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Honors classes for freshmen?

bluejaybluejay 786 replies129 threads Member
OK..so we are so close to sending the deposit to Pitt and saying no to Cornell. But today I looked at the schedule of honors classes available for the fall and it appears (without intensive scrunity) that many of them have pre-reqs. How many honors classes might a typical freshmen take? One of the real draws was the idea of some small classes but are they even available? It also didn't appear that too many were basic/intro courses. I'd love it if someone could shed some light on this topic.... Thanks.
edited May 2007
23 replies
Post edited by bluejay on
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Replies to: Honors classes for freshmen?

  • Pat2323Pat2323 612 replies23 threads Member
    bluejay, where are you looking? There are many intro honors classes. This is a listing of just some of the honors classes offered, and a lot of them can be taken freshman year-

    http://www.honorscollege.pitt.edu/courses/2007fall.html

    The average size of an honors course is 17 students.


    Trust me, if you liked Pitt enough that you were ready to send the deposit, send it. The Honors College experience is worth it.
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    My only experience is with a freshman engineer, just starting final exam week. She took honors physics, which I highly recommend. It's taught by the head of the honors college and he is beyond awesome. D met her best friends in that class, some of whom still don't know what they're majoring in, but they're minoring in physics as a result of that class.

    D also took the Fessenden Honors Engineering Program (FHEP), which is a year long seminar that replaces a freshman engrg seminar all engrg majors are required to take. She really liked FHEP a lot; there is a web page for it that can explain it better than I can. Plus, she took honors engrg analysis, which is a lot of matlab and computer programming stuff. Due to some peculiarities of her schedule she didn't take honors calculus, but rather calculus 2 regular. I think at Pitt the honors calc is a combo of calc 1 and 2; anyway she took regular calc 2. There was an honors section of chemistry for engineers, but I don't think it came with a lab, and she needed the lab for premed, so she took regular chem.

    That seemed to satisfy her, and she never complained about large classes. Even her regular stuff like chemistry were apparently an ok size, and they have recitations, or small groups that meet separately with a TA grad student. She liked her TA's a lot, altho' some of her friends didn't like theirs, so maybe she was lucky.

    For electives she took a religion/philosophy class she loved 'cause she'd heard good things about the prof. Once again, I think the class was relatively small anyway, so while it wasn't honors it didn't need to be to be effective. Hope this helps. Maybe someone from another major will post.

    I would highly recommend taking that honors physics 1 and 2 class, no matter what your intended major is (assuming you've got some science/math talent plus three dimensional thinking going for you). If you can handle it, that class is a true highlight of freshman year.
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  • bluejaybluejay 786 replies129 threads Member
    Thanks for the information. I did find that same list and the university wide pages. Although the number of honors classes was around 70 the majority seemed out of reach for freshmen because of prerequisites.

    I should know the answer to this question: Do freshmen participate in a freshmen writing seminar?
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  • lkf725lkf725 4596 replies184 threads Senior Member
    What college are you in bluejay? I know the engineering students had to take a freshman writing class.
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    lkf725 - maybe they changed some things in just one year, but this past year the engrg freshmen didn't take a writing class. what they did was put a writing component in the analysis class (or maybe it was the seminar?) anyway there was this feeling supposedly that engr's don't like to write so they "hid" it in another class and had them do research papers on engrg issues and then the papers were graded by profs from the english dept.
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  • LBPLBP 400 replies13 threads Member
    Bluejay, Dean Stewart is very concerned about "student attainment." I think that rather than focusing on the size of the classes - and, yes, the Honors classes are said to range around 15 people or so - focus on what UPitt Honors College can do for you to achieve your goals. At the Honors College Day that D and I recently attended, Stewart talked about financialy supporting students who needed to go beyond Pitt to complete their research/interests, and offered concrete examples. He said that the Honors College is not a prescribed program, but the HC is student motivated; i.e., students must take the initiative for their education and he will help and assist the student. IMO, the attitude of Dean Stewart and the HC is most important. Perhaps you need to compare how the HC is run at UPitt with Cornell and decide for yourself... Good luck!
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  • lkf725lkf725 4596 replies184 threads Senior Member
    mercymom, in checking for graduation requirements, the undergrad engineering manual says that each Univ of Pgh student must complete at least one "W" designated course - the "W" can be found in the course catalog and indicates a substantial writing component to the class.

    I think they have to fulfill the ABET requirements for depth and breadth of study. They do this by taking at least two humanities and two social sciences (18 credits total), and at least two must be from the same department and only one of those can be an introductory level class. They also have to take an ethics course from the philosophy department.

    Son also had that freshman engineering class with all of the research papers and the seminar presentation. Maybe it's different now, but you might want to check so as not to miss any requirements.
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  • megnutmegnut 56 replies12 threads Junior Member
    went to Cornell this weekend and it was beautiful......

    Help....we need to decide sooooon. He does not know which to choose and is stressed!!! Why is PITT better????

    The blog about freshman honors classes was interesting. I'm concerned the work won't be challenging enough at PITT...My S took an biomolecular enginnering class when we were at Cornell and thought it was very interesting.

    Another big difference is the setting with Pitt and city or much more green space at Cornell. But the drive there is rough!! 5 1/2 hours.
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  • megnutmegnut 56 replies12 threads Junior Member
    Do these classes fill up quickly??
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Megnut, I assume you mean your S sat in on a biomolecular engrg class. That is an upper level class and no freshman is going to be taking it, I'm pretty sure. If you're son takes Doc Stewart's Honors Physics and thinks it's boring, then he belongs at MIT or Caltech, not Cornell. As for city vs. rural, I can't help you. Our D wanted a city school and did not even apply, look at or consider Cornell, expressly because it was, in her words, "in the middle of nowhere".

    But each to his own. Our good friends' S is at Ithaca and loves it. Ithaca is gorges!

    Seriously, Megnut, give it the headache test. School A, headache; school B, sigh of relief. The thought of going to one or the other will make you feel like you just put your head in a meat grinder. The other one will feel good. Your body will tell you when your mind won't. Good luck to you (and your S....btw, where does HE want to go?)
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    lkf725 - that's true the engrs need a "W" class to graduate, but it's not a "fresman writing" class. The freshman engrg curriculum has no such thing on it, either semester, just a place for one of the electives you mention in social studies or humanities. But you can fulfill the "W" rqt with any class that the university so designates. For example, this fall there is a class (also on the engrg school's list of approved electives) called "Special Topics in Archaeology" ANTH 1540, that gets the "W". So it has a substantial writing component, but I wouldn't call it a freshman writing class.
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  • lkf725lkf725 4596 replies184 threads Senior Member
    Oh, I guess you are right. It's just that most of the kids I know of took the writing requirement during freshman year. Maybe it was suggested to them in order to make their freshman conference paper go a little smoother? Anyway, my son took his "W" requirement in the German department, so it is nice to have some options.

    Also, I think the engineering school (or Pitt in general?) says that you need to take some actual English class if your verbal SAT didn't meet certain criteria. It has been a while though, and I'm not positive about that one.
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  • bluejaybluejay 786 replies129 threads Member
    megnut: I feel your pain...same 2 schools on the table here. No matter who's paying/borrowing etc, the question is whether Cornell is worth about $100,000 more?
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    megnut and bluejay -

    first, i'd like to apologize if i sounded harsh, i didn't mean to. cornell is a wonderful school and no one can contest that it IS an ivy leaque school to boot. but, yes, the question is not only is it $100,000 better than Pitt (and i assume but have forgotten that you guys are weighing Pitt scholarship $$ in this decision), but also are you willing and able to pay the $100k difference, and is it worth it to you to do that.

    i felt your pain last year with a different school and was very fortunate in that my D really, really, really liked Pitt and so we didn't agonize too much. plus, my H and i were seriously opposed to six figure debt for college when we were pretty sure D was heading to grad school down the road. so once the finaid offers were in, our decision was relatively easy.

    cornell is a terrific school, but their financial aid is lousy. a dear friend of mine's D went there, as did my friend, her H, and her parents, and her H's parents. there was never any question but that debt would be incurred if necessary to pay for cornell. BUT....said D's first job paid her two checks a month of $800 per check. she was married with two kids and one check went to her student loans and the other went to the day care, 'cause they couldn't afford her student loan debt on her H's salary. she worked a full time job to pay her loans and her day care. that just wouldn't be worth it to me, and it would pain me to know my grandkids were in day care JUST to pay student loan debt.

    that may not be your situation(s), but think about it.




    ps - how do you think that cornell girl would have lived if she were single, with $1600/mo take home pay and $800/mo of student loan debt (no kids)? think about it.
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  • bluejaybluejay 786 replies129 threads Member
    Trust me, we continue to agonize over this. You are correct our daughter does have the out of state tuition scholarship for Pittsburgh. Being NY residents we do do get somewhat off a break as she was accepted at one of the contract colleges at Cornell. With the same money spending habits that we have practiced over the years we can kind of pay our EFC but total student loans would be (extrapolating) 25-40 thousand. As a general rule we would not encourage that kind of financial future and have discussed the potential scenarios. At the same time I don't want any regrets down the road.

    The deposit check needs to be made out to some college.

    Thanks for all of the good information and advice about Pitt. I never thought your comments or tones were harsh, mercymom. I appreciate your willingness to share.
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  • megnutmegnut 56 replies12 threads Junior Member
    My S says his choice is PITT. We told him he could probably transfer to Cornell if he decided that he didnt want to go there. But if he didnt like Cornell and wanted to transfer he wouldnt have the scholarship later..soooo the check will be written tommorow...we think.........................
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    megnut, if the kid likes Pitt, I say jump on it. Good point on the scholarship. In case you didn't know, only 7% of incoming freshmen at Pitt get merit scholarships. They're pretty special.

    bluejay - $25 to $50k loans is not nearly so bad as $100k. That NY state contract college thing Cornell has going makes it a bargain if you can do that. What does your student want to do? If s/he is willing to do Stafford loans and work/study, you could also look into being an RA after freshman year and get free room and board and maybe a stipend. See what Cornell offers in that regard.

    Regrets are a no, no. Whatever you decide, there are to be no regrets. If you decide to go to Cornell, I want you to jump in with both feet firmly planted in Ithaca and never look back. (just don't jump off those bridges at the gorges!)


    ps - this is a video of Barry Schwartz talking about decision making. He is a professor at Swarthmore who wrote "The Paradox of Choice", which talks about how having too many choices makes us depressed. It's at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/93. Watch it and enjoy. Maybe it will help lighten the load.
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  • Pat2323Pat2323 612 replies23 threads Member
    You definately need to go with the school your child likes the most. Trust me, if he wants to be challenged, he will be challenged. Pitt is by no means an easy school.
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  • lkf725lkf725 4596 replies184 threads Senior Member
    I think a major consideration is a non-academic one. Would your student prefer to live in a rural or an urban environment? It makes a difference in the perceived quality of life and may color attitude about academic things too.
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  • Pat2323Pat2323 612 replies23 threads Member
    Anyone make their final decision yet?
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