First Generation


Get to Know Western Oregon University and How College Works

Welcome to the WOU site designed specifically for students who may be new to the college process! Some students choose to call themselves a “first-generation” student, or “first-gen” for short. We understand that college and university life can be difficult to navigate, no matter how much knowledge you might already have about the process. That’s why we created this resource!

On these pages, we will start from scratch for the students who are learning the ropes. The information might be too basic for some, but we’re betting it will be just right for many.

Let’s start by talking about why Western Oregon University could be the right college for you.

Why Get Your Degree from WOU?

There are many traits that make WOU a good choice for lots of families and students. Of course, the most important thing is that WOU students earn degrees that help them get jobs when they finish college. Some students even have jobs before they graduate from WOU.

WOU has about 5,000 students, which means you won’t get lost in the crowd. Your professors will still know your name and notice if you miss a class. There are a lot of majors (main topics of study) and minors (other topics of study) available, so students can find a career field that appeals to them.

Everyone who comes to WOU says they love the small-town feel and beautiful campus. For students who don’t want to be part of a giant university or an impersonal community college, WOU is a perfect fit. Plus, there are lots of clubs and activities that happen on campus every day. If you want a great education for a reasonable price at a place where you can safely stretch your wings, the WOU family is ready to welcome you in.

OK, now we’ll explain some of the main terms you will hear during the college application process.

2Definitions of general university terms

Admissions: The department that helps students who are applying to go to WOU or who have been admitted to WOU. Employees here can answer any of your questions about getting into WOU. Also the word “admission” means the process of applying to attend a university or college.

Admitted: Students who have turned in their application materials and been accepted to attend WOU are called admitted students.

Enrolled: These are admitted students who have signed up for WOU classes.

ACT/SAT: Two tests that students can take when they are high school students. Some students take both, and some take just one. If you are a student who has a GPA of 2.75 or better, you can apply to WOU without those test scores. However, most universities across the country do require at least one of these scores.

WOU students on computersGPA: This stands for grade-point average. Basically, this number is a gauge of how good your grades are in high school and in college. A 3.0 is a B average. If you have a high school GPA of 2.75 or better, you can apply to WOU without ACT/SAT scores. If your GPA is lower than 2.75, there are some additional things you need to provide in order to apply to attend WOU. Students can find their GPAs on their high school transcripts or their latest report card. College students can find their GPAs on their university transcripts.

Transcript: This is a list of all your grades from four years of high school. Your high school guidance counselor can get you official copies of your transcript. They will be provided in a sealed envelope. DON’T open it! College admissions offices won’t accept a transcript envelope that isn’t sealed. Some high schools prefer to send official transcripts directly to the college a student is applying to; check to see what your counselor prefers. After you complete college courses, you will have a transcript from any universities you attend.

Tuition and fees: These numbers are how much it costs to go to WOU. They are big numbers, but there are a lot of ways to pay less. In fact, most WOU students receives money to make his or her bill lower. The tuition cost is based on how many credits students take each term. The fees pay for student services such as the health center, student activities, sports and many other things.

Credits: Each class you take earns you a certain number of credits. You need 180 credits to graduate from WOU. Most students take 15 credits per term, which is usually about four or five classes. If you take 15 credits each term of the academic year and pass them all, you will graduate in four years. You might see “credit hours” on other college websites. This is the same as “credits” and does not mean the class runs three hours long.

Term: WOU has four terms each year, but the majority of students have classes in three: fall term (the start of the year, just like high school), winter term and spring term (also known as the academic year). WOU’s system is called a quarter format, and it’s sort of unusual. If you look at other colleges and universities, you might see the word “semester,” which means that school only has two terms each academic year.

Cost of attendance: Just about every college or university has a cost of attendance calculator on its website. It adds together estimated costs such as tuition, fees, campus housing, transportation, books and supplies and miscellaneous to end up with a total number for going to WOU. But there are a lot of factors that affect that number, so it’s really just to give you a ballpark idea of what to expect. It is not the amount you will pay to attend WOU.

Registrar: The Registrar’s office is the department that handles issues that have to do with classes, transcripts, GPAs, graduation and other academic-based records. There is an actual person who is the Registrar, but a customer service representative for that department can answer questions for you.

Registration: This is when you sign up for classes. WOU students register for classes three times each year, once for each term. Freshmen usually do their first registration during a Summer Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) event. Your assigned adviser can help you decide which courses to take so that you stay on track to graduate. Admitted students have access to DegreeTracks, a program that helps keep students organized and focused.

Undergraduate: Sometimes called “undergrads,” these are students who are working towards their a bachelor’s degree.

Graduate: Student who have a bachelor’s degree and now are in school to get an advanced degree such as a master’s or doctorate.

Major: The main field you want to study. A major requires up to 90 credits, and it is the program that will appear on your degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

Minor: The secondary field you want to study. Most minor require around 25-36 credits. Your degree won’t have your minor written on it, but your transcript will show it.

B.A., B.S.: Most bachelor’s degrees are a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. The B.A. has a two-year language requirement while the B.S. does not. It doesn’t really matter whether you earn a B.A. or a B.S. Employers just want you to have a bachelor’s degree.

There are other tricky words you might come across when considering college. You’ll find more definitions on the tabs above that address specific topics, such as Admissions and Housing.


How to Get Started Applying to College

The first step in getting admitted to WOU—or any university—is to apply. To do this, you will need to fill out an application, which can be done online. It’s a pretty long form, but not all topics will apply to you. You can apply to WOU at any time during the year, but if you want to apply for scholarship money from the university, you have to be admitted to WOU by March 1 before the fall you want to begin classes. It generally takes a few weeks for your application to be reviewed, but there are times, such as Preview Days and  Future Wolf Wednesdays, when you can get it all done in one day.

Along with your application, you must provide official high school transcripts and an application fee. In some cases, the application fee can be eliminated.

Next, go to the Admissions tab to learn more about getting into WOU.