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When going into the STEM field what type of college would benefit and individual most ? A liberal arts college (such as Wesleyan university) or a large university (such as A&M college station) ?

I've recently taken a tour to liberal arts colleges in the New England area and was wondering if these college types have an impact on education and career opportunities. #engineering #astronomy #natural #sciences


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Spruce’s Answer

Hey Xavier,


Great question. Going to different schools to look around and talk to faculty and students is the best way to get acquainted and judge if you think you can put up with each other for four years. Your question is a little more fundamental and to try to help I’ll brush with broad strokes initially and gradually get finer but I’ll still probably repeat stuff you already know.


I see in your notes that you’ve tagged engineering, astronomy, and natural sciences as initial areas of interest which certainly qualify as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. The larger schools are usually the best places to study stem subjects because laboratories, equipment, big computers are expensive and smaller schools don’t have the resources. In addition, students working as teams on larger projects is a more representative dynamic of many industries. That doesn’t mean that only big schools do STEM but in general they do it better.


The liberal arts including history, literature, music, languages, the arts, and much more still need big spaces for some of the arts and for concerts but these can be shared between schools more easily. In fact, smaller, architecturally significant, historical, tucked away spaces are sometimes more conducive to many liberal arts studies than big glass sided buildings. Of course, that’s not always the case.


The type of college you attend has a definite impact on your education and career opportunities. If you’ve decided what you want to do then first find a college that offers that. A small New England liberal arts college probably won’t even have an engineering program. Find several schools that you like and compare them in your area of interest (e.g. environmental engineering) as follows: how many programs do they have under environmental (i.e. degrees that will say EE and also architecture, resource management, sustainability, etc), do they offer BS, MS, PhD in several of these programs, how many professors, associate professors, PhD students do they have, etc. Then look online for college ranking in your discipline or engineering in general – don’t take these rankings too seriously unless you’re going to MIT or Harvard, otherwise being in the top 10 or 20 or 30% is fine. You also need to look at cost. Public universities are less expensive than private, and in-state universities are much less expensive than out-of-state.


If you found something that you’re really interested in and it happens to be engineering or science or technology or math, then Texas A&M is rated fairly highly, as is UT, and would probably be your best bets.


Good luck.


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Todd’s Answer

Most large universities have better STEMish programs and just more courses to choose from in general. I graduated from a small Liberal Arts school, and would not recommend this route.


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Firas’s Answer

Hi,


It is always important to take into consideration the type of college you will be attending. However, I would recommend that you look at each of the degree programs individually and see if the focus of those programs and/or professors within that degree program align with your interests. In many cases, there may be a professor who is researching or focusing on a particular part of field you are interested which may be appealing to you. Ultimately, I don't think the difference between a large university and a liberal arts university will have much career impact as will making sure that you are in a program that you feel suits your interests. Feel free to call the department and ask to speak to former or current students or even ask about the professor's research background. In many cases, this also shows that you are very interested in learning more and that is always viewed positively.


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Greg’s Answer

Interesting question Xavier. I have an Associates degree in Liberal Arts and a Bachelors in Computer Science so I have had a foot in both worlds (admittedly a while ago). STEM is almost becoming the Liberal Arts of today as Science/Tech/Eng/Math are looked upon as a well rounded education, when historically a classical education included philosophy, language, sociology/psychology, ethics, etc.. The need for more specialized individuals as modern society has become more complex is what drives the push to STEM, but the downside is less room in curriculums for electives that would allow some of these more liberal courses that historically were seen as important to offer a rounded education. That being said, if STEM is your focus, the larger schools will offer more opportunities as they will typically have more curriculums to offer.


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