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

yulsieyulsie Registered User Posts: 804 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.
Post edited by yulsie on
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Replies to: UMD Honors Program(s) report - lots to like in College Park

  • scagneasscagneas User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 141 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!
  • angstriddenangstridden Registered User Posts: 849 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!
  • Mine Is DifferentMine Is Different Registered User Posts: 220 Junior Member
    anyone here a banneker/key scholar? is there any special perks that go along with that other than the full scholarship?
  • scagneasscagneas User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 141 Junior Member
    only direct admission into the honors program. nothing else.
  • greenmumgreenmum Registered User Posts: 43 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.
  • worrywartworrywart Registered User Posts: 1,783 Senior Member
    Anyone else have anything to add? I'd love to hear as much feedback as possible.
  • lindz0722lindz0722 Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    i'm in honors; if anyone has specific questions i'd be happy to answer them.
  • ZAK2012ZAK2012 Registered User Posts: 145 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?
  • lindz0722lindz0722 Registered User Posts: 698 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.
  • macnycmacnyc Registered User Posts: 227 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.
  • BigJBigJ Registered User Posts: 121 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.
  • lindz0722lindz0722 Registered User Posts: 698 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!!).
  • macnycmacnyc Registered User Posts: 227 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?
  • TestudotheTurtleTestudotheTurtle Registered User Posts: 273 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.
  • pb32pb32 Registered User Posts: 118 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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