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Through the admissions process, your department determines which prospective students would be a good fit for your program. The process requires that each department establish a committee that considers diversity a key element in choosing students. Asking students to submit a personal history essay is particularly useful in helping admissions committees make decisions.

  • Your admissions committee should be representative of the diversity in your department and programs.
  • Although admissions decisions cannot be based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc., it is useful to consider ethnic identifiers in pre- and post- admission recruitment. By doing so, departments can take part in targeted recruitment strategies and monitor and report on the effectiveness of specific recruitment efforts. UW departments and programs may consider tribal or corporate enrollment or affiliation as a positive factor in admission, financial aid, and outreach programs. Verification of affiliation – which is required in order to benefit – consists of one of the following:
    • Official tribal identification.  (copy of a Tribal Enrollment card, treaty fishing card, corporation papers, or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) document.)
    • Certificate of membership verification by the BIA, a tribal enrollment official, community official, or proof of direct descent.
  • Learn about Initiative 200, the law that prohibits admitting students based solely on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. But, the law does not limit your diversity recruiting efforts.
  • The criteria used by the admissions committee should be holistic, meaning it should include quantitative and qualitative indicators of achievement.
  • Along with quantitative indicators like GPA and GRE scores, departments typically require qualitative instruments such as letters of recommendation and academic goal statements. In addition, encourage each applicant to submit a personal history essay that describes how his or her experiences and interests will contribute to your department. The essay—which may highlight economic and educational disadvantages, cultural awareness and the ability to overcome adversity—is also a valuable tool in selecting financial aid recipients. Departments should add the personal history essay to their admissions profiles in MyGrad Program.
  • Consider student affiliation with graduate prep programs—among them McNair Scholars, the Posse Foundation, Gates Millennium Scholars, College Success Foundation.

About Initiative 200

Recruiting Students Equally

The University of Washington has a long‐standing commitment to diversity and strives to recruit and retain a diverse student body. And while race, gender, color, national origin and ethnicity may not be used as factors in decisions on admissions to the general University or specific University programs, departments can – and are encouraged to – ensure a diverse applicant pool and student cohort.

In 1998 the State of Washington enacted Initiative 200 (I‐200) which states in part that “The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” In response to this initiative, the University established policies and procedures to assist various campus constituents in adhering to this law while supporting the University’s commitment to diversity. While I‐200 applies also to employment and public contracting practices, the following excerpts refer to public education policies addressing outreach, recruitment and retention efforts aimed at supporting a diverse student enrollment.

How to Promote Diversity

Within the legal parameters of Initiative 200, the University continues to promote diversity in its many dimensions among its students, faculty and staff, and within its educational and other programs. These efforts help make the campus environment as hospitable as possible to all students. The University, and its departments, should:

  • Maintain and expand programs that encourage diverse populations of University students to pursue academic opportunities in areas in which they have historically been underrepresented.
  • Host informational outreach activities that are intended to encourage particular populations to enroll in University programs.
  • Ensure that educational development outreach programs that are designed to help such groups prepare academically for higher education are open to other individuals, as well. For example: Research Experiences for Undergraduates, the National Name Exchange and GO‐MAP Prospective Student Days.
  • Sustain and enhance academic support endeavors (e.g., tutoring and counseling) that are critical to the academic success of some students, and ensure they are open to all eligible students.


I‐200 does not prohibit the University from asking for information about an applicant’s race, color, national origin, ethnicity and sex on its application forms. This information may be used for statistical purposes, such as tracking the effectiveness of the University’s recruitment and outreach efforts. The University will continue to ask these questions in order to measure how effective admissions procedures are in recruiting students with specific backgrounds.

Some programs ask applicants to write essays regarding their cultural experiences and educational and economic disadvantage, and, in professional schools, intent to serve underserved populations. Such questions are permissible as long as they are not merely disguised attempts to obtain information regarding race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex for use by admission committees. An acceptable sample inquiry:

The [department] welcomes students who have varied cultural experiences or educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and will therefore contribute to the intellectual and social enrichment of the department/program. If you wish to have these factors included in the review of your application, please provide a statement concerning your personal history, family background, and influences on your intellectual development. This statement should include educational and cultural opportunities (or lack thereof), social and economic disadvantages that you may have had to overcome, and the ways in which these experiences affected you. Include your special interests and abilities, career plans, and future goals. [Where appropriate, add] Describe how you have demonstrated an interest in serving under‐served populations.

Departments are permitted and encouraged to ensure diversity by race, ethnicity and sex on admission committees. For example, a member of a departmental minority committee could be invited to be part of the admissions committee. It is not permissible to review or process applications differently based on these characteristics (e.g., applicants of minority backgrounds could not be given an extra review, in part because the required procedure would not allow for identification of minority applicants and because treating a group differently on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color or sex would violate I‐200).


Recruiting visits to schools, colleges and universities and participating in recruitment fairs are permitted and encouraged, as long as recruiters meet with all students who are interested in the University of Washington. The University can target institutions or areas with a high proportion of minority students for these activities. You may assign staff members to make special recruiting efforts aimed at underrepresented group members. For example:

  • Recruitment at targeted conferences such as SACNAS, ABRCMS and McNair Conferences.
  • Programs may prepare recruiting materials targeted to underrepresented groups. Such materials should include the statement: “Admissions decisions are made without consideration of race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex. Decisions may include consideration of diverse cultural experiences and educationally or economically disadvantaged background.”
  • After admissions decisions have been made, it is permissible to make special contact (e.g., phone calls) with minority and female admittees to encourage them to accept admission offers. Departments are encouraged to make this effort.

NOTE: To supplement departmental contacts, your department may request additional support via the GO‐MAP Graduate Student Ambassadors program.

You may bring applicants from underrepresented groups to campus at University expense as part of special recruiting efforts, as long as they are not promised such things as special admission consideration or special scholarships. For example: GO‐MAP Prospective Student Days.

Programs whose names reflect targeted groups are permitted to maintain those names, as long as offerings are open to all and publications so state.


Diversity scholarships and fellowships (those in which the donor expresses interest in helping members of specific groups but which can be given to members of any group) can be accepted and awarded by the University. Contact your departmental Advancement office or the central Advancement office if you have questions about restrictions on donor requests for awarding scholarships or fellowships.

The University may accept and award scholarships and fellowships funded by federal agencies and limiting recipients on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex.

With permission of the eligible students, the University may provide their names to outside organizations that are awarding scholarships or fellowships which include race, color, national origin, ethnicity and/or sex requirements.

The University may inform its students of scholarships or fellowships awarded by outside entities and that have specific race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex requirements.

The University may assist in disbursing scholarships and fellowships awarded by outside entities which have specific race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex requirements; but the University may not participate in the selection of recipients.

Central offices of the University may award additional money to departments for subsequent award as a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship to students, based upon the success of the department in attracting a diverse student population or upon their efforts at recruitment outreach. Departments may not use race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex in selecting the ultimate recipients of the scholarships.

University programs are permitted to sponsor programs, events, receptions, email lists, etc., targeted to certain groups on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or sex, as long as no member of the University community is barred from participation.

To review a complete copy of these and other guidelines relating to I‐200 please visit the UW diversity resources website.