Frequently Asked Questions

How many students express interest in the 3-2 engineering program?

  • There are 50-60 students on the engineering email list.

How many students per year choose to pursue the formal 3-2, 3-3, 4-2, or 4-3 engineering program?

  • Roughly 0-3 students per year apply to either the Columbia or the Washington program.

Why is there such a large discrepancy between student interest in the 3-2 Engineering Program and students who actually apply to the program?

  • After 3 years at Carleton, students have built close relationships with their peers and the faculty. Thus, they want to graduate with their class. Also many students want to take full-advantage of their liberal arts education. The 3-2 or 3-3 engineering program places heavy restrictions on the number and breadth of courses students can take and can restrict — or even prevent — the study abroad experiences students have access to. Therefore, the 4-2 or 4-3 program can be a better option for students allowing them more time to meet the combined program requirements, study abroad, and still graduate with their class.

Where have 3-2 program graduates gone and what did they study?

  • Participants in the 3-2 program include graduates in civil and computer engineering at Washington University and mechanical engineering, financial engineering, and computer engineering at Columbia University.

What is the coursework like at the partner engineering schools?

  • At the partner institution, students are required to take 3-4 engineering courses per semester to complete the engineering part of their degree.  The Washington University website has a sample course schedule for different engineering degree programs. 
  • It is important to keep in mind that as part of the combined engineering program, you must complete an engineering degree in 2 years. Carleton students are used to balancing their schedules between courses heavy in papers, problem sets, labs, and performances.  However, this program is structured so that Carleton students take the majority of their non-science classes at Carleton and must therefore take mostly technical courses at the partner institution.

Where have students gone who pursued engineering after Carleton, but did not do the 3-2 or 4-2 program?

  • Recent four-year graduates have entered engineering programs at the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, the University of Colorado, the University of Georgia, the University of Minnesota, Princeton University, the University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne, the University of Rochester, Purdue University, the University of Virginia, the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Texas, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland, and Rice University.

What is the advantage of a the 3-2 or 4-2 engineering program over just getting a Carleton degree and then applying to an undergraduate or graduate engineering program?

What is the advantage of getting a Carleton degree and then applying to an undergraduate or graduate engineering program over the 3-2 Engineering Program?

  • For students interested in engineering work that does not require a license, there is the flexibility to apply to any engineering program that does specifically the sub-area of engineering that they are interested in. Many engineering schools have faculty with particular expertise in particular sub-disciplines within a particular general area of engineering (e.g., rocket propulsion or airplane engine design within aerospace engineering). Thus this option allows students to apply to schools that specifically focus on what they want to do. See “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Liberal Arts Students Interested in Engineering” for a more detailed answer to this question.

Should I do a B.S. or M.S. in engineering?

  • It depends on your future goals. For many engineering career paths, a B.S. in engineering is not required. This is why many Carleton students apply for M.S. programs. To determine which option is best for you, consider talking to someone who is doing what you want to do. Carleton’s Career Center and Alumni Network are an excellent resource in this respect.  See “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Liberal Arts Students Interested in Engineering” for a more detailed answer to this question.

If I am interested in the 3-2/4-2 combined program what should I major in?

  • Most students interested in engineering major in chemistry, physics, mathematics, or computer science. For example, students interested in chemical engineering  typically major in chemistry. Students interested in computer engineering may major in math or computer science. Students interested in mechanical or electrical engineering will major in physics. Because of the course prerequisites, it is very difficult to fulfill the requirement for the 3-2/4-2 program with a major in the humanities.

If I am interested in the 3-2/4-2/3-3/4-3 program, what courses should I take?

  • If you plan to pursue the 3-2/4-2/3-3/4-3, make sure to look at the course requirements for each of the programs you are interested in. Curriculum guides for Columbia University and Washington University have been put together outlining the Carleton courses that meet various requirements for each program. Please keep in mind that some courses are not offered every term or even every year. Also, Carleton may not offer all of the required courses and you may need to take these courses from another accredited institution in the US.

I am NOT interested in the 3-2/4-2/3-3/4-3 program. Which courses should I take?

  • The General Engineering Curriculum Guide provides recommendations of courses to help you pursue engineering beyond Carleton. You do not need to take all of these courses to go into engineering. The courses you choose to take will depend on your major and the type(s) of engineering you are interested in. Feel free to schedule a meeting with the pre-engineering advisor to discuss which courses are most appropriate for your future plans.

What should I do if I think I am interested in the 3-2, 3-3, 4-2, or 4-3 engineering program?

  • During your first-year at Carleton, you should look through the program requirements for our partner schools and put together a 3- or 4-year course schedule at Carleton depending on what engineering program you are interested and whether you are interested in the 3-2, 4-2, 3-3, or 4-3 program.  A Schedule Planning Worksheet has been provided to help you map your courses.  Then you should schedule a meeting with the pre-engineering adviser and the department chair of the field in which you plan to major at Carleton. You should also sign-up for the engineering email list by contacting either Trenne Fields ( or the Pre-Engineering Adviser. The engineering email list is used to send out information about when dual degree representative will be on campus, announcements from the dual degree programs, and events of interest to students interested in engineering.

When do I have to make a decision regarding the 3-2 or 4-2 program?

  • For the 3-2 or 3-3 program, you should express your intent to apply to the pre-engineering advisor near the beginning of spring term of your sophomore year. For the 4-2 or 4-3 program, you should express your intent to apply to the pre-engineering advisor near the beginning of fall term of your senior year. You will need to complete the Declaration of Intent to Apply form and submit the form at the beginning of Winter Term for the year you intend to apply to the program. You should then plan to meet with the pre-engineering advisor to make sure that everything is in order before you apply to the 3-2, 3-3, 4-2, or 4-3 program during winter of your Junior or Senior year as appropriate.

Please note that although you do not need to make your decision until late in your Carleton career, you should start thinking and planning during your first year at Carleton or, at the latest, fall of your sophomore year.  Plan to meet with the engineering adviser and the department chair in your intended major prior to the winter term of your second year at Carleton.

Is there a 3-2 or 4-2 B.A./M.S. Program at Columbia University or Washington University?

  • Yes, there is an option of pursuing a Master's degree at either school, although this option is preferred admission rather than guaranteed admission.  In the case of the 3-2 B.A./M.S. option or the 3-3 B.A./B.S./M.S. option, the Carleton student must complete all requirements for a Carleton degree and the pre-requisites for the engineering program within 3 years, petition the registrar to graduate early, and apply to and be accepted into the Master's program.  For the 4-2 option, the requirements are similar, however the student does not need to petition the registrar.