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Cooper Union: A New York City Gem

The Cooper Union

Founded in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has a total enrollment of less than 1,000 students and is located in Manhattan’s East Village. Cooper prepares students to make enlightened contributions to society through outstanding academic programs in architecture, art and engineering. The institution provides a challenging, interactive curriculum with distinguished, creative faculty and fosters rigorous, humanistic learning in a dynamic setting.

Cooper Union is a community that has benefited, since their beginnings, from the philanthropy of founder, Peter Cooper, and so many who have led and learned there since. It is in the spirit of “paying it forward” that Cooper offers all admitted undergraduate students a merit-based half-tuition scholarship currently valued at $22,275 per academic year (2018/2019).

Progressive History

Peter Cooper purposely created an institution that, to this day, admits students based solely on merit. Cooper Union was one of the first institutions to not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion or socioeconomic background.

The institution is also connected intimately with the history of New York City and the nation. Cooper’s famed auditorium, The Great Hall, was the platform for some of the earliest workers’ rights campaigns and for the birth of the NAACP, the women’s suffrage movement and the American Red Cross. The Great Hall’s podium has welcomed many famous Americans — rebels and reformers, poets and presidents. During the past 159 years, it was through meetings in The Great Hall that the politics and legislation necessary to build a humane society took shape.

Cooper Union continuously sponsors lectures that encourage open dialogue on current political, economic, and social issues, such as human and civil rights, freedom of speech and press, alternative sources of energy, and other issues of emerging importance.

Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture

The five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree is designed to provide students with a comprehensive educational experience, gaining knowledge and skills in preparation for the successful and ethical practice of architecture. Design studios and courses build cumulatively over the five years in order to establish a broad and deep foundation of knowledge in architecture and urban design in relation to developments in the sciences, arts, and technology. As part of the curriculum, the traditional and essential skills of drawing, model-making and design development are complemented by a full investigation of the analytical and critical uses of digital technologies.

School of Art

Cooper Union’s four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree educates artists in the broadest sense, both as creative practitioners engaged with a wide range of disciplines in the visual arts and as enlightened citizens of the world who are prepared to question and transform society. The program is structured around an integrated curriculum that fosters connections between disciplines, as well as between traditional and new media. The studio experience affords the opportunity for the development of individual artistic vision in dialogue with collective debates and experiments within an intimate community of artists. The study of history, theory and criticism in the visual arts and general studies in the humanities and social sciences are considered essential in intellectually grounding studio practice. Central to the school’s philosophy is the advancement of the artist’s role in relation to the prevailing forms and institutions of cultural production.

Albert Nerken School of Engineering

With an average enrollment of about 450 students, engineering is the largest of Cooper Union’s schools but continues to maintain small class and laboratory environments to ensure personal attention. Cooper offers four ABET accredited Bachelor of Engineering degrees in Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, along with a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering. Defining characteristics of the School of Engineering’s programs are the emphasis on project-based learning and opportunities for undergraduate research. Students regularly join the faculty in solving real-life problems that exist in contemporary society, and multi-disciplinary teams frequently cooperate with outside professionals who act as mentors. Superior analytical abilities and thorough grounding in engineering fundamentals and design enable students to collaborate on these projects.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Students from all three schools engage with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences as the academic core that unifies the schools into a tightly integrated whole, providing an education that is rooted in the ethical and humanistic framework of the liberal arts. An education in the liberal arts offers students the opportunity to become sensitive to the social and humanistic implications of their professional work and acquire the basis for a satisfying cultural and intellectual life.

Who Cooper Union Is Looking For

The Cooper Union encourages students who are serious about learning and passionate about architecture, art or engineering to apply. Most admitted engineering students earn A’s in high school, excelling in math, physics, and chemistry course work. Art applicants are reviewed by a faculty-based committee who ascertain their talent through portfolio review, sketchbook submission and the Hometest, a unique take-home exam with visual and written prompts. Similarly, architecture applicants are reviewed by a faculty-based committee that assesses student talent and potential through a take-home Studio Test. Cooper seeks exceptional, well-rounded applicants who have excellent writing and communication skills and a desire to use their professional education to better the world. More detailed information can be found at

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