First-Year Engineering 2021 Impact Report

This annual report outlines the program's activities and results in numbers for student retention and transition-to-major as well captures the many highlights of the academic year.

Related: 2020 Impact Report | 2019 Impact Report

The School of Engineering Education works closely with the Office of the Dean of the College of Engineering to make the vision of the College a reality starting in the First-Year Engineering Program. We want to take a moment to acknowledge the support and work of the College and School leaders.

Dean Mung Chiang

Dr. Mung Chiang
Dean of the College of Engineering

Since taking office in January 2017, Dr. Chiang set the course for the future of the College of Engineering at Purdue through his vision summarized in “The Pinnacle of Excellence:”

  • Never complacent with anything less than the pinnacle, we will aim higher and punch above our weight.
  • As the largest engineering college among the top 10 in the nation, we will tackle the challenges of scale and seize opportunities enabled by scale.

Alina Alexeenko

Dr. Alina Alexeenko
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

Dr. Donna Riley

Dr. Donna Riley
Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education

Dr. Matt Ohland
Associate Head of the School of Engineering Education

The School of Engineering Education and its leaders embrace the First-Year Engineering (FYE) core value of “Students First”, and work together with every single member of the FYE program, the College and the University to materialize the vision of the School in the FYE program:

"The School of Engineering Education (ENE) envisions a more inclusive socially connected and scholarly engineering education. This implies that we radically rethink the boundaries of engineering and the purpose of engineering education. Our mission to transform engineering education based on scholarship and research rests on three pillars: Re-imagining engineering and engineering education, creating field-shaping knowledge, and empowering agents of change."


To advise First-Year Engineering students with the best resources available at Purdue so they can be successful. This is accomplished via the First-Year Engineering Academic Advising Team that always puts students first.


To prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be successful in their engineering majors at Purdue. This is accomplished with a curriculum consisting of 29-33 credit-hours.


To retain the best students with the potential to be Purdue engineers. This is done via 4 credit hours of engineering coursework in the fall and spring and by allowing students to make an informed decision about their choice of engineering major.

Dr. Isabel Jimenez-UsecheIn summer of 2020, when we discussed what the Fall 2020 would look like, we quickly realized that the AY 2020-21 was going to be the most challenging academic year that the First-Year Engineering Program had ever had in recent history, or maybe ever. What we didn’t know at the time was that it was going to be the most rewarding one as well. 

The challenge: welcoming the largest engineering class we had ever had, in the middle of a global pandemic, with a mix of virtual, online and in-person course offers, and a mix of online and on-campus students.

The goal: Welcome the new FYE students, contribute to their sense of belongingness to Purdue, that what makes them boilermakers, and prepare them to be successful in Purdue Engineering.

I have to say that it was very rewarding to see how the Class of 2024 shinned during their first year at Purdue Engineering, managed to enjoy college life and campus life in an unprecedent way, performed academically well and moved to their engineering disciplines on time. The one-year retention rate data speaks by itself: 90.8% retention rate to the college and 94.5% retention rate to the university. The on-time completion rate of FYE is also outstanding: 85.3%.  

This success in unprecedent times is a team effort. I have to give it to the FYE academic advising team, led by Billie Jennings, for amazingly navigating communication and advising of the Fall 2020 cohort. To Nicole Towner and her Instructional Support Team, particularly Anne Delion and Jim Whitford, for coordinating our largest courses, ENGR-131 and ENGR-132 during this academic year. To our ENE Faculty members acting as curators of the FYE ENGR courses: Dr. Senay Purzer and Dr. Jason Morphew for ENGR-13100, Dr. Tamara Moore for ENGR-13200, Dr. Bill Oakes and Dr. Carla Zoltowski for ENGR-13300, Dr. Sean Brophy for ENGR-13000 (ENGR-19500). They put incredible number of hours into transforming our courses to be suitable for the new reality of the Fall 2020 cohort. To our instructors, GTAs, and PTs who worked tirelessly, 24/7 to make sure students had everything they needed to be successful in their FYE ENGR courses. And finally, to everyone who jumped in to build FYE Community among our students: Dr. Tamara Moore with her Zumba classes; Teresa Walker with all her positive stories and communication campaigns; Iryna Ashby, for maintaining our FYE community site, Dr. Jennifer DeBoer and Christina Pantoja for taking the lead on the FYE Online learning community; Dr. Bill Oakes for organizing the Sunday hikes with the EPICS students, to the FYE students who participated in the FYE social hour, and those who created and managed the FYE Class 2024 discord group. The list goes on and on.

To everyone who contributed to the success of the Class of 2024, my sincere gratitude and appreciation.

Dr. Isabel Jimenez-Useche
Assistant Head of First-Year Engineering

Summary of Accomplishments for AY 2020-21


  • Advise and support the Fall 2020 cohort of new FYE students, mainly virtually, while maintaining pre-pandemic retention rates
  • Advise the largest cohort of new engineers ever at Purdue
  • Advise our first cohort with fully online students
  • Improve VSTAR process resulting in increased satisfaction of VSTAR advising process among students


  • Provide a synchronous virtual environment for FYE students in their first and second semesters at Purdue, where they could safely receive their classes and connect to campus
  • Successfully supported students online via a Learning Community, synchronous instruction and teaming with on-campus students
  • Provide tools to students on how to be successful online learners, modify the course to promote engagement at multiple levels


  • Creating community with FYE students through the implementation of weekly communications, online site with activities and discussion boards to connect, facilitating the formation of study groups, promoting healthy living and study habits, providing tools for being successful, etc.
  • Maintain pre-pandemic retention rates to the College of Engineering and to Purdue, despite of a change to online, virtual, and hybrid instruction
  • Improve in the percentage of students who complete the FYE program on time (2 semesters)

Enrollment Data

For Fall 2021, we received our largest class ever of First-Year Engineering students.

  Fall 2015 Fall 2016 Fall 2017 Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021
# Applications 17,125 17,736 17,190 18,819 14,824 17,591 18,202
# Admitted 9,165 8,806 8,180 9,709 9,373 10,428 10,970
# Matriculations 1,925 2,077 1,966 2,343 2,306 2,455 3,063

Gender Distribution

Gender Fall 2015 Fall 2016 Fall 2017 Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021
Female 549 548 543 643 592 643 824
Male 1,376 1,529 1,423 1,700 1,174 1,812 2,239
% Female 29% 26% 28% 27% 26% 26% 27%


  Fall 2015 Fall 2016 Fall 2017 Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021
Resident 624 710 711 716 689 696 726
Non-Resident 1,010 1,042 1,053 1,422 1,246 1,474 2,066
International 291 325 202 205 371 285 241

Underpresented Minorities

In Fall of 2021, we saw an increase in the number of URM students and more than twice the number of African American students compared to the year before.

  Fall 2015 Fall 2016 Fall 2017 Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021
URM 145 152 185 231 227 200 288


Fall 2015 Fall 2016 Fall 2017 Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021
2 or more 52 80 82 122 113 137 160
American Indian or Alaska Native 3 1 2 2 4 2 4
Asian 179 178 186 351 293 391 473
Black or African American 39 38 33 52 41 23 54
Hispanic or Latino 85 85 119 135 138 126 178
International 292 329 203 208 371 285 241
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 3 2 0 2 2 2 1
Unknown 87 82 18 26 36 60 57
White 1,185 1,282 1,323 1,446 1,308 1,429 1,895

New Beginners' Profile: Pre-College Scores


Fall 2015 Fall 2016 Fall 2017 Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Fall 2020 Fall 2021
Avg ACT Score 30.6 30.7 31 31.3 31.8 31.8 30.2
Avg HS GPA 3.89 3.91 3.92 3.78* 3.79 3.80 3.66
Avg New SAT Math N/A N/A 714 729 738 735 683
Avg New SAT Reading & Writing N/A N/A 670 679 638 684 655
Avg New SAT Total N/A N/A 1381 1402 1414 1410 1338

*Enrollment Management changed how they calculated unweighted GPA beginning Fall 2018

FYE Advising Team
Photo: Fall 2021, FYE Academic Advisors at the College of Engineering BGR Ice Cream Social

The First-Year Engineering Academic advising office advises all First-Year Engineering students except students participating in the Goss Scholars learning Community (former Honors program). Students in the Goss Scholar Engineering Learning Community are advised by the Engineering Honors advising Office. 

During the academic year 2020-21, the First-Year Engineering Office conducted all their advising virtually. They meet individually with all the students, in 45 minutes appointments. They advised 2,712 first-year Engineering students. Students were 93.9% satisfied with their advising experience, according to the results from the Virtual Student Transition, Advising, and Registration (VSTAR) survey.

First-Year Engineering Virtual reception desk here to stay

In Summer 2020, the FYE advising office created a virtual reception desk to welcome students during VSTAR and in general, to operate as our regular in-person reception, just that online. The reception desk was held in Zoom, from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Fridays. Breakout rooms were created for each academic advisor. Students did their check in at the virtual reception desk and then they were “moved” to a breakout room for their advising appointment. The reception desk has been so successful, that even after the return to in-person classes and advising, we have continue to hold it as another way to connect with students. Visit our virtual reception desk!

2021 Virtual Summer Transition, Advising, and Registration (VSTAR) 

This was our second consecutive summer advising new beginning students completely virtual. The greatest challenge for this summer was to advise the large number of students (the new cohort was about 25% larger than the previous one) with the same or higher quality as before. To achieve this goal, the FYE advising office decided to increase the time of the virtual appointments, from 30 to 45 minutes, continue with individual advising appointments (instead to moving to group advising), and work with FYE academic advisors (instead of getting help from non-FYE academic advisors), to maximize the number of FYE students who meet with their assigned academic advisor during VSTAR. FYE academic advisors also held advising sessions outside of regular working hours to accommodate students in different time zones.  These changes paid of as shown in the latest VSTAR satisfaction survey conducted by the University:

  • 93.6 % satisfied/very satisfied response with their overall satisfaction with their academic advising meeting. 
  • 99.5% agree/strongly agree response to the statement that their advisor made them feel welcomed at Purdue, 
  • 96.1% agree/strongly agree response to the statement that their advisor answered all of their questions.

Transition of leadership in the FYE advising team

At the beginning of Summer 2021, the Director of FYE advising, Billie Jennings, retired after more than a decade of service in the FYE program. Billie gave so much to the FYE program over the years. She supported thousands of students as they transitioned to college, found their pathways to academic success in First-Year Engineering, and moved on to their majors and careers of choice. She led a high-performing, dedicated team of advisors in serving FYE students, mentoring many new advisors as they achieve professional success here in FYE and beyond. She managed the FYE advising program though more than a decade of growth and operational changes, always putting students first in the team’s persistent pursuit of their next giant leap. 

After Billie’s retirement, Curt Oechsle, one of FYE Senior academic advisors, stepped as the Interim Director of FYE advising. Curt led the FYE advising team through a successful VSTAR season in Summer 2021. He has gained the trust of all the FYE advising team with his calm welcoming approach and his willingness to help and serve the students and his team. 

FYE Engr 13100 Class
Photo: Summer 2021 FYE Early Start Students in ENGR-13100 with Instructor Jeanette Aguilar.

  Fall 2018 Cohort Fall 2019 Cohort Fall 2020 Cohort
Transitioned to engineering major on time (2 semesters) 77.3% 83.6% 81.9%
Completed FYE requirements but stayed in FYE program 3.6% 2.0% 3.4%
3rd semester students in FYE program  9.9% 6.5% 5.6%
CODO out of engineering 4.1% 4.1% 3.7%
Left Purdue 5.1% 3.8% 5.5%


Retention Table

Tip: Click image for full screen

FYE students engaging in team activities in their ENGR 13100 class
Photo: Summer 2021 -FYE students engaging in team discussions during their ENGR 13100 class located in the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering

One of the major reasons that students chose Purdue over other Universities is the opportunity to have a whole year to explore different engineering majors and made a decision about their engineering major. Retention is also increased when students have the opportunity to make an informed decision about their engineering major. This is why in the recent years multiple colleges and university have decided to adopt a first-year model for their incoming students.

During the Fall of 2020, the FYE program partnered with the Schools of Engineering to offer 49 Engineering your Major events for all FYE students. In Spring 2021, we held the second College of Engineering School Fair, virtually via Zoom, with the participation of all the Schools of Engineering. This event gave the FYE one more chance to connect with the engineering majors, ask questions, compare and gather more information about the engineering major, just before the deadline to submit their choices of major.

At the end of Spring and Summer, 2,065 FYE completed the program and were eligible to transition to their major. Consistent with previous years, 43% of them changed their choice of major from the moment that they applied to Purdue to the actual major that they moved to after the T2M process.

The figure below shows the way FYE students from the Fall 2020 cohort changed their major choices during their time in the FYE program at Purdue:

FYE Transition to Major Chart

Tip: Click image for full screen

Activities, Timelines, and Considerations

1. Exploration and Learning


  • Career Exploration Videos
  • Out-of-Class Career Exploration Activities
  • Engineering Your Major (EYM) Sessions
  • Purdue College of Engineering School Fair
  • Self-Reflection about Major Choice

2. Formal Request


  • Fall Semester: Late February
  • Spring Semester: Late September
  • Summer Semester: Late July

3. Placement After Grades Posted


  • Based on Academic History
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) and Engineering Admissions Index (EAI)
  • Review by the Discipline

Most programs accept all students; a few are competitive.

FYE students pause their teamwork to pose for a photo

Development and administer online courses due to COVID

During Summer 2020, the instructors, faculty and instructional support team in FYE worked to develop online versions of ENGR-131, ENGR-132 and ENGR-133. The three courses were piloted in the summer, to make sure that we were prepared to receive our largest class of new beginners, in the middle of the pandemic, with an online mode of instruction. The summer courses were a success and a good foundation to deliver and improve the Fall courses. This rapid design and implementation of online courses was possible thanks to the support from the School of Engineering Education, The College of Engineering and a grant from a private donor. The courses were delivered in a virtual format, with in-person interaction when it made sense, during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Zoom was used as the virtual platform. The breakout room feature in zoom facilitated teamwork during class time. The courses were offered in a synchronous format, with online students placed in sections that made sense with their time zones. For many online students, this was the only course in which they meet other FYE students. Keeping the courses in a synchronous mode was a key component to maintain retention to the College and to Purdue.   

Building community among FYE students during the pandemic

During Fall 2020, we put in place a variety of activities/resources for FYE students to find each other and to find relevant information to be successful. We engaged students in a total of 14 activities and had an FYE community site for FYE students, advisers, faculty, and staff to connect. The site continued during Spring 2022, with added features like facilitating the formation of study groups, weekly messages and tips for being a successful online student. We were able to make a difference in the college experience of the FYE students that participated in the activities and Brightspace site.

Related Stories

Students gather at Slater Hill to meet college and school leaders

July 29, 2020: Early Start First-Year Engineering Students Meet College and School Leaders


Gather Town with FYE students

September 23, 2020: Bringing us together


June 24, 2021: Innovation, grit in teaching pandemic earn further recognition for 25 awardees with related video above