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ERIC Number: ED539619
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Aug
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Cultural Models of the Admissions Process in Engineering: Views on the Role of Gender. Research Brief
Garrison, Lari; Stevens, Reed; Sabin, Portia; Jocuns, Andrew
Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (NJ1)
Gaining entry to a college of engineering is something that most people who eventually become engineers must do. However, for some this is not the straight-forward process for which a prospective student might hope, and because of this the authors are interested in how students navigate the process of admissions. In this study the authors are looking to see what cultural models are shared among members of UWest's engineering and pre-engineering students, in particular the body of shared knowledge behind the students' talk about the admissions process at UWest's College of Engineering. This study is part of the Academic Pathways Study (APS) of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), a five institution center funded by the National Science Foundation. UWest is unique among the participating APS institutions in requiring that students go through a competitive application process for admission to the college of engineering before their junior year. A small number of students (approximately 2%) who the college considers highly qualified are admitted directly as freshmen. The authors found that admission was a source of worry for many students in the study throughout their first two years of pre-engineering, unless they were a direct admit to the college, because admission to UWest's College of Engineering is highly competitive. Students were familiar with the stated "nuts and bolts" of admission, but were uncertain about how these documents would be used to judge them. Many students talked of contingency plans if they weren't accepted. Interviews with the students revealed that they used a number of different sources to construct a cultural model of the admissions process. These sources were both "official" (e.g., department advisors or department and college Web sites) and "unofficial" (e.g., friends, classmates, or sorority sisters). Generally, the students in the study reported consulting multiple sources. Conversations with advisors were key in the construction of a cultural model of admission at UWest and the navigation of the admissions process. Most of the students talked about what kind of grades would be required to get into the major. Additionally, a student's activities were also cited as things that an "admission committee" would consider when deciding who would be accepted. Also mentioned were research projects and jobs in the field (both on campus and off) as being factors in being admitted. Grades seemed to be what most students thought were given the greatest weight in the decision about their futures in engineering. The other things, such as activities, played a supporting role and were used to prop up a student's chances if their GPA was not believed to be strong enough. Most students in the study believed that gender was a mitigating factor in the admissions process.
Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education. Available from: University of Washington. Box 352183, Seattle, WA 98195. Fax: 206-221-3161; e-mail: celtad@engr.; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of Washington, Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE)