What is the University of Washington Known For?

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The University of Washington is a unique school, boasting a long history of groundbreaking research and innovation. The university was established in Seattle, Washington just a decade after the city’s founding, making it one of the oldest universities on the West Coast. The initial goal of UW was quite simple—to aid economic development in the Northwest—which it easily accomplished. And, since the 1860s, the Huskies have boasted many more accomplishments from the invention of bubblegum to four national football championships.

 

Despite its selective admissions process, UW has the largest student population on the West Coast. Think you might be interested in joining the UW student body? Read on to learn more about the school’s outstanding academic programs, extensive extracurricular opportunities, and notable commitment to sustainability.

 

Overview of the University of Washington Admissions

 

Location: Seattle, Washington

Undergrad Enrollment: 32,000

Acceptance Rate: 49%

Middle 50% SAT: 1240-1440

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33

 

The University of Washington (UW) uses the Coalition Application for all freshmen applicants, both domestic and international. The application opens on September 1st and is due on November 15th. UW’s application process is less intensive than that of many other universities as they only request self-reported grades and do not accept letters of recommendation. The university does require one long essay and one short essay.

 

For the long essay, UW uses one of the Coalition prompts—“Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.” That being said, if you put your response exclusively under the Coalition Essay section of your Coalition Profile, the university will not receive it. For your application to be complete, you must submit your 650-word essay under the UW application questions.

 

In addition to the long essay, students are told to “Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW.” It is important to practice crafting a stellar diversity college essay so that you ace this 300-word response.

 

Unique Aspects of the University of Washington

 

Academics

 

Curricular Organization

 

The University of Washington runs on the quarter system, meaning that students enroll in classes during autumn, winter, and spring quarters and also have the option to take classes during a summer quarter. During each quarter that a student is enrolled, they will take courses that work towards their chosen major requirements, their minor requirements (students can have 0-3 minors), and their general education requirements. UW offers 180 different majors. Popular majors include biology, engineering, business, and management.

 

Class Size

 

UW is known for having extremely variable class sizes, from discussion-based humanities classes with under 15 students to introductory STEM lectures of 600 students. That being said, UW is known for being a large university that values individual development and has structures in place to make big classes feel small. For instance, big lecture classes are tied to small quiz sections (of 20-30 students) where students can interact with their peers, participate in dynamic discussions, review material from lectures, and get help from their TA. Students often find that these quiz sections augment their ability to learn the course material because they are less intense and are a more intimate setting.

 

Noteworthy Programs

 

UW undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in some of the strongest academic programs in the country. The Huskies’ most prestigious programs include:

 

  • The School of Medicine: UW has a world-class medical school, ranked in the top 10 overall, with particularly high marks in research and family medicine. The university’s medical excellence can also be seen through the outstanding programs offered to undergraduate pre-med students. Pre-med students at UW typically obtain bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry, bioengineering, laboratory medicine, microbiology, and neurobiology. Within these programs, they learn the basics of medicine from renowned physicians and researchers.

 

  • The College of Engineering: While UW has great medical research, it also excels at engineering research. It is ranked as the eleventh best public engineering school. Students interested in engineering can apply specifically to the College of Engineering through a recently-established program called Direct to College (DTC) or they can transfer into the College of Engineering once at UW. No matter how you get there, an engineering degree from UW will be attractive to employers after graduation.

 

  • Michael G. Foster School of Business: UW’s business school has seven programs of study: accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, human resources management, information systems, marketing, and operations and supply chain management. The school only admits around 200 students directly, but other students can transfer into the selective Foster School later if they have taken 60 units of general studies, and have completed the lower-division business requirements. Foster School is known for high-achieving business students who find great success in their chosen field.

 

Research and Innovation

 

Within STEM fields (from medicine to biotechnology to chemical engineering), UW performs outstanding research. The university receives extensive federal funding annually and uses its resources to host an undergraduate research symposium. Aside from the symposium, undergraduate students have abundant research opportunities because UW shows a financial commitment to excellent research facilities and faculty. In 2018, the university spent almost 1.5 billion dollars on research. Alongside research, the university is committed to technological innovation and maintains ties with many large tech companies in the area like Amazon, Nintendo, and Microsoft. Even before the technological era, UW was all about innovation—bubblegum, vinyl, and synthetic rubber were invented on UW’s beautiful campus.

 

The Campus and the City

 

The University of Washington has been named one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. The spring cherry blossoms are so beautiful that people from all over the world come to see them in bloom! The campus sits on the shores of Union and Portage bays, and you can see mountain ranges to the east and the west.

 

While the university boasts beautiful scenery, it is also situated just a few miles away from the heart of a lively city—Seattle. Seattle has been ranked as one of the top ten places to live in the country. The city is characterized by nature, nightlife, and above-average incomes.

 

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Sustainability

 

The University of Washington is known for its sustainability efforts, ranking as one of the top 20 greenest schools in the country, with high marks in transportation and food/dining.

 

The university boasts an impressive timeline regarding sustainability:

 

  • 1973: UW began recycling programs

 

  • 1991: UW introduced the U-PASS as an incentive for students and staff to take public transportation (more on this later!)

 

  • 2004: UW began composting programs

 

  • 2006: UW started the Green Up Program, which guarantees that all electricity on campus comes from renewable energy sources

 

  • 2007: UW’s President Emmert signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

 

  • 2009: UW implemented the Climate Action Plan to work towards carbon neutrality on campus

 

  • 2020: UW adopted the Sustainability Action Plan, built on five principles: addressing student learning outcomes, research impact, diversity equity & inclusion, responsible use of our resources, and decarbonization of energy sources

 

While the school’s Board of Regents and Presidents has historically shown an important commitment to sustainability, and the commitment is not isolated to the school’s administration. Students also build their community around a shared commitment to sustainability!

 

UW’s sustainable campus (and the associated compassionate student body) is typically a large draw for prospective students. Students enjoy imagining themselves eating locally produced and organic foods from compostable dishes and with compostable utensils at the school’s dining halls. They love the idea of having automated lights and AC systems in their residence halls to decrease carbon emissions, and they get excited about joining clubs that focus on caring for the environment. In short, if you’re all about sustainability, you’ll probably be all about UW.

 

Housing and Commuting

 

UW students are never required to live on campus, though 70% of students choose to live in residence halls during their freshman year. The school also has a large number of students who commute to campus from the greater Seattle area. Whether students live on campus or commute, they are encouraged to be sustainable. 

 

Residents in dorms are encouraged to conserve energy and make use of the recycling systems that are facilitated by the university. The Mercer Court Apartments use a rainwater-capture system to get water for the laundry machines and solar panels to generate power. There are also solar panels coming soon to Alder, Elm, and Maple halls. All new residence halls have earned LEED certification.


With regards to commuting, the university encourages students to avoid vehicle trips by using public transit. With the U-PASS—which provides free rides on buses, trains, light rails, and water taxis—students can get wherever they need to be in Seattle, quickly and sustainably.

 

Extracurriculars

 

Because UW is such a large university, there are over 950 student organizations on campus. About 70 of those organizations are part of the Greek life system, which 14% of students participate in. 

 

UW has career-focused clubs like GlobeMed, cultural clubs like the African Dance Club, and interest-based clubs like the Robotics Club. It also has many clubs that directly relate to the university’s emphasis on sustainability. These organizations include:

 

  • Students Expressing Environmental Concern (SEED): This organization promotes sustainability and reduces the university’s carbon footprint.

 

  • UW Earth Club: The Earth Club promotes environmental consciousness through specialized events, including Earth Day celebrations like the trash art contest.

 

  • UW Farm: The farm on campus produces bountiful crops and advocates for urban farming on campus.

 

In addition to student organizations, UW has 22 highly competitive varsity sports teams that compete in the Pac-12 Conference of the NCAA Division I. In addition to a historically successful football team (with eight Rose Bowl titles and an Orange Bowl title), the school boasts recent rowing and softball championships. UW’s men’s rowing team—known as the ‘Boys in the Boat’—also participated in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

 

Lastly, The Daily—UW’s student-run newspaper—is the second-largest daily paper in the city of Seattle. Student journalists take their work seriously and publish a paper each day that classes are in session during the fall, winter, and spring quarters (and weekly during summer quarters).

 

Financial Aid

 

If you are a Washington state resident, UW might be particularly affordable for you. In 2006, UW launched The Husky Promise which guarantees that finances will not inhibit Washington residents from receiving a fine education. Essentially, if a Washington student’s calculated financial need is not covered by federal and state financial aid grants, the university itself makes up the difference through institutional grants and scholarships.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at the University of Washington?

While UW is a selective school, with its general acceptance rate around 49%, your personal chances of acceptance may actually be higher or lower. We recommend that you use our free admissions calculator to see your chances of getting into the University of Washington. By taking into account your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile.

 

 

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Brooke Elkjer
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Brooke is going into her senior year at the University of Southern California and is originally from Dallas, Texas. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. Brooke is the associate literary producer for the intersectional feminist production company on campus, ART/EMIS. She also is a Resident Assistant (RA) and a student worker for the Thematic Option Honors GE Program. In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, writing, and watching Gilmore Girls.

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