Majors compete to become competitive

While many students are anxiously awaiting their acceptance letters from the UW, they may face an even tougher application process later, when it comes time to declare a major.

On Friday, the Faculty Council on Academic Standards (FCAS) met in Gerberding Hall and discussed the desire of many departments to shift their majors from open to competitive status.

The math department put in one such submission, requesting competitive status, which was ultimately approved by both the Subcommittee on Admissions and Programs (SCAP) and the FCAS itself.

According to Sarah Stroup, chair of the SCAP, there is concern about how the math department will successfully phase in this change. Stroup said the math department wants to implement the competitive major, and over the next two years will work to achieve an ultimate cap of 600 students.

Via The Daily

“I think they had a good plan in terms of phase-in so that it’s not ‘next year, no one gets into math,’” Stroup said.

According to Hailey Badger, the ASUW’s Director of University Affairs and the student government representative on the FCAS, math will officially become a competitive major after the 2015 summer quarter.

The math department is not the only group eyeing competitive majors. According to David Pengra, another member of the FCAS, “physics is almost certainly going to apply to become a competitive major some time in the future.”

The driving factor in the physics department’s impending decision is a lack of physical space, he said, meaning the department cannot accommodate the number of interested students.

The Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) program also asked to become competitive, but the motion was turned down by the FCAS, on the grounds the program was asking for a cap on registration that is greater than the current number of applicants the department actually has.

“The committee acknowledges that when we agree to the competitive major, we’re turning it over to the department to choose how many they want to get,” said Don Janssen, a faculty representative on the FCAS.

Despite all of these desires, multiple councilmembers expressed their concern that there will come a day when too many majors are competitive and students won’t be able to get into any program.

“We can speak for engineering as an example, where we know for a fact that a significant proportion of students that are not able to get into the majors are academically capable,” said Dan Ratner, who serves on the FCAS. It may get “to the point where you could win the lottery and be just as capable of being admitted.”

Some UW students are wondering what these changes will mean for them. Kimberly Ha, a sophomore majoring in mathematics, said she understands why majors become competitive, whether it be limited funding, class sizes, or a lack of professors and graduate students to teach.

“But I don’t quite see yet how it can be beneficial to students,” Ha said, “because it’s the students who are the ones paying tuition, paying to get all the knowledge and info to get into the majors.”

One fact worrying students is how the amount of prerequisites it takes to get into a major alone can take a considerable amount of time.

Erin Morgan,a sophomore currently trying to get into biology, is worried about what she will do if she doesn’t get into the major after having spent so much time working toward it.

“I know that I’ve heard, from high school seniors, that it’s a bit of a turn-off from the school,” Morgan said. “Not only do they have to get into the U, they then have to get in to their major. You could end up wasting two years by not getting in.”

If a student has any comments on proposed changes covered by FCAS,they can send their concerns and ideas to Badger at or make comments online at





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