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As a visiting exchange student, you will be taking classes with UW students on the UW Seattle campus.

General UW Academic Information

The University of Washington may have a different structure than your home university.  The tabs below are meant as a reference.

The UW is on a quarter system, with four 10-week sessions throughout the year:

  • Autumn: September – December
  • Winter: January – March
  • Spring: March – June
  • Summer: June – August

During summer, most students are on vacation and exchange students come to UW during either Autumn, Winter or Spring for 1-3 quarters.

The Academic Calendar has important dates regarding dates of instruction, deadlines, and holidays.

In the US, many universities are further divided into Colleges, Schools and Departments, and the University of Washington is no different.  The UW has 18 different Colleges and Schools, many of which are further broken down into departments.  Visiting exchange students have a wide variety of course options available to them, but there are special considerations for enrollment in certain departments and colleges.

All exchange students coming to UW on a university-wide exchange will be admitted to the College of Arts & Sciences,  regardless of their major at their home university.  Students coming through a departmental exchange will be admitted to a specific department.  While this does not necessarily restrict students to taking classes within specific departments, please see the below section for exchange specific study options.

It is your responsibility to be aware of University policies, regulations, and deadlines. For more details about these requirements you can visit the registrar’s website. You are also responsible for knowing the academic requirements and policies of your home universities that may apply to you while you are studying abroad at UW.

Each instructor sets the requirements and policies for his/her class and states them in the course syllabus given to each student at the beginning of the quarter. Most instructors expect students to attend class. Attendance and participation may be part of the final grade. Instructors are required to hold office hours outside of class time. Do not hesitate to visit your instructors if you need help with coursework or would just like to further discuss issues brought up in class. Many professors encourage and enjoy student interaction. Communication early in the quarter is especially important if you are having difficulties in a course. If for some reason you do not intend to continue taking a class, you must drop the course.

Course and Study options

As an exchange student you will only be able to register for courses after official acceptance and with the creation of your UW NetID. Course availability may depend on your Exchange type.

The Course Catalog provides a description of all UW courses, however, it should be noted that not all courses are offered every quarter. Consult the Time Schedule to view the available courses for a given quarter.

To better understand what courses are available to you, please see the section on Exchange types below.

Competitive departments with limited course availability

The below subject areas are extremely competitive so you should have a backup plan if you want to take courses in one of these areas. Students enrolled in a UW degree program will often be given priority over other students, including exchange students. Additionally, some departments may have their own departmental exchanges and therefore cannot accommodate students from university-wide partners since priority is given to their own exchange students.

  • Architecture
  • Business*
  • Communications
  • Design
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Law, Societies & Justice
  • Math
  • Psychology

*Please note that the Foster School of Business has their own departmental exchanges and their courses are typically only open to exchange students on Foster exchanges.

Restricted departments and courses

The following departments have restrictions and are not open to visiting exchange students:

  • Professional programs and fee-based programs including those offered by the Foster School of Business, Information School, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and School of Pharmacy
  • Art/Design studio courses

In order to be considered a full-time student for the J-1 visa requirements, you must take a minimum of 12 credits per quarter as an undergraduate student or 10 credits per quarter as a graduate student. Your tuition waiver will cover up to 18 credits per quarter.

During your last quarter at the UW you may be allowed to register for less than a full-time course load.

*Please note: your home university may have enrollment and credit requirements that may not allow you to drop below full-time. It is your responsibility to ensure you meet any requirements set by your home university.*

Each course listing includes prefix, course number, title and credits. Each listing also may include general education designator(s), names of instructor(s), description of the course, prerequisite(s), and quarter(s) offered.

  • 100- and 200-levels: Lower-division courses which generally do not have extensive college-level prerequisites (aside from preceding courses in the same sequence).
  • 300- and 400- levels: Upper-division courses are courses which require substantial college-level preparation on the part of the student.
  • 300-level courses are directed primarily at juniors and seniors. Ordinarily they are not appropriate for well-prepared graduate students.
  • 400-level courses should be appropriate for either seniors or graduate students.
  • 500- and 600- levels: Graduate courses.

As an exchange student you will only be able to register for courses after official acceptance and with the creation of your UW NetID. The registration process occurs through your MyUW account and will begin during registration Period II for the quarter you are entering UW. You may receive notification referencing an Advising & Orientation (A&O) Session, but this does not pertain to exchange students.

You can view the registration dates by visiting the Academic Calendar. You can also visit How to Register for a step by step guide through the registration process.

You may register via MyUW for any courses which do not have any registration restrictions. For many upper level courses you will need departmental permission to register for the course. It is best to make this request before your registration period begins so feel free to reach out to the department advisers and let them know that you are a visiting exchange student interested in the course. Each department handles registration restrictions differently, but in general be prepared to submit your UW student number, your home university name, and your major at your home university. You may also be asked to email the most recent copy of your transcript to verify that you’ve met any prerequisites the department has.

Though we are happy to help you navigate the registration process, our office cannot provide add codes or waive prerequisites, nor can we guarantee that you will get access to courses you want.

Once posted, you may view your grades and unofficial transcript via your MyUW page. The UW uses a numerical grading system, from 0.0 to 4.0. For a more detailed explanation, please see the Grading System page of the UW Student Guide.

Exchange Types

The UW has two types of partnerships with universities abroad.  Depending on your home university and major, you may be participating in either a university-wide exchange or a departmental exchange.  The type of exchange you are on will determine what department you are admitted to as well as who your main point of contact will be for academic questions.

Please note that we are only able to accept graduate students through our UW departmental exchange programs.

If your university is part of our university-wide exchange, you will be admitted through Undergraduate Admissions to the College of Arts & Sciences regardless of class standing or major in your home country. The college is divided into four academic divisions: art, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. This means that you will be able to select courses from a wide variety of departments during your time in Seattle. However, please be aware that we cannot guarantee any courses for exchange students so you should be very flexible with your course selections. You can get an idea of competitive and restricted departments in the course and studies section above.

If your university is part of our departmental exchange, you will be admitted to a specific department. Communicate with your UW departmental exchange coordinator for specific questions about course selection since each department has different procedures.

If you are a graduate student coming on a departmental exchange, you will need to apply to the specific department to which you have been nominated. Once admitted you will be expected to largely take courses within the department to which you are admitted. Please see the Visiting Graduate Students website for further information.