From the wheat fields and vineyards of Walla Walla to urban campuses in Seattle, and everything in between, independent colleges and universities in Washington offer choices.

Whether one's decision takes into account location, religious affiliation, size of the school, academic offerings, or a host of other factors, finding the right college or university offers many options.

Washington's independent colleges and universities share a commitment to academic excellence, personal attention, development of the whole student, and improving the overall quality of life for their students, communities, and the state.

Independent colleges in Washington offer a wide variety of academic programs and learning environments.

Choosing a college or university is exciting, but can be stressful. It is one of the most important decisions one makes. It is important that you find a school that is a good "fit," a place where you'll feel at home.

ICW institutions offer:

  • Diverse educational experiences
  • A variety of living environments
  • More than 100 disciplines and subspecialties
  • Close-knit campus communities
  • Student bodies that range from fewer than 1,200 to more than 7,500
  • Opportunities for involvement in athletics, cultural activities, student government, community service, study abroad, and more
  • Personalized attention, with student-faculty ratios of less than 13-to-1
  • Both graduate level and undergraduate level degrees

They emphasize the importance of developing the whole person, which includes a broad-based, academically rigorous undergraduate curriculum, community service, and leadership opportunities.

Smaller colleges and classes, and a low student-to-faculty ratio, mean you'll get to know your professors. They'll not only be your teachers, they'll be mentors and, in many cases, lifelong friends or colleagues.

Contributions to the community include:

  • Saving Washington taxpayers $350 million each year by educating students who would otherwise enter the state university system
  • Providing more than $170 million in private aid, and $25 million in federal grants and work study, which is all funneled into the state's economy
  • Emphasizing liberal arts education with a commitment to service and giving back to one's community

Through a combination of financial aid programs - scholarships, grants, loans and work study - the price of attending an independent college in Washington is similar to state institutions. The benefits of an independent higher education however, reach far beyond the price tag.

Choosing a College

There is no doubt that choosing a college has lifelong impact, giving students a foundation of knowledge, social awareness, and relationship building. While choosing a college can be a stressful time, it is also very exciting. The important thing to realize is that there are many choices out there and it will take time to find your best "fit". So start early and explore your options! A great place to start is ProjectOpportunity.net, where you will find lots of information to help you find the college right for you.

Make sure you're prepared
Take a close look at your high school coursework. Have you followed a college-preparatory schedule? Check with a high school guidance counselor to make sure you're on track. Take college aptitude tests (the SAT and/or the ACT) early in your senior year, so that your scores will be available by the application deadline.

Do your homework
There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States. You'll want to narrow the field in order to have a more manageable group to investigate further. This requires you to do a little soul searching and asking yourself what you really want out of college. Web sites and guidebooks are good sources of information. You'll want to consider size, location, education quality, majors offered, college personality (they each have one), and the amount of involvement you'll want in extracurricular activities.

Visit several campuses
An on-site visit is crucial to let you experience the atmosphere - and personality - of the campus. Take the time to meet with admissions representatives, professors, and coaches. Tour the residence halls, recreation and dining facilities, and classrooms. Make sure you talk to students, too.

Prepare and submit your application(s)
Once you have narrowed the field of schools you are considering, it's time to fill out the applications. Devote the time necessary to create a strong application. List your extracurricular activities as well as your school accomplishments. Think carefully about your application essay - don't just dash it off. Letters of recommendation are important, so choose carefully the people you will ask. Observe all deadlines!

Make your decision
When you have received notice from colleges or universities of your status (accepted, wait-listed, or not accepted), it's time to make your decision. If you are still not sure about which college to choose, schedule another visit to the schools which have accepted you. If you are wait-listed at your preferred school, don't just wait passively - write a letter to tell the school why you are still interested. When you have made your decision, inform all the involved schools in a timely manner.