Re: Do you think it is worth it to get an engineering or science degree at an extremely competitive institution?
You are making a lot of sense in thinking about lower tiered universities. I speak from personal experience (I went to an ivy league for electrical engineering) and I really did not feel I learned anything. Sometimes, the less flashy the school, the more you actually learn. And I refer not just to grades, but to teaching. Professors at such places can be quite pretentious (even if they are amazing and famous at these top institutions) and that will do nothing to help you understand the material. Also, you find a lot of hard workers at smaller schools, people you can really learn from and connect with. At top institutions there is not only tons of competition but also several know-it-alls who will make you feel quite inadequate. Go with a school where you will learn and be happy. But that said, looking at your list, UMich and Duke are actually amazing engineering schools that could fit the criteria I mentioned above. Other schools to look at: Purdue, UT Austin, Northwestern, UMD.