If you're a Nerd Girl who wants to work hard in college, gain a ton of practical experience, and be mentored by top-notch faculty and professionals, there are some great (and even free!) schools waiting for your application. Talk about value for your investment...
Olin College, Needham, MA:
This small school (334 total undergraduates) has only been around since 2002 and offers just a handful of engineering degrees (computer and electrical, mechanical, and engineering), but US News ranked Olin 8th on its list of Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs and tuition at this highly selective school is free. Olin's curriculum is project-based -- which means lots of hands-on experience -- with the mission of "preparing students to become exemplary engineering innovators who recognize needs, design solutions, and engage in creative enterprises for the good of the world." The culmination of all of this hard work is the Senior Capstone project (SCOPE) where teams work on actual projects with an impressive list of nearby science and tech companies: Boston Scientific, Draper Labs, IBM, and MITRE, to name a few.
Cooper Union, Manhattan, NY:
Cooper Union offers degrees in Architecture, Art, and Engineering under the goal of "prepar(ing) talented students to make enlightened contributions to society." And, as a bonus, admissions to the prestigious Cooper Union is purely merit-based and all students receive full scholarships. According to their website, "the institution provides close contact with a distinguished, creative faculty and fosters rigorous, humanistic learning that is enhanced by the process of design and augmented by the urban setting," and much of the Cooper Union mission revolves around this idea of helping students become free-thinking innovators eager to make the world a better place. As an example, Cooper Union's Great Hall "has stood for more than a century as a bastion of free speech and a witness to the flow of American History and ideas."
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA:
Drexel's co-op program has been around since 1919 and is one of the nation's largest. Through the University's extensive network, "Drexel students can work for more than 1,300 companies in 28 states and 25 international locations." Students are in charge of their own job search with the assistance of the career development center, but are also encouraged to find their own internships. The co-ops are generally paid positions, and students generally balance six months of work experience with six months of classroom learning. In many majors, co-ops are a requirement, and students may opt for a one, two, or three co-op program. Of course, many co-ops lead to full-time job offers.
Northeastern University, Boston, MA:
Like Drexel, Northeastern is also famous for its co-op program. Students attend school for either four or five years while gaining up to 18 months of professional experience "related to their major or career interest with any of more than 2,000 employers across the United States and in 49 countries around the world." Northeastern also places top emphasis on undergraduate research. There is a yearly Research Expo and the Provost Office offers awards of up to $1,000 to support student research.
So, start thinking about where it is you might like to spend the next four or five years. And check the post below for other scholarship opportunities.