If you have AP credits it's actually sort of a pain. The classes are actually not very difficult from what I have heard (except the science and math), but that might just be because the students are more academic. It's definitely not helpful for any major, and really frustrating to fit in your schedule if you are in pre-med, engineering, or a rigorous double major. It seems like an amazing opportunity to explore different fields, but also not particularly "useful" in any way. I find that my practical friends who have their lives "figured out" don't like the program because it forces you to take all these interesting, but not necessary classes. Other friends who are more unsure about their futures love the program.
Definitely live in the honors dorm. That's how I know so much about the program, only because I live in the honors dorm and have several friends in it, not because I am actually in the program. I'm one of those people who have a discipline in mind and a lot of credit from APs, so the honors program just would be inconvenient and stressful for me to complete. As you stated, a "more preamajor" student is perfect for the program.
How/when do they notify? Snail-mail, like the BIG envelope?
I just read online:
"All UW Honors Program freshman admissions decisions will be mailed between April 1-April 15, 2011 "
"For the freshman Honors class of 2010 we again received over 2,700 applications for 225 slots. Once again, we had to turn away many students who were well qualified to enter our program. We again kept a large waiting list this year, one that reflects the quality of our applicant pool, but in the end we only turned to some 10 on that list. "
olegirl - They notify via WHITE, small envelope.This means there's no indicator (at least, last year..) whether you are accepted or not. There is also a waitlist.
momomomo - There are floors in Lander and McMahon designated as HONORS floors. It means that Honors students have priority to those floors for living. If there is still a few spaces left open, other students can live there too, but only after all housing is taken care of for Honors students.
mickjagger - I really enjoy the Honors classes as they're a lot smaller (last quarter I had one with 11 students, another with around 25) than some of my classes, which were mostly intro lectures. Now I'm taking some 300 level courses so there's around 50 people in my classes, but the Honors classes are still more 'personal.' I felt like I learned a LOT more in my Honors classes than I expected. We go in depth in various topics, but the work outside of the classroom isn't a lot.
As for job opportunities, what majors are you thinking about? I'm an engineering major and I don't feel like core Honors really adds to my 'resume' when I go to career fairs or when I interview for various companies. It's interesting to bring up the 'interdisciplinary' aspect of Honors when recruiters ask what "Honors Program" is at UW and I can see their eyes light up when I explain what interdisciplinary studies means. However, I feel like for jobs, it's more of what I learn in my engineering courses and outside of the classroom rather than in Honors classes.
For other students, (ie linguistics), perhaps this will be a plus on their resume. I'm not really sure.
Then there's Departmental Honors - It includes a requirement of doing research and a senior paper. Although the 'graduated with departmental honors' might not be a huge weight on your resume, you now can talk about research you did (you can do this without doing departmental honors) as well as your paper during interviews! It's always nice to see students doing things outside of the classroom instead of just trudging through coursework and graduating without any experience outside their required coursework.
Honors alum here.
The program was invaluable to me as a person. I was exposed to a huge breadth of knowledge, research and passionate academics who were given the freedom to teach what they wanted. The environment is close-knit - I regularly took classes with the same 20-30 students and I can say that admissions does an excellent job of creating small but incredibly diverse classes.
Additionally, I double majored (BS and BA), was heavily involved in ASUW and the wind ensemble and still managed to have a normal, outside life. Honors didn't add extra work (the system is set up so honors students don't have to get the same types of credits as other students) in terms of busy work, homework, more classes, etc. It was more work in that I really had to put effort into it, as opposed to my "normal" english courses, which I easily glided through. Genuinely creativity is highly encouraged (a surprisingly rare thing in much of undergrad level science and humanities) and rewarded.
The impact on job prospects is nil. No employer cares that you studied french medieval romantic lit unless they just happen to be hiring for a french medieval romantic lit librarian. Grad school impact is slightly better, depending on your field. It's relatively impressive in humanities and social sciences, but for harder science, the best way it can help you is with a really great letter of rec from a close prof/advisor.
It wasn't even close to useless for me. But, like ALL undergrad programs everywhere, it's only what YOU make of it. If you want it to be a burden, it can be, just like normal classes can feel like a waste. The honors program gave me a whole different perspective on myself and the world, and definitely had the small, personalized ivy-vibe that I think is more common at universities like UChicago.
I'd recommend it to anyone with a passion for learning outside the everyday experience of your average undergrad.