The main essay is the biggest, and usually most important, component of the University of Washington’s application. But before you begin to consider how to tackle the specific prompt on which you choose to write the main essay, it’s important to consider how to approach this essay in general, regardless of the prompt.
It’s important to note that since you don’t apply to UW through the Common Application, it’s helpful to consider the main essay as, essentially, a Common Application essay. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that this essay should accomplish the same things as a typical Common Application essay — that is, after reading it, the reader should feel like they just became friends with you and know you in a authentic, genuine way.
So, for example, if you are a prospective engineering major, this essay is not the place for you to list off all of the extracurriculars you’ve done that would make you a perfect fit for the engineering school. But it is an excellent time to talk about your intellectual curiosity and your knack for coming up with innovative solutions to problems.
To brainstorm ideas for this essay, you should follow the exact same strategy you would use to brainstorm for a Common Application essay. Make sure that when choosing the prompt you’re going to write about for the main essay, you select one that allows you to highlight the things about your story that you feel are most important.
If you are a very analytical thinker, choose the prompt that asks about a time that your opinion has changed, or if you’re very involved in your community, choose the prompt that asks you to discuss the meaningful contributions you’ve made. The only difference is that since this essay is slightly shorter than a regular Common Application essay (500 words instead of 650), the organization of this essay should be more compact.
Refrain from overly long introductions and conclusions, make your sentences concise and to the point, and make sure that your story flows coherently from paragraph to paragraph.
Incoming Freshmen, 2017
- Total applications: 5,080
- Admitted to Honors: 1045
- Enrolled in UW Honors: 225
- High school GPA (middle 50%): 3.86-4.00
- SAT (middle 50%): 1330-1480 out of 1600
- Pre-2016 SAT (middle 50%): 1920-2250 out of 2400
- Pre-2016 SAT (middle 50%): 1920-2250 out of 2400
- ACT (middle 50%): 31-34
- WA residents: 74.4%
- Non-WA residents: 23.1%
- International: 2.5%
Top Prospective Majors for 2017
- Computer Science & Engineering
- Business Administration
- Aeronautics & Astronautics
- Tie: Neurobiology / Chemistry
- Tie: Psychology / Mechanical Engineering / Civil Engineering
- Tie: International Studies / Law, Societies, and Justice / Human-Centered Design and Engineering
Top Majors for Current Honors Students
- Computer Science & Engineering
- Business Administration
- Political Science
- Tie: Biochemistry / Bioengineering
- International Studies
- Tie: Physics / Philosophy
- Tie: Environmental Studies / Law, Societies, and Justice
We hope that most of your questions can be answered here. Please select from the list below to jump down to a question.
- I've never taken an Honors course before... should I still consider applying?
- What do you look for in an applicant?
- I have a GPA of 3.7 and an SAT of 1800 - should I still apply to Honors?
- I'm definitely applying to the Honors Program, do I need to apply to the UW as well?
- I'm trying to apply to the UW Honors Program, but I cannot find that part of the online application - what am I doing wrong?
- How much does your application cost?
- I submitted my application before the deadline! Will I receive notification sooner than my friends who submitted just in time for the final deadline?
- Do you participate in Early Decision?
- I heard back from the UW already, but nothing from Honors - what's up?
- How do I know that my application is complete?
- Are the essay topics the same every year?
- May I write my Honors Essay in a foreign language?
- Can I come in for a tour of Honors?
- Can I visit an Honors class?
- I'm not sure Honors is right for me - can I talk with someone?
- Are there Honors scholarships that I can apply for?
- Harvard/Williams/OSU is giving me a big scholarship, but I really want to go to the UW - can you offer me a competitive scholarship?
- Can I just respond to you, or do I need to accept the UW as well?
- I decided I don't want to be in the Honors Program anymore, but I still want to go to the UW! Will declining Honors affect my acceptance to the University?
- Can I defer my enrollment in Honors?
- Are Honors students all pre-med and engineering students, or can English majors be in Honors too?
- Is there an Honors housing option?
- Will I get to register early if I'm in the Honors Program?
- How do I submit my recommendation?
- My question wasn't answered here! Who can I talk to for more information?
1. I've never taken an Honors course before... should I still consider applying?
The UW Honors Program evaluates applications broadly, looking to understand the entirety of the student’s experiences represented in those pages, and we are eager to ensure our community represents and includes complex and dynamic perspectives necessary to true scholarship. We understand that many students apply to honors programs as an extension of high achievement in high school, while others may have never participated in an accelerated learning program but are interested in our curriculum - we encourage each applicant to think carefully about how your goals for your college education align with our program’s goals and values, regardless of your prior involvement in an honors or accelerated track.
While your academic record is important in your Honors application, we have a holistic admissions process that looks beyond your academic record to your written materials and evaluates students based on fit for our mission, values, and curricular goals. Students admitted to the UW Honors Program have a variety of academic and personal experiences. If you are interested in the type of education offered through the Interdisciplinary Honors Program, we encourage you to apply.
2. What do you look for in an applicant?
Because applications to the UW Honors Program are read and evaluated on an individual basis, there are no hard-and-fast rules for an Honors applicant. All applications from students who submit a complete Honors Program application and have been admitted to the UW will be reviewed. We encourage in-state, out-of-state, and international applicants to apply. We seek students who are curious about how their skills and talents, combined with the challenges of a rigorous, interdisciplinary Honors curriculum, can open new and often unexpected doors. The Program is academically competitive - the middle 50th percentile ranges for autumn 2017 freshmen are a 3.86-4.00 high school GPA and a 1920-2250 SAT composite - but also places high value on a student's understanding of and desire for an interdisciplinary liberal arts education such as that offered in our curriculum.
3. I have a GPA of 3.7 and an SAT of 1800 - should I still apply to Honors?
Yes! We have no GPA or test score thresholds and encourage anyone interested in our curriculum and type of education to apply.
4. I'm definitely applying to the Honors Program, do I need to apply to the UW as well?
Yes. The Honors Program application is a part of the UW Freshman application. Students cannot be admitted to the Honors Program unless they are admitted to the UW.
5. I'm trying to apply to the UW Honors Program, but I cannot find that part of the online application - what am I doing wrong?
You will be able to access the Honors Program section of the UW application only if you check the box labeled "Would you like to apply for admission to Interdisciplinary Honors?" after the main UW writing section. This will activate the Interdisciplinary Honors questions. If you change your mind and do not want to apply for Interdisciplinary Honors, simply un-check the box at the top of that page.
6. How much does your application cost?
There is no additional fee to apply to the UW Honors Program.
7. I submitted my application before the deadline! Will I receive notification sooner than my friends who submitted just in time for the final deadline?
No, you will not hear back any earlier. Like the regular UW admissions notifications, the Honors Program pools our decision letters, sending all notifications over the course of several weeks in late March/early April. See our freshman application instructions for specific dates.
8. Do you participate in Early Decision?
No. There is no Early Decision in the UW Honors Program.
9. I heard back from the UW already, but nothing from Honors - what's up?
UW Admissions and Honors Program admissions are two separate processes. We cannot admit students to the Honors Program until they have been admitted to the UW, so you will not hear from us until after you have heard from the UW.
10. How do I know that my application is complete?
If you have submitted your UW application, you will be able to verify the submission of your application via the ApplyWeb portal. You will also be invited to set up a UW NetID account where you will be able to view your UW decision status online. For specific dates, please see our freshman application instructions.
11. Are the essay topics the same every year?
No, the Honors essay topics are different every year. Be sure to check back in the fall for new essay topics.
12. May I write my Honors Essay in a foreign language?
No. All applicants are required to write their essays in English.
13. Can I come in for a tour of Honors?
The Honors Program does not host its own tours, but the UW offers campus tours to prospective students and their families, and you are welcome to arrange an appointment with an Honors staff member to review Honors-specific questions.
14. Can I visit an Honors class?
Yes! Please contact us via the prospective student appointment form at least two weeks in advance to arrange a class visit. Because Honors courses are smaller than many UW classes, we check in with the professor prior to your visit to make sure that it is an appropriate time to observe the course.
Also, know that once students are accepted to the Honors Program they are matched with a Peer Mentor. It is possible to arrange to visit a class with your Peer Mentor; they will also need to get instructor permission. We do not arrange visits to non-Honors courses, but the UW has a drop-in course list that allows you to visit other types of UW classes.
15. I'm not sure Honors is right for me - can I talk with someone?
Absolutely! Fill out our prospective student appointment form and we will help direct you to one of our academic staff.
16. Are there Honors scholarships that I can apply for?
Your application to the Honors Program also acts as your application for any Honors scholarships available to incoming freshmen. Our review committee selects eligible applicants for scholarships from our pool of applicants; if you are awarded one you will be notified at the same time you are notified about your admission to the Honors Program. You must apply to the Honors Program and remain in good academic standing to remain eligible for our scholarships.
17. Harvard/Williams/OSU is giving me a big scholarship, but I really want to go to the UW - can you offer me a competitive scholarship?
We offer a limited number of scholarships and tuition waivers to our incoming freshmen based on the merit of their Honors Program applications.
18. Can I just respond to you, or do I need to accept the UW as well?
You must accept and respond to both the Honors Program and UW Admissions in order to be enrolled in the UW Honors Program for the fall.
19. I decided I don't want to be in the Honors Program anymore, but I still want to go to the UW! Will declining Honors affect my acceptance to the University?
No! You can accept the UW and decline the Honors Program without any problems.
20. Can I defer my enrollment in Honors?
We cannot defer enrollment into the Honors Program. We invite you to re-apply for the year that you would like to attend.
21. Are Honors students all pre-med and engineering students, or can English majors be in Honors too?
We have students from almost every major, from Ceramic Arts to Electrical Engineering (and some students double majoring in both!). Honors can work with any major. If you have concerns, be sure to talk with one of our advisers early about different academic options and how Honors can work for you.
22. Is there an Honors housing option?
Yes, there is! The Honors Living Learning Community is located in Terry Hall for the 2017-18 year. It can be a great way to meet fellow Honors students and begin to form a community. We also have plenty of students who choose not to live in the Honors LLC, but they are still invited to attend events there and have a lot of fun in their own living communities. You will receive more information about the Honors housing option in your invitation, or check out the Housing and Food Services website for more information about all of the special interest housing options.
23. Will I get to register early if I'm in the Honors Program?
No, Honors students are given registration priority for Honors-specific courses, but not all courses at the UW. Registration priority for general courses is determined by class standing for all UW students.
24. How do I submit my recommendation?
The UW Honors Program is not requiring or accepting recommendations for Autumn 2018 freshman admission.
25. My question wasn't answered here! Who can I talk to for more information?
You are welcome to email us at email@example.com with additional questions. You can also reach us by phone at 206-543-7444, and we are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, autumn through spring, and Monday through Thursday, 9am to 4pm during summer quarter. We are not open on the weekends.