Advice for HS Sophomore


New Member
I’ve got three questions I’m hoping you all can help us with.

My son is a sophomore in high school and will be getting his private this summer when he turns 17. (This is at a very small part 61school at our local FBO.) He wants to be a professional pilot – probably for the airlines, but he is keeping an open mind. Right now, it appears that collegiate aviation is best for him, so we are exploring that option in more depth. I’ve been reading the forums here and realize that some people don’t think collegiate aviation is the way to go right now, but if I understand correctly, it is because of the necessity of a quality non-aviation backup degree. We think he can accomplish this either through a program like the Professional Pilot program at the University of Illinois which is combined with a non-aviation major, or by doing a double major or double degree.

Question 1:
I was wondering what colleges have a reputation for having a program that trains outstanding pilots. I’ve got a long list of colleges that have flight programs and I want to narrow it down. I know other things will go into the decision, but this question is about the quality of the flight program. I know they all train to FAA standards, but some have got to be better run than others, and there may be other aspects of the program that give advantages.

Question 2:
Which colleges with flight programs do you think have the best overall non-aviation academic reputation?

Question 3:
We have visited Illinois and liked what we saw (although we are looking around for other options.) Because of the way the Illinois curriculum is FAA approved, the Commercial and Instrument is combined, so if my son went there it wouldn’t work well if he got his Instrument first. We have also been told that freshman coming in with both their Instrument and Commercial are often not successful. Do you have advice about what he should be doing with his flight time during the next two and half years if not pursuing his Instrument and/or Commercial, that would give him quality experience and build excellence?


New Member
Have you looked at Southern Illinois University. SIU may not have the prestigue that U of I has, but it does have an excellent flight program. Although I graduated from SIU and instructed there for awhile, so my opinion is definitely biased. SIU does have a good relationship with many airlines and corporate flight departments. They also have several internships available, which is how I ended up getting a job with an airline.

I don't think that you can rank the colleges in order as to who produces the best pilots. I have seen great pilots come from some small universities that I have never heard of, and I have seen horrible pilots come from some of the more well-known schools. I think it depends more on the individual and how much effort he or she is willing to put into flying. Embry Riddle and University of North Dakota are probably two of the most well-known universities. I'm not sure if you live in or around Illinois, but you should also consider Lewis University, Purdue, and Western Michigan. I have heard good things from all of these schools.

I've heard the argument from people that you're better off getting a non-aviation related degree, but I don't entirely buy that. It is important to have a backup plan because the job market for pilots is extremely competitive, plus pilots are so dependent upon their health. However, there's more to the aviation industry than just flying. Most students at SIU, myself included, study two years of aviation flight and two years of aviation management. You get a Bachelor Degree in Aviation Management, and in that program you are exposed to things such as airline management, airport planning and management, air traffic control, aviation law, and several others. I believe that most schools have programs that are somewhat similar.

I would suggest your son majoring in whatever he's interested in. If he's interested in the management side of aviation, then get a degree in aviation. If not, then he should get a degree in whatever else he may enjoy doing. The airlines do not care what kind of degree an individual has, as long as they have one. I know that U of I and Purdue have very good academic programs outside of aviation.

I know that at SIU (and I believe most other aviation universities are the same, but I could be wrong) students can only enter the flight program with a private pilot certificate or no certificate at all. They cannot obtain their instrument rating through a Part 61 school and then finish their commercial training at the university. There may be some exceptions, and other schools may have different policies, so maybe other people can clarify this.

I would definitely shop around and compare schools. Visit some of the other universities and see what they have to offer. Flight training is a huge investment, and your son needs to choose a school that is right for him. I hope this helps.


New Member
I am a freshman currently at the U of I. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have ( I would highly recommend this school, I'm having a blast with my flight training and extracurriculars here.

I plan on getting all of my flight ratings as well as a degree in Engineering while here. Many people do the Human Factors degree but I decided I wanted a backup degree in another field.

As for collegiate aviation programs, U of I is top notch. All of our primary training aircraft are less than four years old. The maintenance is top notch as well, and the Institute stresses safety above all else in training.

As for non-aviation programs, U of I is probably your best bet of all the aviation schools (the ones I looked at). So many programs are ranked top of the nation here. Engineering was ranked third overall by U.S. News, Accounting is #1, business is also a top program here. There are hundreds of degrees to pursue, the possibilities are endless.

If you are going to get any ratings before coming here, then just stick with the private. U of I likes to do the higher level training themselves and you will probably have to retake the instrument course anyways.



New Member
Thanks for the names and advice, SaabFO. We're going to look into Purdue and maybe some of the others you mentioned, especially Southern Illinois.

FlyIllini06 - Right now, Illinois is at the top of our list for all the reasons you mentioned. Also, I have another son who is going there this fall for engineering. But we want to have some other options in case Dan doesn't get admitted. I don't think he'll have any trouble getting in, but then again I thought that about some of the schools my older son applied to....

Everyone else - I'm still looking for other opinions on what you think the "best schools" are!

Any advice on question 3 - what to do for the next two and a half years?


New Member
Last month, I took a tour of Purdue and their flight facilities. I was VERY impressed. I thought Purdue had a beautiful campus, situated in a great college town. Purdue has a very good reputation in the field of aerospace/engineering, which I think may be helpful in finding a job. I also have the Collegiate Guide to Aviation. After looking through all the collegiate aviation programs in the US, I saw that Purude grads came out with the highest average number of flight hours. I believe it also costs a little less than Embry Riddle. I am also planning on visiting Ohio State, Illinois, and Florida Institute of Technology.


New Member
I just graduated last week from Western Michigan University with a bachelor's in Aviation Management. I originally enrolled in the Flight Science program but decided to change over to Management due to the high costs of flight training. I came to Western with my private, originally thinking I would do my flight training there. WMU, like some other schools, don't like you to have much over the private. WMU's program is based on ab initio - they like to train you from the start. Western definately has a great flight program and has great aviation management and maintenance degrees. As far as other degrees at WMU - their business, education, and engineering colleges are great. My main reason for not choosing the flight science degree was mainly due to the fact that I had worked at an FBO during high school and had been around the part 61 flight training environment. I found that the part 141 flight schools, like WMU, seemed to cost more and just weren't for me. That doesn't mean that they aren't for everyone else. There are many great collegiate aviation programs out there, and there are also plenty of other ways to get to the cockpit of an airliner. I had plenty of people tell me to get a non-aviation degree and do my flight training on the side. I took part of that advice and majored in aviation management because I wasn't interested in any other majors. I then worked on my flight training during the summers, weekends, and time off. Four years later, I have my degree in management and hope to be flight instructing by the end of June.

If possible try to stay in-state to save on tuition. I am from Illinois and had to pay out-of-state tuition here which kind of hurt. My top three selections were Purdue, WMU, and Illinois. I chose not to attend Illinois at the time (1999) because they didn't have a 4 year aviation degree at the time but things have changed. I wasn't accepted into Purdue because they limit the amount of out-of-state students in the aviation program, at least at that time. I hear great things about all three colleges. Let me know if you need any more advice about WMU. Good luck.

Check out the website for more specific information on the programs, facilities, and aircraft fleet. WMU Aviation


Well-Known Member
vipermcg what is the name of the collegiate guide to aviation that you have.

Thanks in advance


Well I was kind of in the same boat last year and I am quite happy with my decision.

Here's the deal (from my point of view):

People go to aviation schools because they think that it's somehow better than going to 'regular' school. The only difference is whether the aviation program is incorporated into the college or not. This is a big deal if you are majoring in an aviation degree, because you can be awarded credit hours for your flight time; but the price you pay is far more than it would be if the flight program is not incoprorated, not to mention the fact that if the aviation thing ever falls through you don't really have a useful degree.

People who are not interested in majoring in aviation should not base their college decision on whether or not the school has an aviation program. The reason being is the fact that if the major is not aviation, it makes no difference whether or not the school also has aviation classes. The one exception is the few credits that could POSSIBLY be earned by schools that offer the classes as opposed to the schools that don't. However, my guess is that these few credits won't be more than 10 or so, where approx. 120 is need to graduate.

I apoligize if this is confusing, I still don't understand everything about the whole credit system (My focus is pretty much on graduating in once piece). The point is that if the student dosen't care about the aviation degree, only about flight training; this can be done at ANY school that has an airport reasonably close regardless of whether the school has aviation classes or not!


Well-Known Member
vipermcg thanks for the info about the collegiate guide. As for my plans: I am planning on going to an aviation university and getting an aviaion, but I also plan on dual majoring in something that is non-aviation related.


Well-Known Member
Yeah, I saw that...hence my previous comment. I would hope its a typo. Unless its published by Riddle, then its probably about on par.


New Member
I am currently going to be a Junior in HS and am working on my ppl at a local Part 61 county airport. My number one goal is to become a professional pilot, however, I am not quite sure what the best way is to get there. I have talked to a few professional pilots in my area, a Falcon 10 captain and f/o, and also a Citation II captain. They informed me that there are so many ways to get into the cockpit and suggested that it would be wise to pursue a non-aviation degree and get ratings on the side just in case of the unthinkable. I am sort of leaning toward this route.

If I were to attend a college for aviation, I would most likely shoot for WMU, Bowling Green, or Ohio University. However, I am a little skeptical about going this route for the fact that the degrees associated with the flying programs are pretty much useless for any other field than flying.

If I were to go the non-aviation degree route, I would pursue a Civil Engineering degree most likely at Ohio University and fly at the university airport. I am not sure if I can enroll in the same flight courses offered to aviation students as a Civil Engineering major. I would appreciate feedback.



New Member
This is what most people will tell you to do. That is most likely what I will do, (i am also going to be a Junior) maybe minor in areonautical science but major in business of some sort or something like that.


New Member
Arizona State University

To Dan's Mom:

I am also researching aviation universities for a friend's high-schooler. I was surprised there has been no discussion of ASU, the link being:

Many years ago I attended ASU. I chose ASU over Perdue and ERAU (Prescott campus was new and I did not want to venture into the unknown) for ASU's:

- academic reputation

- geographic location (a suburb of Phoenix) There was very little weather, which meant flight training was rarely interrupted. Phoenix was easy to get to by airline.

- contracted agreements with local FBOs. The rates were attractive, and there were plently of aircraft and CFIs, meaning it was easy to schedule flight training

- relatively low tuition

Each student was assigned to a Professor who advised on both academic and professional subjects throughout all 4 years. This counsel proved invaluable.

I was very fortunate to have attended ASU. I believe FIT, WMU, and UI are worth looking into.

I am now in the flying position of my objective. The path to reach this point was not what I originally intended, yet here I am. I believe the paths to any particular aviation career change regularly. It is prudent to keep up with changes in the industry and be ready to make mid-course updates.


New Member
Thanks for the advice - Arizona is on our radar, but we are now leaning toward having Dan get a regular college degree and do aviation on the side. He has some medical issues that have come up that I've discussed elsewhere on this site that might keep him from being an ATP, but we aren't sure yet. It seems especially prudent for Dan to get a solid non-aviation degree because of this medical issue.

By the way, everyone, Dan has passed his written and is probably within a day or two of getting his PP certificate, depending on weather and scheduling. He's supposed to finish up with his instructor on Monday, and we're hoping he'll pass his checkride by Tuesday.