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Access to Excellence

Apply for our admitted student fly-in program and experience the inclusive and welcoming community at Willamette.

Access to Excellence (A2E) Willamette University logo with screened image of campus in the background.

Access to Excellence (A2E) 2024

The Access to Excellence (A2E) program is a fully-funded fly-in opportunity for underrepresented students (eligibility listed below) who have been offered admission to Willamette University. A2E is designed to provide access to students and families who are a good fit for Willamette and who represent a diversity of backgrounds and experiences important to our campus culture and community.

Willamette provides full travel expenses (see travel grant below) to and from campus for a student and family member in order to introduce them to all Willamette has to offer. Participating students, and their guest, will attend Bearcat Day, our admitted student program, and continue into A2E programming.

The theme for this year’s A2E event is Celebrating Your Identity. At Willamette University, we inspire each other to examine issues critically, think creatively and support our community passionately. We challenge Bearcats to transform knowledge into action — the foundation of a successful career and a meaningful life. Instead of linear identifiers boiled down to just being an “engineer,” “artist,” “college student,” or “athlete,” we also want to foster your identity as a celebrated human being. Changing the narrative to “empathetic,” “critical thinker,” “ambitious”, etc., and valuing those qualities even more than the degree you walk away with.

What Can You Expect from A2E?

Students will participate in all Bearcat Day programming, providing a holistic admitted student experience, and then continue into the A2E events. The two days will provide the opportunity to:

  • Experience a day in the life of a Willamette student
  • Connect with faculty, staff, current students and other admitted students
  • Explore the city of Salem and the beautiful Pacific Northwest
  • Engage in identity-based conversation to start your story at Willamette


  • March 15-16, 2024
  • April 5-6, 2024
  • April 13, 2024
  • April 19-20, 2024

Review the sample schedule to the right. Please note, the final schedule of sessions is pending to change. Students traveling from out of state or a greater distance should plan to travel to campus the day prior (March 14, April 4 or April 18). The program will end Saturday with the intention that all participants can return home that afternoon.


As a program designed to increase access to higher education for students we strongly encourage students with challenges accessing higher education to apply. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Students who have experienced hardships and/or overcome adversities which
    limit the access to higher education.
  • First-generation college students - those with parents or guardians who
    have not obtained a bachelor’s degree.
  • Students eligible for the Pell Grant or who qualify for free or reduced
    lunch in secondary school.

How to Apply

  • Apply for admission to Willamette University College of Arts and Sciences via the Common Application or Coalition on Scoir and submit all required materials under an Early Action, Early Decision or Regular Decision application plan.
  • In your Willamette Applicant Status Page, submit the A2E Application, including two short answer questions of no more than 300 words:
    • How would participation in the Access to Excellence program aid in your college search process?
    • One of the following:
      • How have you found a way to celebrate your identities or other’s identities?
      • How could Willamette support you based on your identities, life experiences, and values?


Students may apply to attend A2E after submitting their application for admission. We strongly encourage students to apply prior to receiving their admission decision.

Priority Deadline: February 9, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific

This is ideal for students who would prefer to attend the first event on March 15-16, 2024.

Final Deadline: February 23, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific

Students who apply by the final application deadline will be considered for the remaining two Bearcat Day/Access to Excellence dates.


A2E applicants will be notified by email on February 15, 2024 for the first A2E program (March 15-16). All other applicants will be notified by February 29, 2024.


Please contact the Office of Admission at or 503-370-6303 with questions regarding the program or application process.

Travel Grant

Willamette University will cover all costs associated with travel and participation in our A2E fly-in program. Once invited to attend the program, participants will receive information regarding event registration which will include logistics for flight and/or ground transportation, overnight accommodations, and dietary needs. The travel grant can also cover costs for one guest to join the participating student. A guest may include, but is not limited to a parent, guardian, counselor, older sibling or any other individual who has been supporting the student’s college search and decision process.

Virtual Access to Excellence

Can’t make it to campus for an A2E fly-in program? We’re excited to invite any interested student who has been admitted to Willamette University’s entering class of fall 2024 to attend Virtual Bearcat Day from 10:00 a.m. - Noon Pacific and Access to Excellence from 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, April 13, 2024, The four-hour event will include:

  • A warm welcome to the Willamette community
  • Sample classes
  • Current student panel
  • Keynote address for Access to Excellence
  • An interactive small group session to explore themes of diversity, inclusion and equity

Register in your applicant status page beginning January 5, 2024.

Sample Schedule

Arrive to Salem

Friday | 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Bearcat Day
Admitted Student Event

Friday | 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Access 2 Excellence Kick Off with Campfire Conversations

Saturday | 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.,

  • Welcome with Dean of Admission
  • Specialized programming
  • Breakout Sessions:
    • Diversity at Willamette: Navigating a Predominantly White Institution
    • Importance of Self-Care: Mental Health Resources
    • Dear Future Bearcats: Parent Letter Writing Activity
  • Bookstore & Lunch
  • Departure

Access To Excellence (A2E) Frequently Asked Questions

  • Am I allowed to bring guests with me?

    Participating students are strongly encouraged to bring one parent/guardian with them to A2E.

    Reimbursement for travel expenses is limited to the participating student and one guest.

    The Bearcat Day and A2E schedule has been intentionally designed to ensure that the student, and their guest, learn about the opportunities that a Willamette education will provide, an introduction to the inclusive campus community, and the support offered to students of all backgrounds and identities. Attendees should be prepared to attend all sessions with limited distraction.

  • What are the program benefits?
    Attending either the in-person or virtual Access to Excellence program will allow you to have a clearer understanding of Willamette’s campus community and feel confident in your ultimate college choice.

    The $500 enrollment deposit is waived for any student who participates in the in-person or virtual A2E program if they choose to enroll for fall 2024 entry.

    Students accepted to an in-person A2E program will receive a travel grant that covers the cost of travel to and from campus, including up to two nights of overnight accommodations, air travel, ground transportation (mileage reimbursement, bus, train), and food for the student and one guest.
  • I was selected to attend an A2E fly-in program. What happens next?

    Application review and notification will begin January 5, 2024. A2E applicants can expect to receive notification within two weeks of their application.

    Students will be notified by email to submit a registration form, which will include information regarding preferred travel plans.

    Once the registration form is submitted, the A2E program coordinators will review travel options and contact students with proposed arrangements and instructions to schedule a Zoom appointment to review the finalized travel arrangements, program schedule and attendee expectations.

    Immediately following the Zoom appointment, travel will be confirmed and final details sent.

  • How will my travel and lodging be confirmed?

    All participants flying from out of state will fly into and out of Portland International Airport (PDX).

    Most participating students and their guests will confirm preferred flights during their Zoom confirmation call and the A2E program coordinators will book flights on the student’s behalf.

    Participating students and their guests are welcome to book their own flights and request reimbursement from Willamette. Students should not book travel until their program selection is confirmed and have participated in a Zoom call with one of the A2E program coordinators.

    All participants will be housed on campus in Shepherd Hall, which consists of double rooms and shared bathrooms for all guests. One room, with two standard twin beds and all linens (sheets, pillow, towels), will be provided for each student and their guest. Questions regarding overnight accommodations can be discussed for participants during their Zoom confirmation call.

  • How do I get between the airport and Willamette?

    Willamette will shuttle to and from the airport for you and your guest. Your shuttle time will be provided during your Zoom confirmation call. We will make every effort to limit time spent at the airport, but some participants may spend up to two hours upon arrival waiting for the shuttle. Due to ongoing construction at Portland International Airport, we recommend remaining in the secure area where more options for dining exist.

  • How will I get around Salem?

    If you are arriving in Salem via Amtrak or Greyhound, your best bet is to utilize Lyft and Uber.

    Each day, we will meet all participants in the lobby of Shepherd Hall to be guided around campus. We will also guide participants back to Shepherd Hall at the end of each day.

  • What meals are included?

    All meals starting from the arrival on campus to the departure of the program will be covered by Willamette. Any dietary restrictions should be noted on the registration form or during the Zoom confirmation call.

  • What should I bring to the Access to Excellence fly-in program?

    We recommend you bring the following:

    • Refillable water bottle
    • Comfortable footwear - our campus is about 60 acres, and the distance to the hotel is approximately ½ mile
    • Plenty of layers - spring weather in the Pacific Northwest is unpredictable so layers ensure you are comfortable inside and outside no matter the conditions
    • Sunglasses and a hat.
    • Phone/camera.
    • Acceptable ID, such as a valid passport, state-issued enhanced driver's license or U.S. military ID, to fly within the U.S.
Willamette University

Office of Admission

Salem Campus

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6303 voice
1-844-BEARCAT toll free
503-375-5363 fax
503-375-5383 TDD