If you're a community-college student planning to transfer to a four-year state school, be aware that the winds have shifted at the University of Washington...

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If you’re a community-college student planning to transfer to a four-year state school, be aware that the winds have shifted at the University of Washington.

Faced with a budget crunch, the UW’s Seattle campus no longer guarantees a seat to any applicant with an associate degree and a minimum grade-point average.

Community-college transfers now must compete for acceptance based on academic and personal achievements.

   PRO / CON

A community college could work for you if . . .

you want to learn a trade

your grades aren’t so hot

you’re tight on cash

your work schedule demands more flexible class times

you can benefit from the small classes and easily available tutoring versus the level of academic performance and independent work expected at a four-year school.

Reasons to think twice

You can be disappointed if you’re looking for a rich campus life (community colleges are commuter schools)

More able students could feel less challenged, since instructors have to teach to a wide range of abilities.

All’s well that ends well

By the time they graduate, students who transfer from community colleges into four-year colleges for their junior and senior years generally do as well academically as other students.

Source: High-school counselors Ann Leder and Audrey Threlkeld; Higher Education Coordinating Board

Patti Jones

In other words, it’s now survival of the fittest.

Western Washington University has used a similar review process to screen applicants for several years.

Most of the state’s other four-year institutions — Washington State University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University and The Evergreen State College — continue to accept all students who complete their associate degree and meet their minimum grade-point average.

Even those schools, however, may have to change their admissions policy in the future, though no one is saying when. Central Washington, for example, closed admissions earlier than usual this year.

“They’re saying if you get your [application] in and you have a decent GPA, you’re in,” said Loretta Seppanen, assistant director for educational services at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “That’s not going to keep happening … there’s too few slots.”

But for now, it’s students who hope to transfer to the UW’s Seattle campus who need to change their application strategy. Advisers say they need to start preparing from the beginning of their community-college education.

Here’s what they recommend:

Keep grades up. The UW will consider any applicant with at least a 2.5 grade-point average — but grades are a major factor in its decision-making; the higher your grades, the more you’ll stand out.

Finish your associate degree. While no longer a requirement, it’s another major factor that proves you have a broad foundation on which to build.

“Whether they go to a university or an employer, it shows they can complete an idea and follow through on it,” said Ron Kline, director of advising and transfer at Seattle Central Community College.

Choose a major and get started. While community colleges used to be a place of exploration, students will have to give some of that up. The UW seeks students who prepared for their major by taking the prerequisites.

“Students should be thinking ahead in their very first year … am I going toward science and engineering or social sciences and humanities?” said Seppanen. “Then in the second year, you have to narrow much more than that.”

Use college resources. Talk to your adviser. The UW and many community colleges are holding seminars on the new transfer system. Seattle Central, for instance, plans to host fairs in which various departments of four-year colleges talk about majors and what’s needed to prepare.

Hone your personal statement. The UW’s new application requires a personal statement describing aspirations and experiences. The school wants a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, so say what makes you unique, what challenges you’ve faced, what you bring to the school’s community.

Have a Plan B. UW’s Seattle campus, for example, offers an evening degree program for juniors. The Bothell and Tacoma campuses of the UW offer a more flexible competitive application process than UW Seattle’s. And for now, Central, Eastern, Washington State and Evergreen State still have an open- door policy towards transfer applicants who complete their associate degree with a minimum grade-point average.

Research the prerequisites for your major for schools besides the UW.

“Don’t put all your eggs in the University of Washington,” Kline says, “because it may not happen.”