In our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, we compare leading honors programs in two major listings: Overall Excellence and Honors Factors.
Overall Excellence is based on honors curriculum; prestigious scholarships (Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater); honors graduation rates; honors housing; study-abroad programs; and priority registration for honors students. Honors Factors excludes prestigious scholarships from the scoring in order to place greater emphasis on honors-specific features of each program.
UT Austin’s Plan II Honors Program is Number 3 in both Overall Excellence and Honors Factors. The LSA Honors Program at Michigan and the Echols Scholars Program at Virginia are number 1 and 2 respectively in Overall Excellence.
Enrolling its first students in 1935, Plan II is one of the oldest and best-known honors programs in the nation. With only 700 students out of a total undergraduate enrollment of more than 38,000, Plan II concentrates the excellence that the university has to offer.
The actual average three-part SAT for recent freshmen entrants is 2155, placing Plan II among the most selective public university honors programs. Plan II is also known for the importance it attaches to the essay requirement for admission.
UT Plan II also ranks number 3 within the category of the most selective honors programs, including those at Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Pitt, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UT Austin, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The honors curriculum is a very strong component. “The major requirements–the Plan II Honors core curriculum–would comprise approximately one-third of a student’s total degree hours; about one quarter of the total hours if the student pursues multiple majors and/or dual-degrees. Plan II is often regarded as the better fit for the student who is looking to study broadly across disciplines and/or focus on a specific discipline or career training (combining other majors and/or degrees with the Plan II major), while still pursuing a broad arts and sciences education. The breadth of the Plan II core curriculum encourages broad study and also allows a huge degree of flexibility that enables majors to easily incorporate multiple majors or concentrations within the usual four-year course of study.
“Although Plan II Honors is itself a major, almost 75 % of Plan II Honors majors pursue a second (or third) major in the same college (double-majors) or seek simultaneous degrees with a second major in another college (dual-degree). Triple majors are not uncommon. We’ve seen five majors in four years on more than one occasion (which is certainly not necessary, nor is it necessarily recommended). Dual-degree programs means that one of the majors is housed in a different college and they require not only more specific major and college requirements, but additional hours. Dual-degree programs are almost always five-year commitments.
“Plan II has from 50-70 Plan II Engineers, another 30-50 students combining Plan II and a degree in the College of Communication, more than 100 Plan II majors combining Plan II with the McCombs School of Business and another 100+ students combining Plan II and a major in the College of Natural Sciences. A few dozen students will combine Plan II with a degree plan in the College of Fine Arts. And, one or two students a year will combine Plan II with Architecture (usually a six-year commitment).”
In 15 academic departments ranked in a 2012 national survey, the UT Austin average departmental rank was 13.93, giving the university the fourth highest ranked faculty among the 50 universities we are reviewing. Especially stellar departments include education (2), business (6), computer science (8), earth sciences (9), engineering (11), chemistry (12), psychology (13), sociology, math, and physics (14), and English and history (17). There are no departments at UT among the 15 in the survey that fall below number 26 nationwide.
UT students rank 11th in the attainment of prestigious scholarships among the 50 universities under review. UT students rank first among the 50 universities in winning recent Marshall Scholarships, second in Truman Scholarships, and fifth in the number of Rhodes Scholarships. The university is also above the median for Gates, Churchill, and Fulbright scholarships, but below the median in Udall and Goldwater scholarships, although UT students earned a very impressive three additional Goldwater awards in 2012 alone. UT and 17 universities among the 50 have been designated as a Truman Scholar Honor Institutions.
The residence halls for UT honors students score 8.0 on a scale of 10. Both honors and non-honors students can live in the halls, located very conveniently near the “Drag” on Guadalupe Street and close to most classes on campus. The dorms are traditional, with corridor baths.
The Honors Living Community, comprised of three halls in the “Quad” (Andrews, Blanton and Carothers), houses approximately 500 outstanding students, most of whom are in one of the university’s undergraduate honors programs.” (The university has a Liberal Arts Honors Program and a Dean’s Scholars Program, to name two in addition to the better-known Plan II. Plan II is the only program under review here.)
Only Plan II students can register for exclusive Plan II courses in which they are guaranteed a place, but they do not have priority registration for non-Plan II courses.