Road Trip: "Aha! Moments" at the University of Washington, Seattle

Early Spring is an ideal time to visit half a dozen schools in Washington and Oregon. Eighty-five degrees and sunny throughout my April trip - likely not typical Pacific Northwest weather – underscored the region’s beauty in all its glory.  Curiosity about the University of Washington’s Honors Program instigated the trip. And, the Honors Program did not disappoint, but my two biggest aha moments revolved around research and the onboarding of freshmen.  

First aha: “UW is a research college”. Though missing from their view book, the fact was declared more than once by more than one campus representative.  The university receives more funding for research than any other university in the US with the exception of Johns Hopkins.  Roughly 4000, or 11%, of undergrad students, conduct research every year. Applications are reviewed with research in mind, looking for students who “will take advantage of the university’s research dollars”.  UW’s purpose to “create and preserve knowledge for the common good” is taken seriously. At a large school like UW it is up to you to take the initiative, but the research opportunity is there – our tour guide advised, “just ask a professor after class and they will know the labs in their area of expertise looking for students.”

Second aha: UW is a large state school (31,000 undergrad and 14,000 grad), but they do much to make the university feel small and, in the springtime at least, this urban campus feels more like a botanical garden.  About half of an incoming class participates in FIGs, the First Year Interest Group program.  FIGs is a core seminar on how to navigate UW that can be attached to a class with people having the same interest.  The point: to become well connected.  Even more popular are Dawg Days – ten days of orientation activities.  Yes, TEN. 

On to the Honors Program, the impulse of this trip.  It is really three programs – Interdisciplinary Honors, which you apply for with the general application due December 1 (letters of recommendation are due Jan 19th); Department Honors, which you apply for when you declare your major; and College Honors, which you receive if you do both of the other two.  Interdisciplinary Honors is a four-year program, accepting roughly 250 students per year and providing: more challenging (and interesting) General Ed classes; a journal component; and an engagement (service, study abroad, internships, etc.) component. 

A note of interest: UW will be switching from a school specific application to the new Coalition Application this coming year (2016-17).  The content will remain essentially unchanged, but the format is new.  UW’s application is due earlier than most –December 1st – though the standardized testing deadline is Dec 31st and Honors Program recommendations are due Jan 19th. The UW information session was one of the best I have attended, and I have attended a lot.  Issac, our admissions officer, shared a number tips on writing applications that apply to any college.  It is definitely worth going to the information session if you visit UW, particularly if Issac is leading it.

After spending a day at UW it fits that the 75th percentile GPA of admitted students is a 3.94 unweighted.  (SAT scores come in at 1350 out of 1600 and ACT at 31 composite).  The tour group I was on was comprised 100% of students from the West Coast.  As a state school around 70% are Washingtonians followed by California and Oregon; 15% however are international students…just not on my tour.

Consider UW if you are looking for a big state school environment with strong academics and extremely strong research opportunities.  An appreciation of the Pacific Northwest’s majesty (and an ambivalence toward rain) can make UW a great fit.