When the University of Washington opened in 1861, its first president took boat trips across Puget Sound to recruit students out of logging camps. He was only modestly successful. The early years of our beloved institution were not glorious—the UW closed down four times in its first two decades due to lack of funds and lack of students.
Despite its shaky beginnings, the founding of the University was a milestone for our state and the West. It was the first public university on the West Coast—beating the University of California by seven years.
In the early years of the 21st century, the institution is reaching another historic moment. The regional campuses at Bothell and Tacoma, born as two-year programs serving juniors, seniors and some graduate students, are now four-year universities. Unlike the original campus that had a hard time filling its classes, both UWB and UWT have hit their targets for their first group of freshmen
The Seattle campus is also reaching a milestone. The admissions office projects that there will be about 5,400 freshmen starting classes on Sept. 27—a tidal wave that is the largest in the history of the UW. There could be even more. We had 5,643 pay a deposit for Fall Quarter, but usually 100-200 potential students decide at the last minute to attend other institutions.
It’s easy to see why 18-year-olds are banging on our door. The UW is located in one of the most livable cities in the nation and is ranked as one of the top research universities in the world. The Economist magazine published a list last year that put the University of Washington in the world’s top 20. The U.S. News & World Report rankings have the UW tied for 12th place among public universities.
But when I talk to high school students and their parents about coming to the UW, I often get the response that it is “too hard” to get into the Seattle campus. It is true that 16,625 asked to be Huskies this year, beating last year’s pool by more than 600.
But their jaws drop when I tell them that the Seattle campus accepts roughly two-thirds of all high school students who apply. This year we made an offer to 11,355 potential Huskies. For Washington residents, the acceptance rate is even higher—74 percent were invited to campus.
That’s not to say that getting into the UW is easy. (Entering freshmen have an average SAT score of 1190 and a 3.68 high school G.P.A.) But the message of closed doors and no hope is just plain wrong. President Emmert doesn’t have to row across Puget Sound looking for students, but the UW is still meeting its first mission—educating the sons and daughters of the state, the region and the world.