Academically Cooper is VERY tough and has little or no grade inflation. Where some of my friends had to get special permission to take more than 16 or 18 credits worth of classes I hardly had a semester with fewer than 18 credit-hours. My class’ valedictorian did not have straight-As nor a 4.0, and no one (admin included) could recall a valedictorian that had gotten a 4.0. This can be very tough on perfectionists and people who were their HS class’ valedictorian, I saw several people like this burn out quite rapidly. Despite the demanding academics I only ever had class 4 days per week (aside from one semester when I took a machine shop class, but that was 0-credits and really fun). No classes started before 9am, most started at 11am, and some ran until 9pm. I liked that classes were timed around what many college students fall into naturally and that I had an extra free day to catch up on work since often a Saturday or Sunday was completely soaked up by a sport or club event.
Cooper is quite small. A whole engineering class will likely have 130ish students in it, plus a few more for art and architecture. It also has a very high retention rate, around 93% IIRC for freshman. This means you’re going to be working with the same 25-30ish students in your major for around 3 years. This is a double-edged sword - you can make a really good friends or really bad enemies. There is also a 2:1 M:F ratio, which is REALLY good for a school that is a vast majority of engineers.
Athletics and clubs are very accessible at Cooper because it is so small. I played soccer, ultimate frisbee, and men’s volley ball; both the soccer and ultimate frisbee teams were (are?) co-ed. Many students at Cooper participate in a sport or a club of some sort. I was loosely involved in starting the Chem-E car team at Cooper (National Champions!) and heavily involved in getting Cooper’s FSAE team off the ground. Tangential to the FSAE team I wound up running Cooper’s welding lab for its first year and teaching my fellow students how to weld. I was also a part of the outdoor club, which did camping trips in the state parks around NYC, I was part of the re-formed billiards club, and a few other clubs.
I knew most of the faulty and staff personally and I knew some of the administration personally as well (I even went alpine skiing with Cooper’s president for a couple runs almost every year on Cooper’s annual ski trip). I sat in on the ME department meetings to help give student perspective to the faculty. I very much enjoyed that I could be involved in how the school operated and that the faculty and administration respected and appreciated my input. I was not alone in this level of involvement either. I do not think I would have enjoyed this facet of my college experience at a larger institution.
While Cooper is small, it is also in downtown NYC. There is no lack of opportunity for social interaction with literally millions of people (bear in mind that my home town had 1,600 people in it, and I went to college in a city of 16,000,000). Your campus is Manhattan. There is no end to what you can do on a free weekend. Also: Manhattan is your dormitory as well. Cooper has no meal plans, only a very small gym, and housing only for freshmen. After that, it’s become an RA or get an apartment in or around NYC. This requires a relatively high level of responsibility and independence: not every 18 or 19 y/o out there can handle a full course load, shopping for food, cooking, paying all their bills, etc. Many can handle it, but it can be difficult. Personally, I loved it. I have always done my best work when school (or my job) wasn’t the only large focus.
I graduated in 2009, right about at the worst time to get hired as a fresh college graduate. I nominally got on solid offer and took it, but I was being VERY picky about where I applied and what I would be doing. Virtually all of my classmates either had a job or got into a graduate program by the time we all got our degrees.
After graduation I was able to pass the FE exam in ME comfortably. I found that I had a very well-rounded skill-set that has served me well in my job. Most importantly though Cooper helped me hone my self-teaching skills which has been the second-most useful thing I learned there. Cooper definitely gives you enough rope to hang yourself with. The single most important thing I learned there is that being smart won’t cut it - everyone who gets into Cooper is REALLY smart - hard work is what will get you through.
Cooper was very challenging for me. I don’t know anyone whom it did not challenge in a very significant way (or ways). I knew people who burned out, dropped out from low grades, or couldn’t handle the required responsibility and independence. The admissions office knows this and generally won’t admit people who will fail (note that 93%+ retention rate and 7% acceptance rate).
Cooper is small, which is a double-edged sword. Cooper is really tough academically and otherwise, it isn’t for everyone. If you come out alive on the other side you will be really well-equipped to do almost anything you want. I know (many) people who started their own companies in a variety of fields and people who work(ed) at: Google, Ford, GM, SWRI, Navy Electric Boats, Disney, Stryker, Credite Suisse, LG, Skanska, LEED, ISO, Motorolla, Mattel, Barclay’s Capital, etc. I really liked my time there, though it was difficult it was also very rewarding. I loved being able to personally contribute to Cooper and I loved living in Manhattan for four years.