Get a Strong, Focused Start
Western's Distinguished Scholars programs are for select freshmen admitted for fall quarter. The programs provide students with an early opportunity to dive into their interests while building a network of academic and social support through their peers and Western faculty. While programs vary in their offerings, the goal of each is to create a small cohort experience for first-year students.
Distinguished Scholars programs include: Business and Economics, Marine Science, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics or Computer Science, and Computer Science. For information about each program, including eligibility and application requirements, select your program of interest below.
Applying and Eligibility
The application for Distinguished Scholars programs is open to admitted freshmen January through February of each year.
You may only apply to and be considered for one Distinguished Scholars program. To be considered, you must be an incoming freshman admitted for fall quarter and have a strong academic record – transfer students and current Western students are not eligible.
The Business and Economics Distinguished Scholars program is a selective, small group experience for incoming fall freshmen. The program is planned and organized by faculty within the College of Business and Economics, who will work closely with students throughout the duration of the program.
CBE faculty approach business in a way that benefits people, the planet and profits. CBE’s programs are accredited by AACSB, an accreditation that assures students, parents, organizations and faculty that the College provides a quality education, and is led by faculty experts in their fields.
- Fall Quarter enrollment in Management 202 – Perspectives on Business, a 2-credit seminar that provides an engaging introduction to business and is available only to Distinguished Scholars
- One-on-one academic advising to help you chart your course at Western
- Priority registration for business foundation courses and accelerated admission into CBE (should business or economics become your chosen major)
- Special opportunities for you to interact with CBE professors, participate in exclusive conversation hours and other events with leaders in the business community, and learn about exciting student leadership opportunities
- A $1000 scholarship for your second year at Western, should you declare a major within CBE
The Marine Science Distinguished Scholars program is a selective, small group experience for incoming freshmen. The program is planned and organized by faculty within the Shannon Point Marine Center, who will work closely with students throughout the duration of the yearlong program.
Western Washington University’s Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC) educates leaders in science, education, policy, and marine stewardship through experiential learning. SPMC is located on Pacific Northwest coastal waters in beautiful Anacortes on a 78-acre campus largely covered in lowland forest and distinguished by some 3,000 feet of undisturbed beachfront – offering students a serene environment to pursue interdisciplinary studies while learning from expert faculty in a respectful, inclusive, empowering, and immersive setting. The local marine environment is characterized by a wide variety of habitat types that in turn support a rich diversity of marine life.
The Marine Habitat Diversity course (Biology 110, 4 credits) blends hands-on learning, a small seminar environment and early exposure to research. Spend your first two weeks prior to fall quarter living and studying at the Shannon Point Marine Center where you will experience the biological and physical aspects of the marine environment, work on our research vessels to gather oceanographic data, and interact with marine life. The course continues during the regular fall quarter meeting weekly to analyze and present the data collected.
Note: a housing and dining fee of $400 is required to participate in this program.
- Living and learning at the Shannon Point Marine Center for two weeks of hands-on course work (Biology 110) prior to the start of your first quarter at Western in the fall. That course continues through fall quarter.
- Exclusive registration for a special series of 1-credit seminars addressing contemporary issues, such as pollution, global climate change, and sustainable fisheries
- Close involvement with marine scientists from the Shannon Point Marine Center who instruct courses for the Marine Science Scholars Program.
- Interaction with invited professionals from a variety of marine science career tracks.
- Staying informed on how to get involved with marine science and conservation through internships, research and outreach opportunities, and lectures.
The Chemistry Distinguished Scholars program is a selective, small group experience for incoming freshmen. Scholars are guaranteed enrollment into the Honors General Chemistry series and key Biology and Physics courses in their freshman and sophomore year, ensuring small class sizes with talented peers.
The faculty members are committed to undergraduate education, and are actively engaged in cutting edge research with high levels of external funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The WWU Chemistry Department is recognized nationally for the quality of its undergraduate research programs in (bio)chemistry and through its advanced lab curriculum, this series of Honors General Chemistry courses prepares students to join research labs as rising sophomores (i.e., as early as the summer following the freshman year).
- Guaranteed enrollment in the year-long Honors Chemistry sequence (CHEM 175, 176 and 225). This three quarter series is equivalent to the four quarter series (CHEM 161, 162, 163, 333) and thereby reduces the number of required courses for a Chemistry or Biochemistry major. It is also taught in a section of no more than 24 students, guaranteeing a small class experience.
- One-on-one advising with the Chemistry Department Program Coordinator and small group meetings with faculty to advise you on research and internship opportunities, help chart your coursework, and plan your future after graduation.
- Guaranteed access to BIOL 204 in the spring quarter and PHYS 161 in the fall of sophomore year
- Depending upon your Math Placement and/or AP calculus scores, you will have a seat in the appropriate Math class.
The Biology Distinguished Scholars program is a selective, small group experience for incoming freshmen. The program is planned and organized by faculty within the biology and chemistry departments, who will work closely with students throughout the duration of the program.
The mission of the Biology Department is to provide an outstanding learning environment that integrates education, scholarship, and service in order to actively engage students in the biological sciences and foster their development as lifelong learners. Our joint mission of teaching and research strongly complement each other and provide students with an educational experience of very high quality.
- Guaranteed enrollment in the following required courses:
- Fall 2018: CHEM 161
- Winter 2019: CHEM 162
- Spring 2019: CHEM 163 & BIOL 204
- Fall 2019: BIOL 205
- Winter 2020: BIOL 206
- Fall 2018 and Winter 2019: Depending on your Math Placement Test and/or AP calculus scores, you will have a seat in the appropriate math class
- Exclusive one-on-one advising with a biology faculty member to help chart your coursework, advise you on research and internship opportunities, and to help plan your future after graduation
- 5 quarters as part of a small group cohort designed to help facilitate connections with classmates and professors
The Computer Science/Math (CS/M) Scholars program is supported by a one million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. The program provides a distinctive experience for entering freshmen designed to excite students and integrate them into the CS/M community, supports them in their studies of CS/M throughout their time at Western, and ultimately prepares them for careers in CS/M.
Through first quarter seminars that are restricted to incoming Scholars, students build a strong cohort that shares academic interests. Monthly gatherings, peer mentoring, active advising and professional development activities foster a supportive and inclusive community. Significant scholarships are available to students who qualify.
- A significant scholarship (renewable for up to four years) for students who meet certain financial eligibility requirements.
- Automatic registration in a 2-credit seminar in Mathematics and a 3-credit seminar in Computer Science in the fall quarter of your first year.
- Monthly gatherings with a focus on providing students with opportunities for internships, research experiences and leadership. Many of these events will showcase successful Western graduates from Mathematics and Computer Science.
- Mentoring with upperclassmen and recent alumni to further prepare students for success.
- Active advising with faculty beginning in the first year, including the formulation of a four year graduation plan.
The Computer Science Distinguished Scholars program is a selective, small group experience for incoming freshmen. The program is planned and organized by faculty within the Computer Science who will work closely with students throughout the duration of the program.
- A reserved seat in CSCI 141 (Computer Programming I) for fall 2018, as well as a reserved seat in CSCI 145 for winter 2019, CSCI 241 for spring 2019, CSCI 247 for fall 2019, and CSCI 301 for winter 2020 (In order to retain their seat in the program and reserved classes, Computer Science Scholars must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.7 to continue with the sequencing of classes)
- Monthly get-togethers with CS faculty and/or CS student leadership with a focus on exploring career options and opportunities for internships, research experiences, and leadership.
- Active advising throughout the first year with the goal of achieving graduation in four years