The UW is a great place to study Computer Science and Engineering! Like many programs, the Allen School has limited space and a high number of interested students. UW students must apply for admission to the CS or CE major through a school application. The Allen School admits between 25% and 33% of UW students who apply.
Most people apply through the Regular Admission pathway, after completing about one year of prerequisites at the UW, but we also offer Direct Freshman, Transfer, and Non-Traditional admissions pathways. This section contains detailed information for each of the following:
- Regular Admission: The standard process in which students join the Allen School after completing all prerequisites in college. See a more detailed explanation below.
- Transfer Admission: Transfer applicants are considered for Regular Admission. As of 2015, transfer applicants are selected for admission based on the standard UW Transfer Application. You do not need to submit a separate application to the Allen School.
- High School Direct Admission: This highly-selective process grants CSE admission to incoming freshmen, based on the standard UW Freshman Application.
- Non-Traditional Admission: This application pathway is for strong students who discover CSE late.
Regular Admission Basics
The Application Process
UW students apply to CSE online, through the College of Engineering application, for Autumn or Spring admission. Most people apply at the end of their freshman year, or during their sophomore year, after finishing about one year of prerequisite math, science, CSE, and English courses.
- High school students: Note that Direct Admission is a separate (and very small) admissions path.
- Transfer students: You do not need to submit a separate CSE application. You will be considered for CSE admission based on your UW transfer application.
How Many We Admit
As of 2016, CSE admits about 300 students per year. This includes Computer Science and Computer Engineering (there’s no difference in admission to the two majors). Because the UW admits more than 1,000 students per year who want to study CSE, and we have space to accommodate about 370 people per year, we admit 25% to 33% of UW students who apply to CSE. While we continue to dramatically expand our program, student interest is growing even faster.
What We Look For
CSE is a challenging program. Successful students have strong academic records showing problem-solving, reasoning, and communication skills. College grades are the biggest factor in CSE admission, especially in math, science, CSE, and English courses. Most admitted students have UW grades of 3.5 and higher in most of their related courses. However, there is no exact formula for determining what will be competitive. Many admitted students have mixed grades, and it's possible to be competitive even if you have some lower grades. We recommend that you talk to a CSE adviser about your chance of admission.
High school students: Realistically, you can not predict what grades you will earn at the UW. Most freshman-level math and science classes are graded on a tough curve, with median grades for a class set around (or even below) 3.0. This means that most competitive CSE applicants are among the strongest math and science students at the university. Also remember that most students earn lower grades in college than in high school. The UW has lots of resources to help you do well, but we encourage everyone to be realistic about the unpredictable nature of competitive admission.
Beyond grades, the Allen School wants interesting and motivated students who will contribute positively to our community. A personal statement, a short response related to diversity, and details of your work history will tell us more about your interests and goals. These factors help strong candidates stand out, but they do not make up for low grades -- CSE will not admit someone with a great essay if their grades are clearly not competitive.
Also remember that it is illegal to consider race or gender in any admissions decision at a public school in Washington; there are no quotas in CSE admission, and everyone is admitted based on the same standards.
Competitive applications can be stressful. Many UW majors are competitive, and many strong students do not get into their first choice of major. Everyone should plan for alternatives, and UW offers lots of interesting programs. Your major does not determine your future. If your goal is to work in the technology industry, remember that tech companies hire people from a variety of majors.
- High school students: Because you are not guaranteed your first choice of major at the UW, coming here may be a bigger risk than some of your other college options. Many schools admit students directly to their computer science or engineering majors, or have no restriction on what major you declare. If you choose to attend the UW, you should plan to consider multiple majors. You should also consider whether you want to spend your first year or two of college planning for a competitive application, as this may not be an ideal college experience for everyone.
- Transfer students: You should complete all prerequisites before coming to UW, and you should be admitted directly to CSE. We do not encourage transfer students to enroll at UW as pre-majors if they are only interested in studying CSE -- the risk is too great that you may not be admitted to CSE, and it is hard to graduate in a timely manner if you do not begin your major immediately after transferring.