Ucla Honors Program Essay

I’m an honors student, but I’m not sure I deserve the title.

When I entered the College Honors Program at the end of my third year, I figured I would need to do a lot of work to meet the 36-unit requirement before I could graduate with the distinction.

Amazingly, I found that many of the classes I had taken for my major had already counted for honors. And since I entered as a third-year, I got to take one fewer class than my underclassmen counterparts.

The honors program needs more standardization so that it is challenging yet accessible to everyone who is seriously interested. We need better regulations for which classes earn honors credit, uniform program admissions criteria and a simplification of honors requirements.

Students can currently earn honors recognition by taking a certain number of honors classes. After their third year, students can also complete a departmental thesis in addition to taking honors classes, though they typically take fewer than those who choose the first option.

Currently, there are two kinds of students in the honors department ““ those who are easily able to complete all the honors requirements because their major allows them to do so, and some who must plan very carefully to obtain the credit they need.

In fact, there are some majors such as biology that don’t offer any classes that count for honors. Students in these majors usually end up doing research to fulfill their honors requirement, said Jennifer Wilson, assistant vice provost for the honors program.

But, they should have at least a few options with their classes, too.

There are three different ways to admit students to the honors program based on their class standing and their time at UCLA. Incoming first-year students are admitted to the honors program on the basis of a 4.1 GPA and either an SAT score of at least 2080 or an ACT score of at least 31, or by graduating in the top 3 percent of their class.

Transfer students must have a 3.75 cumulative GPA, and continuing students need only a 3.5 GPA.

The basis for first-year admittance privileges those who had access to more Advanced Placement and honors classes in high school and those whose schools had a ranking system (not all schools rank their students), and seems more stringent than admittance for continuing students.

While students may theoretically join College Honors at any time, those who join earlier have the advantage of planning their classes better in order to fulfill the program’s requirements. The program has tried to make it easier for students who join later to fulfill the requirements by reducing the number of honors classes they need to take; however, this only lowers the program standards.

The drive to learn and a passion for exploring different subjects and doing research should be the basis for admission to the program and can be judged by students’ grades in honors classes taken at UCLA.

Additionally, the varying units and paths to obtain honors could be greatly simplified by such a system, in which there would be no difference between those students earning departmental honors and those who are not.

If students wish to be part of the program, they should enroll in honors classes (some of which should be outside their major), get As in them and then apply to the program at the end of their second year, or third year for transfer students.

Students should simply be required to complete a fixed number of honors units, perhaps about 40 for students who entered as first-year students and 30 for transfer students.

This would eliminate the need to look at high school or community college GPAs or SAT scores, which are useful in university admissions but irrelevant to the honors program.

Students should also be able to receive honors credit for a class that isn’t officially listed as honors but might be very challenging ““ even if the professor has not signed an honors contract.

In fact, the only advantage honors students have by officially enrolling in the program is that they can do honors contracts with certain professors who agree to meet with students on a weekly basis.

This gives students an additional one unit for the class and honors credit for the lecture, as long as they earn at least a B.

Students are told that the honors program is the highest achievement they can receive, and at graduation, these students wear the same type of cord on the shoulder as those graduating with the GPA-based Latin honors.

If the honors program is really the finest distinction given at UCLA, admissions ought to be fair, and coursework ought to be a demonstration of high academic achievement that is intentional rather than accidental.

Freshman Admission - 2017-18

Guide for Freshman Applicants

This page provides admission selection information for freshman applicants. Refer to Applying for Admission for information about how to obtain an application and application filing deadlines.

Each year UCLA admits an extraordinary group of students. We have carefully designed our review process to ensure fairness and expand opportunity. We perform a holistic review of all applicants to UCLA in which all of your achievements, both academic and non-academic, are considered in the context of the opportunities you have had and how fully you have taken advantage of those opportunities. No single attribute or characteristic guarantees admission. Since admission to UCLA is highly selective, it is crucial that freshman applicants present complete pictures of themselves, their educational histories and their personal perspectives by thoroughly and carefully completing the application.

How UCLA Selects Its Freshman Class

We consider the following academic elements:

  • Academic grade point average (GPA), calculated using 10th and 11th grade UC–approved courses only
  • Performance on standardized tests: the ACT Assessment Plus Writing or the SAT
    Note: if you take the new SAT exam (March, 2016 and later) you must complete the essay section for UCLA to recognize the exam.
  • Quality, quantity, and level of course work taken throughout your entire high school program (including the strength of your senior year program), especially course work completed beyond the minimum "a–g" courses to meet the University of California admission requirements
  • The strength of the program taken within the context of the high school you attended
  • A progressively challenging academic program, including the number of and performance in college preparatory, honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and transferable college courses; passing scores on AP or IB exams; mastery of academic subjects as demonstrated by high grades and exam results; and presence of summer session/inter-session courses that enhance academic progress.
  • California high school students—Identification by the University of California as ranked in the top 9% of your school and/or ranked in the top 9% or high school graduates statewide
  • Sustained participation in activities that develop academic and intellectual abilities and honors and/or awards in recognition of academic, intellectual, or creative achievement

UCLA Undergraduate Admission reviews all applicants for admission. Freshman applicants to the UCLA College of Letters and Science are reviewed without regard for major. Therefore, no Letters and Science major (including Undeclared) is more or less selective than any other. Representatives from all other schools—the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science; the School of the Arts and Architecture; the Herb Alpert School of Music; the School of Nursing; and the School of Theater, Film and Television—further review their respective applicants and admit students by major. The portfolio/audition is the primary consideration in the review of applicants to the School of the Arts and Architecture; the Herb Alpert School of Music; and the School of Theater, Film and Television. Applicants to the School of Nursing must submit a supplemental application.


The Personal Insight Questions

The personal insight question portion of the application allows you to provide information that will give us more insight about you during the review process. Your answers to the personal insight questions should add clarity, richness, and meaning to the information in the other parts of your application. You should respond to four of the eight questions and share with us the accomplishments, perspectives, experiences, and talents that are important to you. The answers to the questions should reflect your own personal perspectives and should complement, not repeat, the information included elsewhere in your application.

The personal insight questions...

  • Offers us an understanding of you as a unique individual within the context of your family, school, community, and the world
  • Provides us with information that may not be evident in other parts of your application
  • Is a forum for you to explain how factors outside of your school environment have enhanced or impeded your ability to maximize available academic and intellectual opportunities

We use these elements from the application to increase our understanding of you as a whole person. We consider the following:

  • Your likely contribution to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus
  • Your personal background and experience
  • Extensive leadership and initiative in school and/or community organizations and activities
  • Exceptional achievements, such as recognition for special talents or extracurricular activities
  • Employment or personal responsibilities
  • Overcoming life challenges relating to personal or family situations, social or economic difficulties, lack of educational opportunities, or challenges particular to the urban or rural environment, including foster care if relevant
  • How military service has been instrumental in the developing of your educational plans

For Additional Information

Please refer to University of California Admission Requirements for information the subject, test score and scholarship requirements.

Refer to the Applying for Admission for information about how to obtain an application and application filing deadlines.

Refer to Majors and Minors for a complete listing of undergraduate majors.

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