engineering. I’ll try to avoid gushing, but I have a lot of love for Olin.

Our three degrees are Electrical/Computer Engineering (SparkE), Mechanical Engineering (MechE), and Engineering. Within Engineering offer a wide variety, which includes Systems (SysE), Bio (SquishE), Materials (CrackE), Controls (DomE) and several more that I am forgetting.

I found Olin through FIRST, and I feel eternally indebted to FIRST for this. Easily the best four years of my life (so far). As fair warning, Olin’s freshman year will make the build season look relaxing. Due to the fantastic faculty and the faculty/student ratio, the professors are able to accurately gauge what you are capable of, and demand just a touch more. Painful? Perhaps. Effective and Exhilarating? Definitely.


College admittance offices look at many factors in evaluating which students to accept. GPA is important. But a transcript with mostly As and Bs will usually be enough to get you into the “let’s take a deeper look” list.

Now that you have a list of schools you are considering, go do the research on them. Most of their websites will give the statistics for their incoming freshman classes. The big fat college guide book (US News?) will give you similar details on what the colleges use as factors and how important those factors are. I’d check in your local library for one to borrow. College search sites such as Princeton Review ( will divide colleges into categories such as good match and reach to tell you where you fit among the selectivity of the colleges. Somewhere we also found a list of the best schools to apply to if you are a B+ average student.

GO VISIT COLLEGES!!! You might decide you like something completely different than you pictured in your mind. Make your visit official. Interest shown in a school by visiting an touring is sometimes a factor (the only two schools my daughter got wait-listed for were the two that she paid only an unofficial visit, and had not gone back for an official tour).

Continue to push yourself in HS. Try to do your best on the standardized tests. Take on leadership roles in your team. Do something in your community that has an impact. Don’t be a joiner - be a doer! Then when the time comes to write your essay you will have something to say. Teachers will write good recommendations, and you will have other references to call on when you need them.

And when the time comes, do not be afraid to apply to a school that you really want to go to but would be considered a reach. They may be looking for someone just like you to round out their student body. We had a wise counselor once say “if you receive a letter saying you have not been accepted into a college, it is not a rejection of you. It is the college saying that they feel they are not the best match for you and for your future success.”

Visit the schools, as was suggested earlier, is one of the best things you can do when looking at Universities. When you visit the schools, if there is a specific engineering counselor or tour, make sure you take that as well, and that you talk to professors. This gives you a better idea of what it might feel like to be IN that school then looking in from the outside. Also, some schools have overnight stays that you can do with a current student. If that is available, it’s worth looking into, because it gives you a wonderful opportunity to see what it might feel like to go to that university. The reputation of the school matters some, but if you’re miserable there that all makes no difference, because it makes it that much harder to do well and to achieve at the same level as somebody who loves where they are and what they are doing.

Put in your applications early. Start talking to people about recommendations now, that way you’re prepared for when you actually need them next fall. Also, if possible, talk to a couple of people going to each of the schools you are interested in to see what they like and dislike about the school. One of the comments I got from university admission panels is that by putting in your information earlier rather then close to the deadline can be a factor between being accepted and being waitlisted.

Also, don’t lock yourself in. One of the things you might want to consider is what is the life of an undergraduate like at the schools you are looking at? Some schools have wonderful reputations as engineering schools for their graduate program. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the other thing to consider is how much interaction you have with your professors. It might seem like a minor thing now, but whether or not you actively interact with your professors can affect getting recommendations for graduate school if you are ever interested in doing that. This isn’t necessarily the information you get out of US News and World Report, or some of the engineering school guides.

Some schools weight grades differently depending on whether they are honors/ap or not. It is a good thing to look into to see if the schools you plan on applying to add different weight to different classes. Just a side note, but something to keep in mind.

Separate from this, but important, DO YOUR FAFSA. Even if you think your family makes too much for you to qualify for need based scholarships, many universities will not grant you scholarships without doing this. Get it in early, finish it early. You might get a nice surprise and get a grant or scholarship, which is money towards college that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

All this being said, I wish you good luck! Sometimes it’s not just grades that get you into a school. It’s also extracurriculars and your recommendations. It means that there is not a cut and dry formula to figuring out who gets into what school and why.

Purdue Engineering offers quite a few scholarships to help offset the cost for out-of-state students. There are also quite a few FIRST scholarships that are specific for Purdue.

There is also a terrific PurdueFIRST program if you want to stay involved (as well as the usual Formula SAE, Mini Baha, etc if you want to do something else).

I just graduated ME from Purdue. If you’d like some personal testimony, PM me and I’d be happy to share my experience.

Good luck!

(I’ll also echo everybody else’s thought to visit the school.)