The First-Year Engineering Program (FEP) supports the retention and graduation goals for the College of Engineering with the primary goal of improving freshman-to-sophomore retention. We continually collect and analyze data in hopes of identifying effective methods for predicting students’ academic success in engineering. This research is an effort to map out the relationship between incoming high school GPA and first semester GPA for our student cohort that attended FEP from 2007 to 2018. We considered the differences between in-state students and out-of-state students in their first fall semester academic performance.
We are particularly interested in students who struggled academically in their first semester. We know that one of the key indicators of students leaving engineering after their first semester is low GPA. Considering data collected from 2007 to 2018, 15% of students achieved a semester GPA below 2.0. High school GPA was only an adequate predictor of first fall academic success for students with high school GPA less than 3.0 (of which half the students ended up on probation) and for students with high school GPA greater than 4.0 (of which 98% ended their first semester with GPA 2.0 or above.)
Taking into consideration where a student went to high school, along with their high school GPA was a better and more useful predictor of fall academic success. From our data, we observed that students who have a predicted first fall GPA (predicted GPA based on student’s high school GPA and considers where student attended high school) less than 3.0 were most likely to struggle academically in the first semester. We did not find statistical differences in first semester performance of students from in-state versus out-of-state.
Our goal is to use these results to identify incoming freshman students who may need additional support during their time with FEP. This will help us continue developing intervention programs that will promote increased retention rates for these students. One way to support these students will be with enhanced advising during summer orientation. We would consider the possibility of modified course schedules for their first semester to lessen the intensity of the rigorous curriculum in engineering eight-semester degree plans.
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