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Old 03-27-2011, 09:50 PM
 
Location: Central Austin
2,416 posts, read 3,925,298 times
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I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the Engineering Honors program at UT-Austin. I keep on hearing about the prestige associated with such honors programs, but I also hear that it doesn't really matter, that the amount of coursework is not worth any supposedly limited advantage graduating with an honors degree could give you.

So what's your take on this? Are honors programs really all that special or worth the extra work?
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:01 PM
Status: "Black lives matter!" (set 6 days ago)
 
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
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The most important perk of being in an honors program is, in my experience, the alumni network. In an honors program that's specialized like Engineering, this network of alumni who have studied and are now working in your field will be most helpful in looking for internships and jobs.

A general honors program might not be bad at a bigger college since there will likely be enough students graduating in one's field to have an advantage when looking for opportunities. My college wasn't that big, and the honors program there was largely focused on the humanities (the only honors math/science courses I can recall were College Algebra and Biology 101). There were many internship opportunities, but they were general internships which wouldn't have helped me gain specific experience in my field of Computer Science. In addition, I didn't see any point of dealing with harder general-ed classes once I started focusing on my field, so I stopped taking those honors courses my sophomore year. Just an anecdote for you.

Last edited by Nivalis; 03-27-2011 at 11:20 PM..
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:12 PM
 
Location: San Francisco, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westerner92 View Post
I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the Engineering Honors program at UT-Austin. I keep on hearing about the prestige associated with such honors programs, but I also hear that it doesn't really matter, that the amount of coursework is not worth any supposedly limited advantage graduating with an honors degree could give you.

So what's your take on this? Are honors programs really all that special or worth the extra work?
Of course they are worth it. The people who tell you they aren't worth it may just be the slackers who couldn't / didn't do it.

ALWAYS take your GPA and your honors awards / activities seriously. They alone won't make you a fast-tracker to the corner office, but every bit helps when you present yourself on paper to a potential employer or grad school - especially earlier on when you have limited experience. It is one more indicator that you have the brains and discipline to work hard and achieve more than your average peer, and that never hurts you.
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:28 AM
 
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Why would it not be worth it? I agree ambient -- the only people who think it's not worth it are the slackers of the world.

I went to the University of Minnesota as an undergrad, which I think may be similar to UT-Austin. Another nice perk to the honors classes is that the honors recitations (for the bigger classes) were more likely to be handled by the professor, or at least a good grad student TA. It also meant that there were fewer annoying people. Yes, that might make me sound snobby, but the honors classes don't get as many people who are sitting there because they have to be there, who are lazy, or who somehow managed to get into college despite not being ready to handle the coursework. (I know some honors students can be lazy slackers, too, but at least they generally hide it better.)

My school also had increased scholarship opportunities for honors students. Even if you don't need that for financial reasons, it would still look good on your resume.

I personally wouldn't bother going to college right away if I wasn't willing to put in the work, but that's just me. And, for what it's worth, I didn't find college to be more work than high school (in part because in high school I had more classes and an all-day schedule; in college you generally have fewer classes and less time in the actual classroom, so you have more control over your own schedule, plus, since the classes are more specialized more of them will presumably be far more interesting than the broader overview classes you get in HS), so if you're basing your assumptions on whatever experience you're having now, you may want to reconsider. At least give honors a shot, and if it doesn't work out you can always bail out.
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:58 AM
 
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Sure it'll likely help you land your first job. But after that....no. After your first job, you shouldn't have anything about college but your college degree, institution name, and year the degree was conferred. Employers are looking at your work experience at that point, and mentioning things like honors programs and other college activities just makes an employer wonder why you don't have anything more recent or relevant to put on your resume.

Of course, getting your first job is pretty important, so maybe that means it is worth it to you. There are lots of ways to stand out in the field, and this is one of them. You have to decide for yourself if this is the best way for you.

Quote:
The people who tell you they aren't worth it may just be the slackers who couldn't / didn't do it.
One could also argue that the only people who will tell you they are worth it are the ones who are trying to justify their own participation in such programs.
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Old 03-28-2011, 11:28 AM
 
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I don't think you put the honors program on the resume -- or at least I didn't (I did put my graduation degree that came with honors) -- but it's all about getting the most out of your college experience. Why waste the time and money if you're just going to try to coast through? To squander opportunities that don't cost any more money (and in fact may generate more income through the extra grants, funding, etc., not to mention better access to graduate-level education at the undergraduate level) is a poor decision, both in the short-term and in the long-term. I certainly think one can be successful without being in the honors program, but if someone has the chance and simply turns it down, what does that say about that person? To me it says lazy and unmotivated. Not exactly the impression you want to give to the people you know during college, and certainly not afterwards. It's not just about getting the job after college (although I think getting the most out of college helps with that, too!), it's about taking advantage of all the opportunities WITHIN college, opportunities that can both make college a more meaningful experience as well as can jumpstart a post-college career. And in today's competitive world, it helps to stand out. If the OP just feels not up to the work or is burned out from school or something, a better solution would be to defer for a year and take some time to go do something else, then return to school ready to take advantage of the experience. And it's not like the average honors college student isn't going to have plenty of time to enjoy all those other non-academic things, too.

Maybe it's just me, but I think going to college and doing the bare minimum is like throwing money and time down the drain. What's the point?
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Old 03-28-2011, 01:25 PM
 
Location: Central Austin
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UT is already a top 10 engineering school (top 5 in civil), so I've heard that being admitted to their honors program is a big deal. But I'll say that in retrospect, I wish I would have had more fun in high school, and I don't want to make the same mistake. Believe me when I say that I'm not some slacker trying to get away with as little work as possible, but I want the extra work that I put into my schooling to be worth more than its intrinsic value. I've heard that it's quite literally twice the homework load.
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Old 03-28-2011, 03:09 PM
 
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I'd still give it a shot -- can you transfer out of it if you can't handle it, or find that it's too draining? I've heard a lot of people say that college is easier than high school, so your high school experience won't necessarily mean that the high work level in college is unbearable. I worked VERY hard in college and in graduate school, yet still was able to have a lot of fun. Granted, I don't know what it's like in engineering, but the college environment is set up in such a different way than most high schools and as a result even if the work is tough and time-consuming you still have a great deal more control over it. You also don't spend as much time in class. Maybe it is twice the homework load of the regular college experience, but that doesn't mean you still won't have time to enjoy yourself and relax at college. I'd at least give it a chance before opting out. Or if you really need a break, do think about that gap year. It's pretty common in many countries. Go do something fun and exotic that you'll never easily be able to do later in life, then come back and finish up college when you're ready. (or if that's out of the question, do something really fun with your pre-college summer.)
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:30 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westerner92 View Post
UT is already a top 10 engineering school (top 5 in civil), so I've heard that being admitted to their honors program is a big deal. But I'll say that in retrospect, I wish I would have had more fun in high school, and I don't want to make the same mistake. Believe me when I say that I'm not some slacker trying to get away with as little work as possible, but I want the extra work that I put into my schooling to be worth more than its intrinsic value. I've heard that it's quite literally twice the homework load.
It is a big deal to get into UT in the first place, but it's also a challenge to stay in -- it's a tough school, and you are in a tough major. Lots of people move from engineering to another major... so if you don't want that to happen, I'd say the honors program will help. Why? Because it will force you to put a higher bar for yourself, at least initially. It will cause you to interact (study, etc) with others on that level, and as the saying goes -- "show me your friends and I'll show you your future".

I was not part of an honors program at UT.. so I was part of the "masses" in Electrical Engineering. Let me tell you, those first few semesters are NOT going to be fun -- that's when the tough work happens and the attrition is high. Having a higher level start would serve you well. Do not take more classes than recommended, even if you think you can pull a higher load. I don't think they make you do this in the honors program, but if they do that might be a negative to it.

Don't worry too much about having fun, because you still will even when you are working hard. Just don't let it get too crazy for the first few semesters; the second half of your degree (last 2 years), you'll be in much better shape to have a bit more fun and free time to enjoy yourself.

Anyway, my 2cents. Good luck and congratulations. It's good to be a Longhorn.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:45 PM
 
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Could depend on where you go. My school had it, but the only real benefit seemed to be smaller class sizes (went to a large public, so the normal classes in the non-honors classes could be big) and you had the opportunity to live in one of the nicer honors dorms.
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