My name is Aaron Tinsley

An eclectic collection of thoughts and projects on a variety of (mostly) tech topics.

The WGU Application Process

I have been drawn to technology my entire life.  I got my start when I was only seven or eight years old after my dad bought a computer to do the accounting for his lawn care business.  I remember playing around on Windows 3.1, modifying the Gorillas game in QBASIC, and booting into MS-DOS to learn the commands.  I’ve spent the majority of my life figuring things out for myself, and have parlayed my experiences into a very wonderful position as a Systems Analyst working at a medical laboratory. I’ve done very well without a college degree, but I’m not ready to peak yet!

Enter Western Governors University.  WGU is a fully online, nonprofit, regionally accredited university which is specifically geared towards adults.  One of the main ways they have catered to working professionals is by pioneering a competency-based approach to education.  They’ve done away with credit hours and have instead chosen to focus on developing the competencies you should be getting out of a class.  The most interesting part of this approach is that it opens the door for significantly accelerating your progress through the school.  Instead of being forced to sit through a full semester-long course on a subject you’re already familiar with, you can instead prove your competence by taking the assessment and then move on to the next class.

The possibility for accelerating my education is what attracted me to WGU, and so I decided to apply not long after discovering the school.  After I applied, I was interested in knowing exactly how the application process would go for a prospective student.  I did some Googling but wasn’t able to find any firsthand accounts online.  That’s where the meat of this post comes in!  Here is my firsthand account of the WGU application process.

The WGU Application Process

February 26th (Sunday)
I applied to WGU on the evening of February 26th.  The application process was fairly simple after I created my student account.  The only interesting note here is I paid the $65 application fee, and then received a code the next day which would have waived that fee.  Maybe good things come to those who wait?  If you’d like to avoid the fee, I’d recommend first creating your student account and then waiting to see if you get a code in your email on the following day.

February 27th (Monday)
The very next morning, I put in a transcript mailing request to a local community college I had previously attended.  I knew waiting on the transcripts could be a rate-limiting step for my enrollment at WGU so I wanted to be proactive in this arena.  I’d recommend you do the same.  It’s worth noting that WGU does accept electronic transcripts via email, but my community college doesn’t send them that way.

On the afternoon of the same day, I received my first call from my enrollment counselor at WGU.  At this point, we were operating under the assumption that I would be doing the B.S. in Information Technology program with a May 1st start date (both would change during the enrollment process).  She and I only spoke for a few minutes, but she did a great job of explaining the next steps to me.  She also sent me a very informative email detailing the areas I should focus.

March 1st (Wednesday)
I sent my resume to my enrollment counselor via email.  There are special requirements for admittance into the College of IT.  You need to have one of the following: 1) An associate’s degree in IT or equivalent, 2) high-level IT coursework completed in the past five years, 3) an IT certification on a list that includes the CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+, and others, or 4) three years of IT experience.  Unfortunately, I am still very intangible at this point in my career.  Of all these special requirements, #4 is the only one I’ve fulfilled.

I needed to update my resume prior to sending it to WGU because I haven’t been looking for work and it was out of date.  After a couple days of thoughtful revisions, I sent an email to my enrollment counselor with my resume attached.

March 3rd (Friday)
I had done some careful reviewing of the programs available to me and decided to switch to the B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Security.  The generic degree with no emphasis focused a little too much on web dev for me.  The Security emphasis basically swaps out the web dev stuff for more networking.  As part of this emphasis, I’ll be earning my CCNA and CCNA: Security.  I emailed my enrollment counselor and requested the change.

March 4th (Saturday)
My enrollment counselor replied that it would be no issue to switch me to the new program.  I logged in to the Enrollment Portal after receiving the email and confirmed she had already made the change.

March 5th (Sunday)
I took the WGU Readiness Assessment.  This test just lets WGU know if you are ready for college or if you need to sharpen your skills.  It’s only necessary if you don’t have one of their recognized IT certifications or a degree of some sort.  I’ll be honest — I was a little nervous.  It had been about 5 years since I had taken any college courses.  My math skills were rusty!

In preparation for this test, I found this article on Owlcation which gave me some much-needed direction on what I should brush up on.  I have no doubt that you’ll do fine on the Readiness Assessment as long as you take a little time to prepare for it!

March 8th (Wednesday)
My resume review was marked as completed in the Enrollment Portal.  The special requirements for the IT College were marked as fulfilled.

March 10th (Friday)
My transcript requirement was completed.  Five classes were marked as completed.  I spoke to my enrollment counselor the same day about moving my start date up to April 1st since things were going so well.  She replied that it would most likely be fine, but we would have to wait for the final admissions decision and complete my Intake Interview prior to the cutoff date for new students on the 15th.

March 12th (Sunday)
My status on the Enrollment Portal changed from “Applicant” to “Admitted”.  I was in!

March 15th (Wednesday)
I completed my Intake Interview with my enrollment counselor.  She mostly asked if I was familiar with certain college policies and noted that I would be receiving a “welcome kit” from the college including a webcam used for remote test proctoring.

March 16th (Thursday)
I made payment arrangements through the Enrollment Portal.  The website didn’t immediately update to mark that I had fulfilled my financial obligations.

March 17th (Friday)
I received a phone call from the Admissions department letting me know I was cleared to start.  My status in the Enrollment Portal changed from “Admitted” to “Cleared to Start”.  The Orientation was also unlocked for me.  The woman from Enrollment told me something I didn’t previously know.  The classes are already unlocked for me to begin studying!

March 19th (Sunday)
I completed Orientation and immediately began studying for my Introduction to IT course.  I also completed a Coursera course which I had been working on for a few days titled “Learning How to Learn”.  The class took about 12 total hours of work and was very insightful.  I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to be an efficient learner.

March 20th (Monday)
I received my first call from my Student Mentor.  We spoke for 45 minutes about my past, goals, and ambitions.  He introduced himself and told me a bit about his background.  It was a pleasant call.

March 27th (Monday)
I received my second call from my Student Mentor.  We spoke about my goals for the term.  We officially lined up my first four courses with start dates and end dates.  Though he will only initially enroll me for my first four classes so I can achieve OTP (On-Time Progress), I share my accelerated view of my schooling with him.  He’s very enthusiastic.

April 1st (Saturday)
My student status changed to “Active”.  I was still technically unenrolled in my courses because my Student Mentor won’t actually enroll me until our 3rd call on the following Monday.

April 3rd (Monday)
I received my third call from my Student Mentor.  This is a short call.  All he needed to do was help me enroll in my classes.  I’m officially a student at WGU!

There it is!  If I could say one thing to each incoming student, I would say this:  You have access to your courses as soon as you are “Cleared to Start” in the Enrollment Portal.  Take advantage of the extra time before your term starts!  I have made considerable progress in three courses and I haven’t even begun yet!  I hope this account of the WGU application process has made things clearer for you.

Leave a comment below if this post helped you, or if you will be starting your term at WGU soon!  I’d be so excited to meet some of my fellow Owls!


  1. Your story is the same as mine, down to the coursera course, “learning how to learn” (though I have not yet completed err started it.).

    I was debating between IT-Sec or Data Science. I chose the later, for now. I still need to clear the core classes.

    Networking vs Databases. Sigh.

    My start date will be May. Thank you for writing this post, it’s nice to know that my experience is similar to another WGU student!

  2. Thanks for posting this. I have submitted my transcript from…uh…around 35 years ago, and my resume with 23 years of IT experience (mostly mainframe operations). I initially chose the BS in Software Development, but may switch to the basic IT program because that comes with more certifications.

    1. Good luck, Marsha! I’m about a year into my program now. I’d estimate I have another year left.

      Don’t worry too much about certifications. They’re nice, but they aren’t as important as some people make them out to be. I would go with whichever program you think you’ll enjoy more.

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