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Wheaton Engineering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

One of the advantages of the 3-2 program is that it provides flexibility to pursue a wide range of engineering degrees. You can choose your final university or college according to the field that you wish to study. Over the years our graduates have completed their degrees with the following focus areas:

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Agricultural Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Bio-Medical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Engineering Mechanics
  • Environmental and Civil Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering Industrial Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Systems Engineering

There are more than 400 engineering colleges and universities in the U.S. with ABET accredited engineering programs. You can apply to transfer to any one of them! Of course your ultimate acceptance is decided by that school. Wheaton has special agreements with Illinois Tech (25 miles east of Wheaton, in downtown Chicago) and NIU (30 miles west of Wheaton in DeKalb, IL), that offer strong engineering programs and, because of Wheaton’s agreements, can be natural fits for Wheaton students. This also allows students to live on Wheaton’s campus and participate in sports, if they choose. However, where you study may depend on programs offered, geographic area, or other priorities of yours. Wheaton will work with you in the transfer process no matter where you choose to go.

There are currently 70+ students in the 3-2 engineering program with growth every year. With 30+ students, the 2019-2020 year saw an almost record number of freshman engineering students.

You can request either a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree when you graduate from Wheaton’s Liberal Arts Engineering program. The BS indicates a depth of study in your engineering field while the BA indicates a breadth of study beyond engineering. Both are valid for this degree, so Wheaton allows you to choose. Currently, students are about 50/50 when selecting a BA or a BS. Note that your final engineering school will award you with a BS in a specialty engineering field (e.g. Mechanical or Civil Engineering).

Wheaton calls its engineering program both a “3-2 Program” and a “Dual Degree Program.” “3-2 Program” means that most students will spend their first three years at Wheaton, then transfer to an ABET accredited school for the final two years of their undergraduate studies. “Dual Degree Program” means that, when they graduate, Wheaton engineering students will receive two degrees – a BS or BA Liberal Arts Engineering degree from Wheaton and a specialty BS engineering degree from their final ABET accredited college or university.

ABET is the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology. It accredits engineering programs at colleges and universities and is a standard that employers look for when hiring engineers. With some exceptions, graduating from an ABET accredited program is the first step toward professional certification, including taking your Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and becoming a Professional Engineer (PE). Wheaton requires that its engineering students complete their degree in an ABET accredited program.

Yes! Wheaton offers nine hands-on foundational engineering courses. You can check them out here.

Because of the requirements in the engineering program, this is very difficult to do without adding significant amounts of time. However, some students do pick up a minor (math is an especially popular minor for engineers) or take non-major courses in areas of interest.

Wheaton engineering students may apply to be a part of the Wheaton-Illinois Tech Joint Program any time after their first semester at Wheaton. If accepted, it means that students may take Illinois Tech courses to support or complete their engineering degree. Students may also participate in other Illinois Tech activities such as job and internship fairs.

Wheaton’s agreement with NIU allows students that meet GPA thresholds to easily transfer to NIU after their third year at Wheaton. Wheaton and NIU have agreed on a set of equivalent courses and requirements, which means that usually all of NIU’s general education requirements are met by Wheaton courses.

Through Wheaton’s agreement with Illinois Tech, Wheaton will administer all finances, including financial aid, for Joint Program students over the entire five years that they are undergraduate engineering students. Exceptions to this include optional purchases at Illinois Tech such as Illinois Tech administered health insurance, meal plan or a parking pass, etc. and required graduation fees. Note that, for Joint Program students, the cost of tuition for taking courses at Wheaton or Illinois Tech is the same.

When attending an engineering school other than Illinois Tech, that school will take care of all finances related to the school. Students will pay tuition and fees and apply for financial aid at that school. This includes our partner school, NIU.

Yes, financial aid is available in a student’s fifth year. Need based aid often does not change greatly in the fifth year, but other scholarships, including Wheaton merit-based scholarships, should be read carefully since they are often limited to four years.

Wheaton is a Christian liberal arts college with a strong foundational engineering program. It offers technical and non-technical courses that promote holistic, outside-the-box, thinking and growth – body, mind and spirit. Wheaton believes that engineering is important for your career, as a spark that gives you life, and as a way to serve God and others. However, Wheaton also wants you to grow in other ways – both in your Christian life and in your understand of the world around you.

In your first years at Wheaton you will take your engineering classes with small groups of students, allowing for hands-on projects that are generally not possible in engineering schools with very large classes. In your final two years at a specialty engineering school, you will take advantage of that school’s area of strength – engineering courses that are programmed with specific engineering majors in mind. You get the best of both worlds!

You will likely leave Wheaton with a group of friends and a community that you will connect with for the rest of your life as well as two degrees that show your depth of understanding in an engineering field and your breadth of understanding of the world around you. This is unique and valued by employers. It also prepares you for life-long learning and continued growth. So is the fifth year worth it? That’s for you to decide, but we certainly believe it is!

The short answer is; Wheaton’s 3-2 program offers more of everything. The table shows the average number of credit hours that engineering programs across the country require for their students:

Average Number of Credit Hours

Program TypeEngineering CoursesSupport Courses (Math, Physics, Chemistry, etc.)General Education (Social, Philosophy, Religion, Arts, Etc.)TOTAL
University Engineering Programs 65 40 22 127
Christian Liberal Arts Engineering Programs 55 36 38 129
Wheaton College 67 43 50 160

Large engineering-focused university programs spend minimal time on general education courses and rarely any time on religious education, which allows students to put more time into studying engineering. Christian liberal arts colleges usually emphasize general education studies, including social, religious, philosophical and arts education. The only way for a Christian liberal arts college to provide a four-year Christian liberal arts engineering education is to make cuts in general education and/or technical education requirements – often some of each.

Wheaton believes that both your general education and technical education are important and works to minimize those cuts, but the trade-off is more time.

Also, by allowing students to finish their engineering requirements in an engineering-focused university program, Wheaton engineering students will be able to choose from a much wider set of engineering programs than students at other Christian liberal arts colleges will have available to them. This allows you to tailor your engineering program to what fits your needs and gain the benefits of both a Christian liberal arts education as well as a major university engineering education.

So, what does Wheaton’s program give you? Everything that you can get at a major engineering program, plus more; and everything that you can get in a 4-year Christian liberal arts college, plus more.

Students coming in with significant AP credit, a willingness to take very full Fall and Spring semester course loads and possibly some summer courses may be able to complete their degree in four years. More will be able to complete their degree in 4 ½ years. It is important to remember that national averages show that even at schools where undergraduate programs are designed to be completed in four years, less than half of all engineering students actually do complete their degree in four years.

Yes to both! You just need to be diligent. Some students take a summer course to ease their course load in certain semesters. Because Illinois Tech and NIU are not far from Wheaton, some students have studied at those schools while competing in varsity sports at Wheaton in their fourth years.

A strong math and science background is always a plus for engineering students (pre-calculus, physics, chemistry, etc.). You should come prepared to take Calculus I and Physics I in your first semester at Wheaton. Students coming with AP math and science credit may be placed in higher-level courses.

Wheaton engineering professors state that they do not have a strong preference for either a PC or a Mac.  However, there is an advantage to getting a PC laptop with a good graphics card and decent RAM for CAD work.  It would be best to have a laptop that meets the minimum requirements for software packages such as SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD and MATLAB.  Some students get along fine with a Mac, but they need to dual boot or set up a virtual machine with a windows OS if they want to install a CAD program.