University of Washington Honors Program

Interdisciplinary Honors at the University of Washington

Historically, honors programs at universities have attracted talented and ambitious students—students who have taken many advanced level courses and participated in many extracurricular activities, and have thus been long prepared for university honors programs by parents, teachers, and counselors. A large portion of this group apply to university honors programs as a natural extension of their advanced high school programs; for the recognition acceptance brings; for the smaller classes such programs offer; with the expectation of being part of a highly accomplished and motivated group of students; and/or with the hope that completion of a university honors program will secure admission to graduate or professional schools. While some of this is true, the Honors Program at the University of Washington offers more to—and requires more from—its students.

There are also students who may never have had opportunities to participate in, or imagine themselves belonging to, an honors program or track, but are nevertheless eager to think in complex ways about big global challenges, and act in the world through the lens of their own diverse experiences. We welcome applications from anyone with this deep curiosity about the world We evaluate applications broadly, looking to understand the entirety of the student’s experiences represented in those pages, and we are eager to ensure our community represents and includes complex and dynamic perspectives necessary to true scholarship.

To help all students better understand how UW Honors might fit into their educational goals, we’ve suggest consideration of the the following before beginning the application process:

  • The University Honors Program is indeed highly competitive and acceptance does set the admitted student apart. But such recognition alone will not lead to satisfaction if the student’s goals are out of sync with the Program’s values: community, diversity, leadership, lifelong learning, global and community engagement, and research.
  • Advanced courses in high school are significantly different from our Interdisciplinary Honors courses. Our curriculum prompts students to see beyond disciplinary boundaries and to understand the importance of interconnected knowledge for addressing the big challenges of our times. Those who enter with an eye toward acquiring expertise only in a particular field (e.g., medicine, engineering, business, international studies) can be dissatisfied when when asked to study topics outside of their chosen discipline. Those who want a streamlined course of study might not find the Interdisciplinary Honors option appropriate.
  • Honors does make the university feel smaller, but it does not isolate its students from the larger university community. Many of our courses are limited to 25-35 students. But these represent less than a third of the required credits to graduate from the University of Washington. All UW students will find themselves in a class of several hundred during their time here. Those entering Honors must be excited to attend a large public university—one that offers amazing opportunities not available at small colleges.
  • We employ a holistic approach to evaluating applications. The valedictorian with 800s in the SATs, a 4.0 GPA, and lots of extracurriculars may not be admitted if an application reveals that the student is not interested in a broad-based interdisciplinary education. We look for students who not only show academic ability and promise, but whose educational goals include, but also look beyond, a future career. Students who are intellectually curious and willing to take academic risks in order to expand the boundaries of their knowledge are more likely to thrive in our program and to pursue a life of continuous growth and learning.
  • Completion of Honors does not in itself guarantee admission into any future program. It is but one of numerous factors that are taken into consideration by evaluators at the graduate and professional level. Graduation from Honors has indeed contributed toward academic and professional success for the majority of our students, but it is our goal that our graduates leave the UW not only experts in their chosen fields but also committed to continuing their education both professionally and personally, serving their various communities as leaders, and engaging the world as global citizens.

Our experience has shown us that students who enter Interdisciplinary Honors for the wrong reasons either end up leaving or completing it with less satisfaction than anticipated. It is critical, then, that students, parents, teachers, and counselors consider the values and goals of the UW Honors Program before students apply. Those who commit to our broader concept of a college education report that they have been transformed by the experience. It is this quality that makes our program truly distinctive.

Thank you for taking time to consider this information. We welcome your questions as you continue to explore whether Interdisciplinary Honors is the right fit.

Learning More

Are you a prospective student or applicant interested in the UW Honors Program? After you’ve carefully reviewed the below information, we provide the following options for learning more about Honors:

In October and November we hold information sessions for those interested in applying as incoming freshmen for the Interdisciplinary Honors track; students interested in second year and transfer admissions should complete the form below. Those interested in Departmental Honors should contact the major directly.

During the rest of the year we encourage all prospective students to set up a meeting with an Honors representative by filling out our prospective student appointment form (well in advance of your visit, please; it can take us up to a week to arrange a visit) and we will respond as quickly as we can to arrange an appointment.

Please note that we may be unable to accommodate requests made less than one week in advance. The Honors office is open and available for appointments Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during winter quarter.

Want to request a prospective student appointment?
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Freshman Admission

Entering freshman applicants apply to the University of Washington and to Interdisciplinary Honors simultaneously – the Honors application is integrated into the UW Freshman Application.

Second Year Admission

Students who are already enrolled at the UW may apply for Second Year Admission into the Interdisciplinary Honors program during spring quarter of their freshman year. Each spring quarter, we accept applications from current freshmen and issue invitations to those who have demonstrated academic excellence during their first two quarters at the university. If you believe this option best fits your needs, please contact an Honors adviser for more information.

Departmental Honors

Another way to experience Honors is through your major. Typically, students apply for departmental admission in their junior year of college, although some majors have earlier entrance options. Departmental Honors is an excellent option, providing academic challenges and scholarly community similar to the Honors Core experience. Once you have been admitted to a Departmental Honors program, your departmental adviser must activate your Departmental Honors requirements in DARS for you to be officially recognized as a Departmental Honors student.

Transfer Students

Transfer students who have been admitted to the UW and have either participated in honors programs at their previous institution or who have strong college academic records are eligible to apply to Interdisciplinary Honors. Transfer student admission to the Interdisciplinary Honors Program is selective, due to limited space availability.

Because Interdisciplinary Honors requires students to complete 47 credits of general education coursework, students who have already earned an Associates degree, or who have fulfilled the UW’s Areas of Knowledge requirements through their transfer credits are not eligible to apply. In order to determine this, those interested in entering the Honors Program must wait until they have been admitted to the University of Washington and had their transcript evaluated for UW credit before applying to Honors. Those not eligible for Interdisciplinary Honors may instead be eligible to apply for Departmental Honors in their chosen major(s). Contact the Departmental adviser for admission information and requirements.

Applicants may be able to enroll in some Honors courses before they are formally accepted into the Program. See an Honors adviser regarding which Honors courses might be available to you.

Want to learn how to apply for Transfer Admission to Interdisciplinary Honors?
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