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Honors College at ASU and U of A

rainmamarainmama Registered User Posts: 603 Member
My son is interested in the great scholarships offered to National Merit finalists from these two universities. But we are from out of state, and Arizona is "the big unknown." It's tough to decide whether to apply to a school that isn't known in other parts of the country as an academic powerhouse. He wants a good social life, good music scene, interesting people, and challenging academics. But the Greek life and party scene does not appeal so much. The honors college at ASU appears to offer a nice community of smart, motivated kids, but it would be great to hear from current students/parents about whether that's really true. U of Arizona has invited to fly him down for a 3 day program for National Merit scholars, and his school college counselling office really likes the Barrett Honors College. Did any of you current students consider U of A? What were the deciding factors for you? What do you think of the new building projects and any other ongoing changes/improvements at the Honors College - were there problems with housing or other aspects previously? It would be so helpful to get your impressions about Barrett, and the comparison with honors at U of A. Thanks!
Post edited by rainmama on

Replies to: Honors College at ASU and U of A

  • leungpy1leungpy1 Registered User Posts: 329 Member
    My son has applied to both U of A and ASU. I am also interested to hear more from current students. It seems to me that U of A has a better reputation in general. ASU, however, has a better Honors College and some top notch programs, e.g. Journalism, Supply Chain Management, etc., that are better than those offered by U of A. Both U of A and ASU will offer motivated students a very good education.
  • BusinessGuyBusinessGuy Registered User Posts: 551 Member
    I would say it really depends what you're son thinks he might want to major in. U of A is better in the natural sciences while ASU is better in engineering, journalism, and business. Besides that, both schools offer similar scholarships and cost similar amounts. The two honors programs are also a large distinguishing factor and the main reason that I chose ASU over U of A (I was offered scholarships at both). The U of A honors program is pretty basic and it is pretty visible even with the application -- there isn't one. Barrett takes a holistic look at every applicant in much the same way that private schools do.

    As for my current impressions, I've been enjoying everything that Barrett has to offer throughout my first semester here. We get priority enrollment directly after athletes (much better than than the U of A honors priority which just gives junior standing priority) with which there isn't a lot of overlap in terms of class selection, so I got into every class that I wanted, at the time that I wanted, and with the professor that I wanted; I've been to honors faculty lectures; I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Anna Quindlen as well as a few of the top faculty at a luncheon; through the Business Honors program I've been on special events every month (Reading Day brunch with the business school dean and a special planetarium viewing to name a couple) starting with a retreat to Prescott for camping at the beginning of the semester; I'm going on an honors study abroad to France this summer (there is also $200,000 available for scholarships specifically through the honors college for study abroad); I had a class of 25 students taught by a practicing professional for Psychology 101 rather than a lecture of hundreds; I had the first semester of The Human Event (a "Great Books" class of 19 students taught using the Socratic method) with a great professor who knows me personally; next semester I'm able to take an honors class called "Justice and Law" concerning the philosophy behind those two subjects, again with 19 students in a discussion-based class that is only offered through the honors college (there are so many interesting classes taught in a similar format that it's going to be hard for me to fit them into my schedule, one that I just found out about concerns the possibility of life beyond Earth taught by a world-renowned physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist); I'm going to do a Certificate in Philosophy, Politics, and Law offered through Barrett; I have the ability to take classes at the Sandra Day O'Conner Law School as a junior or senior; many business classes have an honors version taught by the best faculty (I don't know how strong the honors course offerings are in other majors); I'm living in the honors dorms which is basically like a residential college in itself; I never will have to use the normal ASU advisors that service thousands as I have advisors both through the honors college itself and through Business Honors; and many companies in the Phoenix area contact the honors college specifically about internships which means that we all get emails about these opportunities (Barrett students have no competition when it comes to internships in the Phoenix area, which is amazing considering it's the 6th largest city in the nation).

    As you can see, I've been having a great time and it's only going to get better as I get the rest of my prereqs out of the way so I can get into more honors classes. I would highly recommend the Barrett Honors College, especially once the new location is finished in 2009. I'm going to college at a very low price, I'm around intelligent peers, and there are tons of academic and extracurricular opportunities -- there isn't much more I could ask for.
  • rainmamarainmama Registered User Posts: 603 Member
    BusinessGuy - I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write about your experience at Barrett! They should put it on their website - it's so well-written and enthusiastic. And I really appreciate the specific comparisons with U of A honors; that kind of info is hard to get just from cruising websites.

    My son is very interested in the Film and Media Production major offered (only since 2006, I think) in the College of Fine Arts. Although it's new, he was impressed by the opportunities students were getting to work on movies and tv shows. He's also very interested in computers, physics, and cognitive science, so I'm sure he'd have no trouble filling his schedule. He's not a lab science enthusiast, so it sounds like his interests fit better with ASU's strengths.

    What's the social scene for Barrett students? Is dorm-life pretty active, with lots of spontaneous outings not planned formally through the honors college? Do you spend most of your time with other Barrett kids, or is there a lot of mixing with people who live elsewhere on or around campus? With such a huge student body, it's hard to envision how day-to-day life plays out. Thanks so much for your input!
  • Opie ofMaybery2Opie ofMaybery2 - Posts: 1,815 Member
    Have you visited yet? I would say hold off on a final decision till you visit both schools. They are about a 3 hour drive apart. We were impressed with both schools. ASU seems much, much bigger than UofA. Barretts has nice enough dorms. The barbed wire fences bothered me a bit though. I started calling it he "compound". Kids were all super nice, with few negatives to say about school. UofA was also very nice, more of a homestyle(smalltown) feel.
    Either school could fit the bill.

    One thing though, visit and be sure you like the environment. Anything green is basically man made. It does get hot.

    That was probably the deal killer for my D, she ended up staying in the pacific nw, near the ocean and mountains and trees. My poor wife envisioned poolside school visits in AZ. Instead we take a long drive down I-5 to a hotel with an indoor pool. But I don't think my D would be happy at either place because she likes seasons.. not a knock against either school, both we thought were good. But even the best school isn't that great if you don't like where it's located.

    If you haven't yet, go down for spring break there and get a feel for the surroundings.
  • BusinessGuyBusinessGuy Registered User Posts: 551 Member
    The social experience is mostly dependent on your dorm, any friends you may have had from high school that are also attending ASU, and the activities you're involved in. As the university is so huge there are vastly different possible paths to take, which is really the thing I love about the vastness of ASU, and of large things in general (I'm a big city person). I was surprised at the number of out of state students in Barrett that I met, I know the percentage is only like 30% OOS but it certainly feels like more.

    Some people in Barrett have very tightly knit floors and they hang out with eachother quite often, while others are more involved with people they know through extracurriculars. Personally, I pledged a business fraternity that doesn't have any current honors freshman (honors upperclassmen though and they're a great source of advice), so I've been splitting my "friends" time between that, the other clubs I'm involved in, people in the honors college, and some friends that I knew previously from school. Everyone in the honors college is pretty open to new people, especially the out of state students, and as I said, it's basically a residential college. I see people from my honors classes, clubs, and honors activities around all of the time so it certainly makes ASU feel smaller. I know one honors guy who got involved with the Crew club without any previous experience and has been doing things with them. The Human Event class is another good way for honors students to meet eachother across majors as everyone must take the class. Additionally, there are honors "cohorts" which basically allows for students to enroll in a set of classes that everyone in the cohort takes together.

    I believe there are now over 600 clubs, so there really is something for everyone -- I know there are over 30 clubs that are related to business alone. Pretty much everyone goes to the football games, and we're actually good now with our new coach, so that's definitely another social event. People are always hanging out in eachothers rooms doing something or other, there's a bowling alley, billiards tables, and an arcade in the Memorial Union which is about a two minute walk from the dorms in case people want to do something like that. The Programs and Activities Board (another club) screens new movies for free a couple weeks before they come out. There are theater productions at Gammage (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) quite often -- unfortunately I haven't gone to one yet. People say that ASU is a commuter college, but when it comes to honors students, I don't really know anyone who is a commuter, and with the new honors dorms designed to house students for the full four years, I expect even more of a community feel to it.

    As long as a person lives on campus as a freshman, doesn't sit in their dorm playing World of Warcraft all day (very bad idea), gets involved with whatever seems interesting, and attempts to make friends, it's no problem at all to find a large number of like-minded students. In comparison to high school, I've been enjoying the intelligence of the honors students quite a lot. Lastly, honors students often tend to be the ones holding the most powerful positions around campus, so it's quite easy to make your way wherever you want to go as a result of the connections you'll make through Barrett.

    As Opie said, ASU is definitely hot until October or so, and then again as Spring comes to an end. We basically have three climates: hot (fall and late spring), very hot (summer), and reasonably cool (november to feb or so). We don't get snow and it doesn't rain all that often. That said, I'm an AZ native and I've come to love the sunny days that we have nearly all year. As has been said, the size of the city is another big factor in your decision, and another reason why I couldn't pick U of A -- Tuscon is far too small and I don't particularly like the hispanic culture there.
  • vividscribblervividscribbler Registered User Posts: 18 New Member

    I'm a freshman in the honors college at ASU this year. I am attending on the National Merit Scholarship your son is considering. ASU has really made a commitment to bringing top students from around the country into the honors college here, and it really shows. Through my courses, I met intelligent, engaged students from all over the country who had chosen to come to ASU over options like MIT, UCLA, and Chicago. It was enlightening and relieving to finally have friends who were as jazzed about school as I am.

    This summer, like BusinessGuy, I will attending one of the study abroad trips offered through Barrett. 45 of us will travel through Athens, Crete, and Rome with professors from the college, visiting the ancient ruins, drinking in the modern culture, and traveling Europe on the weekends. Barrett has created five different trips to countries all over the world, allowing honors students the opportunity to become globally engaged and earn college credit in one fell swoop.

    The professors and administrators in Barrett are beyond stellar. Dean Mark Jacobs, who has stockpiled credentials like his tenure at Swarthmore, take a personal interest in the students. His door is always open for students to drop by. If your son does end up going to ASU, I would highly recommend taking part in one of the regular lunches with the Dean. The college provides lunch for a group of students to come in and talk about life, any problems they've had, how classes are going, and generally provide an easy-going introduction to the administration. Chances like this are a trademark of Barrett. Professors routinely hold dinners sponsored by the college to go to cultural restaurants and discuss the history and current events of that region. The parent's organization arranges smoothies for finals and other treats throughout the year. The dorm committees hold parties and get-togethers often. There are volunteer opportunities and spontaneous study sessions, community benefits and lectures. Even as a commuter student, I feel plugged into the community and events. A simple sign up for the List-Serv delivers news of events, internships, jobs, and other opportunities directly to your e-mail box everyday.

    As an English major, it was particularly great to know about the Piper Center on campus. They publish a literary magazine, hold an annual conference, offer internships to undergraduate students, and serve as the center for the graduate creative writing program. I will be attending their conference this year on a scholarship from ASU, and I have a great infrastructure behind me even in English. Though ASU is known for science and business, but the arts and liberal arts flourish here too.

    This semester, I took four honors classes and one upper division Spanish class. Every honors class was taught by a Ph.D in a small group, discussion setting. Professors who elect to teache these honors sections of classes are universally interested in the education and discussion of those involved. I never felt like my ideas were censored or ignored because I was a freshman. I felt more fulfilled academically than I did in my AP's, honors, community college, and independent study classes in high school. I walked out of the semester feeling invigorated and more confident about my abilities as a student. Next semester I'm taking an honors seminar about religion and the upcoming presidential campaign. The professors there are encouraged to design such seminars around their own interests, which permits them to investigate their passions and share those passions with students.

    Human Event, like BusinessGuy said, allowed me to forged a personal relationship with a professor. I also have spoken to two other professors extensively in office hours--They are invariably interested to talk to students about classes, personal lives, problems, philosophy, anything you please.

    In terms of clubs and social life, I guarantee there is something for everyone. BusinessGuy mentioned pledging--I was more into clubs. I do not drink or do drugs, and I never hang out at Greek parties or the like, but I never felt either pressured to do so or as though my social life was lacking because I didn't. Honestly, ASU is so big, there is a place for absolutely everyone. I tried a dozen different clubs before I found two or three that fit me. You have to be tenacious, but I know your son will find a place to fit in here. And if he begins to feel lost in the sea of people here, he can always retreat to the small, community atmosphere of the honors college for a bit of relief. I spend many days hanging out outside the cafe in the honors courtyard with other honors students. It's a fabulous place to be and there are always fascinating people to strike up conversations with.

    As for the difference between ASU and U of A--I have one friend who loves it and two who don't. All are from the valley. U of A is smaller, but the honors college is not as deep or supportive. Be prepared to spend all your time on campus--Tucson is a college town and doesn't offer much outside of the university. After hanging out down there and sitting in on a class, I much prefer ASU for the sheer number of things to do in the Phoenix area as well as what chances ASU gives students.

    However, the truth is that you'll get out of college what you put into it. I have two close friends who are enrolled in Barrett but live in general university dorms and don't spend much time in the complex. They feel alienated from the college, but they don't try to get involved. They feel behind in their classes, but they don't manage their time well and spend the whole weekend partying. If you prepare and do the reading for your classes, I know you'll enjoy them. If you aren't interested in academics, you won't find ASU very fulfilling, but I imagine that true anywhere. In the long run, you will get a great education wherever you go, as long as you are willing to work for it.

    That said, I highly recommend ASU. Choosing to attend here was the best decision I could have made. In four years, I will walk out of here with study abroad experience, good friends, personalized letters of recommendation, and the ability to go to whatever graduate school I please.

  • leungpy1leungpy1 Registered User Posts: 329 Member
    Are Barrett students highly sought after for internship opportunities both inside ASU and in the outside business world? Are summer jobs easy to find for the Honors College students?
  • BusinessGuyBusinessGuy Registered User Posts: 551 Member
    Yes, we have tons of internship and job opportunities through Barrett and also through your specific college. I've seen internships for financial analysts, political consultants, and education lobbying within the past month among many others.
  • rainmamarainmama Registered User Posts: 603 Member
    Thanks again bizguy, and vivid too. I really appreciate you taking the time to describe your experiences. It sounds like Dean Jabobs is doing a great job.

    And Opie, I value any input from a northwesterner! One time when I asked son about college location, he said he wants to go to college where it rains! He was joking - kind of - but even so, AZ could be a bit extreme!
  • vividscribblervividscribbler Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    Weather here can be kind of wacky. It's HOT from May until Novemember, though this year we had a cooler May than usual and a hotter Novemember. It's been raining a lot this December. Sometimes we get monsoons in August, though less frequently than usual since the city's population has swelled so much.

    Honestly, it's a flip of the coin. The only thing you can count are the dust storms.
  • bkanebkane - Posts: 30 New Member
    I applied to arizona state and im from fl, is it easy to fit in with the asu crowds?
  • nimby58nimby58 Registered User Posts: 217 Junior Member
    The comments from current students are great, I just wanted to add a couple of points of clarification as someone who lives in AZ, although I did not grow up or go to college here.

    First, Phoenix and Tucson are 90 miles apart and it is a straight shot on the interstate. If you were interested in visiting U of A and were staying in Phoenix, it's an easy day trip.

    ASU has flourished under the direction of President Michael Crow and a huge investment is being made in the honors college (120 million worth)--self-contained dorms, a new fitness center and dining hall, etc.--creating even more of a school within a school. That said--ASU is huge overall and there is an effort underway to continue to foster several campuses around the valley offering classes especially suited for that location. U of A is self-contained and set up much more traditionally. It used to be home of the only medical school in the state although a second U of A affliliated medical school campus was recently set up in downtown Phoenix.

    High performing students in AZ who stay in-state base their selection on what they want to study and location. There is no one place that everyone gravitates toward. Both seem to inspire loyalty. Neither campus is gorgeous. ASU is technically located in Tempe, which has a cute collegiate main drag leading to a park on a man-made lake. Tucson is much sleepier, but it feels very homey and laid back and those who like it there would not want to be at ASU or in Phoenix. Both campuses have easy access to hiking and outdoor areas in general. The worst weather is late May until mid-September, which means that the beginning of the school year is when it would be most uncomfortable. From October until late April, the weather is generally comfortable and dry with bright sunny days.

    Phoenix is a maturing city. It is working on its first light rail system, growth has fostered more building up than out these days and it is more politically mixed than in days past. Tucson is more overtly politically liberal. Sky Harbor Airport is located only 10 minutes from ASU. Tucson continues to grow as well and most people predict that eventually the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas will be connected as the areas in-between become developed.
  • farseer0514farseer0514 Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    I am transferring to ASU for this spring...I got into two really famous schools and made the mistake of thinking that a "name" would make me happy. It didn't...and I'm switching. My dad has taught at the business school (WP Carey) at ASU for 20 years and I've loved growing up around there. Barrett is an amazing school (esp. now that Marc Jacobs has left Swarthmore to come down here) and I got re-admitted. I've heard only great things so far! I'm excited for the spring (I'm a prospective English major too).
    Oh...and Barrett is SO much better than UofA's honors college! Unless you're going into medicine, I'd say stick with ASU. That the honors college is better at ASU is a well-known fact around here. There are friendly, motivated, intellectual students... who like me, got into schools like Duke and Northwestern, but realized that Barrett offers similar education at a better price :)
  • rainmamarainmama Registered User Posts: 603 Member
    Thanks for posting with the local perspective, nimby and farseer. My son was admitted to ASU last week, so now it's time to apply to Barrett. Hope he can figure out a time to visit before decision time.
  • leungpy1leungpy1 Registered User Posts: 329 Member
    Will ASU's $23,000/yr OSS NMF scholarship makes it cheaper to attend ASU rather than UA whose OOS NMF scholarship is only $20,000? Or will ASU actually cost more than UA?
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