Admission to the Biology Major


The admission policies for the Biology Major and Biology Minor address two fundamental goals that lie at the heart of the mission of the Biology Department, the College of Science and Engineering, and Western Washington University: increasing inclusivity and maintaining access to high quality education. To increase equitability and inclusivity, admission to the major and minor is now centered on a multi-part application based on grades, a knowledge assessment, and written responses to prompts about the applicant’s academic experiences and motivations for pursuing a Biology degree or minoring in Biology. We favor this approach over a strict GPA-only policy because of the potential biases inherent in grades, because of inconsistency among instructors in grading standards, and because including other factors in admission decisions provides alternate paths into the major and minor for students.


An admission policy that allows us to manage enrollment is necessary because over the last decade, student enrollment at Western has steadily grown and a greater proportion of these students are pursuing STEM majors or are preparing for professional degree programs focused on healthcare. As a result, enrollment pressures have intensified for Biology courses that serve Biology majors as well as students in numerous other majors and pre-health tracks. We lack the space and personnel to increase the availability of these impacted courses. Thus, this admission policy is necessary to enable students to access our courses and avoid extended times to graduation. 

Application Requirements


Students may apply to Biology Major status when they: 1) have completed BIOL 204, BIOL 205, CHEM 161/175, and CHEM 162/176 with grades of C- or higher, and 2) have completed the Biology knowledge assessment. The application involves submitting a completed application web form, including responding to prompts about the applicant’s experience, motivation, and goals. 

Admission to the Biology Major is selective, and neither completion of the prerequisite courses nor attainment of any specific GPA or knowledge assessment score guarantees admission. When space is limited and discernment among student qualifications is not possible, a random draw among similarly qualified applicants may be used to determine admission.           

Knowledge Assessment

The Biology knowledge assessment evaluates understanding of core concepts in biology and chemistry as well as quantitative and critical thinking skills used to address questions relating to those concepts. The knowledge assessment may be re-taken once, no sooner than the quarter following the first attempt.

You can find a list of topics that will be the basis for questions on the Knowledge Assessment here.

Written Responses

As part of the online application, students will submit responses to a series of prompts regarding their academic experience, motivation and goals as it relates to a major in Biology. More information about this aspect of the application will be provided here as details become available.


When to Apply

Students are strongly encouraged to apply to the major prior to having completed BIOL 206 and/or CHEM 163/225 to ensure timely progress towards graduation. Applications are due on the Friday of the first week of Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. Only complete, on-time applications will be considered; complete applications submitted after the application deadline will be considered during the following quarter’s application review.

Notification of Admission Decisions

Every effort will be made to notify applicants of admission decisions by the end of the 5th week of the quarter to allow adequate time to plan for course registration for the following quarter.

Assignment of faculty advisors

All admitted students will be assigned a faculty advisor if they don’t already have one. Students may be reassigned to a new faculty advisor if their emphasis choice upon entry into the major is different than when they declared a pre-major. We strongly encourage newly admitted students to consult with their faculty advisor or attend a departmental advising session prior to registration for the following quarter.


Students who are denied admission to the major may reapply; only once and no sooner than the following quarter.

Appeals of limits to re-taking knowledge assessment and/or re-applying to the major

Under exceptional circumstances, students may be given an opportunity to exceed the limits on re-taking the knowledge assessment (one re-take allowed) and/or re-applying to the major (one re-application allowed). Students must appeal to the department to request exceptions to these limits; decisions concerning such appeals are final.

Changing Biology Major Emphasis

Students who have been admitted to the Biology Major may switch to a different Biology emphasis within the major without having to reapply for admission. Requests for such switches are processed once per quarter (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) at the start of each quarter, and are due on Friday of the first week of the quarter. All requests for switching among degree programs in Biology that are submitted after this date will be processed at the start of the following quarter.

Switching from the Biology Major to the Biology Minor

Students who have been admitted to the Biology Major can switch to the Biology Minor without having to apply for admission to the minor. Requests for such switches are processed once per quarter (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) at the start of each quarter, and are due on Friday of the first week of the quarter.