After representing UMBC at college fairs throughout the region and seeing the looks of excitement, confusion, and worry on high school students’ faces, I can tell you the number one question students and parents have about UMBC: “So, what does an honors university mean?!?” In short, being an honors university means that every UMBC student is offered an honors education. Of course that just leads to the next question, “how’s an honors education different from a non-honors education?” That’s where the longer answer comes in to play. So, here goes…
First, UMBC offers students the opportunity to conduct research. You may be thinking, “big deal — all institutions offer research, and who wants to do research anyway!” Though many insitutions do offer research opportunities to their undergraduate students, they are typically not offered until students’ junior or senior year. At UMBC, you can participate in research as soon as you feel ready and the topics students’ have conducted research on are about as diverse as our student population! Our own Vanessa recently researched Will Ferrell movies (Sorry Vanessa, I know the topic was a little more specific!). So, research can be more than working in a lab with goggles and a bunsen burner (though if that’s what you’re in to, go for it!). Students in the past have even travelled to far away places like India and Italy to conduct their research. Bottom line, UMBC fully supports students’ research, no matter the topic or field of study. You can even get money to do research and UMBC honors students’ research at the annual URCAD (Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day).
Though research opportunitites are a big part of what makes UMBC an Honor’s University, there’s definitely more to it! Since every student at UMBC is offered an honors education, the professors obviously play a part in the honors university. UMBC is considered mid-sized (approximately 9,000 undergraduate students) which means that we are big enough to offer top research opportunities, but small enough that students can easily access and build strong relationships with their professors. As an alum of UMBC, I can personally say that the professors here are amazing. They are challenging in the classroom, but are truly interested in the well-being of their students. They are definitely a large part of what gives UMBC the “small-knit community” feel.
In addition to the professors, the students themselves add to the “honors university in Maryland”. Students at UMBC are driven and highly motivated. They aren’t afraid to do their own thing and are excited about the unique learning opportunities available to them. Though classes can be tough, UMBC students tend to work together rather than against one another so that everyone can succeed. UMBC is also in the top 10% for diverse universities in the nation which is evident to anyone who walks around our campus. Students have different interests (there are 210 clubs and organizations on campus), religious beliefs, political views, and more.
Last, it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about UMBC without mentioning our president, Dr. Hrabowski. Dr. Hrabowski understands the value and importance of obtaining an extremely strong education — he received his Ph.D. when he was only 24!! Dr. Hrabowski is a great leader, and one that we are proud to call our own. He plays a big part in the UMBC community and continues to build UMBC into a truly unique university.
Well, I hope you are beginning to understand why UMBC is considered “an honors university in Maryland”. As you may have noticed, there really isn’t one set explanation, just like there isn’t only one type of experience available to UMBC students. If you were to talk to 100 students at graduation this Thursday about their experience at UMBC you would probably hear 100 different answers, which is pretty cool if you ask me! 🙂