Honors Programs

The University of Utah’s Bargain Honors Program

The University of Utah’s Bargain Honors Program

High-quality education in the form of Honors Colleges in Public Universities is becoming ever more common. Within the University of California system most have, including UCLA, UCI, and five of the six colleges of UCSD, special honors programs. The reason behind the growth of these honors programs is public universities want to keep their best students at home, in state, and challenged by a curriculum many believe can only be obtained from the most selective universities.


Save Thousands of Dollars with Western University Exchange (WUE)

Save Thousands of Dollars with Western University Exchange (WUE)

Last year 26,700 students from fifteen western states (including California) saved $210 million by enrolling in universities and colleges outside their home states through the Western University Exchange (WUE)—pronounced “woo-wee”-- program. That ‘saved’ sum almost equals 4,200 students’ paying full, out-of-state costs for one year at UC Berkeley.

The Honors College and ASU’s Barrett’s Honors Program

If you want a solid alternative to the elite private college experience, without the $230,000 price tag, then public college honors programs warrant consideration.

Though honors programs within many public colleges have been around for years, including University of Michigan’s LSA Honors Program, and University of Virginia’s Echols Scholars Program, many students and their families are unaware of the opportunities honors programs provide.

Best Practices of a Student-Focused University

Though heavy research and publishing demands might constrain faculty teaching efforts, many universities are becoming more effective at encouraging undergraduate learning by implementing ‘best practices.’

Research into best undergraduate educational practices by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU)  yielded a list of ten: 1st Year Seminars; Required Common Courses; Learning Communities; Writing Intensive Courses; Collaborative Projects; Undergraduate Research; Global Learning; Community-Based Learning; Internships; and, Capstone Projects. The full list, along with a quick synopsis of each practice, can be downloaded at the AACU website: http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/hip_tables.pdf.   

When researching a college, a rule of thumb is the more ‘best practices’ offered, the more engaged its undergraduates are and the better prepared they will be upon graduation.    

Of the ten best practices, five, which might be considered the paramount ‘best practices,’ are frequently found at many schools, at least many of the schools I have researched over the last year, and warrant more detail:

First Year Seminars: While some first year seminars might cover orientation or study skills, most are geared towards small seminar classes consisting of fewer than 15 students, taught by a professor, featuring specific topics or readings that require close examination, discussion, analysis, and extensive writing assignments. The small size encourages participation, frequent encounters with the professor, and again, lots of writing that is carefully developed and critiqued. The 2009 National Survey on First-Year Seminars notes over 87% of universities currently offer 1st year seminars. Brown University, for example, has dozens of 1st year seminars for its freshmen. Many state universities, especially Honor’s Programs such as Barrett’s Honors College at Arizona State University, offer first year seminars as well.

Writing-intensive Courses:   The importance of learning to write well, and extensively, cannot be overemphasized. Richard Light, a professor from Harvard’s School of Education, draws a direct correlation between the amount of writing in a course and its level of student engagement.  Student writing doesn’t need to be restricted to just a course, but can and should be interdisciplinary. Most universities also have writing centers that supply aid to all undergraduates in need: Swarthmore College’s writing center will assist in anything from a 5-paragraph essay to an esoteric physics research paper.

Undergraduate Research:  If you’re planning to apply to medical school, or most graduate programs for that matter, conducting undergraduate research is essential. Learning how research is funded, conducted, and published is fast becoming the rite of passage in many undergraduate schools. Most of the departments in Boston University offer numerous opportunities for undergraduate research. Pomona College and Swarthmore require all undergraduates to conduct independent research with a faculty mentors before graduating.

Internships: Gaining internships with companies or institutions prior to graduation is also fast becoming the rigor at many schools. Over 86% of Clarkson College’s (NY) recent graduating class participated in internships. Some, such as Northeastern (MA) and Kalamazoo (MI), have full-fledged coop programs that integrate work experience into their curriculum. In departments such as communication at Northwestern and Boston College, working in the media is expected by majors before the end of junior year. The more internships/work experience students gain, the better.

Capstone courses and projects:  Mastery of a subject is best demonstrated through an honor’s thesis, comprehensive exams, and independent projects requiring application of core concepts of a discipline. Reed College requires most its undergraduates take a comprehensive exam in their junior year followed by a capstone research thesis that is presented and defended before a panel of professors from Reed and outside universities. In essence a bachelor’s from Reed signifies capabilities similar to those of PhDs.

The more rigorous the ‘best practices’ offered by universities you have under the microscope, the better prepared you will be to meet and surmount the challenges encountered beyond college

Best results arise from best practices: they’re worth looking for in any college under consideration.

Why Swarthmore Warrants a Glance


  • Beautiful Campus outside Philadelphia
  • Solid Engineering Program
  • Oxford-like Honors Program
  • Peerless Student Writing Support

While Swarthmore might be small in numbers, with fewer than 1,550 undergraduates, its breadth and depth seem unrivalled. Swarthmore is international in scope: Swarthmore students (Swatties) come from every state, and 49 foreign countries. Its student faculty ratio of 8 to 1 enables students to develop an intimate relationship with professors. The alumni base of 19,000 is active, accessible, and devoted. Swarthmore also has a track record of producing Nobel Prize and MacArthur Grant winners, along with numerous PhDs per capita, exceeding all but a handful of schools.  Couple all this with an endowment of over $1.2 billion, and there is a lot to like about Swarthmore.

Swarthmore’s 425-acre campus is a mix of suburban and arboreal splendor with easy access to central Philadelphia: a mere 20 minutes away by train. Inscribed throughout the campus are phrases such as “Use well thy freedom.”  Even the trees, shrubs and flowers bear Latin labels. Scott Arboretum, contained within Swarthmore, is comprised of extensive lawns, a creek, tree clad hills, and numerous hiking trails. The edifices of many of the campus buildings are composed of stones from local quarries. There is solidity, beauty, and an aura of intellectuality woven into the tapestry of the campus, and for good reason.

Despite the small number of students, the curriculum includes 32 major offerings, 7 foreign languages (including German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese), and a full BS in Engineering with concentrations in electrical, mechanical, computer, and civil and environmental. Many engineering majors also take a full set of liberal arts courses and gain a BA as well. Swarthmore’s extensive course offerings allow that over three quarters of the classes have fewer than 19 students. This means becoming immersed in class discussions and gaining access to professors is a given.

The Honors Program, also known as the ‘External Examination Program,’ begins junior year. It’s comparable to the independent research program at Reed, or a tutorial at Oxford. The Honors seminar is composed of fewer than eight students who meet in either a special seminar room, or the professor’s living room, for weekly 5-hour meetings. The intensity and rigor is on a graduate school level. At the end of the two years, each student is subjected to a week-long series of written and oral tests administered by outside examiners. This is comparable to defending a thesis and taking comprehensive exams compressed into a week. It’s grueling, but those who master their subjects are undoubtedly ready for the rigors of a PhD program, which probably explains why a huge portion of Swarthmore graduates go on to become PhDs (in fact, Swarthmore is fifth on the list of schools producing the most science and engineering PhDs (from 1997-2006)—right behind Cal Tech, Harvey Mudd, MIT, and Reed).  

The writing assistance program at Swarthmore, called the Student Writing Associate Program, is also exceptional (and I’ve reviewed the writing assistance available at Carnegie Mellon, most of the Ivy League, Stanford, Occidental College, and the University of California). The program is designed to help all student writers at all stages of the writing process across all disciplines, in questions of structure, organization, and style to grammar and tone. A student writer can drop into the center, attend a workshop, or even set up a weekly tutoring session with a Writing Associate Mentor. To view Swarthmore student writing, go to Alchemy, (http://www.swarthmore.edu/x33287.xml), which is an annual sampling published by the Program.  

Of course, not all aspects of Swarthmore are perfect. There is a thread of political correctness that is reportedly heavy in the English and gender studies departments. Additionally, for some students, the intimacy of just 1550 undergraduates can become claustrophobic. Obviously, like any school, it’s critical to visit before making a commitment; however, if you’re after serious academic rigor, learning how to write well, getting to know your professors well, being surrounded by both brilliant peers who are more collaborative than competitive, and a beautiful campus, then Swarthmore warrants a glance-- possibly even a searching stare.

Swarthmore 대학은 고려할 가치가 있다.

  • 필라 교외의 아름다운 캠퍼스
  • 우수한 공학 프로그램
  • 옥스포드대와 유사한 Honor Program
  • 최고의 Writing 프로그램

학부생이 1,550명이 좀 안 되는 Swarthmore대학은 작은 대학이긴 하지만, 학문의 깊이와 넓이에 있어서는 대적이 없어 보인다.  Swarthmore는 국제적이다: 전국에서 학생이 오며, 49개국에서부터 외국학생들이 온다.  교수대 학생의 비율은 1:8로써 교수와 잘 알게 되게 되는 것은 당연하다.  19,000명의 졸업생들은 활발히 학교를 위해 활동하며, 헌신적이다.  또한 Nobel Prize, MacArthur Grant 수상자들과 수많은 박사들을 배출하였다.  손 꼽히는 대학에 들며, 기부금도 $1.2 billion을 보유하고 있으며, 더 많은 장점을 갖고 있다.

Swarthmore의 캠퍼스는 필라 가까이(기차로 20분)에 교외적이며 숲의 장관을 이루고 있다.  교정 곳곳에는 “Use well thy freedom (자유롭게 잘 사용하시오)”의 글귀가 새겨져 있다.  나무, 숲, 꽃에 까지.  교정에 있는 Scott Arboretum에는 펼쳐진 잔디와 개울, 나무와 언덕, 여러 하이킹 도로가 있다.  교정의 건물들은 주변 채석장에서 온 돌로 지어졌다.  견고함, 아름다움, 지성이 캠퍼스를 수 놓고 있다.

작은 재학생 수에도 불구하고, 32개의 전공과 7가지 외국어(독일어, 러시아어, 중국어, 일본어 등)을 제공하며, 전기, 기계, 컴퓨터, 토목 등의 공학학위를 제공한다.  공학전공자들은 공학뿐만 아니라 전 인문학 과목들도 택할 수 있다.  폭넓은 강의를 제공하므로, 수강생은 19명 이하인 경우도 많다.  따라서, 토의와 교수와의 교제가 폭넓다.

Honor Program은 ‘External Examination Program’으로 불리며, 3학년 때 시작된다.  Reed대학의 리서치 프로그램, Oxford의 tutorial과 유사하다.  Honors 세미나는 8명 이하로 세미나실이나 교수연구실에서 주간 5시간씩 만난다.  대학원에서는 공부의 심도와 난이도가 대단하다.  2년 후에는 외부의 감독관에 의해 구두시험과 필기시험을 일주일간 본다.  논문과 종합시험에 비교될 정도이다.  힘든 과정이지만, 이렇게 준비하므로, 이 대학은 박사를 많이 배출한다 (1997-2006까지 과학과 공학에서의 박사배출이 5위이다: Cal Tech, Harvey Mudd, MIT, Reed다음으로). 

작문지도는 Student Writing Associate Program으로 불리며, 매우 우수하다.  이런 프로그램은 Carnegie Mellon과 대부분의 아이비 리그, Stanford, Occidental College, University of California에 있다.  이 프로그램은 학생들에게 전공에 따른 글쓰기 훈련과 더불어 문장 구조, 구성, 문법, 스타일, 어조 등을 지도한다.  학생들은 센터에 들려 워크샵에 참여하거나, 개인지도(Writing Associate Mentor)를 신청할 수 있다.  자세히 알고자 하면, 이 프로그램에서 매년 발간하는 Alchemy (http://www.swarthmore.edu/x33287.xml)를 보면, 자세히 알 수 있다.

물론 이 대학이 완벽하다는 것은 아니다.  한편, 영문과와 여성학과는 정치적으로 정의를 너무 외친다는 비판도 있다.  또한 어떤 학생에게는 1550명 밖에 안 되는 대학에서의 친밀성이 부담이 될 수도 있다.  그래서, 결정하기 전에 방문해 보는 것이 필수적이다.  한편, 정말 학문에 열정이 있고, 글쓰기를 잘하고 싶고, 교수를 잘 알고 싶고, 경쟁적이기 보다는 협동하는 동료들 사이에서, 그리고 아름다운 캠퍼스에서 공부하고 싶다면, 눈길을 이곳에 보내야 하며, 높이 바라보아야 할 것이다.

Profile of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


  • A good value in the face of California’s rapidly rising tuition costs
  • Over 150 majors across its 7 colleges
  • Two campuses spread along the Mississippi River
  • Undergraduate experience with Honors Program, Research Opportunities, and Study Abroad Program

If you’re willing to sacrifice the Mediterranean climate of California for the seasonally snowy plains of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) might warrant a review. The Twin Cities campus is, with 33,000 undergraduates, greater than Berkeley, UCLA, or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. For out of state students, its cost of attendance (COA) is less than the in-state price of Berkeley or UCLA.  As part of the Big Ten, and with its seven colleges offering over 150 majors, ranging from Russian to Kinesiology, the University of Minnesota might be worth weathering the winter storms.  

The campus is actually two campuses with one in St Paul, where the agricultural school resides, and the other in Minneapolis, about five miles away. The two are connected by bus, but soon will be by light rail. The Minneapolis campus is split, east and west by the Mississippi River. The university also contains a 695-acre arboretum, which is used for research projects. Each of the freshman admitting colleges has its own library, with the entire library system containing over 5 million volumes, making it the 14th largest in the nation.

One concern many parents might have about any big state university is its four-year graduation rate.  46% of this year’s undergraduates finished their bachelors in four years. Though better than Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s 26%, it is well below UCLA’s 68% and Berkeley’s 69%. To address this issue, the university has instituted a ‘Four Year Guaranteed Graduation Plan.’ http://www.academic.umn.edu/fouryear/ Should you join the plan, accept guidance from your counselors (all undergraduates are assigned both an academic and career counselor who will meet and advise you throughout your career at  Minnesota), pull together a plan for achieving your degree in four years, and fail to get the classes necessary to graduate on time, the University of Minnesota will provide these classes to you at no cost, until you attain your degree.

The University of Minnesota is sensitive to the needs of its undergraduates and has implemented a number of programs, in addition to the guarantee mentioned above. First, week long orientation programs are offered by all the colleges to their entering freshmen. Additionally, an Honors College offers opportunities in interdisciplinary study, along with special research opportunities, and special housing for members in the program.  Further, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) gives stipends to 450 students each year to assist faculty or propose student research projects under faculty supervision.

The professors are noted for being accessible and focused on teaching undergraduates.  Most have open office hours where they are willing to meet and explain concepts or elucidate points. Distinguished teaching is rewarded by bonuses of up to $15,000. Moreover, you might actually get to know some of your professors as 80% of the classes have fewer than 50 students, and even the larger lectures break down into manageable discussion groups of 15 or fewer students.

One other area worthy of mention is the Study Abroad program, which features over 300 programs across 60 countries: it is the largest program in the nation. The College of Management requires all its students spend time abroad in one of the programs which can be for as little as a month, or as long as a year.  

All told, the University of Minnesota has features that might attract discriminating students who are searching for alternatives to the UC system. Certainly the cost of attendance is appealing. The school has the advantages of a big school: an extensive range of majors, huge libraries, and an extensive Study Abroad Program, coupled with features of a smaller school with its colleges, first year orientation, honors program, attentive counseling, and undergraduate research opportunities. If you’re interested, the application fee for California residents is waived for this year, and there is no essay on the application. Applying is a no-risk venture. The University of Minnesota has rolling admissions with a deadline of December 15th.  But, be prepared to buy a parka.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities 소개

  • 캘리포니아의 등록금 상승에 비할 때 좋은 대안
  • 7 단과대학에 150이 넘는 전공
  • Mississippi 강을 따라 두 개의 캠퍼스로 나누어짐
  • Honor Program, Research Opportunities, Study Abroad Program이 우수함

여러분이 캘리포니아의 지중해 날씨를 버리고 눈나리는 미네소타의 평지를 갈 수 있다면, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)는 고려할 만 하다.  Twin Cities 캠퍼스는 33,000명의 재학생이 있으며, Berkeley, UCLA, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo보다 더 큰 학교이다.  Big Ten에 속하며, 전공은 러시아어 에서부터 신체운동학까지 150이 넘는 전공을 7개의 단과대학에서 제공하는데, 이 대학은 겨울의 눈보라에 시달리더라도 갈 만하다.

캠퍼스는 농과대학이 있는 St. Paul과 5마일 떨어진 Minneapolis의 두 군데에 있다.  두 곳은 버스로 연결되어 있으나, 곧 경철도가 운영될 것이다.  Minneapolis 캠퍼스는 미시시피강 동서로 나누어져 있다.  대학은 695에이커의 식물원이 있어서 리서치 프로젝트에 사용된다.  모든 신입생은 전국에서 14위인 500만권이 넘는 도서관을 즐긴다.

학부모들이 염려할 졸업률을 살펴보자.  올해 학부의 4년졸업률은 46%이었다.  Cal Poly San Luis는 26%이고, UCLA는 68%, Berkeley는 69%로 높다.  한편, 이 대학의 ‘대학 4년에 졸업하기’(http://www.academic.umn.edu/fouryear/)에 가입하면, 카운셀링을 받을 수 있다 (모든 학생은 academic and career카운셀러가 지정되어 지도함).  4년에 졸업하도록 최대한 도움을 주며, F학점을 받으면 비용없이 수업을 들을 수 있다.

University of Minnesota은 프로그램에 매우 민감하다.  첫째, 모든 신입생들에게 1주일간의 오리엔테이션을 제공한다.  또한 Honor College 프로그램은 학문간 연구를 제공하며, 특별 기숙사도 제공한다.  Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program(UROP)은 매년 450명의 학생들에게 교수 조교나 리서치 프로젝트를 주고 비용을 지불한다.

교수들은 항시 면담이 가능하며 학부생을 가르치는데 주력한다.  대부분의 교수는 시간을 오픈하고 학생을 면담하고 수업의 질문이나 개념을 설명해준다.  우수한 교수는 $15,000의 보너스도 받는다.  더욱이 학생들은 교수와 친분을 가질 수 있다.  80%의 수업이 50명 이하이다.  대규모 수업은 15명 정도로 토의 그룹으로 나뉘어 진다.

또 다른 우수성은 Study Abroad 프로그램이다.  60개국의 300여 프로그램이 있다.  전국에서 가장 큰 프로그램이다.  College of Management에서는 모든 학생이 한달, 혹은 일년 동안 한 프로그램에 가입하여 외국으로 나가게 한다.

University of Minnesota는 UC에 대응하는 대학을 찾는 학생에게는 매력적인 여러 가지를 갖고 있다.  물론 비용도 매력적이다.  이 학교는 큰 학교의 장점을 갖고 있다: 수많은 전공, 큰 도서관, 폭넓은 해외유학 프로그램, 각 단과대학이 작은 대학의 특징을 지님, 첫 오리엔테이션 프로그램, honor program, 밀착된 카운셀링, 리서치 기회 등.  만약 여러분이 흥미가 있다면, 올해는 가주 주민에게는 응시비용이 면제되며, 또한 에세이도 없다.  정말 위험하지 않은 도전이다.  12월15일이 마감일이다.  그러나 파가를 꼭 준비해야 한다.