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Unique Programs Offered By Colleges

Unique Programs Offered By Colleges


If you are planning to study in the US for a bachelor’s degree, putting together a list of colleges is not an easy task. The standard advice is to choose around 8-12 colleges with subsets of “Dream, Target, and Safety”. While this and other conventional wisdom, will lead students and their families to tried and tested colleges, I would like to share some more interesting options. 

One of my favorite, unique programs in the US, which I find gets very limited attention among Indian applicants is the 3:2 Engineering program offered by many liberal arts colleges. It works like this – step 1. you enroll at a liberal arts college with a major in science or math. Step 2. You apply to the second part of the program (i.e. the +2 at a university with an engineering college) and you are usually guaranteed admission if you have completed all the prerequisites and maintained a minimum GPA. 

There are hundreds of colleges that offer the first part of this the program (i.e. the 3 years) ranging from the highly competitive Bowdoin College (15% admit rate) to the much less selective, but still excellent Gettysburg College (40% admit rate). For the second half of the program there are fewer options, but all have an excellent reputation in engineering. These include, among others, Columbia University, Dartmouth University and Washington University in St. Louis. 
You should consider the 3:2 engineering programs if any of the following describe you: 1. You are passionate about engineering but you do not currently have the scores and marks to get into the best engineering colleges. 2. You are not sure about engineering so you want experience deeper studies of sciences, humanities an social science before deciding – Most liberal arts colleges where the first two years are spent have a broad general education requirements for all students. 3. You want your college experience to include both a great liberal arts college and a great engineering college in succession. 

All of these are excellent reasons to look at colleges that offer 3:2 engineering programs. And at the end of the process your skill set and thinking methods are likely to outshine students who studying purely engineering over four years. As one student put it: “Employers love the liberal arts/engineering majors since they not only possess the technical skills, but also know how to write papers, make presentations, and think beyond the requirements of an engineer.”

A second set of unique college experiences come from those that have campuses abroad. These are not just your typical ‘study abroad’ programs, which are offered by all colleges in America (this should never be a selling point of a college; Study Abroad is a staple of the US college experience, it’s not unique), these are full-fledged, dedicated campus programs outside of the US. For example Bard College allows students to spend their first year or semester at Bard in Berlin. Similarly NYU is well known as a leader in the global education experience with its portal campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. And Georgetown’s special experience at its Villa La Balze is unique among semester abroad programs. 

If the idea of such programs interests you, use some of these unique criteria to narrow your list. Even if this is just a strategy to augment the list of colleges everyone has ‘heard of’ it could open up some new possibilities and set you off on an educational journey more terrific than you had imagined. 

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