By KRISTY JU
At the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, 73 freshmen were members of the new University of Mary Washington honors program, but only 58 remained this spring because 15 students failed to meet the minimum 3.2 GPA requirement.
Currently, only freshmen are members of the program, since this is the first year the program has been implemented.
Honors programs requirements include seven honors designated courses, eight Honors co-curricular activities, a sponsored service project and an honors freshman seminar (FSEM).
Kelli Slunt, director of the honors program explained that students who are retroactively admitted might not be able to fulfill all the requirements in a reduced timeframe.
The University hopes to enroll approximately 50 students per class in the honors program, according to Slunt.
Slunt said that over 100 current freshmen that earned a GPA over 3.2 during their first semester at UMW were invited to apply for the honors program.
Applications were due March 1 and required a short essay component and letter of recommendation from a faculty member.
Slunt initially said to keep the size of the program relatively small, “probably fewer than 10 students” would be admitted during the course of this semester. However, 15 freshmen were sent acceptance letters after this past Spring Break.
Acceptance into the honors program allows students certain privileges, including priority registration and a minimum of $1,000 in research grants, funded from the Dean’s budget.
Some students believe that these privileges are unfair or excessive.
“It’s fair for them to be given certain perks, but registering that early is outrageous,” said freshman Ray Celeste Tanner.
Members of the honors program maintain that the early registration enables them to meet the requirements of the program, and that the research grants allow them to hold a competitive edge.
“With few honors classes available each semester, early registration allows us to fulfill our Honors requirements and balance our schedules,” said freshman honors student Rachel Thomas.
“Currently, medical schools are focusing more on undergraduate research experience when considering applications,” said Thomas. “As a pre-med student, the research grant enables me to build a broad research background.”
All newly accepted students must fulfill all honors requirements, excluding the honors FSEM, which will be replaced with another honors designated course.
The committee that designed the UMW honors program, made up of faculty and staff members, decided not to establish retroactive admission because it is intended to be a complete, four-year experience.
In contrast, the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Honors College allows students to be retroactively admitted.
According to the VCU Honors College website, upperclassmen admitted to the program only have to fulfill 18 honors credits, as opposed to 24 for freshmen, in order to graduate with university honors.
Slunt describes VCU’s admissions as “very fluid,” but not suitable to meet the goals of UMW’s program.