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Freshman Engineering Student Success Indicators

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.512.1 - 6.512.17



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Walker

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Patrick E. Devens

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1653

Freshman Engineering Student Success Indicators

Patrick E. Devens, Thomas D. Walker Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University


Every year, up to 1300 freshman engineering students from around the world arrive at Virginia Tech's1 College of Engineering with varying backgrounds, experiences, and degrees of academic expertise. Many fail to meet first year engineering expectations even though college entrance requirements have increased. The question is why and how can the college improve retention?

This paper provides results at the two-year-point of an ongoing study of first year engineering students at Virginia Tech. The purpose of the study is to attempt to discern student success predictors so that appropriate interventions / corrective actions can be taken to increase retention in the program. The study includes the analysis of student Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores and a baseline math test. This data is then compared with their first semester engineering course grade. This paper only addresses correlations between final course grades and student SAT scores. Overall student performance in the initial freshman-engineering course is analyzed in addition to female, Afro-American, and Hispanic subgroups. The goal of the study is to better accommodate student needs by identifying how to allocate existing resources more.

I. Introduction

Significant numbers of freshman engineering students at Virginia Tech do not perform at a satisfactory level in their first semester engineering course. The questions are, "Why?" and "How can the college increase retention of the students without decreasing performance standards?" To help answer these questions, the Engineering Fundamentals Division (EF) continues to perform an analysis of freshman-engineering student performance during their first engineering course and on two tests. The tests are the national SAT test and in-house developed mathematics pre & post tests. The objective is to identify trends and/or indicators of poor student performance that can facilitate the development of programs to increase student performance and subsequent retention.

Other authors have attempted to analyze correlations between student SAT scores and academic performance. Most of these studies are, however, comparatively old and few are targeted at success in engineering education. For example, Gilbert reported in 1960 that " . . . scores on the SAT-V, SAT-M, and the Advanced Mathematics Test and scores on a science test (Physics and Chemistry) do not seem to provide a very sound basis for

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright O 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Walker, T., & Devens, P. E. (2001, June), Freshman Engineering Student Success Indicators Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9293

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