What are technological institutes?

Posted on 5th May 2022

What are technological institutes?

When applying to the US, something important to keep in mind is that not all universities there are the same! There are universities focused on the arts like Parsons and RISD; public and private research universities like University of Virginia and Yale; business colleges like Babson; liberal arts colleges like Pomona and Swarthmore; and technological institutes like MIT and Georgia Tech.

Most US colleges focus on teaching a broad range of humanities subjects to students as part of what’s called a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education is the traditional model for higher education in the US, which equips students with a broad base of knowledge and critical thinking skills, rather than teaching only practical skills for a particular career.

However, technological institutes are a bit different, focusing instead on research and/or training for a particular career in a field like computer science, applied science, or engineering.

So, technological institutes may be a good fit for students who know they want to seek out careers in these fields, but not for students who have interests in these areas but need to explore a bit before specialising. These types of students might be a better fit at a research university with an excellent programme in engineering or computer science. Some of the best-known technological colleges include Caltech and MIT, but other excellent options include Virginia Tech and Harvey Mudd.

What is the academic experience like at a technological institute?

Although technological institutes’ main focus is teaching technological subjects and helping students develop practical career skills within these areas, many potential applicants are surprised to find out that humanities subjects are still highly valued by these institutions, and indeed make up a substantial part of the curriculum. Most US colleges request references from two of the applicant’s subject teachers, and Caltech, Olin, Harvey Mudd, and MIT require that one of these come from a humanities subject teacher! So, if you’re someone who wants to focus exclusively on STEM subjects, and who has done A Levels in double maths and physics, you should consider other options.

When looking at a college’s list of requirements, it’s always good to ask yourself why a college is requesting certain things. In the case of MIT, they are asking for a humanities reference because they value a humanities education as well as a practical one; as such, humanities subjects make up a decent proportion of their required courses for undergraduates. To fulfil the Hass Requirement, MIT students will need to take courses in subjects like history, literature, philosophy, and arts.

Similarly, at Caltech, alongside the expected requirements of the core curriculum in physics, chemistry, maths, and scientific writing, there is also a Humanities and Social Sciences requirement. This requirement comprises 36 ‘units’: a unit refers to the amount of time that will need to be spent fulfilling that requirement. There are 159 total required units at Caltech, so 22% of your required courses will be in the humanities!

At Georgia Tech, there is a course requirement in US history and the Constitution - material that is likely to be quite unfamiliar to most international students. So, when you’re adding technological institutes to your list, you’ll want to check the required courses to make sure you’ll be getting the academic experience you expect and are hoping for.

What can I study at a technological institute?

Technological institutes tend to focus on the subjects mentioned at the beginning of the article, but they also offer other liberal arts majors like psychology and international relations and affairs (at Virginia Tech), architecture and game and interactive media design (at RPI), and drama and fine arts (Harvey Mudd).

Location also affects the subjects on offer: at Florida Tech, majors are offered in marine biology and biological oceanography, and water, wetlands, and marine resources management. So, even if you don’t want to be an engineer or study computer science, there may still be reasons for you to consider attending a technological institute. Or perhaps you do want to be an engineer, but loved acting in house plays in school and don’t want to neglect your creative side at university. Attending somewhere like Harvey Mudd would allow you to pursue your passion for acting alongside your preparation for an engineering career.

What are some excellent US technological institutes?

Caltech and MIT are familiar names to most international applicants, but there are lots of other excellent technological institutes in the US that can be a bit more off the radar. For example, if you’re a hands-on learner, Cal Poly could be a great option for you, with their Learn By Doing philosophy. They’re a large university (with around 20k undergraduates) that would suit a student with the initiative to seek out opportunities that complement their interests, and have a 28% acceptance rate, which compares favourably with that of MIT and Caltech (around 7% for both colleges).

Georgia Tech has a lot going for it that appeals to international students: an urban location in Atlanta, Georgia, and excellent rankings (Niche rates it the 4th public university in US, 5th for engineering, and 6th for computer science). Georgia Tech has around 14k undergraduates, and unlike other similarly highly ranked colleges with more name recognition, it has a 21% admission rate, so is a great match option for many good students.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, another less well-known option, is a technological institute that should be on applicants’ radar: it offers a very high average starting salary of $73,800 (around £58,000). Additionally, of the 431 graduates of the class of 2021, 426 have received a job placement within six months of graduating!

If you’re applying to the US, it’s important to be aware of what technological institutes offer. If you’re a student who has a strong interest in a career in engineering, computer science, or applied sciences, and also has competence or an interest in humanities subjects as well, these colleges could be a great fit for you. If you need help researching colleges like these, don’t hesitate to get in touch about our college counselling services by emailing consultancy@ueseducation.com.

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