Honest Reflections: University Honors Program

Not everyone liked the program, but pretty much everyone thought the stole looked nice

To put it bluntly, there’s a reason that not too many people I met in the University Honors Program completed it for all four years — and it has more to do with the stupidity of its requirements than with actual difficulty.

That being said, I completed the requirements for all four years and, in addition to liking it overall, feel that UHP is one of the things that really shaped my college experience. I feel that UHP exposed me to a great community, allowed me to take small classes that were interesting, and gave me a reason to complete a third-year honors project, a senior design project, and a really random assignment for a first-year seminar. For different reasons, all three experiences ended up being meaningful to me.

Had it not been for some nice things I discovered outside of UHP, though, I could have just as easily said that UHP ruined a big chunk of college.

It’s been a year. I will do my best to give this a fair and honest reflection.

Disadvantage: The Lack of Advantages

One of the more interesting posts on our private Facebook group

To meet the requirements, I:

  • Took two four-unit classes and two seminars in my first year
  • Took two seminars, including a research seminar (a ton of people dropped out after the research seminar, which required us to make a video to advertise UHP), in my second year
  • Completed a three-unit project class in my third year. I also conversed with an international student, though this ended up being unnecessary (I call it a bonus)
  • Completed a senior design project
  • Maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.25 (because they hadn’t raised it yet, we were grandfathered from the higher requirement of 3.50)

I was going to draw a Venn diagram, but this is really simple: If you were a Regents Scholar, then you were automatically made a part of UHP when you entered the university. Not everyone in UHP was a Regents Scholar, but every Regents Scholar was placed in UHP.

If UHP was the demanding parent, then the Regents Scholarship was the cool, fun-loving aunt who provided all the money and fun outings without much of the work. In other words, there wasn’t a very compelling reason to stay.

If you think that my recommendation was to make it harder to maintain a Regents Scholarship, you can leave. I think that there are plenty of fun, interesting things UHP could have done to make itself more appealing. For example, they could have:

  • Held exclusive UHP parties every quarter in a not-so-secret Davis location
  • Had UC-wide honors conferences every year with themed T-shirts and open bars
  • Commissioned frequent UHP events that took people to the Corn Maze, Bodega Bay, and other locations throughout California
  • Had an awesome UHP president who gave hundreds of people a workshop on Tinder

If they did any of these things, I’m pretty sure everyone would have said UHP was awesome.

Advantage: The People

A random bike ride to In-N-Out, all with people from the dorm/University Honors Program

Everyone stuck it out on the first year. Part of the reason is that we kind of had to, but I think there’s something to be said about that. In my first year of college, something about this program worked.

There were about 120 of us. We all lived in the same dorm, by design. There was another honors group called DHC (we were later combined) that lived somewhere else, but 120 was a really good number and the program gave us something to talk about. Though I missed it for a dragon boat race, someone in our dorm got everyone together for a rock-climbing event before the first day of college. We had a banquet that was UHP and gave students two units to plan it.

We got to experience all of the things that come with dorm life, like…I don’t know…accidentally locking your key card in your room. What made it unique is that we had something in common, and it brought people of vastly different (albeit mostly science) majors, and backgrounds, together.

Studying until 3AM was a thing, but I don’t think this was unique or anything.

Advantage: Some of the Classes

Some of the small classes that we took were excellent…

…if you’re like me, and found yourself wanting to take as many humanities classes as possible while still graduating on time. I heard that most of the science classes were okay, though the coffee one exploded after they prototyped it on us.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about what these classes were like. The Examined Life was interesting, I suppose, and so unconventional that it may be worth its own post. My favorite was Film Noir, which somehow managed to cover more philosophical ground than a class that was all about philosophy.

Disadvantage/Advantage (?): It Became More about Presentation

I think this video is awesome. I know one of the people who worked on it, I was in the class that commissioned it, and it still blew us all away because we weren’t expecting something of this quality.

Point of clarification: I graduated IN honors, not WITH honors. On a scale from 1 to 10, my final GPA was okay.

…but here, I think, is an interesting point. Watching the video felt a lot more awesome than actually taking some of the honors classes. I could go on a pseudo-philosophical tangent about advertisement and appearance, but that’s not really what I’m trying to convey. At some point, I felt that the work we were doing was more to make the program look good than to actually benefit the students, overall.

I don’t fault this video. I think the team that made this (and the professional group they hired) did an amazing job, and they fulfilled their role perfectly. As far as the advisors, I liked at least one of them a lot.

Some of the advisors I met legitimately didn’t know what the requirements were, or they provided information that was legitimately wrong.

But I don’t know. That’s just my opinion.

Closing Thoughts

I was really, REALLY happy to get that stole. Maybe this whole post was actually just me trying to justify being happy about it. I don’t know.

Before we started college, they made everyone in the program read two books that would become relevant for a class I ended up not taking. I had a pretty bad case of Imposter Syndrome when I entered the dorm, but a lot of people didn’t read the first book and tried to find it on SparkNotes (it wasn’t there). At that point, I thought maybe I would fit in just fine.

The second book was called The Overachievers. It was about hard-working students in our generation, and its writing style and research methodology definitely didn’t annoy anyone in the program or trigger an extremely long discussion on our Facebook page.

I liked it to an extent. I thought they were oversimplifying certain things, but what I think they captured well was how we tried to fit our lives into boxes, and stereotypes, and narratives. Sometimes as I went through college, I felt the paranoid feeling that I was participating in some sort of invisible, unspoken case study.

Would I be the one who succeeded, or cracked? Would my academic failure, or success, just become another story? Even if I ended up as an example of something good, I didn’t just want to be reduced to that.

I met people in UHP whom I never would have met in other circumstances — after all, most of them weren’t in my major. I met them in an environment where we explored different subjects, and we had a way to relate to one another, and what we liked and didn’t like about UHP gave us common ground.

That alone is worth something, I think.

If I had a third bag, we could have called it Common Ground.