UW Bioengineering Direct Freshman Admission FAQ

What are the advantages of DFA?
Are there any disadvantages?
Does entering the department through Early or Upper admission delay my graduation or change the sequence of my classes?
What are the selection factors for DFA? How are decisions made?
UW Bioengineering did not offer me DFA. Why should I consider coming to UW without DFA when I’ve been offered direct admission to a bioengineering program at another school?
If I have not been offered DFA, what are my chances of admission to UW Bioengineering?
Why don’t you admit everyone as an incoming freshman?
Can I visit the department?

What are the advantages of DFA?

Freshmen accepted to UW Bioengineering via DFA no longer have to compete to enter the program. They have the right to continue in the program so long as they make satisfactory progress in the major. If their interests change, they may change majors, subject to UW satisfactory progress guidelines.

As declared majors, DFA students have two departmental academic counselors, are eligible for departmental scholarships, are invited to participate in a wide array of departmental events, have access to our student lounge and computer labs, and may have an easier time finding research opportunities in the department.

Are there any disadvantages?

Perhaps. Students who are directly admitted to a major may not be as concerned about first-year grades, because they no longer have to compete for admission, and therefore may not work as hard in their classes. This could eventually make a student less competitive for scholarships and other opportunities. This is an issue of motivation and is under the individual’s control.

We think freshmen should explore different programs of study to find the best fit. DFA students may neglect to do that because they are in a major already. The first quarter of upper-division core courses (spring of sophomore year) could be an unpleasant surprise to a student who has only a vague idea of what bioengineering entails. Again, this is under the student’s control, and it is easy to explore programs of interest.

For these reasons, we see DFA as a great option only for those students who have researched various majors ahead of time and who are reasonably certain that UW Bioengineering is the best fit. Students who are less sure are encouraged to spend the freshmen year freely investigating numerous majors of interest at UW.

Does entering the department through Early or Upper admission delay my graduation or change the sequence of my classes?

No. Engineering majors are very structured, and usually you take the same classes no matter when you’re admitted. What could change your schedule is entering with substantial AP, IB, or Running Start credit. Depending on what you’ve taken, such credit could move you ahead in your program.

What are the selection factors for DFA? How are decisions made?

Selection factors include:

  • Strength of the academic record, including: HS GPA (a good target is 3.7+, unweighted); SAT or ACT scores (good targets are Math SAT of 720+ or combined ACT of 32+). Rigor and quality of the HS transcript. We prefer seeing math every year and honors, AP, IB, or Running Start courses in math, chemistry, biology, and physics.
  • Activities. Reviewers look for evidence of active, involved, well-rounded people. They note activities that show interest in science and engineering. Research or internship experience is particularly noted. Creativity, leadership, demonstrated societal concern, and exceptional community involvement are all noted.
  • Personal statements. Reviewers will note quality of thought and quality of writing. We strongly advise freshman applicants to take advantage of the box on the application that says, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” This is an opportunity to tell us why you are interested in the field of bioengineering and in UW Bioengineering specifically.

DFA decisions are made by the University’s Office of Admissions.

UW Bioengineering did not offer me DFA. Why should I consider coming to UW without DFA when I’ve been offered direct admission to a bioengineering program at another school?

There are many reasons!

Our BS Bioengineering program offers an exceptionally high quality education.

You have two more chances to apply (Early Admission at the end of the first year, and Upper Admission in the second year). Pre-bioengineering students will find many ways to connect with the department. Our academic counselors offer numerous information sessions for freshmen, which can be followed by individual appointments, and they run a pre-BIOE email list to keep freshmen informed about events in the department.
Pre-Bioengineering freshmen can be involved in the department by:

  • Taking classes. BIOEN 215 and BIOEN 299 are designed specifically for freshmen.
  • Joining a student group. Bioengineers Without Borders (BWB) and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) are open to all students with an interest in bioengineering.
  • Researching in a faculty lab. Learn more about undergraduate research opportunities.
  • Attending special events (journal club, research lectures, industry panels, and more); stay tuned to the pre-bioengineering email list for opportunities.

These experiences will educate you about the field of bioengineering and about the department. That helps you decide whether UW Bioengineering is right for you, which in turn helps you make a better application.

If you choose to attend the University of Washington and are interested in Bioengineering, please contact our advising staff once you have a summer Advising and Registration date. We have some advising slots available in the morning prior to the start of your program on the first day, and we’d like to see you then. We’d like to get our pre-bioengineers off to the best possible start at UW.

The University of Washington is a rich environment for medically-related science and engineering

Bioengineering is an interdisciplinary field, and there is a lot of bioengineering going on at UW. You’ll find it throughout the College of Engineering, in several basic science departments, and in the School of Medicine. Some students decide they’d prefer to study a traditional engineering or science discipline but give it a biomedical slant, and that’s also a great pathway for students who prefer the bioengineering major but aren’t admitted. Most of the engineering and physical science programs have a biological track. Students in these majors with an interest in bioengineering would complete the biological track within their major, pursue undergraduate research with biomedical applications, take selected electives in the bioengineering department, and perhaps participate in bioengineering student organizations. Likely alternate majors include Chemical Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Materials Sciences and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and also Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Neurobiology, Physics, and Applied Computational and Mathematical Sciences. Any of these programs could prepare you for graduate study in bioengineering or for industry. Note that our faculty come from diverse academic disciplines.

In short, you have many options at UW. If your interests shift, there will be a strong program for you. If you remain interested in bioengineering, there are many ways to pursue that interest.

The University of Washington has a long and strong record of supporting undergraduate research

We involve our undergraduates in what we do best as a distinguished public research university. UW offers undergraduate research scholarships, including the Mary Gates Research Scholarship, the Levinson Scholarship, and the Washington Research Foundation Scholarship. We are one of 10 Amgen Scholars campuses. Bioengineers are strongly competitive for these awards because of the abundance and quality of research opportunities for our students. Every spring, UW celebrates undergraduate research with a campus-wide symposium. As a UW bioengineer, you can develop the experience, relationships, and skills to compete for nationally competitive scholarships (Goldwater, NSF, Rhodes, Luce, etc.), or to be selected for graduate school, medical school, or your first industry position.
A different approach to the student experience.

At some universities, half of the students who enter bioengineering as freshmen will have left by junior or senior year. UW Bioengineering takes a different approach. The bar for admission is high, but attrition is low; we want every student who enters our program to succeed and complete the degree. Students enjoy a small, close, mutually supportive cohort, good relationships with faculty and staff, an excellent curriculum, and exciting options for research. You will have to work hard, but you will be well supported.
Our Environment
The University of Washington is a great institution, Seattle is a beautiful, exciting city, and you will love being a student at UW. Learn more about Seattle and UW.

If I have not been offered DFA, what are my chances of admission to UW Bioengineering?

The pre-requisite GPA for Early Admission averages around 3.7, with a range of 3.4 – 4.0. The pre-requisite GPA for Upper Admission averages about 3.6, with a range of 3.3 – 3.9. Students selected from the lower end of the GPA range typically show an upward trend in grades, recent strong grades, and may have research or internship experience, or outstanding leadership, service, or entrepreneurial experience. Most years we are admitting 1/3- 1/2 of our applicants.

Why don’t you admit everyone as an incoming freshman?

Students we accept at the end of the freshman year have excellent college records and have looked closely at our program. They are making a more informed choice of major, and they are strong contributors to the overall quality of our cohort.

We also want to leave some space for sophomores who discovered bioengineering after entering the university, for students who were “late bloomers”—who perhaps had a rough first quarter but then turned things around—and for transfer students.

A strong cohort experience is a hallmark of our BS Bioengineering program. We review applicants with care to achieve the right balance among these different groups of students and to select the students who will thrive in our department.

Can I visit the department?

Yes! What we have available depends on the time of year; please see below for details.

NOTE: Academic counseling appointments are for students. With student permission, a parent or guardian may join the appointment.

mid-October to mid-March
Prospective students are encouraged to visit the department between mid-October and mid-March. We can give you the best look at our program when classes are in session. High school students and their families may want to attend one of our scheduled information sessions.
Mid-March through late-April

From mid-March through April, departmental visits are available for students who have received an offer of admission from UW for the following autumn.
Prospective students should consider attending one of UW Bioengineering’s Prospective Student Sessions, which coincide with the Preview Days program sponsored by the Office of Admissions. Preview Days allow admitted students to get a better look at UW. These sessions are offered to answer students’ questions, profile the program, and give a short departmental tour.

Students who have received an offer of Direct Freshman Admission from UW Bioengineering are highly encouraged to visit the department. During this visit, students may meet with an Academic Counselor, meet a current UW Bioengineering undergraduate student, and sit in on a Bioengineering class. Students should note that the last two weeks of March is the finals and spring break period, and there are no classes to visit during that time.

May – mid-September

From mid-May through mid-September, department visits and academic counseling can be arranged as the counselors’ schedules permit. Students should note that there is no opportunity to visit a UW Bioengineering class during the summer.