Frequently Asked Questions
Why participate in a combined-degree program rather than going straight for an engineering bachelors?
Few small schools can afford to have strong engineering departments of their own, and few large schools can offer the personalized education that a small school can. So a combined-degree program allows you to go to a small school for three years, take your introductory math and science courses in classes of 20 to 40 instead of 200 to 400, learn from professors rather than graduate students, and develop the ‘soft’ skills that a liberal arts education is known for but are actually invaluable to scientists and engineers. But it also allows you to spend two years at a high-caliber school of engineering.
What are the advantages of participating in the engineering combined-degree program vs. getting a science degree and then an engineering masters?
Provided you meet the qualifications, you are guaranteed admission to a highly-respected school of engineering; it can take five rather than six years; and you are eligible for undergraduate financial aid for the whole period.
What are the advantages of getting a science degree and then an engineering masters vs. participating in the engineering combined-degree program?
A master’s degree generally makes you more competitive on the job market than does a bachelors; you have a wider range of institutions to choose from; and staying at Redlands four (rather than just three) years makes it easier to study abroad, take a wider range of courses, continue participating in athletics, and otherwise complete your undergraduate experience. Note that while most students who participate in the engineering combined-degree plan will leave Redlands after three years, some might require a fourth year (for example, if they didn’t place into Calculus I their first year); then it would take just as many years to participate in the combined-degree plan as to get a science degree and then an engineering masters.
How difficult / rigorous is the program?
From Columbia and Washington’s perspective, it makes sense to recruit only the proven, top science students; so they’ve set a high bar. It’s do-able, but you will have to work hard to get at least a B (3.0) in each of the science and math courses that make up the ‘pre-engineering’ requirements and maintain a 3.3 average. Historically, the top half of our physics graduates would have qualified; that may translate into the top third or quarter of students in General Physics I.
How many students participate in the program?
It’s hard to put a firm number to this since the program’s new and students don’t have to commit to participating until their junior year when they’re preparing to move onto Columbia or Washington. In spite of our having just introduced the program, we already have one student starting at Washington in Fall 2013. This past Fall semester (2012), around 15 entering students indicated interest in engineering and enrolled in General Physics I which is the first step. We can’t yet say how many students typically complete our program, but most schools that offer combined-degree options report that 0-3 students move on to a school of engineering after three years and an equal number move on after four years.
Why do so few students follow through to the end?
Some students decide to go on in engineering but outside of the combined-degree partnership; they complete a strong science BS and then pursue an engineering MS at one of any number of institutions. Some students decide they prefer the related science to the engineering that had initially attracted them, for example, Chemistry rather than Chemical Engineering. And some students pursue completely unrelated interests: theatre, history, etc. In general, a lot of students enter college with interest in going into medicine, law, business, and engineering – these are well known and respected professions; however, once at college, students discover a wide range of fields, some of which are better fits than what they’d initially considered.
Would I be able to have a study-abroad experience?
It’s easy to have a month-long travel experience during Redlands’ May Term, but more challenging for science and combined-degree students to have a semester-long experience. Generally science majors, and especially combined-degree students, can’t take a semester off from their science and math courses, so their study-abroad options are limited to schools where they’d be able to take courses that are comparable to the one’s they’d be missing here. Some students do manage this, often in countries where their native tongue is spoken, but it takes some long-term planning. Alternatively, since core science and math courses are not offered during May Term, it’s relatively easy to take a travel course in May.
How do I learn about the differences between the many subfields of engineering?
One easy way to get a feel for the differences is checking out the descriptions of courses and research projects of the faculty teaching in the different sub-fields at Columbia, Washington, and other institutions.
When do I have to officially decide whether or not I’m doing the combined-degree program?
You don’t have to officially decide until the last year that you’d be at Redlands, generally your Junior year. At that point, there’s paperwork to notify Columbia or Washington that you’re interested in coming, to demonstrate that you’re eligible, and to start the financial aid process going. That said, you do need to decide very early on that you want to keep the option open. As early as the first semester of your first year at Redlands, there are conscious decisions you’ll need to make to keep this an option – take General Physics I and Calculus I, and if you’re interested in doing it as a “3+2” (three years here and two year’s at Washington or Columbia), then you need to be planning efficient semesters or you can find yourself needing to stick around an extra semester just to get everything done. So you don’t need to commit to doing the combined-degree program very early, but you should contact the program director as soon as you begin thinking about participating so you get help making the decisions that will keep that option open.
What’s the financial side of going from Redlands to Columbia or Washington?
At the time you leave Redlands for Columbia or Washington, you essentially become a student of that new institution, and financial aid is worked out with them. They use the same kinds of metrics to determine need, and thus aid, as Redlands does, and their tuitions and average financial aid packages are comparable to Redlands. You can compare general figures at http://www.collegedata.com/.
What should I major in at Redlands if I’m doing the combined-degree program?
In principle, you can pair any undergraduate degree at Redlands with an engineering degree. In practice, and especially if you’re planning on doing the combined-degree program as a “3+2” (just three years at Redlands followed by two at Washington or Columbia) then you’ll be interested in the degrees that overlap the most both with your interests and the ‘pre-engineering’ math and science courses that Washington or Columbia require; these depend on engineering sub-field. The Physics BA has the greatest overlap with the core courses that are required for all engineering sub-fields, and it makes particular sense for many of the sub-fields, but the Biology BA and Environmental Studies BA, with particular choices of electives, may be good fits for others.
Are there any issues for transfer students?
A transfer student can participate. While Redlands does not look at your transfer grades (beyond they’re being good enough to transfer), Columbia or Washington would. To earn a Redlands degree, you do still need to earn a certain number of units at Redlands; also, since science degrees are very sequential, unless you’ve already taken the first year of introductory math and science courses, you’ll likely need to spend three years at Redlands (regardless of how many units you bring or general education requirements you’ve fulfilled) to complete a Physics BA or other science degree that you may choose to accompany your engineering degree.
What should I take at Redlands if I don’t want to do a combined-degree, but go for a masters in engineering after I graduate?
As a general rule, major in the related science (like Chemistry for Chemical Engineering) but also make a point of taking the pre-engineering courses that are recommended for the engineering sub-field you’re interested in. Note that that means taking the three-semester, calculus-based introductory physics sequence rather than the two-semester algebra-based sequence even though your major may allow you to take the latter.