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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) 2023

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 Uplifting Our Peers. Willamette aims to support students, staff, faculty, and community members in many ways. From hosting our lūʻau and Social Pow-Wow to rehabilitating the lands of Willamette's Zena Forest. We strive to create a community of supporters and hope to bring together a group of students with a mind for community care, respect, and compassion for one another.

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 17-18, 2023
  • April 7-8, 2023
  • April 16, 2023 - Virtual
  • April 21-22, 2023

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 16, April 6 or April 20). The program will end Saturday with the intention that all participants can return home that afternoon.


A2E is a competitive application-based program. To qualify, you must:

  • Be a high school senior, gap-year student or transfer student who has been, or will be, admitted to the Willamette University College of Arts and Sciences for fall 2023 entry.

As a program designed to increase access to higher education for students historically marginalized, we strongly encourage students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to apply. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • First-generation college students - those with parents or guardians who have not obtained a bachelor’s degree.
  • Students who self-identify as a student of color, such as American Indian, Asian, Black, Hawaiian, Indigenous, Latinx, Native American, and/or Pacific Islander descent.
  • Students eligible for the Pell Grant or who qualify for free or reduced lunch in secondary school.
  • Students with DACA or undocumented immigration status.

How to Apply

  • Apply for admission to Willamette University College of Arts and Sciences via the Common Application and submit all required materials under an Early Action, Early Decision or Regular Decision application plan.
  • 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 uplift or advocate for others and/or yourself?
      • How could Willamette support you based on your identity, life experiences, and values?


Early Action/Early Decision Applicants Priority Deadline: February 10, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific

This includes students who applied Early Action or Early Decision and received an offer of admission in December 2022. This is ideal for students who would prefer to attend the first event on March 17-18, 2023.

Regular Decision Applicants: February 24, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific

This includes students who applied Regular Decision and students who applied Early Action or Early Decision and were held for additional information, such as an updated transcript or writing sample. Admission decisions for Regular Decision applicants will be released no earlier than February 17, 2023. Students interested in A2E should apply prior to receiving their admission decision.


A2E applicants will be notified by email on February 14, 2023 for the first A2E program (March 16-18). All other applicants will be notified by February 28, 2023.


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, hotel 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 2023 to attend the Virtual Access to Excellence on Sunday, April 16, 2023, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pacific. The two-hour event will include:

  • A warm welcome to the Willamette community
  • Keynote address
  • An interactive small group session to explore themes of diversity, inclusion and equity
  • A panel discussion on building your community
Register Here

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
Introduction with Campfire Conversations

Saturday | 9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Welcome with Dean of Admission
Uplifting Hour
Diversity at Willamette
Importance of Self-Care
Parent Session
Bookstore & 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; however, there is no limit on the number of guests.

    Reimbursement for travel expenses is limited to the participating student and one guest. Travel expenses for any additional guests will not be covered.

    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 2023 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 hotel 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 6, 2023. 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.

    Hotel arrangements will be confirmed by Willamette. All students and guests will stay at our partnering hotel, The Grand. The Grand is located less than ½ mile from campus and within walking distance.

  • 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 hotel lobby for a guided walk to campus. We will also guide participants back to The Grand at the end of each day.

  • What meals are included?

    Breakfast on Friday and Saturday will be at The Grand, with the cost covered as part of hotel accommodations.

    Lunch on Friday and Saturday and dinner on Friday will be provided on campus. Participants can submit receipts for reimbursement for meals purchased in the process of traveling to and from campus.

    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