Echols and Rodman. Everyone asks about these programs. To be frank, the Echols Program website has all the important information (the Rodman Program's page also has good info). There are five whole paragraphs answering the question "What does the Office of Admission look for to determine Echols selection?"
I won't restate what is so well presented there. Instead, I'll address a few of the questions and comments that inevitably come up from prospective students and their parents about the programs.
1. UVa does not have honors programs.
A lot of state universities have honors programs. These are often colleges within the universities that have separate curricula, faculty, and resources. We don't have any honors programs at UVa. The entire curriculum is challenging. We have scholars programs for students who are intensely interested in exploring the curriculum in a way that having area requirements (our words for core curriculum) wouldn't necessarily allow.
2. We consider every single Arts & Sciences applicant for Echols and every single engineering applicant for Rodman.
We keep Echols/Rodman in mind when reviewing every application. When we see an applicant we think is particularly strong, we'll put a note in the file. At the end of reading season, we'll go back through all the applications that had a note and make our selections. This avoids the possibility of us being inconsistent...being too selective with Echols/Rodman at at certain point in the reading season, for example.
3. You can't really "show interest" in being selected for Echols or Rodman.
As you can see by reading the Echols website, we look for a few different things when selecting scholars. Writing a letter about your desire to be selected isn't going to do the trick. The best way to show that you're Echols material is to have a stellar academic record, show intellectual curiosity and a willingness to go above and beyond presented subject matter in school.
4. You can't appeal the fact that you weren't selected, but you can try again next year.
This was a surprisingly common question from parents last year. Part of me wanted to point out that they should be extremely proud of their child for being admitted to the University, not fixating on why they did not get invited into the Echols program. If a student thinks they belong in Echols, they can apply towards the end of their first year to be included after that.
I'm sure there are more common questions. Feel free to post them in the comments and I'll try to address them.