University of Oregon
University of Oregon (UO) is a public research university located in Eugene, the second largest city in Oregon and a cozy college town. Popularized by its countless culinary offerings, Eugene presents as a foodie city with a variety of dining experiences, including a thriving farm-to-table approach.
Situated along the Willamette River and the Cascade mountain coastline, the campus, like its school colors, is very green. UO has maintained consistent efforts in environmental sustainability including in its recycling program, commuting options, and landscape management practices. The University of Oregon campus is beautiful, with historic ivy-covered buildings, beautiful green spaces and an abundance of mature trees. Along with being known as the “running capital of the world” due to its history serving as the home of the Olympic Track & Field trials and the creation of Nike, it is nationally recognized as bike friendly with its uniquely designed bike paths, lights, and fix-it stations. The campus earned the gold rating from the League of American Bicyclists.
Despite its smaller student enrollment compared to colleges like the University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Oregon offers a diverse range of disciplines to its students. One of the benefits of its smaller size is smaller class sizes across all disciplines, especially in upper-division courses. Its Clark Honors College is one of the oldest and most respected in the country. UO also offers a high-performing and well-funded NCAA Division I sports program, including a football team in the Pac-12 and a new stadium built exclusively for the track and field program.
Environment & Campus
Students who thrive
UO is an excellent public option for Oregon students, who pay a highly competitive rate to attend. Out-of-state students will also find the cost of attendance to be lower than at private universities, making it an attractive option for Californians or Washingtonians who want to go out of state for college but stay on the west coast.
Students looking for high levels of school spirit and a strong sports culture will be happy at UO. With its strong athletic programs and large alumni community, students who want to celebrate their university will be able to join in with thousands of others who share their Duck pride.
UO will be more accessible to self-motivated, high-performing students than to others. As a public campus, it can’t offer the same level of academic support that a small private school could, so students will be taking the lead in navigating their undergraduate career. Many of Oregon’s brightest students choose to attend UO because of its strong programs and relatively low cost of attendance, so students here will be able to learn and study with others who share a love of learning and a strong intellectual curiosity. The university offers excellent programs in architecture, education, business, sciences, and social sciences, among many others, with new facilities and high levels of funding for research.
Eugene and the UO campus have lots of bike paths and running trails, and the university offers numerous recreational and competitive sports facilities, making it a great community for students who like to stay in shape and explore outdoor spaces. Students who are seeking an urban environment with a college-town feel will appreciate the city of Eugene, which is big enough to offer great restaurants, shops, and activities, but small enough to feel self-contained and manageable. With wilderness areas surrounding the city, it’s not hard for residents and students to retreat into nature, but they will have to learn to ignore the gray skies and light misty rain that is present during much of the winter and early spring.
Students who may have challenges
While UO is the flagship state university for the state of Oregon, students who are specifically interested in engineering will not find it at UO. More than 100 years ago, UO’s engineering program was moved to what is now Oregon State University (OSU), where it remains to this day. Both campuses offer undergraduate business degrees and both have honors colleges. However, UO’s College of Arts & Sciences offers a broader range of traditional liberal arts majors, including a much broader range of foreign languages and cultural studies majors, than OSU’s College of Liberal Arts and College of Science. So, it is important for students interested in attending a public university in Oregon to ensure that the campus they are interested in has the major options they are looking for.
UO is smaller than many comparable public universities, but is still a large campus in a medium-sized city. Students who want a small-campus or small-town environment along with everything a small college can offer, may find UO to be overwhelming. For instance, UO can’t offer the same level of academic support and guidance that a small liberal arts college can offer, so students at UO should be prepared to take the lead in planning their own educational path and course load. The campus also does not offer some of the specialized or advanced support and services for disabilities and learning differences that a student might be able to find at a smaller college, so students for whom this is a concern are advised to take a close look at what UO offers before deciding to go there. You can learn more about support for learning differences and disabilities below.
UO operates on a quarter system, which gives students an opportunity to explore different academic areas, but it means the classes move along at a brisk pace. It also means the school year doesn’t begin until the end of September and gets out in late spring.
Finally, the climate of western Oregon might be a deal-breaker for some students. While the weather is actually quite temperate and rarely snows, students will experience chronic gray, misty weather during the months they are on campus. Summers are beautiful but short, and well before Thanksgiving, the gray weather has settled in and warm, sunny days are fleeting. Students generally learn to take the weather in stride and don’t let it interfere with their outdoor activities, but those who know they are negatively affected by gray weather might not find UO to be a great fit.
Successful UO applicants are fairly high-performing in high school, with an average high school GPA of 3.73. As a test-optional university, not all students submit SAT or ACT scores, but of those who do, 75% of applicants scored above 1120 on the SAT composite and 70% scored above a 24 on the ACT composite. The most important factors in determining admission are the rigor of applicants’ high school courses and their high school GPA, along with the admission essay. UO evaluates several other factors as part of its holistic review process, including extracurricular activities, volunteer or work experience, race or ethnicity, and class rank, but they form a smaller portion of the evaluation than the first three factors.
UO offers students the opportunity to write a second, optional admissions essay on either the topic of equity and inclusion in the campus community, or on your unique personal qualities that make you special and stand apart from others. Capstone recommends that interested applicants complete the optional supplemental essay so the admissions committee has additional information with which to evaluate your application and so you can demonstrate your interest in the university. UO does not officially evaluate demonstrated interest, but by completing the second essay, you can show the admissions officers that you are serious about attending and have given extra time and energy to your UO application.
Students seeking admission to Clark Honors College, one of the oldest and most respected honors colleges in the United States, will be required to complete an additional honors essay and demonstrate exceptional academic qualifications. Honors College students have a median GPA of 3.9 and score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests or higher. Students can apply to Clark Honors College by checking a box on the UO application, or by following a couple steps for the Common App or Coalition App.
UO is test-optional, which you can learn more about in this Capstone blog: Test-optional information & strategies. It does not evaluate demonstrated interest, other than through its optional second admissions essay, or offer interviews to applicants. Some students each year may be offered a place on an unranked waitlist if they do not succeed on the initial round of admissions.
UO admits about 69% of transfer applicants, making it quite accessible for prepared students. Fall applicants must complete the previous fall semester or winter quarter before applying for the following year. Transfer applicants are required to complete at least 23 semester credits or 35 quarter credits before applying; prospective transfers with fewer than this number are required to fulfill the requirements for both transfer and first-year applicants. They are also required to have completed one college-level composition and one college level math course with a minimum grade of C-, Pass, or Satisfactory. The GPA requirement is 2.25 for Oregon residents and 2.5 for out of state applicants, though most admitted transfers will have GPAs higher than this. Lastly, transfer applicants are required to have completed at least two years in high school or two college terms of the same foreign language with a C- or better, or complete a language proficiency test, to satisfy the second language requirement.
How the application process handles majors
On its application, UO asks applicants which major they are interested in, but for most students, this choice is not binding. Students applying to the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) are not required to declare their major until reaching junior standing, while the Lundquist College of Business and College of Education do not admit first-years directly into their programs at all. Applicants to the Clark Honors College are required to complete an additional essay, but are not required to declare a major before matriculating.
Students interested in a major in the School of Journalism & Communication will automatically be registered with pre-major status for their chosen major upon admission to the university, though students will also have the opportunity to transfer into the school from a different UO college if they decide to pursue a major there after matriculating.
The School of Architecture & Environment and the School of Music & Dance both admit students to their undergraduate majors directly. The Architecture programs are highly rigorous and very competitive, so interested students are advised to apply to them directly rather than try to transfer in from a different UO college. Music and Dance majors require major declaration and both a secondary application and an audition for performance- or talent-based degree programs.
In the School of Art + Design, the Product Design major requires an additional departmental application, due on the same schedule as the university application. The Art & Technology major also requires a departmental application, but it is due on a rolling deadline.
UO offers a wide range of majors across nearly all of the fields of study you would find at other state flagship universities, with the notable exceptions of engineering and agriculture programs, which are only offered at Oregon State. Popular majors at UO include Accounting, Advertising, Biological and Physical Sciences, Psychology, Political Science & Government, Business, and Economics. Its Architecture and Journalism programs are very well known and among the best in the country. Every student, regardless of major, graduates with a liberal arts and sciences degree, thanks to the university’s graduation requirements (see below for more details).
Most undergraduates at UO are enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), the university’s liberal arts college, which is home to most of the university’s majors similar to other large universities. The college has strong programs in archaeology, psychology, political science, kinesiology and other sports-related majors, and the sciences. Uniquely, it offers a Multidisciplinary Science Program and major (MSCI), in which students can choose to focus more heavily on either biological or physical sciences, while still receiving a broad scientific education across the different fields. Students are required to complete three out of the five basic science lower division sequences, and have opportunities to learn in anthropology and geography as well. The program is quite rigorous, and provides a strong interdisciplinary foundation for students who are interested in many scientific fields or medicine.
The Phil & Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact is a relatively new institution on campus that provides top undergraduates with paid research experience. Through its Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholars (KCUS) program, a cohort of undergraduate interns spend one year (January through December) in a Knight Campus-affiliated lab conducting scientific research under the supervision of a faculty member, postdoctoral fellow or graduate student.
For pre-med students, the university offers a strong pathway to medical school at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Oregon’s only MD-granting medical school. The pathway is particularly accessible to Oregon residents; out-of-state undergraduates at UO will still be considered out of state for the purposes of OHSU admissions, if they follow this pathway.
UO’s other colleges also offer strong, respected programs in their fields. The School of Architecture & Environment offers three challenging and respected architecture degrees for undergrads. Interested students should declare one of these three majors in the application process for direct admission to the programs (see How majors are handled, above). Since they are highly competitive and prestigious, it is harder for students to transfer into the majors once already enrolled at UO than to be admitted through the freshman application process.
The Lundquist College of Business offers several popular majors, including Business, Accounting, and Advertising, as well as programs in which students can manage investments, launch startups, and solve problems for local companies.
The School of Journalism & Communication is headed by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and journalists and offers students opportunities to study and implement design, brands, media products, and other tools and features of creative culture.
At the College of Design, students can take a Comic Studies major, the first of its kind in the nation, and a competitive Product Design major with special application requirements (see How majors are handled, above)
The College of Education is highly respected nationally and consistently ranks among American universities’ top education programs. The special education program, including the unique Communication Disorders & Sciences (CDS) major, is particularly strong, as are the Counseling Psychology and School Psychology programs. The College of Education has a high ratio of research money available per professor, enabling the college to fund a large number of projects and programs.
UO is one of only 66 schools in the prestigious Association of American Universities, representing the US and Canada’s top research universities.
UO offers a range of academic support services and centers for students in many different program areas. At the Tutoring & Academic Engagement Center, students can sign up for free tutoring sessions in math, writing, language, and sciences, or for peer academic coaching. The Center also offers Class Encore, an umbrella for small study groups led by peer leaders for challenging classes. Tutoring services are also offered through the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE) and Lundquist College’s Braddock Tutoring program.
In addition to general academic support, students can find specialized help for certain subjects in a few different places. The Math Library offers homework help for lower division math classes. Writing Central is a peer writing support and coaching program for students in journalism and communication. The Yamada Language Center, recently made a division of the brand-new School of Global Studies and Languages (SGSL), offers resources for teaching and learning global languages. SUPeR Chem is a program in which supervised undergraduate peer learning assistants (PLAs) offer review sessions for fellow students in general and organic chemistry classes.
Support for learning differences
The K&W Guide lists UO as a middle-tier, or Coordinated Services, university, meaning it offers services and support to students with disabilities through centralized campus institutions, but doesn’t go above and beyond. UO’s formal support services and accommodations are fairly limited for a large university, but the campus community supporting students with learning differences is warm and inclusive.
One of the most interesting features of UO’s support system is Mansfield Hall, a private residential community staffed with a team of adults providing executive functioning and independent living support. Operating out of a large house near campus, students with learning challenges such as dyslexia, ADHD, and ASD can live together and receive support. Although it’s not officially affiliated with the university, it expands the range of housing opportunities for a particular subset of students who need additional support. Mansfield Hall also operates in Burlington, Vermont, and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The Accessible Education Center (AEC) is UO’s central support hub for students with disabilities and learning differences. It offers testing accommodations, note taking services, sign language interpreting, captioning and transcription, and assistive technologies. It also offers two support groups: ADHD Strategies & Support Group, to build community among students with ADHD, and the Social Connectedness Group, a student-led space for students with ASD to build community and enjoy unstructured time together.
UO also states that it offers some additional services, but documentation is limited.
AEC students can also make use of the variety of other academic support options available to everyone (see above), including peer academic coaching, tutoring, and subject-specific resources and services in the different departments and colleges.
As a public university, UO has fewer scholarship opportunities than at comparable private schools, but it also offers a lower base cost of education, particularly for Oregon residents. UO does not participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), but its out-of-state tuition is fairly competitive relative to other non-participating universities and those outside of the WUE states.
Although UO only meets about 60% of financial need for students receiving financial aid packages, it offers an interesting selection of scholarship opportunities, including for out-of-state students. The UO Excellence Scholarship is a $15,000 per year award for a limited number of out-of-state first-years with very strong applications. The Stamps Scholarship is the university’s most prestigious and generous scholarship, offering ten Oregonians and five out-of-state students the full cost of tuition, room and board, and fees for four years, plus up to a $3,000 per year enrichment fund for personal expenses. It requires US residency, a 3.85 GPA or better, and a separate application. The Presidential Scholarship, for Oregon residents only, has the same requirements as the Stamps Scholarship but is available to a larger number of students. There are several additional available scholarships for both Oregon residents and nonresidents.
The university also offers special AEC Scholarships for UO students who have a spinal cord injury and disability, legal blindness, or a physical disability. You can learn more about the Accessible Education Center (AEC) in the Support for learning differences section, above.
Some scholarships are available for transfer students. UO Colleges and departments may offer scholarship opportunities as well.
Housing & transportation
All first-year students at UO are required to live in residence halls, with limited exceptions for certain students. Campus housing is also available to transfer students who register before June 30. Several residence halls offer Academic Residence Communities (ARCs) and non-academic Residential Communities for students who share identities or interests. There are ARCs for Latinx, Indigenous, and Black scholars, queer and trans students, women in science and math, environmentally-focused students, and more. One unique community is the Honors College ARC for students in Clark Honors College. Students live in Global Scholars Hall or Justice Bean Hall along with fellow honors students. Residential Communities include gender inclusive, substance free, and quiet communities, among others.
Students in their second year or later have a variety of alternative on-campus housing options, such as fraternity and sorority houses and co-ops, though most continuing students choose to live off-campus in easily accessible and quite affordable apartments and houses close to campus.
UO is a residential campus in a relatively small and very accessible college town. The community is known for its foodie culture, organic food, and local coffee shops. The terrain is flat, making it an excellent biking town. Students are encouraged to make use of the over 250 miles of bike lanes and paths throughout the city, and can bring their bikes on public buses for free with a student ID.
Thanks to the strong bike culture and accessibility, most students will be fine on campus without a car most of the time. But students who want to be able to take trips out of town, commute, or drive home on weekends or holidays, may want to have a car on campus with them. Since Eugene is a relatively small city surrounded by rural countryside, this option might be more important than at universities in large cities.
UO offers a late night shuttle service called Duck Rides for students and university employees. It does not, however, offer a shuttle service to and from Eugene Airport, so students will need to plan their transportation ahead when flying to and from Eugene. The airport is 11 miles from campus, about a 15 minute drive. Students can also travel to Abany, Salem, and Portland via Amtrak, but the service is relatively slow.
Eugene, as a city, is well-known for its hippie culture, which visitors can see reflected in its organic grocery stores, local shops, farmer’s markets, and bike culture. But UO is also a large and diverse campus community, so students will be able to find a community that fits their personality and interests. The campus is happy, warm, and inclusive, with a politically diverse student body and intentional, university-level programming to encourage diversity of thought and identity. The campus is highly school-spirited, with students frequently wearing university merch and turning out in large numbers for campus sporting events.
The university and surrounding community offer lots of outdoor opportunities, particularly through a highly developed outdoor program located in the basement of the Student Union. Students have free access to outdoor gear, bike repair services, kayaks, weekend adventure trips, and more, funded through enrollment fees each quarter. There are bike and running trails throughout campus and Eugene and into the wilderness areas at the edge of the city, making it easy to get around without a car or for exercise.
The campus has a Greek culture, but only about 15% of undergrads pledge a house. The culture is there if you want to participate, but it doesn’t overwhelm the social atmosphere. Additionally, UO offers Army ROTC on campus and Air Force ROTC at Oregon State.
UO is known for its association with Phil Knight, Nike founder and UO graduate, who has generously contributed to the UO sports programs, resulting in well-funded, well-attended athletic events, particularly its NCAA Division I Pac-12 Football program. Seventeen other sports compete at a high level, and make use of world-class facilities offered by the university. The Women’s Basketball and Volleyball programs are very strong. The university has recently built a new stadium exclusively for track & field, with a funding campaign led by Phil Knight, to replace the original, historic Hayward Field. UO frequently hosts the Track & Field National Championships, and it hosts the Team USA Olympic Track & Field trials every four years.
Recreationally active students can participate in intramural sports for a flat fee of $20 per quarter through the Physical Education and Recreation Department (PE & Rec) at UO. PE & Rec also offers PE and fitness classes, group workouts, personal training, and numerous other facilities for individual workouts. Students can make use of aquatic facilities, court and gyms, fitness centers, workout studios, and an extensive indoor climbing gym on campus or in the community nearby.
UO offers new, advanced facilities for recreation and fitness, above and beyond what many other universities offer. Students who are interested in staying active will be able to find nearly any program they may be interested in here.
Unlike many other universities, UO does not require US resident undergrads to carry health insurance, though it is strongly recommended. Students are free to purchase a UO Student Health Insurance plan for $3,000 from the university, or enroll in their own plan privately. Without insurance, all students are still able to access the University Health Center through the mandatory health fee paid each quarter along with other campus fees. International students are required to carry health insurance.
The University Health Center offers primary care, mental health services, including counseling and psychiatry, and a wide range of additional clinical services, including acupuncture and massage therapy, allergy and asthma treatment, health services for queer and trans students, and sexual wellness, among several others.
Outpatient psychiatry services are relatively rare to find at university health centers, so it is notable that UO offers them at UHC. There is, however, a shortage of psychiatrists in the Eugene-Springfield area, so students coming to UO with a pre-existing relationship with a psychiatrist may want to continue working with that provider remotely, if possible.
UO’s requirements for graduation are fairly typical, and include a range of specific requirements, in addition to major requirements. Students in all degree programs must complete the following:
- Writing requirement, with a C- or Pass grade or better;
- Area of Inquiry requirements (more information below);
- Cultural Literacy requirement;
- A minimum credit requirement (more information below);
- 62 upper division credits;
- 168 credits with a grade of D or Pass or higher (ABCDP credits);
- Residence requirement, in which students must complete 45 credits at UO after a certain threshold of overall qualifying credits (more information below);
- UO GPA of 2.0 or better
The Area of Inquiry requirement covers courses in three areas: Arts & Letters, Social Science, and Science. Students progressing towards a BA or BS degree are required to complete 15 credits in each of the three areas for a minimum of 45 credits overall. Students completing arts or architecture degrees are required to take 12 credits in each of the three areas for a minimum of 36 credits overall.
The minimum overall credits requirement is 180 for students progressing towards BA, BS, or arts degrees. The three architecture degrees have higher credit requirements, between 220 and 231 depending on the program.
To satisfy the residence requirement, transfer students must complete at least 45 credits at UO after the first 120 for BA, BS and arts students. Transfer students in architecture must complete 45 credits at UO after the first 160 to 171 credits. This residence requirement is relatively low, so transfer students who are qualified for UO admission may find it economical to complete a large majority of coursework at a community college before transferring to UO for the remaining 45 credits.
Additionally, BA students must complete a minimum of 3 quarters of a second language at a C- or Pass grade or better, and BS students must complete one year of college-level math or computer science at a C- or Pass grade or better.
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Motto: Mens agitat molem
(The mind moves mountains)
Mascot: The Oregon Duck
NCAA Division I FBS (Pac-12)
Public research university
3,655 graduate students
1,000 full-time faculty
18:1 student-faculty ratio
63% of classes <30 students
295 acre campus
Midsize city setting
Summers are warm; winters are cold and wet, with very rare snowfall. It is often partly cloudy, year-round.
High school GPA (first-years)
College transcript (transfers)
Optional supplemental essay
Letters of Recommendation
Talent or ability
Character or personal qualities
Race or ethnicity
Optional SAT/ACT scores
Does not evaluate
Demonstrated interest *
* Completing the optional supplemental essay is how students can demonstrate interest
College of Music & Dance
$34,000 / year
Oregon resident total cost
$62,000 / year
Non-resident total cost
$15,000 / year
$42,000 / year
Additional Honors College tuition
$3,000 / year
Housing & Meal Plan
$15,000 / year
Additional fees & expenses
~ $4,000 / year
UO Student Health Insurance
Additional $3,000 / year (opt-in)
Percent of financial need met (average)
$7,000 / year
Amount of merit aid awarded to students without financial need (average)
Percent of undergraduates without financial need receiving merit aid
Notable Majors & Programs
Multidisciplinary Science (MSCI)
Communication Disorders & Sciences (CDS)
Equity & Inclusion
- Transfer housing guaranteed: Yes, if registered before June 30
- Separate transfer housing available: No
- Transfer merit scholarships: Yes
- Transfer acceptance rate: 70%
- Accepts ACE, CLEP transfer credits
- Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE)
- CMAE tutoring
- Center of Diversity & Community (CoDaC)
- Multicultural Center (MCC), including Student Unions
- Campus & Community Engagement (CACE)
- Campus Diversity office
- Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center
- White students overrepresented compared to other colleges, but non-white students well-represented relative to Oregon population
- Campus Pride Index: 5 / 5
- Recognized for inclusion & support
- Inclusive & support campus policies
- Inclusive pronoun & lived name policies
- Gender-inclusive housing
- LGBT Education & Support Services
- GSA Visit Day
- Queer Ally Coalition training & workshops
- LGBTQIA+ scholarships
- Transgender care including HRT & SRS
PNW tech companies recruit from and have strong ties with UO
Pathway from UO to OHSU for medical school
Top photo: Lillis Business Complex, housing the Lundquist College of Business at UO.
Bottom photo: Hayward Field Gate at UO.
Wikimedia images displayed under Creative Commons license.