Upcoming Changes to Computer Science Admissions

The admissions process for current UW students and admitted freshmen described in this section applies through the 2018-19 academic year.

Beginning with the incoming freshman class of fall 2019, the Allen School is expanding its Direct to Major admission process to be the primary pathway for UW students into the Computer Science major. Visit our online guide to Direct to Major expansion to learn more.

Note: The upcoming expansion of Direct to Major admission does not impact the Computer Engineering major, which falls under the College of Engineering's Direct to College admission process, or transfer student admissions.

Admission pathways to Computer Science and Computer Engineering at the UW

Prospective freshmen who want to study Computer Science or Computer Engineering can be admitted to the UW through several pathways:

  • Prospective Computer Engineering majors may be admitted with Direct to College admission to Engineering.
  • Prospective Computer Engineering majors who are not offered Direct to College admission to Engineering may be admitted to the UW as Pre-Major students. These students can pursue Regular Admission to Computer Engineering after fulfilling prerequisites.
  • A small number of prospective Computer Science majors are admitted to the Computer Science major as freshmen with an offer of Computer Science Direct Admission.
  • Most prospective Computer Science majors are admitted to the UW as Pre-Science students. These students can pursue Regular Admission to Computer Science after fulfilling prerequisites.
Read below for more information on Direct to College and Direct Admission.
Because your admission options depend on whether you request Computer Science or Computer Engineering as your first choice of major on your UW application, it is important to consider your academic interests carefully before applying. We recommend that students who are interested in computing plus other engineering majors request Computer Engineering as their first choice of major. Students who are interested in computing plus math, natural sciences, or any subject other than Engineering should request Computer Science as their first choice of major.

About "Direct to College" admission for Computer Engineering students

Direct to College (DTC) is a new admission process that assures incoming freshmen who are admitted into the College of Engineering that they can pursue an engineering degree at the UW. The changes take effect for the incoming freshman class of 2018. It will apply to students who request Computer Engineering as their major. There is no change for prospective Computer Science students. Prospective Computer Engineering students should refer to the College of Engineering's Direct to College announcement and Frequently Asked Questions. (Note that DTC assures students of subsequent access to some Engineering major, but not a specific Engineering major.)

Prospective Computer Science students should continue reading this page for more information on admission pathways, including Direct Admission, and Regular Admission for freshmen admitted as Pre-Science. This information below is correct and up-to-date for Autumn 2018 freshmen planning for Computer Science.

About "Direct Admission" for Computer Science students

Computer Science Direct Admission ("DA") means being admitted to the Computer Science major before you enroll at the UW, based just on your UW freshman application. This page gives general information on Computer Science DA. 

  • If you are a high school senior admitted to the UW as a pre-major, read our information and advice for admitted pre-major freshmen. If you are a high school senior and have been offered UW admission and Direct Admission to Computer Science, you will receive detailed information directly from the Allen School.

Most UW students are admitted to the UW as Pre-Science or Pre-Major students, and are not directly admitted to any specific major. Pre-Science and Pre-Major students declare or apply to majors, usually in their sophomore year. In addition to these "regular" or "upper-division" admissions processes, some programs also admit new freshmen through Direct Admission.

While the majority of Computer Science majors join the Allen School through CSE Regular Admission, up to 30% of our students come through Direct Admission and an additional 15-20% are admitted as transfer students. Direct Admission is a highly selective process, but offers lots of benefits to selected students:

  • Guaranteed admission to Computer Science (no competitive application process later)
  • Participation in CSE events and activities from your first day on campus
  • More flexibility in planning your CSE coursework over four years of college
  • More time to do internships and participate in research
  • Access to CSE labs, facilities, and events
  • Connection to other CSE students who share your academic interests

CSE Selection Criteria for DA

Computer Science Direct Admission is offered to about 250 freshmen, selected from more than 5,000 candidates. We prioritize academically strong, motivated, and well-rounded students from Washington state. 

The best academic preparation for computer science and engineering is taking the most rigorous curriculum offered at your high school. This includes advanced classes if available (Honors, AP, IB, etc.), especially in English, math, and science. Most students selected for DA have taken science and math every year of high school, and most have taken calculus. It is not necessary to take computer programming in high school, or to have computer-related work experience. However, if you have access to CS opportunities, we encourage you to take them!

Computer Science DA is designed primarily for Washington State resident students. Although a small number of non-Washington residents may receive offers, there is a very strong preference for Washington students.

Application Process

There is no separate application for Computer Science DA. To be considered, students submit the regular UW Application for Freshman Admissions, and list Computer Science as their first choice of major. No additional materials are required. Applicants should follow the regular application guidelines; you do not need to craft a CSE-focused application. Applicants must meet all UW admissions deadlines and requirements as outlined on the UW Freshmen Admissions website.

The UW Admissions office selects students for Computer Science DA, based on criteria provided by the Allen School.

Information Sessions

Visit an Information Session at the Paul G. Allen Center.

Dates are posted online.

Advice & FAQs

How do I know if I am admitted to Computer Science as a Direct Admission student?

Computer Science DA decisions are sent at the same time as UW freshman admissions decisions, during the first two weeks of March. Your major will be listed on your offer letter. Students offered Computer Science DA will see Computer Science listed as their major. Students who are not offered DA will see pre-major listed as their major. 

In March, the Allen School will also contact DA students with information about our program. Everyone offered CSE DA will receive multiple emails from the Allen School. Admitted students will not miss our offer. 

Are there minimum test scores or GPA to be competitive for Direct Admission?

Most students offered DA have a high school GPA of 3.85-4 (unweighted), and strong test scores (usually 700+ on each section of the SAT; 30+ on the ACT). Remember that these numbers are only one factor in our selection process. Regarding test scores specifically, it's helpful to know that other factors are typically more important (grades, curriculum, essays, and activities). Also note that hundreds of students with these high grades and test scores are not offered DA; no grade or test score guarantees admission.

Do you expect students to have had programming experience in high school?

We do not expect high school applicants to have any programming experience. Computer Science and Computer Engineering are intellectual challenges first and foremost, so we look for those students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership. We look for students with strong academic motivation, who have excelled in math, science, English and other writing or communications courses.

What happens if I am not offered admission through the Direct Admission Program?

If you are not offered CS DA, please read our recommendations for admitted UW freshmen.

Can CSE majors pursue a double-major, double-degree, or minor?

Yes! One of the advantages of a large institution like the UW is the enormous number of academic options, and we encourage CSE students to explore subjects outside the department. Many of our undergraduates pursue more than one major or degree, and seek minors in other disciplines. Because CS DA students can start our curriculum early, they often have more flexibility to plan for a second major or minor.

What if I am offered DA but decide I prefer a different major?

You can drop CSE at any time if you decide it's not the right fit. We anticipate that DA students, like all students at the University, will spend their first year or two exploring lots of options. 

For more insights, read our FAQ for Prospective Students, and attend one of our Information Sessions.