I have to admit that one of the biggest selling points for me in choosing UVa was that I was chosen as an Echols Scholar. For those unaware, Echols is an Honors Program in the College. Its brother program in the Engineering School is the called Rodman Scholars. Due to some interesting moves on the part of the administration, some of the Echols' privileges have changed, and so it really is worth pondering if the program still has its once admired beauty or if it's rather fallen into the gutter.Well, let's go ahead and get the obvious out of the way. The Echols Scholars program is just that--a scholars program not a scholarship program. There is no money or grant inherently tied to the title, but that's hardly a change. After all, being an Honors student here at Mr. Jefferson's University is supposed to make up for it. Let's see how it tallies up.
Priority Registration Within One's Own Class
The part in italics is the new change. It used to be that Fourth Year Echols Scholars enrolled for classes, then Third, Second, and First Year Echols, and then Fourth Year, Third, Second, and First years registered for classes. Thus, an entering First Year Echols signed up for classes before Fourth Year students who were not Echols. Now, Echols sign up for classes first within their own class. Alright, I have to be honest here. I think that that is a poorly thought out and an altogether abysmal change. I took a 300 level class my first year. What good does registering within my own class do when I want to take higher level courses? The entire point of the program is course freedom, which totally flies out the window when three quarters of the school has signed up before you. It's a bad idea. Now, if they wanted to let Fourth Year Echols, Fourth Years, and then the rest of the Scholars, I would find that agreeable, but as it stands, I think it's an atrocious idea that really takes a lot of power away from the program. The saving grace is that if you are Echols and you go talk to a professor, chances are they'll try to bump you (via course action forms) into the class.
No Area Requirements
HAHA! This is truly spectacular. Hands down, this feature is the glowing selling point now, the absolute beacon of the program. You want to come to the University as a Scholar and bury yourself so deep into math that you don't know where Bryan Hall is? Fine. You are not required to take English. Hate French? Don't take it. You have no language, history, math, science--no required courses at all. Move about as you wish. It's glorious. Now, most Scholars do end up filling the requirements anyway (whether through AP credit or exploring different class types), but the beauty is that they don't have to. That privilege alone gives Echols 3,000 cool points.
Living With Other Echols, Rodman, and Jefferson Scholars
I never expected this to be a real endorsement, but I was wrong. I say it again, despite expecting the lack of area requirements to be the best part of the program, the people involved made the experience. I know it sounds corny, and I can't really explain it well, but I'll try. The intensity, the intellectualism, the sheer energy from being in an Honors dorm is incredible. The people provoke and stimulate each other's minds and become smarter, more analytical, and
over all much better for it. I still remember talks in the common room lasting for hours, and the excitement was palpable. Ideas sparked and really, it's that thrill that makes me miss the community of First Year Honors student living.
(This is where I lived First Year. Photo courtesy of Steve Norum. By the way, the picture at the very top of the article is a panorama I took of the inside of one of the suites, complete with large windows, furniture, Scholars, and as many video game systems as you can name on the floor.)
Well, that's really up to you. If you want a free ride, try the Jefferson Scholars program because that has a full ride. Echols is mostly academic privileges. If you're after a different kind of package--one that includes crazy dorm stories, academic bonuses, and the dynamic features of a public university like Virginia--I'd definitely keep UVa on your shortlist. For me, I made the decision two years ago, and I don't regret it a single bit. The gyms, athletics, clubs, classes, professors, people; they're all too important and wonderful for me to want to give up just so that I can say I'm in a scholarship program rather than a scholars.
This is my current common room window and that is definitely not a pizza box, newspaper, chips bag, or plush sperm cell doll in the spider web decorations one would find around Halloween.
There are also zero Mike and Ike containers in the web.