Freshman Engineering Retention: A Holistic Look

  • Nora Beth Honken
  • Patricia Ralston
Keywords: engineering retention, college retention, engineering students, STEM retention


The ability to increase the number of engineering graduates depends on many factors including our countrys P-16+ educational system, the job market and the engineering professions. Students need to be prepared for the rigorous math and science components of engineering programs, but they also must have interest in engineering as a profession, know there are available jobs, see value in pursuing engineering as a career, and be able to balance the demands of an engineering career with other priorities in their lives. Through taking a holistic look at a freshman engineering cohort, analysis verified some characteristics of students, such as having parents without a college degree, that increased the probability of dropping out. Analysis also identified student characteristics not commonly found in the literature that relate to retention such as self reported ADHD and the number of reasons for choosing to study engineering. Recommendations for K-12 educators, university faculty and engineering professional societies were formed based on analysis of characteristics such as high school study habits and what factors students considered when choosing a career.