Many students complete their first two years of college coursework at a community college, often earning an associate's degree along the way, and then transfer to the UW to complete a bachelor's degree. Community college students typically have several goals competing for their academic attention along the way, not the least of which are completing the requirements for the associate's degree, completing UW admission requirements, working toward UW general education requirements, and investigating UW majors and taking preliminary courses leading toward them.
When it comes to balancing these goals, there is no one answer as to which is most important. For some students, the associate's degree is of paramount importance, while others can take it or leave it. Some work diligently toward completing general education requirements while others focus almost exclusively on their major area. And obviously UW admission requirements are a must for students hoping to attend the UW.
Use the information below, and work closely with your community college advisers and UW advisers, to strike the right balance for your situation.
Planning for your Major Before Transfer
It is very important that you begin preparation for your UW major as early as possible in your academic career. It would be a costly mistake to focus on other goals to the exclusion of major preparation, for many reasons.
- Preparation for your major is an important factor in getting admitted to the UW.
The Office of Admissions subjects each transfer application that meets minimum standards to a comprehensive review. This review assesses all students holistically on their academic performance and personal qualities or achievements. Preparation for intended major is one of the assessment areas specifically addressed in this review.
- Some UW majors take four years to complete.
For example, engineering majors take four years from the time you start calculus; foreign language majors take four years if you start at the beginning of a new language. There are many other examples. If you select one of these majors and don't start it until your junior year, you may need a total of six years of college to finish your bachelor's degree.
Many UW majors have admission requirements.
In addition, some of these admit students only once a year. Almost all the admission requirements of these majors can be completed at Washington community colleges. Again, if you choose one of these majors and haven't started the coursework in your first two years, it may take you much longer to graduate than you had planned.
UW students are expected to be admitted to a major before they reach 105 credits.
If you transfer in with 90 credits, you will have about one quarter to decide on a major. We will allow you more time if necessary to complete the admission requirements of your chosen major, but we expect you to have given the matter some thought before your junior year. And, if your choice of major has competitive admission, you may be required to plan for an alternate major. This is a lot to think about during your first quarter at the UW, when you will be making many other adjustments in your life as well.
Most students run through several potential majors before they find the subject they enjoy most. Give yourself time to do this by starting to investigate potential majors early on. Each quarter, one or two of your courses should be a subject you are considering as a major, or a requirement of your intended major.
Many subjects have required prerequisites.
This is particularly true for science programs. For example, before you can take the organic chemistry (required for many biological and physical science majors), you must take a year of general chemistry, and before you can take the year of general chemistry you should be ready to start calculus. The first core course in the astronomy major (which is offered only once a year) requires a course in thermal physics, which in turn requires two quarters of calculus-based physics and a year of calculus. All of these foundational science courses can be taken at community colleges.
In addition many majors are sequential, meaning the courses must be taken in order, one per quarter, at least for the first several quarters. For example, if you major in math you can take only one math course each quarter until you finish a year of calculus. If you begin calculus early on, the other courses each quarter can be general education requirements. If instead you transfer in with 90 credits of general education requirements completed and then start your math courses, you have no requirements left to take along with the math. This is a serious problem if you are receiving a type of financial aid (such as veterans benefits) for which you must take 12 credits of requirements each quarter.
If you postpone courses that are normally taken in the freshman year, you may have difficulty registering in them at the UW.
The UW is crowded, and registration in some courses can difficult — especially gateway courses that a lot of students need. Plus, in your first quarter at the UW you'll register after the continuing students. Many departments reserve spaces in appropriate courses for new transfer students, but if you haven't completed the basic course sequences for your major in your first two years, you may get even farther behind if you can't take them right away at the UW.
Not all majors are available at the UW.
If you discover after you transfer to the UW that you want to be a high school home economics teacher, you will have to transfer again to another four-year college, because the UW has no home economics major. We also have no major in physical education, nutrition, or athletic training. To be sure you can major in the subject you want, decide on your major before you choose the college at which you plan to finish your bachelor's degree. Or, if you know you want to finish at the UW, familiarize yourself with our list of majors.
Completing a major in two years.
If you know you want to pursue a bachelor's degree at the UW, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the majors we offer. For students who begin preparing for their major early in their college career, it is possible to complete many UW majors within two years of transferring. For more information about beginning to prepare for a specific UW major while attending another college, see Academic Planning Worksheets for recommended course work for each undergraduate major.
Transfer students who have completed most of the general education requirements but have not completed recommended or required courses for admission to a major are unlikely to complete a bachelor's degree within two years of transferring. However, it is possible to complete the following majors within two years without having completed major-specific courses beyond general education if you begin working toward them in your first quarter, seek appropriate assistance, and follow the recommendations of advisers (e.g., to complete a 60-credit major in two years, you will likely have to take at least two classes in your major every quarter):
- American Ethnic Studies
- American Indian Studies
- Comparative History of Ideas
- Comparative Religion
- Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
- Jewish Studies
- Major Ready Pathways
Once you have a pretty good idea of what you would like to major in when you come to the UW, consider talking to your community college adviser about whether there is a Major Ready Pathway (MRP) for that major. Although it doesn't guarantee admission to the major, taking the courses in an MRP helps to ensure that you will have met the minimum requirements for your major of choice once you enter the UW.
Planning for your General Education Requirements Before Transfer
Whether or not you complete an associate's degree, you will most likely take a number of courses before you transfer that will count toward UW's general education requirements. Here are some important things to note when planning your courses prior to transfer.
- Since all of the UW's colleges and schools have general education requirements in excess of the UW's general education requirements, students who enter with an associate degree have NOT automatically satisfied all of the general education requirements for their degree program.
Many courses required by a transfer associate degree will count toward your general education requirements, but the degree itself does not automatically fulfill all general education requirements. After you transfer to the UW, you will meet with an adviser who will determine how the courses you have already completed count toward the graduation requirements for the degree program(s) you are seeking. Almost all transfer students will have some requirements yet to be completed. This is entirely normal and expected. Students who start at the UW as freshmen are not expected, nor even encouraged, to complete their general education requirements in their first two years. It is more important in your freshmen and sophomore years to decide on a major and begin completing its requirements, while taking some general education courses.
- General Education Requirements are graduation requirements, not UW admission requirements.
Whether or not you have completed UW's graduation requirements has no effect on your application for admission.
- Plan your general education courses with your adviser.
Talk to your adviser about integrating the courses required for your UW major with the requirements of the academic associate degree; you can often select courses that will count toward the requirements of both. For example, pre-business students should take two quarters of economics, which will count toward social sciences, and math, which will count toward natural sciences. If you need to take additional foreign language, it will typically count toward the humanities requirement in your associate degree (even though for most UW majors your first year foreign language courses will count toward your foreign language requirement instead).
- Consider completing a full year of foreign language before transferring.
Although the UW admission requirement is just two high school years of a foreign language, many UW students must take more foreign language in college to meet the UW's graduation requirements. UW's College of Arts and Sciences, College of Education, and School of Social Work, require completion of a foreign language through the third quarter with at least a 2.0 grade.
- If possible, try to complete any sequences you started before you transfer.
Because the organization of the material can vary from college to college, you may have trouble if you transfer in the middle of a sequence. Good examples of this are biology, chemistry, and math. To see how your sequences will transfer, use the equivalency guide.