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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture STARS Program

Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) Program

The Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program equips motivated incoming engineering students with the tools and requisite math skills to be successful in engineering as well as provides support required to make the transition from high school study to the rigor of an engineering curriculum. It targets need-based students who have demonstrated talent and interest in the engineering and computer science disciplines, but have not been given the opportunity to properly prepare for the demands of such a field. All students interested in engineering or computer science are encouraged to apply. The general requirements and benefits are outlined below.

STARS Offers Students:

  • Specialized curriculum with reserved courses creating a personalized experience
  • First-year coaching on the study skills and habits needed to succeed in engineering
  • Comprehensive and individualized academic advising
  • A supportive community of peers, faculty, and staff
  • Access to tutoring and peer mentoring
  • Up to $2,000 in scholarship support

Program Eligibility

Some requirements listed below are not finalized until after a student has been admitted and advised at WSU. In particular, math placement by the ALEKS exam is critical to the eligibility of students to the STARS program at WSU. Students are invited to apply to the STARS program as early as possible to determine likelihood of eligibility to the STARS program and increase the chance of being accepted into the program.


  • Incoming WSU freshman
  • US citizen or US permanent legal resident
  • Washington State resident
  • Eligible for the Pell Grant or the State Need Grant (as indicated by the students’ level of financial need)
  • Highly motivated to complete an engineering degree
  • Attendance at a high school where 30 percent or more of the students participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program
  • Taking Math 106 (College Algebra), Math 108 (Trigonometry), or Math 171 (Calculus I) in the first college semester
  • Live on campus in Stephenson Complex, a living/learning community for students interested in science, engineering, and math

Application Process

Acceptance into the Washington STARS program will be completed throughout the summer as candidates complete the application process and are found to be good fits for the program. Candidates are evaluated primarily on their background, math placement, and how their essays and interview demonstrate their desire to obtain an engineering degree.

Application to the STARS program is a three-step process as outlined below.

  • Applications will be accepted until space is full.

A complete application packet is available for downloading here, or complete the steps below.

  • Complete the WSU STARS interest form online.
  • Complete the essays below and submit them by email to
  • Complete the interview. Interviews will be conducted at Alive advising over the course of the summer. Alternatively, interviews can be conducted over the phone as needed. The interview will be an opportunity for the STARS staff to get to know prospective candidates as well as candidates to ask questions. As such, interviews will be informal and short.

Essay 1: Engineering study requires determination and hard work over the course of 4‐5 years. Please share one or more experiences of a challenging goal that took a long time to achieve. How did you display determination and hard work? Was there a time when you wanted to give up and if so what did you do? Where did you get help? What did you learn? (500 words max)

Essay 2: Why are you inspired and motivated to study engineering? Please be sure to address in some depth the specific nature and extent of your interests in engineering. (300 words max)

Essay 3: The STARS program offers students academic, social, and financial resources to be successful in an engineering curriculum. How do you feel the STARS program will benefit you as a first-year student in engineering here at WSU? Please be sure to address specific challenges you anticipate facing that STARS will be able to help you with. (300 words max)


What is STARS?

The Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) in Engineering Program is modeled after the athletic redshirt used in NCAA Division I Intercollegiate athletics. Just as talented athletes use a redshirt year to prepare themselves for competing for four years at the high level requisite of Division I, so to does this program prepare talented students for the rigor of four years in an engineering program.

Why should I join STARS?

At WSU, only 50% of freshmen declaring an engineering major end up graduating in engineering. Most of these successful students have been found to perform well in their first math class, regardless of starting level. The STARS program is structured to prepare talented students who are underprepared to start in Calculus I for the challenging environment of engineering, building the skills and support structure required to succeed.

Will it take me longer to graduate as a STARS student?

The average time to graduation for engineering students is 4.5 years. It is expected that STARS program participants will graduate within 5 years.

How many students are in the STARS program?

The program is a joint partnership between the University of Washington and Washington State University. 64 students are invited to the program, half to each respective university.

What Majors can STARS participants study?

All engineering majors are eligible as are those pursuing computer science.

Are STARS students a part of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture?

Yes, students are considered pre-certified students of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. Please declare your intended major as Engineering or specific Engineering Discipline (Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, etc.).

How long will the program support me?

The focus of STARS is preparing participants to be able to handle the rigors of the engineering curriculum independently using the skills and support structure built in the first year. However, once you are part of the STARS family, you will always have the help and mentoring put in place as part of your developed support structure. Additionally, you will likely be asked to mentor the next class of STARS participants.

What scholarship support does STARS offer?

This year, we anticipate offering $2000 per student in a tiered system. $500 will be given to every incoming STARS student and $500 will be given to active STARS students in good academic standing for successful completion of the first three math classes (Math 106, Math 108, & Math 171). This rewards students for continued success towards an engineering degree as well as spreads out the scholarship to the second year when less scholarship money is typically available.

What will my first year at Washington State University look like?

The first year in the STARS program will be primarily focused on preparing you for a successful certification and graduation of an engineering discipline within an additional 4 years. Focus will be on developing community within the cohort as well as learning strategies for successful study of engineering. Additionally, math skills will be developed and honed to successfully complete the calculus series, which is widely accepted as a predictor for future success in any engineering curriculum. Your first year curriculum will probably be as follows:

WSU STARS Fall Semester
Math 106/116 – College Algebra5 cr
Biol 102 or Alternate4 cr
UCOL 497 – Peer Leadership/Studying Engineering2 cr
General Education Credits3 cr
Total Credits14 cr

WSU STARS Spring Semester
Engr 107 – Engineering Math3 cr
Math 108 – College Trigonometry2 cr
Chem 101 – Intro to General Chemistry4 cr
Engr 120 – Innovation in Design2 cr
General Education Credits3 cr
Total Credits14 cr

Download the Flyer
Apply to STARS

More information

Katherine Tetrick
Katherine Tetrick, STARS Director
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Dana 132