Engineers who believe they worked harder than other students
in college may now have evidence to support their belief.
In a survey
of 122,000 students in the 2011 edition of The
Princeton Review'sBest 373 Colleges,
four of the top five schools in a category titled "students study the most"
were engineering colleges. The results were particularly striking because only
27 of the 373 total colleges surveyed could be considered engineering schools.
engineering schools at or near the top of the list were Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (1st), Harvey Mudd College (3rd),
California Institute of Technology (4th) and Franklin W. Olin
College of Engineering (5th). The only non-engineering school in the
top five was Reed College of Portland, OR.
to the book's publisher, the results were no surprise. "Engineering schools
tend to finish high on the list of schools that study the most," says Robert
Franek, co-author and publisher of Best
373 Colleges. "It's been a constant for many years of doing this book."
the ranking of the schools stems from one simple question: "How many
out-of-class hours do you spend studying each day?" Respondents were instructed
to choose a number ranging from "five or more," down to "one or less." The top
schools in the survey landed in the "five or more" category, while the bottom ones
averaged one or less. None of the 20 schools in a "students study the least"
category were engineering colleges.
that all of the engineering colleges named in the book finished high on the "study"
list, largely for a single reason. "For any engineering student, there is a
great deal of coursework that has to be fulfilled in a very short time," he says.
"That's one of the big reasons they keep appearing high on the list."
education experts agree with Franek's assessment. "If you take the simple
metric of how many credit hours are required for an engineering degree, and how
many of the those are in fairly intensive technical classes, and then compare
that to a degree in English from a liberal arts college, there's a radical
difference," says Mark Somerville, associate dean for academic programs and
curricular innovation at Olin College of Engineering.
who holds a liberal arts bachelor's degree in addition to an electrical engineering
doctorate from MIT, says there's also a cultural difference between those areas
of study. "For studying English, I would have enormous amounts of reading to
do," he says. "Doing that reading was a very different experience than studying
circuit problems. They are qualitatively different experiences - one feels more
like work than the other."
Engineering's culture of hard work
has met some criticism in recent years. Engineering schools have consistently
done poorly in surveys that measure student happiness, in part because students
don't always see a clear connection between their intensive coursework and the
Somerville says that at Olin
College, students are encouraged to engage in projects of their own choice, and
are empowered to make choices for those projects. Such freedom helps students feel
that the long hours are well spent, he adds.
academic part of what students do in college shouldn't be the thing that they
dread," Somerville says. "It should be something they get excited about."