Office of the Provost

FAQ about DFA

If you have a question about Direct Freshman Admission (DFA) not included here, please send it to Alicia Palacio at

Can any program decide to conduct direct freshman admission?

There is no restriction on which programs can consider DFA, although it is assumed that DFA will most often be pursued by competitive majors (see below for definition). If you are considering introducing DFA but are unsure if it is a good fit for your program, the 2011 Direct Admit Team Report contains helpful information.

What does the Direct-Admit Team Report mean by “competitive majors”?

There is, to date, no single definition of what constitutes a competitive major, although in general it refers to a major in which enrollment is normally restricted to a subset of applicants. A unit wishing to explore the DFA option can discuss whether the major is sufficiently competitive to warrant DFA with their dean who will then discuss this option with the Provost and the Faculty Council on Academic Standards (FCAS).

Do any units at the UW directly admit freshmen already?

Yes. Three units currently admit freshman directly into their programs. The School of Business enrolls hundreds of DFA students every autumn. Some departments in the College of Engineering enroll DFA students. Additionally, the School of Music and other performance-oriented degree programs employ DFA based heavily on artistic performance during required auditions.

What would a unit expect to obtain from introducing DFA?

DFA has the goal of attracting and retaining the highest quality students who might otherwise decide to attend peer universities that offer DFA instead of risking uncertainty of admission to a specific major at the UW.

Why are there two approval processes?

Currently the Faculty Council on Academic Standards (FCAS) reviews all program change requests to ensure program quality and continued compliance andcooperation with University’s central holistic admission. A program considering DFA is no exception.

However, introducing or changing DFA has financial implications and accountability not considered in the FCAS approval process. The Provost has therefore introduced a separate approval process to ensure appropriate resource planning to support the DFA request (recruiting, advising, diversity planning, IT tool support, scholarships or financial aid, central data reporting, classroom requirements, teaching assistants, and other operational requirements). In addition, the Provost’s approval process looks at other financial considerations, the duration of the DFA prototype experimentation (no longer than 3 years), and the unit’s preparation to track the impact of DFA on student quality, outcomes, diversity and transfer proportionality within the program and unit as a whole.

Why does the form refer to a “prototype DFA”?

It is hard to predict the impact of introduction of DFA or changes to existing DFA on a program. They are therefore treated as prototypes or pilots for a set period of time (generally no longer than three years).

Is there a limit to the number or proportion of DFA students in a major?

Yes. Under DFA, the total number of students to be admitted into a major is limited to 30% or less of the total enrollment capacity for that major.If in the future a decision is made to allow DFA at the school or college level, then the 30% limit would be for the total enrollment capacity for that school or college.

This 30% limit (or a lower limit if so requested by a unit faculty) emphasizes the high quality goal while still making available space for regular admission of University students, premajors, and transfer students. The exact percentage should be negotiated between the Provost, the dean of the college or school, and university faculty committees.

Will the DFA limits apply to the College of Arts & Sciences?

Since the majority of admitted freshman enroll in the College of Arts & Sciences for the first two years while considering a major, A&S should be exempted from this 30% limit in general. However, if the College of Arts & Sciences were to decide to proceed with college-based DFA, this limit still applies to the specific DFA population.

Are there any exceptions to this limit?

A major within a college or school may request an exception to admit beyond the proposed 30% limit. The exact percentage should be negotiated between the Provost, the dean of the college or school, and appropriate university faculty committees.

Will DFA’s impact on the program be measured or tracked?

Yes. During the prototype, metrics related to the program will be tracked, reported and evaluated, both by the DFA units and centrally, to compare various admission processes and to ensure the University meets it goals of recruiting and retaining high-quality students. The metrics that will be tracked relate to student outcomes, academic profile, and diversity profile.

Plans for reporting are still under development but the intention is to provide a report one year after a DFA begins as part of program evaluation and/or the annual budget process. The report will include benchmark data and will track trends over a 3-year period starting before DFA was introduced and tracking the same data for both DFA and all students in the program. Results of the report will be the basis of discussions between the dean and Provost and may lead to revisions in the DFA prototype.

Why does the report mention “college-based” DFA and DFA “into schools or colleges” (as opposed to majors or programs) but it is not an option on the form?

The report outlines two types of DFA—one that admits freshmen directly into a program or major and another that admits freshmen into the school or college without specifying a program or major.

While the report provides details for both options, the report team identified that all of the units currently considering DFA are interested only in DFA into a program or major. There was little interest in DFA into a school or college because the school or college would either have to guarantee the DFA student entrance into one of its competitive programs without specifying up front which program that would be or the unit would have to create a separate major for DFA students who were not competitive enough to gain acceptance to any of the unit’s majors. As neither option appealed to units when the form was created, the option was left off the form.

If you are interested in pursuing DFA into your school or college rather than into a program or major, you are welcome to state this on the form and discuss this option with the Provost.

Will DFA affect access to the program for under-represented minority, first-generation, or low-income students?

DFA, or any other mode of admission for that matter, should not adversely affect student diversity.All DFA programs will be accountable for diversity planning and for tracking annually access to the program by diverse groups. The impact of direct admission on student diversity and the success of diverse students should and will be monitored annually as implementation proceeds. The data covers the diversity profile of each unit as a whole, with percent of students admitted in various modes (DFA, regular admission, transfer admission) included for possible correlation and balancing.

Will transfer students have limited access to the UW under DFA? Does DFA affect the proportionality agreement?

The UW must operate within the proportionality agreement between the UW and the State community colleges that requires 30% of new undergraduate students admitted to the University as a whole come from Washington State community colleges. Planning related to DFA must include how to accommodate transfer students into competitive majors within this agreement. The percentage of spaces allotted to all available admission processes (including DFA) should initially be based on historical data, then tracked, and possibly modified annually to ensure that the University satisfies its goal to recruit the best students and meets its commitments in its agreements with the State and the Community Colleges.

Will DFA affect advising?

Yes. DFA will affect the deployment of advising resources (human and financial) and will require a coordinate approach between various advising groups within the UW.

Units should be aware that DFA may require additional advising resources or different deployment of current resources in order to ensure successful recruitment and retention of DFA students. Coordination and collaboration among department-based advisers, advisers located in college or school-level advising units, and centrally located advisers (UAA Advising and OMA&D Counseling Center) will be important in providing advising services to students directly admitted to majors as freshmen, particularly with respect to changes in major, choosing a second major or minor, or other issues that affect progress toward degree.

Can a DFA student change majors or declare a double-major?

Yes. A student’s ability to change major or pursue two majors is not affected by direct admission. Students considering these options should follow the normal procedure of consulting with an advisor to determine the application and admissions process to meet the requirements for the new or second major.

Is the Direct-Admit Team the first to consider DFA at the UW?

The 2011 Direct-Admit Team report builds on past efforts, such as the recommendations for DFA of the Joint Policy Advisory Committee and the guiding principles for DFA submitted by Pete Duke’s committee on direct admission. Both are included as appendices in the full 2011 Direct Admit Team Report.

Does the holistic review process for freshmen applicants by the Office of Admissions still apply?

Yes. DFA will need to comply with the UW’s overall policies regarding freshman admission, including the holistic review process.

Will DFA students be exempt from a unit’s continuation policy?

No. DFA students are subject to the unit’s policy regarding continuation in the program. This is controlled by the unit faculty, college councils, and FCAS and applies to all students in a program, including those admitted directly as freshmen.

Once DFA is approved, how are admissions handled?

Admissions logistics for DFA will be agreed to between the unit and the Office of Admissions, and holistic review still applies to all freshmen applicants.

Based on lessons learned from existing direct admissions processes, as well as principles and constraints considered by the committee, the 2011 Direct Admit Team Report includes two process models – a default and an exception. Figure 1 outlines each process model at a high-level.

If you are involved in setting up a process for DFA admissions and deciding which model is best for your unit, please read section 8 of the 2011 Direct-Admit Team Report in detail. It includes more information on principles, timelines, the roles of Admissions and UAA, and resource requirements.

Does the introduction of DFA mean that the UW is instituting enrollment planning and management?

Not at this point. However, if more majors become competitive and practice DFA, the number of open majors and the number of students admitted via other admission modalities will decrease. There is a possibility that there would be a “tipping point,” prompting additional consideration of enrollment management and planning.