The formation of an engineering identity is a key indicator for persistence within academic and professional spaces. However, this formation is often multi-faceted and complex, prompting investigations to understand specifically how engineering students form their engineering identity within the constructs of the first-year experience. This exploratory qualitative study utilizes content analysis to analyze engineering preconceptions in a first-year course. Data was collected from a medium-sized private university located in the Pacific Northwest and consisted of essays from 543 first-year engineering students. Students’ preconceptions of engineering centered around five key thematic areas: knowledge, perception, impact, method and performance. Results from this analysis indicate that students come into engineering with a variety of different preconceptions about engineering.
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