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UMD Honors Program(s) report - lots to like in College Park

yulsieyulsie 747 replies57 postsRegistered User Member
Last pre-decision visit today, good 'ole College Park, where my son was awarded a full ride plus book money, making the cost about $50K less than the nearest (financial) competitor on the decision list - worth a visit. Coupled with the Maryland Distinguished Scholars award, every school-related incidental would be paid for as well - my contribution for four years would consist of spending money and paying car insurance, springing for voice and organ lessons, and the other "nice-to-haves." Maryland fits the bill for the "comfortable old-shoe" option, since about 1/4rd of his HS graduating class attends.

I used to hang out at CP occasionally as a high school student. We'd drive to the campus to party with our slightly older friends, catch a concert, go to a protest, and help take over buildings (ah, the good old days). Although I have been there once or twice since then, I had no expectations this morning. Hadn't realized how much Maryland facilities have been upgraded in the past number of years. Student union - complete makeover, Clarice Performing Arts Center - wonderful facility with 7 theatres, new dorms, huge brand new recreation center with several indoor pools - one with underwater speakers (who picks the tunes, I wonder?).

S had heard the basic Honors Program presentation when he went for the scholarship interview - today they addressed the two special programs within Honors, Gemstone and Honors Humanities.

The students who spoke were down-to-earth, confident, and had very interesting tales to tell about their research teams, humanities projects, internships and career planning, and Honors seminars. The Honors seminars (limited to 20 people with senior faculty as instructors) have been increased - - more of them, encapsulated thematic studies in all of the fields offered, approx. 70 per semester, some that everyone would want to take, such as "Tolkein - Author of the Century." The seminars can be used to fulfill core requirements. Many Honors students double major and study abroad if they come in with advanced standing lots of IB or AP credits - my son would be practically a junior so would have lots of flexibility and options during the four years. Important nice-to-have - the Director said that graduate schools are happy to have motivated undergrads in their seminars - the student just needs the permission of the instructor, and many students start taking graduate courses as juniors.

Gemstone is a cool team research concept focused on technology and society - develops teamwork skills and allows students to get the experience of designing, executing, and presenting a meaningful study - such as improving the accuracy of the ballistic print of a a gun barrel to comply with Maryland requirements, studying the interactions between herbal medicine and prescription drugs, and providing a fact-based education about marijuana's effects to middle school students. It is 21 credits over 4 years, a living/learning experience, complete with social events. Some student teams have formed corporations and taken out patents as a result of these projects.

The Honors Humanities program is 16 credits over 2 years, also living/learning - it is aimed at students interested in the fine and performing arts, writing, literature, philosophy, languages, etc. My son was told that dorm life is filled with music and singing from sunup to sundown - everyone seems to sing or play an instrument. The projects are individual - one girl was doing landscape plans for mini-ecological environments to be planted on the flat-roofed campus buildings (she's obviously a botany/art double major). Most of the students double major with one of the majors in the fine arts.

We know many kids who attend Maryland, and according to feedback from many, it seems that they are quite happy there and pleased with their educational experience, especially the Honors Program participants (probably, among other reasons, because they have a home base, therefore don't have such a difficult adjustment based on the sheer size of the campus). Intro courses are the typical large lectures (in Honors, you can eliminate most of them, perhaps even all of them if you come in with AP/IB credits) for the first two years, and after that most advanced classes are pretty small.

So there's sense in which attending UMD would be like a continuation of high school (almost everyone you knew in HS is there), but on the other hand, it definitely has that solid, practical, savvy, professional, DC-area 'results oriented' quality and has benefited from a few decades of state $ ramping up (not in the past two years though - we've got to Defeat Ehrlich in 2006! Boo Hiss). As a parent, I feel that I could send my son there and know that, with just a bit of initiative, he would get a fine education and have an enjoyable experience.

The career planning is very good, and most students do at least three internships during their time at MD, often leading to job offers before graduating. There's an online database for that, which matches students background and preferences with requests from Federal government, associations, and corporations around DC (lots of those!). Several of the students who spoke today were from other Mid-Atlantic states - they had come specifically for strong MD programs, such as the 'gilt-edged job offer' CS department, the highly ranked engineering department, and one astronomy/physics major had been attracted by the physics department (ignorant here, folks, I haven't a clue what it's known for).

As a local who attended two very large universities for grad school, I wasn't too keen on the idea of MD (too big), but the lure of the Honors programs are that they make it much 'smaller,' and based on the student reports today, that seems to be the case, not merely a cliched marketing ploy. I would say that the convential wisdom, that UMD is coming up in the world, is quite true.
edited July 2011
42 replies
Post edited by yulsie on
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Replies to: UMD Honors Program(s) report - lots to like in College Park

  • scagneasscagneas 135 replies6 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    wow, thanks for the info! i'll be in the honors program at cp... now i know i have a lot to look forward to!
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  • angstriddenangstridden 773 replies76 postsRegistered User Member
    Just want to tell you my D. is in the honors program at UMDCP..(a freshman) and absolutely loves it! They bend over backwards to provide a good program. I was worried about the size of the school but my fears were unfounded. They have a super system of checks and balances there that keeps the kids in the right place.
    The campus is AWESOME! Fabulous school..you all made a good choice.
    The honors program is like a school within the school also, as you say, however all the kids I know that go there LOVE IT!
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  • Mine Is DifferentMine Is Different 195 replies25 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    anyone here a banneker/key scholar? is there any special perks that go along with that other than the full scholarship?
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  • scagneasscagneas 135 replies6 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    only direct admission into the honors program. nothing else.
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  • greenmumgreenmum 37 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Very, very helpful post. S is in the same situation.

    Can you tell me what other schools you've been considering? We are really struggling to compare.
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  • worrywartworrywart 1679 replies104 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Anyone else have anything to add? I'd love to hear as much feedback as possible.
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  • lindz0722lindz0722 694 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    i'm in honors; if anyone has specific questions i'd be happy to answer them.
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  • ZAK2012ZAK2012 129 replies16 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    ^ I've haven't been seriously looking at Maryland because I think its too huge, but does being in Honors program really make it seem smaller?
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  • lindz0722lindz0722 694 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    Not really. You don´t take a lot of Honors seminars each semester (typically just one), which are the smaller classes we like to brag about. Great as they are, that is only one class you´ll be taking. Honors also has activities within the community each semester, but these are also not often enough for you to be able to exist as a student only within the honors program.

    That said, I´d encourage you to seriously look at Maryland. It was the biggest school I applied to but because of the gorgeous campus and the fact that many students live off-campus, it does seem a lot smaller.
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  • macnycmacnyc 203 replies24 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    How are the kids in the honors program? Are most of them excited by learning, or do they tend to be working for the grade? Also, would a New Yorker feel out of place there? I'm helping my daughter with her college search. We're visiting on Saturday.
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  • BigJBigJ 120 replies1 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    macnyc,

    If you're at UMD and you're not in-state, you're either from NY or NJ. There's a huge percentage of people attending the college that are from NY or NJ.
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  • lindz0722lindz0722 694 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    macnyc-- Like BigJ said, New Yorkers definitely do not feel out of place at UMD!! There are a lot of students from that area here.

    I think that for the most part, students in the honors program are more excited by learning than the general population of the school. But we´re also a bunch of students who have gotten good grades throughout our lives, and continue to want to do so. I´ve definitely picked certain classes or professors over others because of the grading policy or workload.

    The best example of the way we feel about learning is seen in the honors seminars. In smaller groups of students of the same caliber (for the most part) the whole "excited about learning" quality really comes out. Most seminars can be counted towards your CORE curriculum courses, but honors students continue to take seminars through their junior and senior year--after most have finished their CORE requirements and the required 5 courses for the honors citation.

    The personalities of students in the honors program vary immensely. When I got to UMD, I was worried that all the honors students would be quiet, want to study all the time, and never have any fun. I spent my freshman year living in two different honors dormitories, Denton Hall and Queen Anne´s Hall, and loved them both. I met so many fun people with a variety of interests and talents. Some honors students are in fraternities and sororities, some are in performing arts groups, many volunteer during their free time, or have a research fellowship with a professor. Some are more introverted, quiet, and studious. Of course, some students are lazy, play video games all day, and aren´t motivated. But I would say within the honors program, that´s not very common.
    It´s very hard to put a label on an honors student here, just like it´s hard to describe a "typical" UMD student.


    I hope you enjoy your visit, and it doesn´t rain on you (send the rain my way please, I´m studying abroad in the south of Spain and could use some relief from the heat!!).
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  • macnycmacnyc 203 replies24 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    lindz, we visited UM and loved it! I couldn't believe how beautiful and green the campus is, and so well maintained. We are already thinking about another trip, so that my daughter can see it when the students are there. The new performing arts center is stunning, and the lineup of plays and concerts shows that the students are putting it to good use!

    I was wondering about the outlying area, though. It was described to me as a bit sketchy. How did the neighborhood affect you? Do students live off campus safely?
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  • TestudotheTurtleTestudotheTurtle 262 replies11 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I'm only going to be a freshman there, but I can still answer this question. Basically, I have heard the further away from the campus you get, the more sketchy it gets. If the student is smart and doesn't put themselves out there for trouble, I highly doubt anything will happen. This means don't walk by yourself late at night, etc. etc.

    Living off campus I don't have as much experience on. I know there are 3 "off campus" places that are basically on campus, just a lot better than dorms. South Campus Commons, The Courtyards, and the View.

    Of course we can hand it over to lindz, bigJ, and other current students to give a better description, but that's what I know so far.
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  • pb32pb32 114 replies4 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    the city of college park is extremely sketchy. the local taco bell has been robbed five times so far this year, and the local police dept sends out emails to all the students whenever a student related crime occurs in college park. robbery and theft is very common off campus. that being said, if you're careful and smart about it, like travelling in groups and not walking alone at night, you should be fine.
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  • lindz0722lindz0722 694 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    College Park is a little "sketchy", I won´t lie about it. But like whoever just posted before me said (don´t remember, sorry), if you use common sense you should be fine. I often walk a few blocks alone at night and feel fine, but I wouldn´t walk across campus or all the way down route 1.

    This will be my 2nd year living off campus and I´ve not felt any more threatened or anything living off campus than I did living on campus (which was not much at all). I´m from a small town so the idea of living right by a big city, and actually having to think about things like walking alone, locking my car doors, etc. was pretty weird for me. But you get used to it.

    As far as the crime alerts the police send out, I like them, it keeps me abreast of what´s going on and what to look out for. And I don´t know about Taco Bell being robbed, but that´s a good 2 miles down route 1 from campus.
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  • groovinhardgroovinhard 563 replies27 postsRegistered User Member
    I attended an honors thing this year and was really impressed with the school, too :).

    Places like Cornell, even UVa seemed stuck-up...but many people choose Maryland over Princeton, Yale, and UMD's administration doesn't have that "we're better than everyone" air. Instead they're practical, focused on improving the school, and the students are there to work hard and make a difference, not put their degree in a golden frame. The outskirts of campus aren't as pretty as the interior, but of course the honors dorms are right in the thick of things, in the most beautiful part of the campus. Gemstone and Honors Humanities sound like great programs. The resources are astounding...

    I really can't wait to come to Maryland and hopefully be a part of the honors program. UMD is a really great school for an awesome price...too many in-state kids dismiss it; even the teachers at my area school say it is "no good". But everything I've seen has told me the opposite.

    Further from campus parts of Route 1 are sketchy. But around the campus and campus apartments, the area is not the prettiest, but it's very safe, especially on the side with the Century apartments, Pizza Hut, etc. The area is not really "ghetto" like you would associate with some parts of inner city Baltimore. It's working class.
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  • lindz0722lindz0722 694 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    just wanted to throw another honors-related tidbit into the discussion.... honors seminars are a great way to get close with a faculty member, as a mentor, recommendation writer, or just someone to have around to talk to.

    one of my favorite professors at maryland was the teacher of my honors seminar in spring 2006, and we still talk occasionally. when i studied in spain, i sent her postcards. she had me over to her house at the end of last year just to catch up, and she constantly makes herself available for academic/career-related advice. i also invited her to my sorority's scholarship dinner the semester i was in her class, and i tell you what--it felt great to have my professor in the room applauding me when i recieved an award! (and she was so excited to get a house tour.)

    in my opinion, every college student should have the chance to have this sort of relationship with a professor, and the honors program makes opportunities like that much more readily available.
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  • xtefiixtefii 162 replies5 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    can anyone shed some light on their experiences in gemstone??
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  • scagneasscagneas 135 replies6 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    yes. i am in gemstone and also in several other programs so if you have any questions as to what gemstone's like and how it compares to others, pm me with specifics.
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