Iowa State or Marquette University?
March 5, 2012 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I've gotten my college picks down to Marquette University or Iowa State University. I can't decide where I want to go, several variables to consider...HELP!!!

I'm a senior in high school and college is quickly approaching. I want to go into some kind of engineering, most likely electrical or computer engineering, might do something with mechanical, not really sure. But both schools offer programs for all three so I'm not worried about issues with that.

In terms of engineering rankings, Iowa State is higher ranked. I think it’s about 40th, Marquette is somewhere lower. But should I even worry about rankings? Engineers are high in demand, I talked to a friend at ISU and she said that all the seniors in engineering have several job offers at large companies, and I talked to a professor at MU at a college visit thing and said that all the Engineers found jobs in under a 6 months or so. But on the flip side, I've heard from several people that "Marquette is not an engineering school" and that ISU engineers are highly sought after. I'm in FRC robotics and we are mentored by an engineering firm, the owner of the company said that out of his 30 or so engineers, his top 3 engineers are from Iowa State. I've heard so much from both sides...any thoughts? :)

Besides the actual schools, the areas surrounding the schools are VERY different. ISU is in a college town, while MU is in Milwaukee. Here is where my interest in music comes into play...There are several more night clubs in a city then there are in Ames Iowa. I DJ and produce and hitting it big is a dream that I share with many. If things don't work out, I'll use my electrical engineering degree to hopefully work at a company like NI or Pioneer and make stuff, but otherwise, it’s my goal that I'm working towards. To peruse such a goal, I think I’m much better at a school that's in a city where I have an abundance of clubs to DJ at, as well as a place to make connections and stuff. Also, Milwaukee is one and a half hours from Chicago by train, which is nice for the same reasons. I can make more connections in Milwaukee than I can in Ames don't you think? Besides all this, I just generally like the idea of living in a city, compared to a college town.

Money always comes into play at some point. My parents are amazing and paid for my sister’s college, and will do the same for me. We are a middle class household. The annual income is about 100k or so, but my mom is amazing at saving. Every time I bring up the cost of college, my mom immediately says. "Don't worry about the cost, go where you will be the most happy." Iowa State is cheaper. I got the ACE level II scholarship which is $4,500 a year. At Marquette, I got offered a $6500 a year scholarship, and I applied for a $5000 a year scholarship with FIRST robotics. I think I have a good chance to get this scholarship, because I've been involved with it for 7 years, and have quite a resume from it. Including scholarships, Iowa State is around $22,000 a year tuition and housing, while Marquette is $29,000 a year. And this is if I get that FIRST scholarship. But I'm worried about the $6500 a year scholarship getting yanked out from under my feet after the first year. It was just automatically given to me for whatever reason, and aren’t scholarships like this usually only given to freshmen to suck them into a private school? If they lost the scholarship the following year, transferring out is simply not an option, and they are left paying full tuition. At that point, I don't care what my mom said, because I don't want to put her in debt. Should I be worried about this? Or can I take the 4 year scholarship for face value?

Alright, now this last reason has is a personal thing. I'm gay. Iowa, being one of the states that has allowed gay marriage, I’m going to take it that Iowa/ISU is going to have an inflated LGBT community. At a school of about 40,000 students, I don't think I'll have a problem finding...people...or just being accepted for who I am. Compared to Marquette, and its Jesuit status, I think I might have some issues. At my college visit, I took note on two things. One, I talked to some undergrads about the whole Jesuit thing and they said don't let it get in the way. One of the undergrads was Hindu, so I take it this was a very valid statement. :) Also, I saw a list of interests groups at Marquette, and one of them was an LGBT group. But even with this in mind, I still just have a feeling that some religious freaks will still be present that want to make my life miserable. Any insight on this? Is Milwaukee a gay friendly place? Or is Ames even better?
So I have four variables that I’m trying to compare and contrast, and I can’t sort through them by myself. That’s why I come to mefi. Thanks for reading my lengthy post. :D I love this place. :D
posted by NotSoSiniSter to Education (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just wondering, why just those two schools? Out of those two schools, why one that is Jesuit given your concerns about LGBT inclusion. You say you want to be in a city, why not go to a city? You want to live somewhere close to Chicago, why not just go to school in Chicago?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:09 PM on March 5, 2012

Religious freaks are going to be at any school, just in varying proportions.

TBH as an older fella looking back on it and thinking from my perspective? I'd go to the cheaper better ranked school. Or at least give it a serious try. I fully understand that college is more than just about the education, but if you can get a top flight education at less and be happy where you are going it is worth a lot down the road.
posted by edgeways at 5:11 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's March of his senior year--at this point, is going someplace else in the fall even a possibility?
posted by box at 5:11 PM on March 5, 2012

Do you have enough time to spend a weekend at each. Marquette proper may not have a large gay population, but Milwaukee has an active gay population (and a Pride Fest in the summer).
posted by drezdn at 5:22 PM on March 5, 2012

Iowa State and Marquette are really different places. As are Ames and Milwaukee.

Jesuit schools tend to be conservative for universities but in the scheme of the regular world still quite liberal. At most schools the Jesuits are actually in open conflict with the ultra-catholic groups that will doubtlessly be floating around campus. Most of your classmates with be amused/disinterested in the "Pre Vatican II Crowd", but probably not actively protesting against them.

You should be in touch with the LGBT group at Marquette - I'm sure they'd love to speak with you. Same with the financial aid office with respect to your scholarship.

Also Transferring out is always an option as long as your grades are good.
posted by JPD at 5:25 PM on March 5, 2012

I went to a Jesuit University and it was fairly LGBT inclusive. You can memail about it if you want more details, but essentially we had a huge gay (not so much a lesbian) population and a mostly-liberal set of policies. I don't recall the priests ever saying anything anti-gay, at least not publically, possibly because if the gay boys pulled out of the school, the school would have gone bankrupt.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:25 PM on March 5, 2012

I know you mentioned your parents will be covering the cost of your education, though you're trying to get scholarships to lessen the financial burden.

Here are a few points to keep in mind.
1. Iowa State is a state school. Do you qualify for in state tuition in Iowa?
2. What is the expected annual tab at each school, after scholarships & such? This is the amount that your parents are promising to pay.
3. If, God forbid, one or the other (or both) of your parents lose their jobs, this will have a severe adverse effect on their ability to cover your education costs. Will you be able to get student loans or grants/financial aid to cover what they would have?
4. What are you going to do for spending money? Scholarships & student loans won't necessarily buy you a tank of gas, a case of ramen, or laundry detergent (or at least they didn't when I graduated in 2003).
5. Iowa has legalized same sex marriage. So, hopefully, a public education institute there would be fairly open minded about LGBT people.
6. I don't have any experience with Jesuit institutions, or Wisconsin institutions. That being said, I can't see how they wouldn't be more LGBT friendly than, say, a Baptist university in east BFE, Mississippi.

There is something to be said for a lower cost of education. I went to a private school, but I got a really good scholarship package, and left with only about $20k in loans (which I'm going to finish paying off next month, incidentally enough). An ex girlfriend of mine went to what was her dream school for two years, but didn't get much in the way of finanical aid, grants, or scholarships. Now, 8 years after graduating, she's still stuck with roughly $50k in outstanding student loans.

If you can avoid that kind of crushing debt burden after college, I don't think that's a bad thing.

Yes, I realize these points are somewhat hypothetical given your parents' promises to pay for your education. However, I think it's still good food for thought.
posted by AMSBoethius at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2012

You wrote this question for me to answer! I went to both schools. I went to Marquette for undergraduate and ISU for graduate, both in mathematics.

Milwaukee is a fairly large city, and not just a "suburb of Chicago" as some people might lead you to believe. If you go to Marquette, you will live fairly close to downtown, and the bus system there was quite nice when I went there back in the early 2000s. I knew a number of LGBT folks, and it seemed like they had a nice support structure. At Marquette, you have to take a number of religion courses, but they don't have to be all about Jesus. I took an eastern religions course, and it was quite informative, and didn't have a catholic agenda attached to it.

ISU is nice, but Ames is small. Like, super, super small. "Downtown Ames" consists of about 1 street and a few blocks. Campus town is a cesspool filled with drunken kids every weekend. If you go to ISU for engineering, your introductory math courses (the calculus courses and such) are either going to be the large-lecture version (about 200-300 students) or will be smaller but taught by mathematics graduate students. Now, seeing as how I was one of those graduate students, I can tell you that the more seasoned ones are very good.

If your interest is in music, seeing and playing it live, then ISU is not for you. You will have to go to Des Moines (about 45 minute drive) or to Minneapolis (about 3 hour drive) in order to get this fix. I know, because I had to do the same thing. ISU does have a nice little venue on campus, and I've seen some good shows there, but they're few and far between.

I racked up a fair amount of student debt at Marquette, multiplied by the fact that I stayed in school at ISU for 6.5 years after that. Keep this kind of thing in mind, it will really affect your quality of life afterward.

Both schools are great and you will meet great people at both of them. I would lean toward Marquette if I were you, because the city is bigger and better than Ames. Both cities are LGBT friendly, but there are just more places to go in Milwaukee that the community is probably larger.
posted by King Bee at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I grew up in Milwaukee and know a ton of people who went to Marquette, including several engineers. I know a bit about ISU too; I married someone who went to school there.

Both are great schools and I'd consider them not equal but equivalent in terms of job prospects when you graduate. Reading what you've said I think Marquette and Milwaukee are probably a better fit.

I agree with the comments Marquette being a diverse and inclusive place. I've never heard a criticism of MU for such issues, and the circles I run in don't exactly admire the church in general.

Milwaukee sounds like a better fit for your preferences in a music scene, urban life and gay friendliness. Iowans are a particularly good people, but a land-grant university in a place like Ames just won't be the same experience for you.

On preview, King Bee nailed it.
posted by gazole at 5:46 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If these are your only two choice, then Iowa sounds like the better school all around, except that you won't have the music scene close at hand. While there's more to life than school, all of the engineers I knew didn't have a Ton of free time for music or anything else. $6500 a year is a lot of money. So I'd lean toward ISU for you, and hope that you could squeeze in a little bit of music time on campus, then do more DJ/fun stuff when you graduate and move to a big city.
posted by ldthomps at 5:56 PM on March 5, 2012

Yea this is where get contrasting ideas. I like the idea of getting in and getting out of college, paying down my debt real quick, and moving on. I kinda regret not applying to IIT in Chicago...(long story) but I want to move to Chicago after college. If I can hold out for 4 years or so, then it might be a better long term option to go to ISU. But staying connected to the music scene might be important to me...god damnit...I just don't know. :(

I love these answers though. I'm still deep in thought... :)
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 6:09 PM on March 5, 2012

Let it also be known that there are a few independent, small venues in Ames conducive to the music scene. They are mostly run by locals, and depending on the kind of DJing you do, you could probably spin at these places.
posted by King Bee at 6:11 PM on March 5, 2012

The ONLY, only, only important thing about choosing a college is that you are going to have a formative social and cultural experience that is supposed to change your life and help you become who you want to be. College is about the right fit for you.

I have been to Ames. Uh, wow. It's charming and lovely and I would be dead by December of my freshman year there. It is a "bad fit" for me. (I cannot imagine the gay dating scene there—I guess you have to Des Moines, or over to Iowa City and sleep with depressed writing students? Ugh.) And yes, Milwaukee has a gay scene.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER. GO WHERE YOU WILL BE HAPPY. You can always change schools later, but you can NEVER get these years back, when you are supposed to be young and happy and eager to learn and adventurous and making new friends.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:51 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're obviously a good kid, to be worried about your parents' finances, but if your Mom told you not to worry about them, then listen to her. It sounds like you have the sort of parents who would be distraught if you went somewhere that you were terribly unhappy just to save them money. That stuff can be worked out. Take your parents at their word.

When I was deciding where to go to college, I was deciding between a state university and a smaller private school, and the one I choose was the better, more prestigious school academically. But it was also the place where I FELT better. Like, when I took my campus tour I just felt happy in the space. It was absolutely the right decision. Did you visit both schools? At which one did you feel like your happiest self?

Congrats on getting into both schools, btw. College can be an amazing, life-shaping, wonderful time.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:11 PM on March 5, 2012

(PS: that wasn't a coded endorsement of the private school, btw - the better school in my situation was the public one.)
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:13 PM on March 5, 2012

As an Iowan living in Des Moines, I'm not going to claim that you're going to have more social activity options in Ames than you will in Milwaukee -- that's silly. But I would suggest visiting Des Moines (35 minute drive) and see if you're at all enamored with the social scene here. It has really come a long way in the past 5 years and the music scene as well as the night life have grown tremendously. It may offer you enough that the other positives you see by going to ISU help paint a complete picture.
posted by erstwhile at 8:10 PM on March 5, 2012

Do you know what kind of relationship, if any, Marquette's program has with the Milwaukee School of Engineering? Also I have heard great, great things about the Milwaukee music scene, particularly if your interests are more in the electronic realm.
posted by kickingthecrap at 8:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am, of course, biased in thinking that the University of Wisconsin-Madison would be a fantabulous choice for someone in your situation.

However, since you're probably past that point, I'll just say that you have two great options BUT should remember that transferring is always an option. In fact, it's typically much easier to transfer than to get into a school as a freshman. After you've had a successful semester or two of college life, and the admissions folks see that you haven't had a problem adjusting, you can usually get in with something in the 2.8 range and up (depending on the program), compared to 3.8 and up for freshmen.

*The More You Knoooow!*
posted by Madamina at 8:17 PM on March 5, 2012

ISU grad here. The music scene is pretty slim there. However, the M-Shop on campus, in my day, was a venue that pulled in shows better than it's small size would indicate. Another positive about the M-Shop is the sound there is excellent and manned completely by student staff (again, in my day). If you do end up going to ISU, which I would suggest not doing, get your ass down the the M-Shop ASAP and weasel yourself into the sound staff there. You'll learn how to put on a rock show and get to see all the best music in town for free (and they feed you).
posted by Foam Pants at 9:39 PM on March 5, 2012

What's more important, your social and cultural life, or your education and your family's (and your future) financial soundness? I dragged my feet and hung my head all the way to my state school, and ended up having the best time of my life and making friends that have endured. Of course, you can always transfer. Or why not go to junior college locally for two years and get your pre-reqs out of the way? I know plenty of family members from Iowa who did this, to save money (ironically, over ISU tuition). You live at home for a few years, so what. You're a more responsible student and often better equipped academically (smaller class sizes) when you do get to university. And maybe you find another option even better than Marquette in the mean time. Good luck.
posted by keasby at 4:13 AM on March 6, 2012

Do keep in mind that you don't have to pick either of these schools, if IIT is really where you want to be. Many of the people I've talked to who went straight to college after high school wished that they had taken a gap year to see a bit of the world before heading to university. It's pretty much the norm in lots of other western countries.

The other bonus to taking a gap year is that you can really improve your applications because you'll have the time to work on them and shore up things like test scores or extracurriculars if you had gaps.

This, of course, presumes you're in the financial position to actually take the gap year, but lots of people go backpacking which can be as cheap as the plane ticket if you plan it well (work trades and such).
posted by zug at 9:53 AM on March 6, 2012

Of course another option is to go to the smaller cheaper school and get all the basic requirements out of the way, then apply to where you wanted to go int he first place and transfer to finish out a top flight program where you want to be.
posted by edgeways at 10:52 AM on March 6, 2012

Marquette grad here. I would say some of the better engineering opportunities would exist in Milwaukee and other Wisconsin areas. I know Nursing, Engineering, and Journalism were the top "what is MU known for?" when I went, but with plenty of new buildings things have changed in the past 10 years. Best of luck to you. MU is a great school.
posted by brent at 9:00 PM on March 7, 2012

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