I am in grade 12 (science stream) and would like to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering in USA. The Ivy league universities seem a bit too expensive. How would you rate the state-run universities?
Ganesh , via email 

The Ivies, as you mentioned, are expensive. Not as well known but academically equally rigorous, the Public Ivies are universities that provide Ivy League collegiate experience at public-school prices.

The original list of eight has now been expanded to 30 and includes Universities of California - Berkeley, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Florida and State University of New York at Binghamton.

As for studying at an Ivy school versus state school, I suggest selecting a college based on what you want to study and what you can afford.

Besides MIT and Stanford, some of the top colleges in engineering are UC Berkeley, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University of Texas, University of Illinois and Harvey Mudd College. Quite a few of these are public schools and are reasonably priced.

Selecting a college should not be based on the name, ranking or peer pressure but about matching it to your educational and career goals. Other factors to keep in mind would include urban or rural settings, size of the school, weather, percentage of international students, the composition of the faculty and research opportunities. You will be pleasantly surprised to know recruiters don't go for only the Ivy graduates but look for students studying in the best programmes around the country.

If you can't organise a college tour which requires your counsellor to fix appointments and plan your itinerary, then do a virtual tour of the campuses as most colleges have them on their websites.