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.

Congratulations on your admission to the University of Washington!

The UW offers many outstanding technology-related majors, including the Computer Science and Computer Engineering programs in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

There are multiple admission pathways for both Computer Science and Computer Engineering. It is important that you refer to information for your current admission status. Admitted UW freshmen who requested Computer Science or Computer Engineering as their first choice major were offered one of the following:

  • Students who requested the Computer Engineering major, some of whom will have been offered Direct to College admission to Engineering: Please refer to the Direct to College information on the College of Engineering website. (Students who requested the Computer Engineering major and were admitted as Pre-Majors but not offered Direct to College admission should also refer to the Allen School Regular Admission information.)
  • Direct Admission to the Computer Science major: Please refer to the Direct Admission information you will receive from the Allen School.
  • Pre-Science Admission: Please read the rest of this page for information on your major and admission options.

Information for prospective Computer Science students offered Pre-Science Admission

This remainder of this page has information for prospective freshmen who are interested in majoring in Computer Science but who did not receive Direct Admission to the major. Students who hope to study Computer Engineering should refer to the Direct to College information on the College of Engineering website.

Interest in Computer Science is growing rapidly nationwide, including at the University of Washington. The Washington State Legislature has funded dramatic enrollment growth in the Paul G. Allen School in recent years, and support from the Legislature, UW, corporations, and individuals has funded construction of a second building that will be completed during your time at UW.  Despite these significant strides, however, student demand for the Allen School continues to exceed capacity.

Admission to the Computer Science major takes place through three pathways: Direct Admission from high school, Transfer Admission, and Regular Admission. Regular Admission is a pathway where pre-major students enroll at the UW, complete prerequisites, then apply to the major. Currently, up to 30% of our majors enter via Direct Admission, and 15-20% of our majors enter via Transfer Admission. While this leaves roughly half of our slots for Regular Admission, we have significantly more applicants than we have student spaces, so admission to the Computer Science major is not assured.

Students who are admitted to the University of Washington but not offered Direct Admission to the Computer Science major need to weigh their options. Because the University of Washington is outstanding across-the-board, we encourage such students to consider choosing UW and pursuing a variety of relevant majors: Computer Science, but also Informatics, Human Centered Design and Engineering, Applied & Computational Mathematical Sciences, Electrical Engineering, and others. Students who are 100% certain that they want to major in Computer Science and who are guaranteed a position in the major at a program elsewhere may decide that the risk of competing for a slot in Computer Science at UW is too great.

Please review this page before contacting us with questions. When you contact us, please note that we have a strong preference for communicating directly with students, although parents are welcome to be CC'ed on emails, be on the phone line with their student, etc.

Why wasn't I offered Direct Admission?

If you were not offered Direct Admission, it is not an indication of your ability to excel in this discipline. Instead, it is an indication of the small number of students to whom we currently are able to offer Direct Admission. For 2018, fewer than 5% of UW freshman applicants who listed Computer Science as their first-choice major were offered Direct Admission. These students had incredibly high grades, took the most rigorous curricula offered in their schools, showed meaningful extracurricular experiences, and submitted strong personal statements. There were many highly qualified students to whom we were unable to offer Direct Admission.  (We make a small number of DA offers to out-of-state students, but the vast majority of DA offers go to Washington residents.)

I did not gain Direct Admission. What now?

As noted above, up to 30% of CS majors enter through Direct Admission, and 15-20% of our majors enter via Transfer Admission. This means that Regular Admission for students who enter the UW as pre-majors is still the primary admission pathway for Computer Science. We're happy to work with pre-major students to present their best possible application. At the same time, you should design an academic program that prepares you for other majors.

We have worked hard in recent years to increase the number of undergraduates that we are able to accommodate - an effort that has been successful, thanks in large part to investments by the Washington State Legislature and strong support from the University to expand our program. However, even as we grow, we will have to contend with capacity limitations for the foreseeable future. Our Regular Admission acceptance rate in the most recent year was 35%.

Preparing for Regular Admission takes most students approximately one year. Our prerequisites include three quarters of calculus, introductory programming, English composition, and an approved science course. Students should also plan to engage in extracurricular activities and other experiences that will bring strong skills to our program. Regular Admission candidates are evaluated based on a combination of college grades and personal statements.

Related majors

Many students' plans change in their first year or two of college. For example, students often discover a new academic passion during their first year - they indicate preference for one major on their UW application, but an exciting introductory course in another field causes them to reconsider the best fit for their strengths and goals. Or, due to capacity constraints, students who initially intended to study Computer Science will not be admitted to the Allen School. Students in majors outside the Allen School can still enjoy access to our non-major courses, can serve as Allen School teaching assistants, and can participate in Allen School research.

Below is a sampling of other UW majors you may want to explore, based on your interest in our program. Please note that most of these majors are also capacity-constrained and some students may not be admitted to these alternative options. We encourage students to consider open or minimum-requirement majors among their options (see here for a list of all UW majors).

Should I come to UW if I want to study CS and was not Direct Admitted to the Allen School?

We can't answer this for you, but we recommend considering the following factors:

  • Do my background and motivation equip me to excel academically during my freshman year at UW, while balancing extracurricular activities?
  • Am I excited to ask for help, utilize all available UW resources, and adapt my plans as necessary to be succeessful?
  • Am I happy to explore other UW majors besides computer science or computer engineering?
  • If I gained admission to another institution’s computer science or computer engineering program, how does that program compare to the opportunities offered to non-majors at UW?
  • Am I comfortable with the possibility that I may ultimately have to select a different major or transfer to another school if I am not admitted into the Allen School?

Traits of successful UW students

It is impossible to predict whether a prospective UW student will be admitted through our regular admission process (we get this question a lot). We can offer some general observations about students who are likely to succeed at UW, whether they gain entry to their top-choice major or pursue a different path:

  • Strong ability to manage time, self-regulate, and self-motivate
  • Ability to advocate for themselves
  • Personal initiative to ask for help and seek out resources
  • An openness to exploring alternative pathways to reach their goals
  • Ability to get along with people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives
  • A humble attitude (a 4.0 high school GPA does not typically predict a 4.0 UW GPA)
  • Willingness to listen to advice and feedback (Example: If an adviser tells you your planned fall quarter schedule is too intensive, please believe it!)

Highlights of the Allen School undergraduate program

  • World-class faculty who prioritize research and teaching
  • A supportive and inclusive learning environment (for example, we are a national leader in granting degrees to women)
  • Flexible degree requirements, allowing students time to pursue a double major or a minor
  • Meaningful and high-paying internship and full-time employment opportunities through our Industry Affiliates program, which hosts two recruiting fairs per year featuring startup and established companies seeking Allen School candidates
  • Extra support for students including: tutoring, résumé review sessions, technical interview coaching, Ph.D. admission prep, daily drop-in advising
  • Challenging and exciting courses in areas such as: virtual realitymachine learning, and data visualization
  • Paid opportunities for undergraduates to serve as teaching and research assistants

Other UW opportunities and resources

Students in the Allen School and other units on campus have many avenues for pursuing their interests in computer science and computer engineering outside of major coursework. Examples include:

  • The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship provides several programs for budding entrepreneurs. One class even gives students thousands of dollars to create their own company! In addition, Startup Hall helps students brings their ideas to fruition through a unique public-private partnership.
  • DubHacks> is a 24-hour hackathon open to students of all backgrounds that takes place on campus each fall.
  • UW's Career & Internship Center hosts several huge career fairs and lots of career prep workshops. Most of the major tech companies are on campus frequently.
  • The eScience Institute is an interdisciplinary effort across campus dedicated to developing and applying advanced computational methods and tools to real-world problems in data-intensive discovery.
  • Many campus clubs are open to all majors and have a tech/engineering focus. For example, here are some clubs offered through the College of Engineering.
  • UW provides hundreds of study abroad programs, impactful service-learning opportunities, and cutting edge research positions.

Can I appeal to be reconsidered for CS Direct Admission?

If you believe that important information was missing from your application, students may appeal to be reconsidered with this new information. Please read appeal guidelines here. Admitted UW freshmen are eligible to appeal if they requested CS as their first choice of major. We expect to approve very few appeals. If you appeal, we encourage you to continue planning as if your appeal will be denied while you wait for our decision.  

Need more information?

The best way to learn more about our program is by coming to UW's Admitted Student Preview Days, where we will participate in the academic options sessions and also hold information sessions and tours for students who are particularly interested in applying to a major in the Allen School. You can also reach us by email at: ugrad-advisor@cs.washington.edu.