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 (http://wie.umd.edu/undergrad/flexus) and VIRTUS for men (http://www.wie.umd.edu/undergrad/virtus-community). 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.