Some students love learning how things work and think they might like an engineering career, but they also enjoy studying pure science and maybe even discussing philosophy or literature. A combined 3 + 2 program offers students the best of both worlds. In a dual degree program, students begin their studies at a college that does not offer engineering. After three years, they transferred to an engineering school, where they complete two additional years of coursework required for their Bachelor of Science in engineering. There also granted a Bachelor of Arts degree from their first college.
A number of excellent engineering schools participated in 3 + 2 programs, including Columbia University, Caltech, Washington University, Duke, Penn State University, and Dartmouth. The list of colleges affiliated with these programs is long, and includes small schools such as Drew, Clark, and Wesleyan as well as bigger schools such as Fordham, Hofstra, and Georgetown.
The combined program offers flexibility, which is especially helpful for students who are not certain about their academic interests and career goals. Students who are interested in science and engineering can start as a science major and have until junior year to decide whether they want to transfer and add the engineering degree or finish the science degree at their current college in their senior year.
While students don’t take engineering courses in the first three years, they do take math and science classes, including calculus, chemistry, and physics, which prepare them for the engineering curriculum. When it comes to preparing for the job market, having three years at a liberal arts college can give students an edge. They have a more well-rounded education the students who have spent four years in an engineering school. Students who also have a liberal arts degree bring creativity critical thinking and communication skills that supplement the technical skills they gain in an engineering program, which can take them even more desirable to put potential employers.
While there are many advantages to the 3+ 2 programs, there are disadvantages too: one is that students have to transfer after three years, and they won’t be graduating with their friends. If the student is happy at their college it can be tough to move to a new school, possibly in another part of the country. Also, there is no guarantee that the student will be able to transfer to the second college, as there are grade requirements and exams that will add contingencies to the plan.
For those who definitely want engineering, have a strong high school record in math and science, and are more excited about getting a job than spending a lot of time in college, going straight to engineering school is probably the better option. For the student who wants a broader education, needs more time to build a foundation of math and science, or really wants a small liberal arts college experience, the 3 + 2 program could be ideal.
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Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC