University of Utah Honors College Is Loaded with Options

The Honors College at the University of Utah may have more interesting options for living, learning, and participating in honors projects than any other program or college that we have reviewed–and we’re not talking about the fabulous skiing that is so accessible from Salt Lake City.

Okay, we do have to mention that the brand new Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Community (MHC for short) does in fact have a ski wax room as well as storage space for skis and bikes.

But what is most impressive is the thoughtful, coherent, yet flexible curriculum that blends effectively with so many living and learning options that it will be difficult to list them all.

Admission is selective but holistic, with no ironclad test and GPA requirements.  From what we gather from the website, applicants are “highly likely” to be admitted with SAT 1490 (ACT 34) and above, plus a GPA of at least 3.8.  It appears that “likely” admission requires an SAT of around 1360 (ACT 31) and a GPA of 3.6 or so.  SAT of approximately 1250 (ACT 28) and a GPA of 3.5 or higher may require the applicant to go through a portfolio admissions process.  The portfolio must contain two letters of recommendation, a graded writing sample that includes the name of the teacher who issued the grade, and a personal statement of 1-3 pages.  Portfolio applications may require four or five weeks for review.

The requirements for the preliminary honors certificate are six hours of credit in Intellectual Traditions (IT) courses; three hours of credit in an honors writing course; and six more hours that can be from several honors core options.  These include American Institutions; honors calculus; and core courses in behavioral sciences, physical and life sciences, fine arts, Construction of Knowledge, or any honors seminars.  Note: AP credits can apply to general education requirements but DO NOT displace honors course requirements.

The university honors degree requires an additional six hours of honors courses and a thesis or capstone project.   Most departments also offer an honors track, and even those that do not offer the separate track do have honors advisors that can supervise the thesis.

It appears that it would be difficult not to continue taking honors courses, given the range of options.

Students can select honors internships “to work alongside a community leader in a real-world situation to bring about change in a community,” meanwhile receiving a $1,000 stipend for the 16 weeks required to complete the internship.

Or students can take honors tutorials that enable them to work one on one with a faculty member on a research project, while meeting with the instructor weekly.

Most interesting to us is the option to participate in the honors think tank collaborative classes, limited to 12 students, many with different majors.  These two-semester courses bring students together to apply multidisciplinary perspectives to a “contemporary societal challenge under the guidance of faculty,” and also carries a stipend of $1,000.

Students may also participate in honors cohorts of 20 students, who focus on topics of mutual interest.  Examples are cohorts for religious studies, environmental studies, pre-med, pre-law, ethics, American Studies, Sciences, and LGBTQ studies.  Students meet monthly to discuss their projects and aims.

The legal cohort, for example, allows students to attend hearings, meet with judges and attorneys, do legal research, learn about the Socratic method of teaching, and study case law and courtroom practices.  Students also have the opportunity to consult with advisors about the many career options and specialty fields available to lawyers.

Another exciting feature is the early assurance program, which is open to students with SAT scores of 1170 or higher (ACT 26) and GPA of 3.8, who want to attend graduate school at the “U.”   Most honors students are eligible.  The program allows students to take up  to two years to decide on a graduate major–a remarkable level of flexibility.

Each year, the most elite applicants to the early assurance program are selected as Eccles Distinguished Scholars, who receive full support for tuition, fees, and housing as long as they remain eligible.

All honors students are eligible for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which offers some grants of $1,200 for first-time research projects in collaboration with and $600 in renewable grants.

Students may earn honors credit for studying abroad and can choose from seven special honors options:

  • Theater, humanities, and fine arts in London
  • British studies–the Bloomsbury Group–in London
  • Environmental studies in Costa Rica
  • Summer studies in Berlin
  • Summer studies in Cambridge
  • Social work in Mexico
  • Writing in Costa Rica

Students may also receive credit for non-honors study-abroad courses, but not for courses in language study abroad.

The new Marriott Honors Center (MHC) is opening this Fall.  The MHC is located near the Huntsman Center on Campus, at the intersection of Mario Capecchi Drive and South Campus Drive.  The MHC has 309 beds in apartment/suite configurations, and there are plans to expand the facility.

The MHC has its own cafe, coffee shop, laundry, ski wax room, music room, secure bike storage, and is near a TRAX line that provides transportation around the city.

The residence hall includes an honors core experience floor for students who have not decided on a major; a first-year honors floor for students who have chosen a major; an upper-division honors community; and residences for Eccles School of Business honors students and College of Engineering honors students.

Additional honors communities are located in the Officer’s Circle section of the campus.  These include The Law House for pre-law students; the Honors Innovation House; the Poulson House for students working on capstones and theses; and another Honors First-Year Floor at Sage Point.