Torn Between Two Colleges

Hi. I am currently a Senior in high school and considering becoming an aerospace engineer. But I am torn between two different colleges. School #1 - Rice University - Does not offer a major in aerospace engineering, will cover 100% costs if i'm accepted, very competitive acceptance. School #2 - Texas A&M University - offers a major in aerospace engineering, will only cover cost tuition, i will be automatically accepted (top 10% of class). So what would you suggest for me to do? And if I am accepted to Rice what major would be best to pursue and still become an aerospace engineer. . . . . Also, which college has the best relationship with NASA, in terms of getting a job there during or after college.
posted by Lacy, Texas on March 28, 2012

Answer 1 by Alicia Dwyer Cianciolo

Dear Lacy, I faced a very similar situation when deciding which undergraduate university to attend. I chose the one that I felt most comfortable at (and offered me a sufficient financial package) even though it did not have the engineering department. I decided to major in physics. After graduation I went on to get a Masters in Mechanical/Aerospace engineering. The real secret has not so much to do with which school you attend so long as you can make the grade, but it is largely impacted by the internships you do. Most of the people I know who get hired at NASA or private aerospace companies participated in one of the many summer or co-op programs they offer. It allows the employer to become familiar with you and it also allows you to find the area within the agency or company that you like best. Alicia Dwyer Cianciolo

Answer 2 by Crystal Harris

Congratulations Lacy. Job well done. Becoming an Engineer takes a good amount of effort, becoming an Aerospace Engineer is just icing on the cake. You do not have to be an Aerospace Engineer to be successful in the Aerospace industry. Attending college is an important step, and attending the right college is equally as important. You are extremely fortunate to have two great opportunities and to have your choices narrowed to two schools is exciting. First things first, make absolutely sure that the school you choose has an Engineering program that has a stable ABET Accreditation. Triple, or quadruple check and recheck the accreditation status every year. Big Corporations like The Boeing Company will not touch you unless your degree is from a school with an unquestionable accreditation. If I were in your shoes and because college is only going to get more expensive, by the day it seems, a full ride with Rice University is ideal. Though the University does not offer an Aerospace Engineering degree program, it does offer a Mechanical Engineering and Material Science program. This would be a smart decision for you. With any Engineering degree you are exposed to many avenues. With a Mechanical Engineering degree, you have the chance to hold true to the diversity of the industry. I read on the NASA website that an astronaut, Dr. Massimino, is an adjunct professor at Rice Univ. Attending Texas A&M University would be great. They have an excellent Aerospace Engineering program. I'm sure they have a reputable relationship with NASA. Keep in mind, getting the degree is just the beginning of becoming an Aerospace Engineer. An Engineering degree is just the foundation of your "career house," as I like to think of it. You also have the option of "building walls, windows, roof, etc." by continuing on to graduate school, where you will probably narrow your field of interest. -or- You may also choose to work in the industry for a while before continuing to graduate school. The later gives you the hands on experience you need and will more than likely demand once you complete your "foundation." Regardless of which school you decide, always keep in mind that you not only want to graduate with the degree, but you want the experience behind the degree. Get into the different projects in your department and community as well as Internships!!!!!! These are some of the most important things a company looks for in future leaders of the industry. Good luck and congratulations again!!!! C. Harris