What are they?
3-2 programs are combined or dual-degree programs offered at liberal arts colleges, which have a partnership (or partnerships) with an engineering school (or schools) to offer its students both a BA or BS from that college and a BSE (Bachelor of Science in Engineering) from a partnering Engineering school. Generally students spend 3 years taking classes and completing GE requirements and requirements for their BA or BS then do their last 2 years at the Engineering school where they complete their requirements for their Engineering degree. They graduate with 2 bachelors degrees.
Benefits of 3-2 Engineering Programs
Offers the “best of both worlds” with the well-rounded education offered by a liberal arts education with the “technical skills” and preparation in preprofessional field with good job prospects and high earning potential.
Allows students to explore subjects and interests that may not be available or even considered by engineering-focused students
Allows students to explore and possibly pursue other possible majors before committing to engineering
Can offer students a “backdoor” entry into a top engineering school they wouldn’t get admitted to as a Freshman
Allows students more time to decide if they want to pursue engineering
Drawbacks of 3-2 Engineering Programs
Admission to the engineering school isn’t guaranteed at all home schools
Students will spend 5 years in school instead of 4 (though they will have 2 degrees)
Less time to pursue study abroad or a minor
Exposure to specific engineering classes won’t be available until their final 2 years meaning less time to learn and gain experience in this field and have access to mentorship, support, and engineering-related opportunities
A student with a strong interest in engineering may be uninterested or even resent having to take so many non-engineering courses
Students looking for “backdoor” entry into top engineering schools through a 3-2 program may be disappointed if they dislike the home school, can’t maintain the required GPA or other requirements of the 3-2 program to get guaranteed admission, or need to apply and don’t get into the engineering school, leaving them “stuck” at a home school unable to get an engineering degree
What schools offer them?
3-2 Engineering Programs are offered at a lot of schools. I recommend researching the specific program at the school first before applying. Typically they’re offered at liberal arts colleges that do not have an engineering or Computer Science program of their own.
Here is a list of some 3-2 programs with links to the college’s 3-2 program information page to begin your research:
Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY) has partnerships with Columbia, Duke, and Dartmouth
Bowdoin (Brunswick, Maine) has partnerships with Columbia, CalTech, UMaine and has an exchange program with Dartmouth
Clark University (Worcester, MA) partners with Columbia
Occidental College (LA, CA) has 3-2 program with Columbia and CalTech
Reed College (Portland, OR) partners with CalTech, Columbia, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Whitman College (Walla walla, WA) is affiliated with: Cal Tech, Columbia, Washington University St. Louis, and University of Washington (note: Whitman offers CS and Computer Engineering is offered through its 3-2 program)
Whittier College (Whittier, CA) has a partnership with USC
These combined programs vary from school to school and even among the various affiliated schools at a particular college, so once you’ve found a school offering a combined 3-2 program, here are some questions you should ask:
What engineering school(s) does the college partner with?
What requirements are there to be eligible for this program?
What classes or requirements must I complete at the home college?
When do I need to declare my intention to do this program? Can I change my mind and stay at the home college?
Do I get guaranteed admission into the engineering school or will I need to apply and undergo further review after completing the requirements of the program?
Is there a required or recommended major for the 3-2 program at the home college?
Similar Programs/Other options
4-1 o r 4-2 Engineering Programs - These programs are similar, but students spend 4 years at the home college and 1 or 2 at the engineering school and earn a BA or BS at the home college and a masters degree in Engineering at the engineering school
Exchange Programs- Some schools may offer an exchange program with other colleges within a consortium or other schools they have partnerships with that will allow students to take classes at those schools. These may or may not result in an engineering degree.