First year engineering students perceptions of engineering

Marigold F. Bays-Muchmore, Alexandra Chronopoulou

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Engineering at the University of Illinois has steadily drawn increasingly larger incoming classes of students. With a significant population and a diverse number of programs, these freshmen will be entering a unique engineering culture. This study sought to understand the perspectives and experiences of the students in regards to their engineering identity as they entered the university in the Fall of 2017. Differences in perceptions among demographics such as gender, ethnicity, and the different engineering majors were also examined. A survey was administered to 1986 freshman engineers within their first month of school. The survey contained questions pertaining to the students' perceived understanding of and confidence in engineering, as well as their reasons for pursuing engineering. Common perceptions of engineering qualities and responsibilities were also assessed. Based on survey results with a 23.3% response rate, students across all majors were confident in their ability to succeed, but female students reported lower levels of confidence than male students. The most common reasons students selected for pursuing engineering were their abilities in math and science, followed by having prior experience with engineering. However, female participants selected prior experiences as a reason at a significantly lower level than their male counterparts. Within the various engineering majors and programs themselves, there were differences in satisfaction levels. Students who were not in their first choice major were less likely to agree with being happy in their field or intending to stay in their major. However, overall the participants rated themselves as having a good understanding of engineering and planning to stay within engineering as a realm. Descriptors for engineers that were most commonly selected included 'Practical' and 'Analytical' while less commonly selected were 'Artistic' and 'Kind'. A brief description of a follow up study is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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