This project is a Work in Progress. The development of a professional identity is believed to be a critical pathway to persistence in an engineering major. Engineering programs increasingly realize that this identity development begins in the first year of college (or even before). Students who perceive themselves to be engineers and to use engineering ways of thinking are believed to be more likely to persist and to engage in important professional development experiences like co-op, internship, research experiences, and discipline-related extracurricular clubs. This paper reports preliminary findings on common concepts and themes that appeared when first-year pre- engineering majors were asked to describe the nature of engineering and their own development as engineers. We used qualitative text analysis approaches to understand the breadth of responses that these students had to open-ended prompts.