Monday, October 22

UCLA Honors Programs need revision, standardization


Avni Nijhawan / Daily Bruin

UCLA Honors Programs

There are two paths in the UCLA Honors Program. One is based only on honors classes. The other includes a thesis paper or research project.

Coursework plan A
Initially, honors students are automatically placed in Plan A.

  • 26-44 units of honors coursework (number varies depending on cumulative units at the time of application to college honors)

Coursework plan B
Honors students must petition or meet with an honors contract to be placed in plan B.

  • Thesis paper or research project
  • 36 units of honors coursework (including classes taken to pursue the thesis paper or research project)

I’m an honors student, but I’m not sure I deserve the title.

When I entered the College Honors Program at the end of my third year, I figured I would need to do a lot of work to meet the 36-unit requirement before I could graduate with the distinction.

Amazingly, I found that many of the classes I had taken for my major had already counted for honors. And since I entered as a third-year, I got to take one fewer class than my underclassmen counterparts.

The honors program needs more standardization so that it is challenging yet accessible to everyone who is seriously interested. We need better regulations for which classes earn honors credit, uniform program admissions criteria and a simplification of honors requirements.

Students can currently earn honors recognition by taking a certain number of honors classes. After their third year, students can also complete a departmental thesis in addition to taking honors classes, though they typically take fewer than those who choose the first option.

Currently, there are two kinds of students in the honors department ““ those who are easily able to complete all the honors requirements because their major allows them to do so, and some who must plan very carefully to obtain the credit they need.

In fact, there are some majors such as biology that don’t offer any classes that count for honors. Students in these majors usually end up doing research to fulfill their honors requirement, said Jennifer Wilson, assistant vice provost for the honors program.

But, they should have at least a few options with their classes, too.

There are three different ways to admit students to the honors program based on their class standing and their time at UCLA. Incoming first-year students are admitted to the honors program on the basis of a 4.1 GPA and either an SAT score of at least 2080 or an ACT score of at least 31, or by graduating in the top 3 percent of their class.

Transfer students must have a 3.75 cumulative GPA, and continuing students need only a 3.5 GPA.

The basis for first-year admittance privileges those who had access to more Advanced Placement and honors classes in high school and those whose schools had a ranking system (not all schools rank their students), and seems more stringent than admittance for continuing students.

While students may theoretically join College Honors at any time, those who join earlier have the advantage of planning their classes better in order to fulfill the program’s requirements. The program has tried to make it easier for students who join later to fulfill the requirements by reducing the number of honors classes they need to take; however, this only lowers the program standards.

The drive to learn and a passion for exploring different subjects and doing research should be the basis for admission to the program and can be judged by students’ grades in honors classes taken at UCLA.

Additionally, the varying units and paths to obtain honors could be greatly simplified by such a system, in which there would be no difference between those students earning departmental honors and those who are not.

If students wish to be part of the program, they should enroll in honors classes (some of which should be outside their major), get As in them and then apply to the program at the end of their second year, or third year for transfer students.

Students should simply be required to complete a fixed number of honors units, perhaps about 40 for students who entered as first-year students and 30 for transfer students.

This would eliminate the need to look at high school or community college GPAs or SAT scores, which are useful in university admissions but irrelevant to the honors program.

Students should also be able to receive honors credit for a class that isn’t officially listed as honors but might be very challenging ““ even if the professor has not signed an honors contract.

In fact, the only advantage honors students have by officially enrolling in the program is that they can do honors contracts with certain professors who agree to meet with students on a weekly basis.

This gives students an additional one unit for the class and honors credit for the lecture, as long as they earn at least a B.

Students are told that the honors program is the highest achievement they can receive, and at graduation, these students wear the same type of cord on the shoulder as those graduating with the GPA-based Latin honors.

If the honors program is really the finest distinction given at UCLA, admissions ought to be fair, and coursework ought to be a demonstration of high academic achievement that is intentional rather than accidental.

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