What are Polytechnic Colleges and Universities?

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, MIT, and Caltech are all desirable schools for their strength in the pre-professional STEM disciplines; however, these schools aren’t alone. Across the nation are colleges of engineering, polytechnic schools, and institutes of technology, and they have many of the same qualities that attract students and parents to the three schools at the top of this blog.

Do you care about renown and rankings? Rose-Hulman is tied with Harvey Mudd College for US News’s #1 in engineering for schools without a doctorate program. Do you want an engineering education without the public school engineering class sizes? Most polytechnic schools number only a couple thousand; in fact, Olin College of Engineering has under 400 students. Are you mostly concerned with the earning potential of engineering? Well, these schools are too, so they help a lot with landing internships, co-ops, and jobs, and they tend to boast great out-the-gate salaries and high returns on investment. For example, despite the private school tuition, Stevens Institute of Technology, according to PayScale, has a higher 20-year return on investment than Berkeley. Are you worried you won’t get into one of these schools? Not all of these schools are as competitive as SLO, MIT, and Caltech; there is a broad range of selectivity. An added bonus is that many of these schools don’t receive as many California applicants as the usual engineering suspects (I’m looking at you, CMU, U-M, and Stanford!) This means that you are competing with fewer of your peers.

For all the benefits I pointed out, there are some common qualities that can be hang-ups for potential applicants. Many such schools have a high male:female ratio. If you’re in a school with no non-STEM majors, your minor options and second-major options are severely limited and you may have to transfer to a different school if you wish to enter a different field. Politics, art, philosophy, literature, and history are less present in the curriculum and student thought in general when compared to most other schools.

For students looking to college mainly as a pathway to a lucrative STEM career, these schools really deserve a thorough look-through.