As the cost of tuition continues to rise, more students are evaluating the decision to go to graduate school with an eye on the return on their investment, rather than just pursuing their love of learning. There is some debate over whether students need to attend a top 10 engineering school to make getting the degree a good investment. While some say that it improves job opportunities, others say that what's really important is academic performance, networking and work experience.
Employers evaluate the rigor of your engineering curriculum when deciding if you will be a good fit for the company. Chris Gammell, an analog electrical engineer and a recruiter for his company, tells Engineer Blogs that top-ranked engineering schools have the most rigorous curriculum, and recruiters can trust the education that students get from these schools. However, students who attend lower-ranked schools can still take a rigorous curriculum. Wherever you go to school, it's important to take the most advanced courses available and to take advantage of elective credits to strengthen your engineering education.
Good grades are good grades, no matter what school you attend. While recruiters will see a 4.0 from Harvard more favorably than a 4.0 from a state school, a 4.0 is still an accomplishment, either way. U.S. News & World Report says that many students who attend top schools also fail, and employers know that what's important is not just what school you attend but how well you perform. Focus on your grades and get the best marks that you can. Take advantage of honors courses to weight your GPA if your school allows it, and take the most challenging courses that you can to make your grades seem like more of an achievement.
Internships and Work Experience
Student internships and work study programs are another way you can showcase how determined and committed you are to your professional development. Some top-tier engineering schools may offer an advantage to students by having relationships with some of the best local companies for placing students in internships. However, students from any school can apply for internships, and the skills you learn and responsibilities you have at an internship will boost your resume, which can help you get a better job after you graduate.
Gammell argues that the top-ranked schools offer the best opportunities for networking, since they usually have alumni working at some of the top engineering companies or they have relationships with those companies. The ability to network can help students get better internships and better jobs. However, students who attend any school can network. There are alumni from all types of schools at Fortune 500 companies throughout the country. Find where some of the most notable alumni from your school work and reach out to those connections.
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