Planning to be an Engineer

If you are interested in pursuing a degree in engineering, we have gathered some helpful tips and resources to help you prepare.

We have some advice and information on:

  • Academics and STEM coursework.
  • Extracurricular activities.
  • Preparing for the costs of college.
  • Learning about engineering careers.

If you reach a point where you could use some advice or guidance, we are here to help you every step of the way. You can always email us at

Academic Preparation

If I want to become and engineer, what are the best courses to take in high school?

STEM Coursework (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

To prepare for an engineering curriculum, start by taking mathematics, including advanced algebra and trigonometry, along with the sciences, including physics, chemistry and biology. If possible, take as many mathematics and science courses your school offers – enrolling in these courses will give you an introduction to topics that you will likely see again in college.

Don’t worry if your school doesn’t offer many math and science courses. If you choose Oregon State, we can work with you to make sure you take all the classes you need before taking engineering courses.

In addition, because engineers must communicate effectively and work in teams, you should also take English and speech courses.

Advanced Coursework

If Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses are offered at your school, take the ones that make the most sense based on your major of interest and general requirements for graduation.

If you have the opportunity to take dual-credit courses, we encourage you to take them as they may satisfy course requirements at Oregon State and also help you prepare for college-level classes. If you have questions about which courses may count for our engineering curriculum, please contact us at

Can I take college courses while I’m still in high school?

If you are interested in taking college-level courses before graduating high school, you have many community college and online options. At Oregon State Ecampus, you can choose from more than 100 college classes in subjects like math, foreign languages and sciences. High school students apply as nondegree-seeking students until they are ready to pursue their degree as college students.

Should my academic preparation be different if I am planning to join Oregon State as a transfer student?

Whether you plan on attending OSU immediately after high school or if you plan to spend two years at another institution, your high school preparation will be the same. Focus on taking a variety of STEM coursework and learn more about careers in engineering. Understanding the process of applying and transfer requirements will require additional research and preparation.

Do all universities have the same academic requirements?

While each university has different specific requirements for high school coursework and standardized test performance, the same core STEM courses are either recommended or required for application. Contact a COE advisor to learn about our programs or your high school counselor to make sure you are on track for all of the schools you are researching.

Extracurricular Activities

Do I have to be involved in a lot of extracurricular activities to get into school?

While extracurricular activities can help you explore different interests before starting college, we do not require our students to participate in any before coming to Oregon State. However, if your school or community offers extracurricular activities (e.g., academic clubs, sports, etc.) that interest you, we encourage you to participate in them! These experiences can help you develop important skills such as communication, time management, and collaboration, which will be useful in college.

Alternatively, if you are not able to participate in extracurricular activities due to other commitments (e.g., job, childcare, etc.), note that we value those experiences as well and recognize that they also help you develop important skills that will be useful in college.

Does my extracurricular work have to be related to STEM or specific to engineering?

While we do not require STEM-related extracurricular activities, we encourage you to take advantage of them, if they are available to you. Exposure to them might give you an idea of what engineering is and might provide you the skills to help you prepare for an engineering curriculum. By understanding the world of engineering, you will better understand if this is the right career for you.

Financial Preparation

When should I start thinking about college tuition?

It is important to plan ahead when it comes to paying for college. If you are an Oregon resident, you will be able to take advantage of lower, in-state tuition at Oregon State. However, current tuition & fees will likely increase by the time you apply for school.

There are four basic types of financial support that you should be aware of.

  • Government financial aid that will require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) applications.
  • Scholarships that are available through your college of choice and private organizations.
  • Paid positions such as internships or work-study programs.
  • Loans can be used to pay for college as well, but unlike the other options, loans must be paid back with interest.

We also have a full page on undergraduate financial support for students applying for undergraduate engineering programs.

Becoming an Engineer

Do I need to know the type of engineer I want to be when I apply for school?

Some schools require you to apply to specific programs such as mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. Oregon State accepts students under the category of general engineering. Students are then able to take their first year and decide on the type of engineering that is most appropriate for their interests and career goals. Advisors and faculty will be here to assist you and answer any questions you might have. Take a moment to learn about the work and opportunities available in different types of engineering.

Do you have any engineering activities for high school students?

Oregon State also offers many opportunities for high school students to learn about engineering, right here on campus!

  • STEM Academy offers various STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) summer camps for elementary, middle, and high schoolers.
  • Summer Experience for Science and Engineering Youth was created to encourage traditionally underrepresented groups to explore the world of engineering and to consider careers in its variety of fields.
  • Adventures in Learning is designed for gifted, talented, and high-ability learners to engage in a wide range of topics (inside and outside of engineering)
  • KidSpirit is a non-competitive program with an emphasis on skill development and mastery. It teaches appropriate sports, art, science, and/or cooking skills.
  • Oregon State University Precollege Programs.

For more information about other pre-college programs offered at Oregon State, visit the Precollege Programs website.

If you have the opportunity, Beaver Previews are also available for prospective high school students beginning their college search, Beaver Previews are half day programs to learn the basics about Oregon State. If you come for a visit, don’t forget to take a tour of the College of Engineering.

Do you know any good places to look for more information about engineering?

There are also many (free!) resources out there to help you learn more about engineering – whether you want to learn more about the field in general, would like to narrow down your interests, or even if you’d like to try some engineering experiments and activities at home. Below are some resources that we like to use:

  • eGFI: Dream up the Future: Promotes engineering education with lesson plans, activities, outreach programs, and links to web resources.
  • Teach Engineering: Provides free access to a growing curricular resource of multi-week units, lessons, activities and living labs.
  • edX: A massive open online course provider and online learning platform, with courses in topics like business, electronics, music, and physics, including classes specifically for high school students.
  • ChickTech :Provides learning opportunities and a supportive community to female-identifying students in order to broaden participation in tech and provide equitable opportunities for all.
  • EngineerGirl: A website designed to bring national attention to the exciting opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women.
  • SWE Next Program: SWENext is a way to become part of the Society of Women Engineers as a student through the age of 18.