Early action applicants to the University of Maryland, College Park, got their answers the end of January. Several positive outcomes were possible, but what do these outcomes mean?

Limited Enrollment Programs

Students who applied to a Limited Enrollment Program (LEP), like engineering, psychology, or computer science, may have been admitted to the university but not the LEP. If you’re told you’ve been accepted directly to Engineering or Computer Science or Business, then you got into an LEP. If you weren’t admitted to the LEP but were accepted to Maryland, you were offered a place in Letters & Sciences, and you can work toward a particular major from there.

Scholars and Honors

On top of general admission or admission to the very selective LEPs, some top-notch students may also get an invitation to participate in the Scholars Program or the Honors College. First, understand that being in Scholars or Honors does not affect your enrollment in an LEP. You can be a College Park Scholar or an Honors College student AND be enrolled in engineering, computer science, business, or any one of the 12 competitive programs that have limited space. Both Scholars and Honors are by invitation only; you are considered for these programs as they holistically review your application.

Scholars or Honors: What’s the Difference?

UMD isn’t clear about why some students get invited to Scholars, others to Honors. In fact, two students I worked with had similar profiles with nearly identical rigor, SAT scores, and GPAs. Both were admitted to the engineering LEP. One was invited to Scholars, the other to Honors. Not sure why. The determination is made during the holistic application review and does not require submission of standardized test scores. 

In an information session on Feb. 16, the Honors College staff tried hard to answer all the questions popping up in the chat box, an impossible task given that over 250 parents and students attended. 

Parent: Can you please explain the difference between Scholars and Honors? 

Staff: Scholars is another Living-Learning Program that students are considered for automatically when they apply by the November 1 application deadline (scholars.umd.edu). 

One presenter said that the Scholars Program was more oriented toward service, the Honors College more toward academics. After attending information sessions for both Scholars and Honors, I’d say that Scholars appears to have more of an emphasis on building a community within the much larger UMD community.  The Scholars Program runs for two years, Honors, two to four years. An Honors designation is more recognizable to those outside of UMD than Scholars. (I’m posting a separate article that delves into the specifics of Scholars.)

Important Dates for Honors College

If you want to secure a place in the Honors College, you need to submit the Honors preference form through your Terp Portal by Feb. 21. You should list FIVE Living-Learning Programs, in order of preference, that you would be happy to be placed in. You’ll find out which LLP you are admitted to by early March. All students who submit their preference form by Feb. 21 will receive equal consideration; there’s no first-come, first-served. Submitting the form does not obligate you to attend the University of Maryland.

Living-Learning Programs at the Honors College UMD

The Honors College hosts eight living-learning programs, each with its own clever acronym. You can find curriculum for each here:  https://www.honors.umd.edu/advice-newstudents.html

The LLP does not have to align with your major. Videos about each program can be found here: https://www.honors.umd.edu/livinglearning-prospstudents.html

ACES: Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students

DCC: Design, Cultures, & Creativity

GEMS: Gemstone

HGlo: Honors Global Communities

HoHum: Honors Humanities

ILS: Integrated Life Sciences

IBH: Interdisciplinary Business Honors

UH: University Honors

Most of the LLPs take two years to earn the honors certificate; Gemstone, however, is a four-year undergraduate research program. Though ACES attracts computer science majors and ILS appeals to biology majors, anyone invited to the Honors College with can join any living-learning program with any major. When I asked what an engineering major should join, the moderator chatted to me: “Whatever your student is interested in! Some students pursue an LLP that is related to their major, others pursue an LLP unrelated to their major. If your student is interested in the material covered in the LLP, it is the right program for them.” 

Parents had many questions about how AP and dual-enrollment credits would affect their child’s time in the Honors College, especially when the Gemstone program requires four years. If you are committed to four years but already have, say, enough credits for a year’s worth of college, then it’s likely that you’ll be able to double major, add a minor, or earn two degrees. [This is what happened when my daughter attended Elon University as a Fellow. She had to commit to four years in order to complete her research and get the scholarship. She ended up with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Bachelor of Science in accounting (which served her well in applying to law schools).]


You don’t get a scholarship for being in the Honors College or Scholars. Financial aid is determined separately. Financial aid decisions will be released around March 1, around the time that you’ll learn which LLP you’ve been invited to join.

Housing for Honors College Students

Honors College students have housing designated by LLP, but the dorms are spread out across Maryland’s 1,335-acre campus. Some of the dorms are older, but the HC recently added two new LEED-certified dorms for the University Honors LLP. Prince Frederick Hall, opened in 2014, houses ACES and DCC. Definitely find out more about the dorms you could be living in. Some UMD dorms still don’t have central air conditioning, and yes, it gets hot in Maryland. Each LLP has its own website where you can check on housing. Start here: https://www.honors.umd.edu/livinglearning-prospstudents.html


Why would an engineering major or someone on a pre-med track add to their courseload by 15 to 18 credits to get an honors certificate? It turns out that the credits earned through the Honors College within the LLP can be used to satisfy general education requirements and sometimes even requirements for a major. The presenters didn’t explain how that works out for someone coming in with AP or dual-enrollment credits that take care of a chunk of 100-level courses. Again, it’s important to go to the Honors College and check out the curriculum for each program; for example, here’s Interdisciplinary Business: https://ibh.umd.edu/.  Here’s what the presenters gave for checking on curriculum: https://www.honors.umd.edu/advice-newstudents.html

Students on the panel said they didn’t feel the curriculum posed a burden and that it enriched their studies. They found that generally they took one Honors course a semester.

Life at College Park

Student panelists said that they did not feel isolated from the rest of the College Park community, that they were able to fully participate. To me, it seems that the advantage of being in Honors or Scholars is that it makes a school of over 30,000 (40K with graduate students) much more manageable. You start out with smaller group of peers who have similar interests to yours, but you can still take advantage of all UMD, College Park, and the D.C. area have to offer.

Do Your Research

I encourage my students to really research the colleges where they’re applying, and the same goes for these special programs. Read. Poke around the websites. Reach out to the Honors College with your questions (honorsadmissions@umd.edu). Chat with current students. Just do your research. Fortunately, my students who were accepted to Scholars and Honors are good at that. 

The UMD Honors College will post the video chat within a few days: https://www.honors.umd.edu/honorsparents.html

Honors College at University of Maryland