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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The First Year of College: Understanding Student Persistence in Engineering

  • Author(s): Hayden, Marina Calvet
  • Advisor(s): Levin, James
  • et al.
Abstract

This research study aimed to expand our understanding of the factors that influence student persistence in engineering. The unique experiences of engineering students were examined as they transitioned into and navigated their first year of college at a public research university in California. Most students provided similar responses with respect to the way they experienced the transition to college and social life. There was, however, wide student response variation regarding their experience of academic life and academic policies, as well as in their level of pre-college academic preparation and financial circumstances. One key finding was that students’ experiences during the first year of college varied widely based on the extent to which they had acquired organizational and learning skills prior to college.

The study used a mixed methods approach. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through an online survey and one-on-one interviews conducted with freshman students near the end of their first year of college. The theoretical foundations of this study included Astin’s Theory of Student Involvement and Tinto’s Theory of Student Departure. The design of the study was guided by these theories which emphasize the critical importance of student involvement with the academic and social aspects of college during the first year of college.

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