Incoming Students for 2020-2021

Welcome new students!

Hello! We are excited that you are considering a major within the Biology Department at Western.  

Although we cannot meet in person this summer, we hope that you will take a few moments to explore the various resources available on our website. You may be interested to learn more about the course requirements for each of our programs, how to get involved in undergraduate research, or our ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion.  

How do I declare a major? What courses should I register for? Can I meet with a biology advisor? In the sections below, we’ve compiled information relevant to the types of questions we frequently receive from incoming transfer and first-year students. Details regarding our scheduled virtual events for department specific advising throughout the summer is also included.  

If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, or you simply want to start a conversation or introduce yourself, we’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to us to schedule an appointment.

We're happy you're here,
Maren and Alexis 

Freshmen and First-Year Students

You may declare a biology pre-major at any time filling out the Major Declaration Esign form. On this form, you must indicate your desired emphasis (e.g., marine biology) within the “Student Comments” section. If you are unsure what emphasis to select, you will have the opportunity to discuss your interests and potential options with a department advisor during orientation. Under the Signatures and Attachments section, route the form to BiologyAdvising@wwu.edu in the “Email to” box. Once you click submit, the form will be sent to our Biology Advisors for approval.  

Once you declare your pre-major, you will be assigned to a faculty advisor in the area of interest that was indicated on the form (e.g., marine biology) and should expect to be notified regularly via email regarding opportunities for general advising, course registration information, application deadlines, and scholarships. 

You should plan to attend one of three department information sessions (August 7th, 14th, & 21st at 11:00AM) for additional information on course planning and major selection. 

Due to the heavy workload associated with lab-based courses, we advise to take no more than two science courses per quarter (including math) during your first year. Course load will increase as you move through your program requirements. Your first quarter schedule will vary depending on the math course appropriate in relation to their ALEKS MPA score or prior completion of a Calculus I equivalent.

During each new student orientation session, the Registrar’s Office will release a limited number of seats in courses typically needed by first-year students. Keep in mind that many of these courses may appear closed and that these additional seats may not show as available until right before your registration appointment.   

Biology courses at the 300 and 400 level are restricted to students admitted into the Biology Major with the exception of some courses that are also accessible to students in other academic majors for which that course is a requirement.  

AP Biology: AP or IB biology credit is equivalent to BIOL 101. This course may be applied towards GUR requirements, but will not count towards the biology major. BIOL 101 is an intro course designed for non-majors and should not be taken by students with a strong biology interest.  

AP Chemistry: A score of 3 or higher on the AP Chemistry exam will technically satisfy the requirements for CHEM 161 and 162 for a student’s major. However, we strongly suggest having a conversation with an advisor before registering for CHEM 163 with AP credit alone. Depending on AP score and comfort level, we may recommend starting at CHEM 161 or 162 before taking CHEM 163. 

AP Calculus: The Biology Department accepts AP Calculus scores that are equivalent to MATH 124 or higher math coursework to satisfy the math requirement for their biology degree program. Students who score a 2 or a 3 on the AB exam (AP 66) should speak with a math advisor and plan to register for MATH 118 or MATH 124. 

Biology is a competitive major with a multi-part application process.  

You are eligible to apply for the Biology Major once you have completed BIOL 204, BIOL 205, CHEM 161, and CHEM 162 (or equivalent honors or transfer courses) with grades of C- or higher, and 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.  

Further details about when and how to take the assessment as well as access to the online application are still in development and will be made available later in the summer. Please keep checking this page for updates. 

On select Fridays throughout orientation (Aug. 7th, 14th, & 21st), the Biology Department will host a virtual information session from 11:00-12:30pm via Zoom to share information regarding the major and course planning for fall quarter. Students and their families are encouraged to bring questions or concerns with them to help guide the discussion. Access to these info sessions requires a reservation

Transfer and High Credit First-Year Students

The admission requirements for the Biology Major are changing. As we transition from our old to our new policy this coming fall, you may be confused about when and how to apply for admission. Currently, there are two pathways into full Biology Major status: 

Old GPA-only Policy 

If you are a new student for Fall 2020, you may apply to the Biology Major under the old GPA-only policy if you (1) have already completed the equivalent of CHEM 161, 162, 163, BIOL 204, 205, 206 and (2) have a cumulative GPA of 2.9 or higher across those six courses. If your transfer courses are not equivalent, or if they are equivalent but you do not meet the 2.9 GPA requirement, you must apply to the major under the new application process. 

If you do meet the criteria outlined above, you should submit a Major Declaration eSign form to Biology Advising as soon as possible (but no later than the first day of fall quarter) for registration access to upper level biology courses. 

New Application Process  

Students may apply to the Biology Major 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 first application review will take place in Fall 2020 and all applications must be submitted prior to the first Friday of the quarter. The application involves submitting a completed application web form, including responding to prompts about the applicant’s experience, motivation, and goals.  

Further details about when and how to take the assessment as well as access to the online application are still in development and will be made available later in the summer. Please keep checking this page for updates. 

If you have any questions or concerns about transfer course equivalency, please contact us as soon as possible so that we may resolve any issues ahead of your orientation and registration appointment. Reviewing a course for equivalency involves submission of the course syllabus and may take several days to be processed. 

More information is available here, under the section “Understanding Transfer Equivalencies” 

All upper division biology courses (300 and 400 level) are restricted to students admitted to the Biology Major with the exception of some courses that are also accessible to students in other academic majors for which that course is a requirement.  

A full listing of the major restrictions for each course offered in Fall 2020 is available on our Registration page. 

Staff and faculty advisors will be available virtually on a drop-in basis on each of the dates below between 11:00am-1:00pm (PST). Individual meetings will be held in Zoom break-out rooms. Access to these advising sessions requires a reservation

Friday, July 24 

Monday, July 27 

Tuesday, July 28 

Wednesday, July 29 

Staff and faculty advisors will be available virtually on a drop-in basis on each of the dates below between 11:00am-1:00pm (PST). Individual meetings will be held in Zoom break out rooms. Access to these advising sessions requires a reservation

Monday, August 3 

Tuesday, August 4 

Wednesday, August 5 

Thursday, August 6