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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture STARS Program

Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) Program

Washington STARS in Engineering logo

The Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program assists motivated first-year engineering and computer science students with the transition from high school study to the rigor of a college curriculum by providing them with the tools and requisite math skills to be successful. STARS 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 these fields. All students interested in engineering or computer science are encouraged to APPLY ONLINE.

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 and computer science.
  • Comprehensive and individualized academic advising.
  • A supportive community of peers, faculty, and staff.
  • Access to mathematics and chemistry tutoring.
  • Up to $4,000 in scholarship support earned over the first two years.

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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 should apply to the STARS program as early as possible to determine 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 student’s level of financial need)
  • Highly motivated to complete an engineering or computer science degree
  • Attendance at a Washington State high school where 30 percent or more of the students participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program
  • Recommended: Live on campus in Stephenson Complex, a living/learning community for students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math

Application Process

Application to the STARS program is a two-step process:

  1. Complete the STARS online application.
    Candidates are required to write an essay as part of the application. Essay can be typed or copied directly into the application. It is highly recommended that candidates write their essay before completing the application.
    Essay Topic: Engineering and computer science 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)
  2. Complete the interview.
    After completing the application, contact Morann Johnson at to schedule an interview. Be prepared to answer the following two questions as part of the interview process:

    1. Why are you inspired and motivated to study engineering or computer science? Please be sure to address in some depth the specific nature and extent of your interests in engineering or computer science.
    2. The STARS program offers students academic, social, and financial resources to be successful in an engineering or computer science curriculum. How do you feel the STARS program will benefit you as a first-year student in these fields at WSU? Please be sure to address specific challenges you anticipate facing that STARS will be able to help you with.

Candidates are evaluated on their background, math placement, and how their essay and interview demonstrate their desire to obtain an engineering or computer science degree.

Apply to STARS

Now accepting applications for Fall 2020.

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When should I apply to STARS?
The WSU STARS application process starts at the beginning of March each year.
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 accepted into the STARS program each year?
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.
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 engineering or computer science major, e.g. Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Software, etc.
How long will the program support me?
The focus of STARS is preparing participants to be able to independently handle the rigors of an engineering or computer science curriculum using the skills and support structure built in the first two years. 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 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 certification by developing community within a cohort as well as providing learning strategies for successful study. Additionally, math skills will be developed and honed to successfully complete the calculus series. Your first year curriculum will probably be as follows:

WSU STARS Fall Semester
MATH 106 – College Algebra3 cr
CHEM 101 - Intro to General Chemistry4 cr
ENGR 101 – Success in Engineering Study2 cr
ENGL 101 - College Composition3 cr
General Education Credits3 cr
Total Credits15 cr

WSU STARS Spring Semester
ENGR 101 – Success in Engineering Study Seminar1 cr
ENGR 107 – Introductory Mathematics for Engineering Applications3 cr
MATH 108 – Trigonometry2 cr
CHEM 105 – Principles of Chemistry I4 cr
ENGR 120 – Innovation in Design2 cr
General Education Credits3 cr
Total Credits15 cr

More information

Morann Johnson
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Dana 141