Where Being A Redshirt Engineer Isn’t All That Bad
"Star Trek" reference aside: Some universities are adding a fifth year to their undergraduate engineering curriculum in order to give students time to catch up on core skills. It's a concept athletics departments call "redshirting."
At the end of the 2013 fall semester, the University of Colorado at Boulder will see its first engineering student graduate from its GoldShirt program, which gives selected students an extra year of preparatory courses before admitting them to the regular undergraduate curriculum. The students are chosen from the pool of rejected college applicants, interviewed by the admissions office and, if accepted, they receive a renewable scholarship to help offset the costs of tuition. Inspired by the program’s success, two Washington universities plan to create a similar program, the Washington State Academic RedShirts (STARS) In Engineering.
What’s the Big Idea?
“Redshirting” is a common practice in college athletics designed to delay a student’s participation by extending their eligibility period over five or six years. Applying the same principle to engineering helps mitigate the “make or break” aspect often used to describe the first year of study. That aspect is one reason 40 to 50 percent of engineering majors drop out or switch majors, according to the American Society for Engineering Education. ASEE spokesperson Norman Fortenberry says that redshirting “has very high potential as it builds on a proven academic model and also incorporates psycho-social components that also have demonstrated effectiveness.”