The Value and Prestige of Living Learning Programs

First off, congrats to all new Terps!

There have been a LOT of questions about the value of doing living learning programs (LLPs), the prestige in general and relative to other LLPs. I think it would be valuable for new admits to have a separate thread on this specific topic.

I am merely starting the discussion, and fully expect to see other parents (and hopefully current students) give their perspectives.

While FIRE is technically not a LLP, for the sake of admission decisions and this topic, I think it’s appropriate to include it in this discussion since it is a special program invite.

First let me address the question of VALUE: is it worth doing these programs or is it a distraction for students with particularly intense/rigorous/challenging majors such as engineering. I use engineering as my example simply because I can speak to that specifically as the mother of an engineer.

Short answer? Yes, absolutely sign up/accept the invite to the program.
-Being placed in one of these programs gives a feeling of a smaller community of people to get to know/connect with on a very big campus.
-Does signing up for a program mean you need to complete it? No.
-Participation gives the advantage of knowing what dorm you will be assigned to sooner than you would know otherwise. Will you get your specific room assignment sooner? Nope, BUT you will know what dorm you will be in. Why is that helpful? When you go to pick your classes, you will have the option of maybe 20 different sections, all in different locations. Knowing your dorm can help you select which section you choose depending on the time of day. You may want to choose a section that is assigned a building closer to your dorm than one that’s across campus for your first class of the day.
-Many of the LLPs include at least session of a class for career fair prep to get your resume in shape, etc.
-My son did STS (science, technology and society - yeah, he didn’t listen about choosing a topic not related to his major and neither did most of the students in STS) and the program director at the time pointed out that freshmen have a lot on their plate and tend not to make connections with their professors. So, if they need a recommendation for anything, the Scholars program was an opportunity to get a recommendation from a Program Director. Since the program was very limited in size, she pointed out that she got to know all the students early on in a small setting. So, she said participation gave the advantage of building a relationship with a professor without having to go to office hours to build a relationship or get a professor to notice you. So, that’s a fair point.
-there are some special sections of classes (like English 101) that are available to members of a particular program, again reinforcing a smaller network (may just be scholars, but those ENGL101 classes (at least in my son’s day) were held in the Cambridge Community Center, so super convenient.

If you decide the LLP isn’t for you after trying the first semester, you drop it, plain and simple.

Long answer? See short answer, lol. But, seriously, this is more a personal question. My son applied to QUEST Honors Fellows program (open to freshman in engineering, business and CMNS schools only) and was fortunate to be admitted. He seriously considered dropping Scholars, because other than a few really cool field trips, and the career prep stuff, he wasn’t particularly attached to the program because, as another engineering parent pointed out, it is extra work. A lot? No, but given that my son was joining QUEST, he was worried about the extra time commitment. So, I gotta tell you that this is where Maryland shines. They really, truly want the students to succeed and to complete programs. They were willing to work with him so he really didn’t have to do much extra (with what he needed to do for QUEST) to continue/complete his scholars citation. Given that, my son elected to finish up the citation requirements. However, it really shouldn’t stress anyone out if they decide to drop scholars (or any LLP) for ANY reason! It’s all good, I promise. It will not make/break anyone’s career. If you do complete it, there is a really cool medallion you get to wear at graduation, and you get a notation/citation on your transcript.

As for the question of PRESTIGE, well, that’s a bit more tricky. I think people get caught up in the names (honors and scholars in particular) and compare Maryland’s programs to other schools that have programs with similar names. This is definitely a touch point for me, since I initially made the same kind of assumptions. Had it not been for other parent posters (who have since retired from this forum) my son might have selected another school based entirely on a misunderstanding of “prestige” of being invited to an “honors” program at other schools compared to “just scholars” at Maryland.

Maryland offers LOTS of special programs like the LLPs and FIRE to augment a student’s experience at Maryland. However, not every program can be called “honors.” Each program is designed for a different type of student. Some programs are designed for extra classroom learning, another is for out-of-class learning, another is for people that like to make a difference politically, or make a difference in a community, another program (FIRE) is designed for research opportunities, just to name a few…so, they all have a different focus.

To quote @SoofDad, whose D was in the Honors College AND Departmental Honors, “A more important achievement is for a student to complete Departmental Honors. This is something that they can apply to, beginning in their Junior year, and it appears on their diploma. Honors and Scholars do not.” (Why is departmental honors more important? Because it is based on college achievement, whereas honors college invites are based on high school achievement.)

To clarify, the “citations” for participation in honors and scholars is literally a line/notation on the transcript…but, again, there is also serious bling (medallions) to sport at graduation. And yes, honors college does the first review of applicants, but not getting an invite to honors college has less to do with intelligence or standardized test scores than with learning style, demonstrated interests, and “fit” for the focus of the program (see above).

So, my short answer to prestige is that it’s all relative. You get out of it what you are willing to put into it. However, regardless of what you hear from me or from other posters, the decision to stay or not stay in a program or whether you get something out of it or not, really is individual. There is no harm in accepting the invite as that’s the only way to judge for yourself. However, if you decide before you get there to not even try, based on someone else’s perception, then you will never know if you would have liked it or not. Committing to a “program” is done now, and it is entirely separate from accepting the university’s admission offer. So, don’t worry about that. Accept it now, and decide later. That’s my two cents.

As for engineering students, there is also another option for a LLP specific to engineers that is not an invite but an application: FLEXUS for women ( and VIRTUS for men ( These programs will not be a distraction in any way, shape, or form since they are designed specifically to provide the extra academic support for the engineering curriculum. They have on-site tutoring, block scheduling (to make it easier for study groups), career prep, you name it, they do it to help engineering students. However, only direct admits to engineering can apply for FLEXUS and VIRTUS. These programs are housed in Easton. Note: deadline for applications to FLEXUS and VIRTUS is April 1.


Hello! My son is in Scholars but he is also considering the VIRTUS program. He’s a bit torn between the two and not really sure which is preferable. Any difference in housing? Do either have any great benefits or drawbacks? Any insight appreciated! Thank you in advance.

Yes, there is a difference in housing. Scholars is housed in the Cambridge community which is the closest possible to the engineering and science buildings,and also the Eppley Rec Center (gym, pool, etc). Virtus is housed in the Easton dorm (along with Flexus, the female version of the program) which is close to the Maryland(formerly Byrd) stadium where football games are and somewhat near the student union.

The difference in programs is huge - Virtus is designed specifically for engineering students. It supports engineering students with group blocking of classes(to make it easier for study groups), in house tutoring (literally located in Easton dorm) for engineering classes, career exploration in engineering & prep for career fairs, and lots of other bells and whistles designed to retain engineering students.

Scholars is not designed to support any major, but rather augment it with studies that are focused on a theme such as Science, Technology and Society(STS) or Science,Discovery and the Universe (SDU), just to name a few. The two themes I mentioned do tend to have a fair number of engineering students in them, but the studies are not specifically engineering. There is a little career prep (resume writing/career fair prep) and there are some special sections of freshman English you can take that are located in Cambridge quad for convenience, but no group/block scheduling like Virtus.

Both are 2 year programs. My son did scholars only because of the dorm location (he’s a major sloth and wanted to be able to roll out of bed later and still make it to classes on time). However, some engineering students find the additional classes for scholars, which not related to engineering curricula, to be a distraction from engineering classes (which are highly demanding). So, it depends on your student.

@maryversity – I would like to add to your Prestige and Value statements (with which I fully agree) relative to Departmental Honors.

First, the Prestige. As you pointed out, my D was in Departmental Honors. That was a 2-year endeavor that required her to successfully complete and defend an original honors thesis research project. As you know, students have 2 Graduation Ceremonies at UMD - one for their Department and one for the University. At her Department Graduation Ceremony, my D along with 5 other students who had completed Departmental Honors were seated on the stage with the Department and Faculty Heads, Doctoral Candidates and Guest Speakers. Each Departmental Honors student was individually recognized for their Thesis and presented with a Medal from their Faculty Mentor. Each one also received a modest monetary award.

Now, for the Value. In the course of completing and defending her Thesis, my D developed good working relationships with her Faculty Mentor, other Faculty members and Graduate students. This helped her significantly to refine the path that she wanted to take after Graduation. It assisted her in getting hired as a UMD Research Faculty Assistant, with the goal of applying to Graduate Programs for the Fall of 2019. It was very easy for her to get, what she was told, were “Glowing” Letters of Recommendation, for Grad school applications. In addition, her thesis was selected for professional publication, which added more value to her Grad School applications. And she will be starting Grad school in the Fall.

I believe that all of this was a direct result her being admitted to the UMD Honors College, and making the most of what it offered. Just my 2 cents, and a bit of bragging (which my D does not like me to do LOL).


@SoofDad You must be so proud : ) You earned the right to shout it from the rooftops lol

I have to say that the more I read about the LLC and communities etc, the more confused I get lol. I know my D applied and got into University Honors. Even though she has not committed yet I guess she had to do that. I do not get much out of her.

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@mom17 - My D did the same thing. Applied to, and got University Honors, before she committed. I think it’s just a way for UMD to get a handle on what students want prior to May 1. After that date, they sort it all out and begin working on assigning room and roommates. University Honors is pretty flexible. My D completed her Citation requirements by the end of her Sophomore year.

@SoofDad My H went to Drexel also! He is 50. Maybe you know each other. Why do they apply to LLC? If they didn’t would they just get tucked in somewhere? If they are honors don’t they automatically live in an honors community? What is a Citation?

@mom517 - I retired this past summer, so I graduated from Drexel well before your husband got there.

The LLC concept can be confusing.

Some students are admitted to special programs - Honors, Scholars, FIRE, Civicus, etc. In some of those there is a further breakdown, such as the various Honors and Scholars individual programs.

Each one of those programs has an associated Dorm. For University Honors it is Hagerstown Hall. For ACES it is Prince Frederick Hall. And so on. All the freshmen who are in University Honors, and have indicated, via the housing form, that they want to live on-campus will be assigned to Hagerstown Hall. That is their LLC, for at least Freshman year.

Students who are not in any Special Program are randomly assigned to Dorms by ResLife.

The Honors Citation is a Certificate presented to students, when they complete their particular Honors Program requirements.

Here is a link about the Honors Citation, and the sub-link for University Honors will list what the requirements for that program are.

People often have the initial that these requirements pose “extra” work that must be done by the student. That may be true in some cases, but is NOT true for University Honors. Courses taken for the University Honors Citation will go towards the GenEd Classes that ALL students must complete for Graduation.

The Honors College has a Citation Award Ceremony in the Memorial Chapel once a year for all the Honors College students who have completed their citation requirements. Parents are invited. There are guest speaker and each student is individually called up to the stage to be presented with their certificate.

I know, for a fact, that representatives of the National Security Agency, the MITRE Corporation and Northrup-Grumann attend these ceremonies. They know where to look for talent.

I hope this helps

Is it possible to apply for Scholars and/or Honors programs if you were accepted to UMD but not to those programs? My daughter was accepted but is disappointed she didn’t get into one of these programs. Thanks!

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I believe that it is possible, but I don
t know the details. Google UMD Honors College

Ok thanks so much! The info you’ve posted here is incredibly helpful (as it was two years ago!) :grinning:


I agree with your assessment completely. My son was in University Honors and FIRE. He didn’t really love either and never competed the requirements. So he doesn’t get the citations. It isn’t important. What stands out more is his 5 semesters of Deans List and 3.86 GPA in CS. He had a wonderful three week abroad program in Rome after his freshman year where he took the upper level English Gen Ed. requirement in food writing. Your tour Rome, go to class a few times, eat some food with the professor and write about it. I highly recommend that. He loved it. You lose nothing by joining these programs and aren’t blind to them either.

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Did you find the application? Last year, you were automatically considered for the programs when submitting the UMD app, so they would not consider you again externally.

Here iis a link about applying for the Honors College as a Current Student

My son was accepted to Letters & Colleges (he applied for Comp Sci) and was invited to Carilion. To make a long story short, he does not want to accept the invitation for that LLP. Do you think there is any way UMD would reconsider LLP placement before the May 1st decision day? I’m not sure he has the stats to try to go back and ask for honors or scholars. Thank you!

My daughter was accepted to Honors and just submitted the Honors preference form. From the UMD’s Honors college site I saw the following:

"ILS applicants are asked to provide 1) AP and IB test scores and college-level grades you have already received, and 2) AP, IB, and college-level courses you are currently taking this year. "

Does that mean she needs to order the AP scores from College Board and sent the scores to them ? and also contact HS counselor for this year’s schedule ?

Thanks in advance.

Does anyone have any guidance to provide on the difference between the Honors LLPs? I’m wondering about extra work, dorm differences, size, and anything else that might be good to know. :slight_smile: My daughter was accepted to Bioengineering and the Honors College. She is excited but has concerns about additional work. Is the ILS program particularly intense? She loves all things biology and is concerned that Bioengineering won’t have as much a focus on bio classes as she would like… perhaps ILS would offer that… or perhaps ILS would make a hard major even harder. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

This website has links to each on the Honors College LLPs

My D was in University Honors and she enjoyed it. That program has been revamped since then, so I don;t know what it’s like now.

Back then, she had to take a certain number of Honors Seminars/Courses to complete her Honors Citation requirements. It was not really any extra work, since each seminar/class satisfied some of the GenED graduation requirements. She completed her Citation requirements by the end of her second year.

Your daughter can always drop out of whatever Honors LLP she gets into. Maybe you can look at the requirements for programs of interest and compare those to the GenED requirements for BioEngineering