Is a 3-2 Engineering Program Right For You?
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
Are you considering many different major and career options? Do you, for example, love literature—but also have a knack for computer science? Then a 3-2 engineering program could be the education path for you. These programs allow you to pursue multiple passions and enjoy the intimate setting of a liberal arts campus as well as that of a larger university.
Read on to find out more about 3-2 engineering programs and consider the pros and cons of pursuing this track.
What Is a 3-2 Engineering Program?
A 3-2 engineering program is a five-year dual-degree program. Students spend three years at a liberal arts school and two years at an engineering school and graduate with two degrees: a liberal arts degree and an engineering degree.
Examples of 3-2 Engineering Programs
There are many, many 3-2 engineering partnerships across the country. Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia University are two major universities into which you can transfer after attending a liberal arts school.
Other engineering destinations that participate in the program, accepting students who first attend liberal arts schools, include:
- Dartmouth College
- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
- University of Michigan
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Vanderbilt University
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- Johns Hopkins University
- George Washington University
Liberal arts schools that have partnerships with many of engineering universities include:
- Bard College
- Beloit College
- Clark University
- Franklin and Marshall
- Hobart and William Smith
- Oberlin College
- Trinity College
- Wesleyan University
Check out this full list of potential liberal arts college and engineering university combinations. Some schools have several different partnerships, while other liberal arts schools are just associated with one engineering university.
Benefits of 3-2 Engineering Programs
There are many benefits to participating in a 3-2 engineering program. Students can experience the benefits of a smaller school and community before the larger school and will graduate with both technical knowledge and “soft skills,” such as creativity and critical thinking, which can be very useful in the working world.
These programs can introduce you to new disciplines and majors you might not have considered. For example, you might be set on software engineering but realize you also love medieval history.
Drawbacks of 3-2 Engineering Programs
Of course, a 3-2 engineering program is not for everyone. Often, you’ll need to decide on this path when you initially apply to colleges, so if you’re unsure about an engineering path, this might not be your ideal situation. Furthermore, admission is not always guaranteed into the university you attend after the liberal arts school, and in most cases, you’ll need to maintain a certain GPA to still qualify for the transfer.
Some credits from your original school might not transfer, so be sure to look into which ones will to make sure you’re on track. Also, remember that you’ll be spending five years in school as opposed to four, although you will graduate with two degrees.
Preparing for a 3-2 Engineering Program While in High School
There are a number of important steps you should take in high school to market yourself as a 3-2 engineering candidate.
First, you’ll need to demonstrate interest in your engineering specialty to show that you’re serious about your field. That not only includes taking relevant courses but also participating in extracurriculars that correlate to your passion. (This is true of all subjects and specialties.) Check out clubs, activities, and summer programs that allow you to showcase your interest.
While there is no prescribed curriculum across the board, in general, you’ll need at least the following courses (this may vary based on your high school requirements and the general requirements of the colleges you attend):
- Math: four years (Algebra I and II, Trigonometry, Precalculus, Calculus -even Statistics)
- Science: three years (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, including labs)
- English: four years
- Foreign language: two-three years
- History/Social Studies: two-three years
- Electives such as Computer Science, additional math courses, and others
Be sure to check the individual requirements for each set of schools. Remember that in addition to focusing on engineering, you should also demonstrate that you’re well-rounded since this is the type of education you want to pursue.
What Impresses College Admissions Committees?
Many college engineering programs are extremely competitive, so you’ll need to go above and beyond in both your coursework and extracurriculars. Some ideas to pursue include:
- Participating in academic contests and competitions (Check out our list of Prestigious STEM Competitions for High School Students)
- Summer programs (Penn’s Engineering Summer Academy is a good bet!)
- Independent projects, such as building your own app
- Teaching or tutoring STEM subjects
For more ideas, check out How to Spend Your Summer as an Aspiring Engineer.
3-2 Engineering Program: Is It for You?
3-2 engineering programs offer many benefits to students. Since they learn both the technical skills and soft skills many employers look for in job candidates, these programs can expand their career prospects and make them more viable candidates.
However, they may not be the right fit for everyone. If you do decide to pursue this track, be sure to investigate each program and potential school combination thoroughly to make sure they are the best options for you.
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.
Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.