First-Year Applicants

At Roger Williams, we welcome interest from new students who have the passion and drive to solve problems for the community and the world. We strive to be a diverse community and enroll students from across New England and throughout the world. Are you ready to join us?

What we look for

If you have not yet earned a high school diploma or equivalent, you will be considered as a first-year applicant to the university. The admission process for first-year students is a competitive and personalized process. While your academic performance (courses taken, grades earned) is generally the most important factor, our admission committee considers all materials submitted and weighs all factors of the review process to assess, to the fullest context we can, who you are, what you have achieved so far, and ultimately assess whether you have the foundation for a successful career at Roger Williams.

We seek students who want to bring their talents and abilities to Roger Williams and do more than just “earn a degree” or learn one specific major. Our core curriculum, along with our distinctive approach to experiential education, will stretch you in many directions in an exciting and dynamic learning environment. Our comprehensive (“holistic”) review of each student means that the Admission Committee reads and weighs all pieces of the submitted application. Every item we require provides a glimpse into the life you have led and allows us to imagine the impact you can have as a member of the Roger Williams community.

Please note: RWU supports the right of students to exercise freedom of expression through peaceful protests and demonstrations. Our namesake, Roger Williams, fearlessly advocated for freedom of conscience, equality, and tolerance to help improve his community. Thus, our values embrace intellectual exchange, critical thinking, inclusiveness and innovation as a means of improving a free society. Nonviolent activism that is reported as disciplinary action will not, in its own, disadvantage applicants in any way during our admission process.

So what do we look for? We are looking for a glimpse of you through the way you present your application materials. We are excited to hear your story through the below credentials you share with us.

  • Academic Preparation. We look not only at your grades earned, but consider the rigor of your school and courses, your grade trend over the years (improving? declining?) along with understanding the course subjects that are your strengths and weaknesses. We review your academic performance within the context of the major for which you apply.* This means we consider your performance in the foundational subjects on which your major of interest is based to ensure that you can perform successfully in the curriculum.

    *We will also consider and accept applicants as undeclared majors if we are not able to admit them directly into their program of interest. These students will then have the opportunity to establish the appropriate academic foundation at RWU and transition into their intended major.
  • Activities and Involvement. How you spend your time outside the classroom, such as participation in school clubs, sports, jobs, or volunteering matter. We value the impact you have in the communities around you because that is a critical component of the RWU experience.
  • Essay. The application essay gives us deeper insight of who you are. While it gives us a chance to hear from you in your own words, we also use the essay to assess your level of writing (ie, grammar, spelling, and ability to communicate a thought).
  • Testing. Roger Williams is test optional* in our admission process. We recognize that standardized test scores are merely one measure of a student’s academic performance. In some cases, students feel that their high school transcript and other accomplishments are better representations of their ability and potential. Therefore, it is your choice to have test scores considered as a portion of our admission review. *When filling out the Common Application, you will indicate your preference. Approximately 60-65% of applicants choose to share test scores as part of their application.

* Please note that the Rhode Island Department of Education requires minimum test score achievement for direct admission into the Elementary Education or Secondary Education majors. Students who do not meet the requirements or do not submit test scores will be considered for provisional admission or admission into the Undeclared Education program.

  • Portfolios. Some programs require supplemental materials such as portfolios or auditions. Prospective applicants should review program requirements outlined.
  • Letter(s) of recommendation. We only require one letter of recommendation but encourage more if they help tell your story. Letters of recommendation provide details from a school or community member that expand more upon something we have learned from the student's application in other places, or tell us something entirely new. The best recommendations are personal and not just that the student is “a pleasure to have in class.”.
  • Details for International Students. Additionally, non-U.S. citizens and those without permanent residency status must also provide the following, when applicable, in the application process:
    • If applicable, please ensure all non-English school transcripts and teacher evaluations are translated into English.
    • IELTS or TOEFL scores. Although RWU does not require the TOEFL or IELTS, taking the test is highly recommended when English is not your primary language. We will use these scores to determine the appropriate admission path: conditional admission (requiring an ESL program), Bridge admission (ESL prerequisite work at RWU), or direct admission (no ESL prerequisites required).
    • Please review the International Students web page for more details and information. 

Meet us! You can help make the admission process a more personal experience. If you have any unique circumstances that can’t be explained through the above materials, call or visit us. We are glad to learn your story and offer help on how best to present it in your application to our Admission.  Sometimes, we may even call you for more information before we act on your application.

Next step:View Deadlines


Apply now for fall 2021.

For all first-year students, applying to RWU is completed using the online Common Application. If your application along with all supporting documents are received by the deadline date to which you are applying, your admission decision notification will be sent as outlined below.

 Early ActionRegular DecisionSpring Admission
Application DeadlineNovember 15February 1Rolling
Admission Notification DateMid-DecemberRollingRolling
FAFSA Priority DeadlineFebruary 1February 1December 1
Honors ProgramPriority ConsiderationReviewed on a space available basisReviewed on a space available basis
Student Reply DateMay 1 (for Class of 2025)May 1 (for Class of 2025)December 1



High school students with earned college credit beyond secondary school should apply as first-year applicants. For best consideration for admission to the University, Honors Program, students should apply under our Early Action program. Requirements for applying are as follows:

  1. A submitted Common Application with Essay
  2. Official high school transcripts
  3. One letter of recommendation 
  4. For RD Applicants: senior year first marking period grades
  5. For RD applicants and EA applicants who are deferred to RD: Mid-year grades (once available)
  6. Special requirements for the following majors: Architecture and Performing Arts (Dance & Theatre) as outlined below.
  7. Students applying for financial aid should file the FAFSA (Federal & State Aid) no later than February 1. FAFSA is available for the upcoming year online as of October 1.

Optional Items: 

  1. For EA applicants: senior year first marking period grades (highly recommended) 

  2. Standardized Test Scores: Submission of SAT or ACT scores is optional. Please note special requirements for direct entry into education programs, outlined below. Additional details on our Standardized Test Policy can be found on our Test Optional Policy page.  

    Applicants may submit test scores by having them sent to RWU directly from the testing agency, or applicants may self-report their scores by entering them into the Common Application, sending a copy or screenshot of the test report (clearly showing the student's name), or requesting that they be sent by their secondary school. Students who submit self-reported test scores will be asked to provide the official score report only upon enrollment.  

  3. Additional letter(s) of recommendation. 

Major-Specific Requirements

Some programs require supplemental materials such as portfolios, auditions, or test scores for direct admittance. Prospective applicants should review program requirements outlined below.

Apply now for fall 2021.

While Roger Williams University is a test-optional institution, students applying to the Elementary and Secondary Education programs are required to submit either SAT or ACT scores in accordance with Rhode Island Department of Education guidelines for direct entry. The Rhode Island Department of Education standardized test minimums are as follows:


Students who do not meet these thresholds may be considered for admission as an undeclared education student until they attain the necessary scores or meet alternative requirements.

In addition, applicants to the Secondary Education program must select one of the following additional majors within the Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, English, Modern Languages, History, and double major in Dance Performance Studies and Secondary Education.

Architecture applicants must have completed a minimum of one year of geometry and two years of algebra in high school. Transfer students are encouraged to have successfully completed college-level calculus. Proficiency in trigonometry and physics is necessary for students to take required college-level courses in calculus and structural systems. Students who lack this proficiency are eligible to apply but must complete the necessary course work before taking calculus and structural systems. Courses taken at RWU in preparation for calculus and structural systems may not count toward degree requirements.

A portfolio of two and/or three-dimensional work demonstrating evidence of an applicant’s creative potential is required for all applicants for admission to the B.S. in Architecture program.  The intent of the portfolio requirement is twofold—to offer applicants some idea of activities you will be engaged in as an architecture student, and to allow the school to begin to estimate your emerging potential at this earliest stage of your architectural education. Consistent with the mission of our program, Roger Williams University is interested in and celebrates the variety of expression that applicants demonstrate. Applicants come from a variety of backgrounds, and we appreciate this variety as a basis for beginning the study architecture at the college level.

The portfolio should consist of 8-12 examples of the applicant’s work, each piece clearly labeled. Your work should be submitted through SlideRoom at this address: 

Your work portfolio should be submitted through one of the following:  

Office of Undergraduate Admissions  
Roger Williams University  
One Old Ferry Road, Bristol, RI 02809.

The portfolio should contain reproductions of two and three-dimensional work recently executed in high school art course work, independent works by the applicant, or summer programs in Art or Architecture that you may have completed. High quality black + white copies and color copies as relevant to the work are acceptable.

Candidates applying to these programs should demonstrate achievement and career potential in areas of dance or theatre. Theatre program applicants should be prepared to audition during the freshman year. Dance Performance Studies applicants are required to submit an audition video prior to their application being reviewed. In order to complete the application process a student interested in Dance Performance Studies must have auditioned. 

Video Audition Portfolio Checklist: 

The following video excerpts may be clips of you working in a studio, or dancing in any other setting, but please ensure that you are the only subject in the video.  There is no dress code or genre restrictions.  Videos may be posted to a shared YouTube or Vimeo channel: 

2-3 Minutes of Clips that Highlight Your Skills In: 

  • Stability / Balance 

  • Mobility / Locomotion 

  • Gestural Clarity of Limbs and Spine 

  • Ease of Weight Shift – Direction / Level Changes 

  •  Anatomically Sound Alignment Throughout 

2-3 Minute Solo: 

  • Performed by you, but may be choreographed by yourself or someone else. 

 Other Optional Materials: 

  • Dance Resume and Cover Letter 

  • Cover Letter: This can take the form of an informal introduction letter.  The purpose is to help us understand your interests as a dancer, scholar, and future professional.  If you are interested in double-majoring or minoring in another program let us know!  We will have several Accepted Student Q&A Sessions in the Spring; these letters will help us advise you more effectively then. 

Please feel free to contact Professor Cathy Nicoli at if you have further questions! 

Next step:Apply


For all first-year students, applying to RWU is completed using the online Common Application. Review the “What We Look For” section for useful info on how to prepare all the necessary materials.

Your primary choice is in deciding which admission program to utilize. Our non-binding Early Action (EA) program serves as an early notification program for students who apply prior to November 15 for fall semester enrollment. EA does not bind you to RWU nor does it restrict/prevent you from applying to other schools. We want you to make an informed decision and have the time to make the right choice. You still have until May 1 to confirm enrollment.

  • To complete your admission file, we require:
    • A submitted Common Application with Essay
    • Official High School Transcripts
    • One letter of recommendation
    • For RD applicants: senior year first marking period grades  
    • For RD applicants and EA applicants who are deferred to RD: Mid-year grades (once available)
    • Special requirements for the following majors: Architecture, Performing Arts (Dance & Theatre), Secondary Education, Elementary Education (see Requirements tab)
    • Students applying for financial aid should file the FAFSA (Federal & State Aid) by February 1. Please note the FAFSA is available online on October 1
  • The following items may be optionally submitted:
    • Standardized Test Scores: If you choose to submit SAT and/or ACT scores, students should use the following RWU school code:
      • College Board SAT and TOEFL: 3729
      • ACT: 3814
    • For EA applicants: senior year first marking period grades (highly recommended) 
    • Additional letter(s) of recommendation. 
    • If applicable, students must request any official college transcripts or AP exam scores
Next step:Financial Aid

Scholarships and Financial Aid

All students applying for admission will automatically be reviewed for various university-managed merit scholarships. If students are looking for federal or state grants, loan opportunities and student employment on campus, the FAFSA form must be completed. Visit the Financial Aid section of our website for details and timelines of the need-based aid process.

Merit Scholarships
Merit scholarships for first-year students are based on academic performance in high school as well as involvements and achievements beyond academics. Awards typically range from $8,000 to approximately $24,000 and; students are notified of these scholarships at the time of admission. Merit awards are guaranteed for four consecutive years of full-time enrollment. While many colleges require a certain (and sometimes significantly high) GPA to maintain merit scholarship awards, RWU believes that students are better served with the peace of mind that comes with the confidence that their scholarship award is secure. Therefore, at RWU, students must maintain good academic standing at the university (overall 2.0 GPA) to retain scholarship eligibility. We believe this flexibility encourages students to take academic risks and step outside their comfort zone without the threat of a GPA forcing them to lose financial aid. Additionally, effectively fall 2019 for new students, RWU students who achieve a minimum overall 3.6 GPA or higher at the end of each academic year will receive the Academic Excellence Award, providing an additional $1,000 towards each following year’s tuition.

RWU Travel Grant
Beyond tuition, room, and board, we know that many other factors impact the total cost of affording a college. For families from farther away, the purchase of flights to and from home over breaks will mean increased cost in choosing RWU. RWU is sensitive to the total cost of an education that families may face, including transportation, books, and other expenses. Therefore, to support our out-of-region enrolled students, we have created a special Travel Grant for students from states and countries outside of the U.S. northeast. This $1500 grant is awarded to all qualified students in addition to merit scholarships awarded at time of admission (with the exception of full-tuition scholarship recipients). Students meeting the geographic criteria will automatically qualify for this award. *Effective for students enrolling fall 2020


Special Scholarship Programs

Additionally, RWU offers several scholarships that require a separate application. Intercultural Leadership Ambassador Program and Scholarship (ILAPS) recognizes, rewards and celebrates a diverse group of students, who have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership and positive contributions to their communities. Established through a generous grant from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, the RISE STEM Scholarship recognizes, supports and empowers five academically talented new students as they prepare to enter Research and Industry in Science and Engineering (RISE) in fields student as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. To find out more about ILAPS, RISE STEM and other RWU scholarships, please visit our Financial Aid pages.