If you want to study in one of the country's top-ranked engineering programs, check out the schools listed below first. Each has impressive facilities, professors, and name recognition. I've listed the schools alphabetically to avoid the arbitrary distinctions often used to decide who should be number 7 or 8 in a top ten list. That said, CalTech, MIT and Stanford are probably the most prestigious schools on the list. Also check out my list of more great engineering schools and this SAT comparison chart for admission to top engineering programs. For schools where the focus is mostly on undergraduates rather than graduate research, take a look at these top undergraduate engineering schools.
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology frequently competes with MIT for top spot on rankings of engineering schools. With under 1,000 undergraduates, Caltech is by far the smallest college on this list, and you will most likely get to know your professors and classmates better than you would at a place like UIUC. The institute has an impressive 3 to 1 student / faculty ratio, a statistic that translates into lots of research opportunities for students. One other perk is the school's location near Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.
Carnegie Mellon University
If you're not 100% sure that engineering is for you, then Carnegie Mellon University could be a great choice. The school is certainly well known for its impressive science and engineering programs, but CMU is a comprehensive university with strengths in the arts and sciences as well.
Cornell University (arguably) has the strongest engineering programs of the eight Ivy League schools. And students who aren't looking for an urban campus will appreciate the university's beautiful location overlooking Lake Cayuga. Ithaca College sits across the valley from Cornell.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech has strengths that go beyond engineering, and the school also made my list of top public universities. Top-notch academic programs combined with state tuition make the school an impressive value, and city lovers will like the 400-acre urban campus in Atlanta. As an additional perk for sports lovers, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets compete in the NCAA Divsion I Atlantic Coast Conference.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
I'm biased here because it's my alma mater, but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology typically ranks #1 among the nation's engineering schools. The long and narrow campus stretches along the Charles River and overlooks the Boston skyline. Harvard, Boston University, Northeastern, and many other colleges are within walking distance.
Purdue University, West Lafayette Campus
As the main campus of Indiana's state university system, Purdue University in West Lafayette is a city unto itself. The school is the home to over 40,000 students and offers undergraduates over 200 academic programs. For in-state applicants, Purdue represents an exceptional value (the tuition mark-up for out-of-state is pretty steep). The campus sits about 125 miles from Chicago and 65 miles from Indianapolis. Like several schools on this list, Purdue has a NCAA Division I athletics program. The Boilermakers compete in the Big Ten Athletic Conference.
Stanford University is another excellent choice for students who aren't 100% sure about majoring in engineering. Along with top engineering programs, Stanford's programs in the sciences, social sciences and humanities are all hard to beat. The big challenge will be getting in -- Stanford has a single-digit acceptance rate. The attractive campus near Palo Alto features Spanish architecture and a lot less snow (none) than many schools on this list.
University of California at Berkeley
Arguably the best public university in the United States, UC Berkeley has impressive strengths across the disciplines. Be aware, however, that the fiscal problems facing the UC system can make changing majors difficult. Berkeley's vibrant campus is located in the San Francisco Bay area, and the school is well known its liberal and activist personality. In athletics, the Berkeley Golden Bears compete in the NCAA Division I Pac 12 Conference.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Like several of the universities on this list, the University of Michigan has strengths that go well beyond engineering. With over 42,000 students and 200 majors, the university provides students with lots of academic options. Admissions are highly selective, and about a quarter of admitted students had a 4.0 high school GPA. On the athletic front, the Michigan Wolverines compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
UIUC, the flagship campus of the University of Illinois, frequently ranks among the top public universities in the country, and its engineering programs are exceptionally strong. With over 44,000 students (32,000 of them undergraduates), the university is not for the student looking for an intimate college environment. The school's size and reputation, however, come with many perks such as more than 150 different majors, an massive and impressive library, and numerous strong research programs. Also, unlike many schools on this list, UIUC has a thriving Division I athletics program. The Fighting Illini compete in the Big Ten Conference.