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  1. #1
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    College?! Uh-oh!

    Fellow Mountain Bikers,

    As a junior in high school, I have begun to think about college. I should have probably started this earlier and heeded otherís warnings as a freshman but alas, my bashful and young 14 year-old self thought ďCollege?! Thatís eons away!Ē But here I am, halfway through junior year and Iíve only begun to start researching colleges.

    I started really getting into mountain biking back in March of this year when I finally saved up enough money to purchase my first real bike; a brand new 2012 Specialized Hardrock 29er. It has been my baby ever since that fateful day of March 6th. Weíve been through a lot together. We have traveled upwards of four hours away to ride Santos in Ocala, Florida. That may not sound like a lot to you all but for me, it was a great trip. Iíve had many crashes, bruises, but luckily no broken bones (knock on wood.) Weíve met some friends along the way and Iíve even gotten my best friend of 11 years to join me on most of our endeavors. Weíve even toyed with the idea of doing a long bikepacking trip, maybe on the Colorado Trail. Now that I have my license, I go biking any time I can. Needless to say, Iím in love. But I know this is only the beginningÖ

    Now mountain biking is not my only passion. I love to play tennis and Iíve been playing ever since I was about 3. Iíd absolutely treasure being to be able to play tennis for college. It, like mountain biking, takes my mind off the busy world spinning around me.

    I understand that you guys may not be the best group of people to be asking about colleges. However, I figured I could get some valuable suggestions out of you all. Iím not expecting you to go off on a wild goose chase trying to satisfy my conditions, thatís for me to do. Iím just wondering if you know of any colleges off the top of your head.

    My dad said that there are three things to consider when looking for colleges: quality of education, cost, and enjoyment. With that in mind this is what Iím looking for in my college experience.

    1. I want to go into some kind of engineering, namely mechanical or aerospace.
    2. This school, if costly, must be willing to provide scholarship based on merit.
    3. It must have a decent tennis program. Iíd really appreciate playing tennis in college.
    4. Location relative to home is not super important.
    (now this is where you guys come in)
    5. I want riding that can be done for a majority of the year. I'd appreciate a short trail nearby that I can ride to but there has to be a larger network of trails within a short car ride.

    I know that there may not be a school that satisfies all these conditions but Iíd appreciate any and all input.

    Thanks in advance,
    Reed.
    Last edited by reedfe; 12-09-2012 at 05:22 AM.

  2. #2
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    Well I have one option that you may consider! However is far from your current location and really only meets 4 of your criteria.
    Check out Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ:

    1. They have an engineering program that does include Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Environmental based programs (also Forestry)

    2. They do from my past (4 years) experience have a respectable tennis program and have known people to be on scholarship with the team (ex-girlfriend).

    3. See #2

    4.The school itself is what I would consider medium sized. Campus is 1 mile x 0.5 miles.

    5. This is where I'm going to lose you. The region does have a winter season, unlike most parts of AZ. (riding season is late April- early November) But, the town has great variety of trails and numerous places to go ride. additionally the school has a Mountain Biking Club that travels to some surrounding states for competitions.

    I have been a student at NAU for 4 of the last 6 years and spent 2 years living in Flagstaff attending school in the Mechanical Engineering program. I loved it, but decided to change majors to Criminal Justice. I'm sure there are many other places that will fit your criteria, but this is one you may consider.

  3. #3
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    Take a look at Clemson.

  4. #4
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    Wanting a school with real mechanical and aerospace engineering programs is going to narrow things down some. So is a school with scholarship money for sports. Pretty much all of them will have merit money. Check out abet.org for a list of schools with current accreditation in engineering. Note that engineering is not the same as "engineering technology." One of them has pretty heavy requirements in basic sciences and in the other you'll get course credit for learning to use a lathe. Not that everyone shouldn't know how to use a lathe, but it tells you something about the program's emphasis.

    So, if you look at the list of schools that are all of ABET accredited in real engineering, compete in Division I or II, and have tennis as a scholarship sport, you're probably going to be looking at a pretty manageable set.

    Some other stuff to think about is whether you want to be close to home or to make it a pain for your parents to show up at random, and how close to places where new technology is emerging the University is located. It's helpful to go to a school closer to a place where you'd like to live, on purpose, although if you're good at engineering, recruiters from all over the country do the job fair circuit at programs they take seriously.

    I'm at UW right now. I like the engineering program and I believe UW is D1, although I don't know if they do tennis, but it's a big school in a crappy neighborhood and it takes on the order of forty minutes by car to get to the nearest MTB. On the other hand, Seattle's a great place to be for aerospace and there's a bunch of other device companies and a mini-biotech thing going on here.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
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    What's your definition of middle size? Where I am now is considered a "regional" state school, and the price of a credit hour here is MUCH lower than elsewhere. but opportunities in certain fields are limited....like engineering (we have nothing). you might want to rethink that criterion.

    since you have a pretty specific program interest, you should start your search there. IME, from my own undergrad search, state schools have HEAVY requirements for merit-based scholarship money, so you'd better have really good grades and test scores (I had the grades, but my test scores were lower than minimum requirements at most state schools). if I had gone to a state school, even in the state where I went to high school (in-state tuition), it would have cost me more than the out-of-state private college I wound up attending, because that private college threw a TON of money my way (they did not have the hard standardized test score minimum criteria that the state schools had). I had almost a full tuition free ride between scholarship and grant money (half tuition scholarship plus slightly less in grant money).

    do you really fancy yourself as being THAT good at tennis that you'd qualify for any kind of athletic scholarship? those things are tough to come by for athletes. being good enough to be a walk-on is a totally different thing, and IME, would be more likely to be more fun.

    finding a school with a complex network of mtb trails less than 10mi away that are year-round is going to be harsh. that many trails that close to a big university will be tough to find. add in year round access, and you eliminate a lot of mountainous areas. you're going to have to be more flexible here. expand your radius. say, have some shorter trails available close but the expansive networks less than an hour away is not a terribly unreasonable way to go about it. the year round question is also relative. most places will have certain times of year that riding is not the best idea for different reasons. For me in TX, that time of year is the middle of summer when it's 100+ for months and very dry, so the trails get super loose and the heat just makes it less fun. where I'm headed to Indiana, the summer is less nasty, but winter riding needs to be done when temps are below freezing (meaning early morning and late night rides) and spring riding can be hit or miss early because of a lot of rain. if you get a dry spell, or you can find some rockier trails that hold up to moisture better, then you can ride year round. you just have to adapt to whatever conditions are available. my campus now has about 6mi of trails right on campus, and it's a great resource. that sort of thing is not terribly uncommon, so I'd recommend loosening your distance/quality criteria some.

  6. #6
    Gears... I hate gears
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    Thanks for the advice. I've loosened some criteria in the original post but Engineering is set in stone. It's the only academic thing that I've actually enjoyed.

  7. #7
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    There's always ASU. Engineering is offered for a whole bunch of disciplines. If you're more hands-on, there's always the Manufacturing Engineering department on the East campus which teaches manufacturing, automation, cad/cam design, FEA analysis, etc.

    Because Phoenix is heavily into supporting Aerospace industries (Boeing/MD builds the Apache here, and there's also Honeywell, Sundstrand, GD, Lockheed, and several others) the program has a strong leaning towards aerospace, including composites engineering (couple of the Boeing engineers teach as adjunct in the manufacturing program). I've been through the graduate manufacturing program there and I can tell you, first hand, that it's a good place for engineering.

    It's by far not a "medum sized" school - it's one of the largest colleges in the country... that does mean more hot undergrads....

    -S

    BSc Mech Eng.
    BSc Elect Eng.
    BSc Comp Sci.
    MSc Mech/Manufacturing Eng.

    (yeah I collect engineering degrees LOL)

  8. #8
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    Look into Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA. The engineering program is solid, the year round weather is phenomenal and the local riding is superb. Not so sure about tennis, though. I grew up in the area and now that I'm a college teacher, I may just go back. The local trail stewards are mountainbike friendly and more trails are always being built.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by shibiwan View Post
    There's always ASU. Engineering is offered for a whole bunch of disciplines. If you're more hands-on, there's always the Manufacturing Engineering department on the East campus which teaches manufacturing, automation, cad/cam design, FEA analysis, etc.

    Because Phoenix is heavily into supporting Aerospace industries (Boeing/MD builds the Apache here, and there's also Honeywell, Sundstrand, GD, Lockheed, and several others) the program has a strong leaning towards aerospace, including composites engineering (couple of the Boeing engineers teach as adjunct in the manufacturing program). I've been through the graduate manufacturing program there and I can tell you, first hand, that it's a good place for engineering.

    It's by far not a "medum sized" school - it's one of the largest colleges in the country... that does mean more hot undergrads....

    -S

    BSc Mech Eng.
    BSc Elect Eng.
    BSc Comp Sci.
    MSc Mech/Manufacturing Eng.

    (yeah I collect engineering degrees LOL)
    +1
    This is what I was going to say as well.
    Having lived in the Valley of the Sun for 20+ years, I can't think of a better place to enjoy outdoor activities nearly year round!

    ASU is a great campus and a great school. But like stated above, it is by no means medium sized, in fact ASU may have the largest enrollment of state universities in the country with somewhere in 60k range.

    https://asunews.asu.edu/20110913_usnews
    This article states that ASU is ranked 42 in engineering for schools where the highest degree is doctorate...not bad!

    Good luck with your search!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by reedfe View Post
    Thanks for the advice. I've loosened some criteria in the original post but Engineering is set in stone. It's the only academic thing that I've actually enjoyed.
    Good work prioritizing. The education should come first, the hobbies second. You have a lifetime to play tennis and ride your mountain bike. You have four years to earn the degree that will determine your life course.

    D1 and D2 schools are wicked competitive in sports. You have to be the best of the best, so if you are not consistently winning your high school matches you probably don't have a chance. Not to discourage you! Start talking to college coaches to get an idea of your recruitment potential. Don't discount recreational league/interscholastic league tennis (though of course there would be no scholarship money for it).

    You have plenty of time. It sounds like you are doing a great job of sorting out your options and desires.
    Duchess of Dab

  11. #11
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    Back in the late 2000's when i returned to college. Mechanical Engineering was starting to be to general. Employeers where starting to want more specific Engineers, such a Elect, Civil. etc.....

    Well, I'm returning back to school yet again this spring and from what I have gathered in research. Mech. Eng is rather broad. It appears you need to be in the top 2% of your class to land a really good job. Meet many people with a Bach. of Mech. Eng. degree that are doing AutoCAD drafting work for 15$ hour with $60K in student loans. You can get a certificate or Assoc. degree at a community college much cheaper for drafting.

    My point is. You might consider researching Engineering and consider something more specific then just Mech.

    It's great that you are starting to research college. It's an excellent experience. The best advice I can give you is. Study something you are passionate about. Don't do it for the potential money you might be able to make in the future.

    Oh yeah, eat your veggies and listen to your parents.

  12. #12
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    Some of the people I was doing undergrad prereqs with are having trouble finding work. On the other hand, most of the people I did a lot of classes with (Mechatronics emphasis) had jobs lined up before they finished.

    Last summer's internship was paid. I've been landing on-campus interviews this Fall, and have already had a serious interview for a little company (knock on wood) and have a phone interview set up next week. It all feels pretty promising.

    I'm figuring out that getting the "real" engineering job does take some planning and application, something I wasn't accustomed to in the theatre. But I also wonder what people who are having real trouble are doing, or not doing. All the companies around here are whining about how they can't get enough STEM people, Microsoft is offering to pay ten times as much for H1B visas to import them, etc.

    To some degree, BS and STEM degrees are more interchangeable than it sometimes seems at the outset - all of them require similar basic sciences and math prereqs and at most institutions they all require a student to learn to program computers to at least some basic level of understanding. So even if a professional engineering practice isn't your cup of tea long-term, it's not like you'll be locked in by having that degree, and it's versatile enough to do all kinds of other things. Choose the branch of engineering that seems most interesting and give it your shot. The chips will fall where they may, but it won't be like owing $100000 on an English degree.

    Mechanical engineering is really broad and the default BSME degree is a generalist degree that prepares a person to learn one of the traditional engineering trades. Take a look at the graduation requirements - want to learn about HVAC? Doesn't matter, you're going to. I'd actually rather be in ME than Aero, but then I came in as a grad., got to design my degree program to emphasize what I wanted to. (dynamics and controls, thank you )

    Something that I could have stood to research a little more is EE. I actually really like modeling physical systems and they're a sexier thing to be able to control, but EE is a huge segment of the device industries, so if you're more interested in devices than buildings, it's a good place to be. They also get some pretty wild math that doesn't show up as much in ME. Also - avionics? Usually an EE or ME thing, rather than an AA thing. Weird, but there you go.

    BioE is getting huge. So that's something else to think about. A presenter at a seminar I went to recently was talking about picking a field by choosing one that's growing. Her point was that the medical companies are figuring out they need real engineers and they're having to pull them in from outside their traditional area of expertise, biology, because it's easier for an engineer to learn to model a biological system than for a biologist to learn that kind of systems, statistics, experiment design, etc. And of course, a ton of medical products are devices anyway.

    At the end of the day, I don't think there's really a wrong answer.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  13. #13
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    Reed where in FL are you?

    Im on the cusp of finishing my B.S. In Mechanical Engingerring at USF. There are plenty of campus's in FL that have great bachelors programs. Cost of attendance will also be lower in FL as I assume you are a resident.

    Either way check out schools programs, most of it is online. Check out your local univeristy as well.

    CofE | College Of Engineering | University of South Florida

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by akaBrowntown View Post
    Reed where in FL are you?

    Im on the cusp of finishing my B.S. In Mechanical Engingerring at USF. There are plenty of campus's in FL that have great bachelors programs. Cost of attendance will also be lower in FL as I assume you are a resident.

    Either way check out schools programs, most of it is online. Check out your local univeristy as well.

    CofE | College Of Engineering | University of South Florida
    Thanks for the oncoming recommendations and tips for selecting a school. I'm definitely considering USF as my tennis coach has connections there. Plus lower in state tuition. I'm in Palm Beach County by the way.
    Cal Poly also intrigues me. Ultimately, in the spring, I will be visiting some schools to get a better understanding of the atmosphere but first I need to know where to look!
    Keep the suggestions coming. I really appreciate all the help!

  15. #15
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    If you visit USF in the spring shoot me a pm, ill do my best to make time to show you around the campus/M.E. side of things.

  16. #16
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    this sounds silly and off topic, but I'd look into getting a degree in accountancy.

    I just finished up school at Northern Illinois university, and although its not a great school for a lot of things, it happens to have one of the top 10 undergraduate accounting programs in the country.

    Needless to say I'm not a top student, probably just in the top 40%, but before graduation I received 5 job offers for 54k+ a year for various public accounting firms, and one corporate company.
    Three of these jobs I was given an option to start at idk 10-12 different offices around the U.S..

    I don't really love accounting, but contrary to popular belief its only about 30%. Numbers and technical knowledge, and about 70% people skills.

    Average tuition there for accounting is only about 12k a year in state, but they give out a lot of scholarships. Housing is super cheap aswell.

    The biggest problem is, is that for anything but xc. and dj, you're going to need to travel an hour or more, but the way I see it. I put up with limited riding for a few years, take a bunch of trips outwest in the summers with the money I saved for cheapo tuition, and end up with a valuable degree that'll let me take business anywhere.

    Another caveat of this is that to be successful you're going to need to get your CPA, which isn't the easiest to obtain, but it'll more than pay off in the future.

  17. #17
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    University of Nevada, Reno has a great engineering program. It's more suited towards mechanical and chemical engineering, though, which is mostly because of our connections with the mining industry throughout the state.

    I'm not sure about the tennis program, but we do have a D1 cycling team with the school. At collegiate mountain bike nationals, we placed 9th overall, and our team president placed 5th in the omnium. We also won conference! Out of the five divisions (Women's A and B, and Men's A, B, and C), we had a rider win omnium for all but Men's C. So I have no idea how our tennis program is, but we do have a great mountain bike team.

    Unfortunately, we don't have year-round mountain biking because of the snow. We have great trails in the summer/fall, though. Only ~30 minutes driving from Northstar, and during the winter everyone hangs up the bikes and heads out for skiing and snowboarding. Our winters aren't too harsh, but we're only half an hour from Mount Rose and all the other resorts at Truckee/Donner.
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  18. #18
    I'd rather be riding
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    I'm at the University of Virginia, started as a Mech-e went to Materials Science and really enjoy it. Check it out, it's a lot of fun and a great school. Also give Virginia Tech a look, lots of friends who go there have need-base scholarships.

  19. #19
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    I'm in the same boat as you dude, exept although I play tennis, my skills are at a minimum.
    I work at a bike shop. Trek, Gt, fuji, DB, etc...

    2012 Trek Superfly 100 al pro-sold
    Soon to be 2014 trek slash 8

  20. #20
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    Va Tech would be a great choice

  21. #21
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    if you are looking at engineering schools, try UC Berkeley or Cornell. Neither has an aerospace specific program, but offer civil, mechanical, IEOR or ORIE, biomedical, engineering physics, EECS, etc. both are also top ranked, and should offer good recruiting prospects after graduation.

    you may want to spend some time at your local bookstore, and flip through one of those us news and world report education specials, where they have a brief blurb and some stats on most major universities.
    94 Specialized Rockhopper

  22. #22
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    I am probably old enough to be your Dad. I have a Bachelor of Economics degree and have been working in the IT industry for 25 odd years.

    If I had to do it all over again I would have become a dentist or a plumber. Given todays cost of university I would become a plumber. You get to run your own hours, be your own boss, make a very decent wage and if you have to put up with any **** at least you can see where its coming from.

  23. #23
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    Sophomore ME student here...

    Before you commit to engineering, make sure that you actually ENJOY and UNDERSTAND math and physics. I know so many fellow students who did well in math and sciences in high school which made them think they could be engineers only to be dropping out left and right when stuff starts getting serious . Parents and other adults in your life will also probably encourage you to become one too because it is a great career. There is a reason why it is a great career though. The education is difficult and those who graduated need to be well rounded and solve an immense array of problems thrown at them. You name any technical skill out there and I bet there is a slew of engineers out there doing it. Machining, programming, microscopy, experimentation, and anything else you can think of. That is basically a typical day in the life of my job and I'm only an intern... The real engineers I work with are incredibly intelligent people

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by p2rider426 View Post
    Sophomore ME student here...

    Before you commit to engineering, make sure that you actually ENJOY and UNDERSTAND math and physics. I know so many fellow students who did well in math and sciences in high school which made them think they could be engineers only to be dropping out left and right when stuff starts getting serious . Parents and other adults in your life will also probably encourage you to become one too because it is a great career. There is a reason why it is a great career though. The education is difficult and those who graduated need to be well rounded and solve an immense array of problems thrown at them. You name any technical skill out there and I bet there is a slew of engineers out there doing it. Machining, programming, microscopy, experimentation, and anything else you can think of. That is basically a typical day in the life of my job and I'm only an intern... The real engineers I work with are incredibly intelligent people
    Follow this advice, I wish I had! I loved the design and problem solving aspects of engineering, but the math is where I lost interest.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coondog#77 View Post
    Follow this advice, I wish I had! I loved the design and problem solving aspects of engineering, but the math is where I lost interest.
    the math thing has been the toughest part of grad school for me. stats. I've taken 3 different stats classes and I've gotten good grades in those classes, but I never really felt like I understood them well. not the more advanced stuff my research deals with, anyway. basic statistical tests, sure, that's not a problem. but back-transforming logit models and stuff...not quite. it's one reason I'm not taking my education further. I just don't love it.

    so definitely, don't go into a math-heavy field unless you LOVE it.

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