Some prospective students are well aware of the Echols and Rodman Scholars Programs and ask about them along with all the other FAQs. Others don't hear about these two opportunities until they receive letters of invitation to join the programs. I thought I'd give some general information about the programs and about how we select scholars from our applicant pool.
Echols is that scholars program in the College of Arts & Sciences (CLAS). We aim to bring around 200-250 students into the program each year (there's no formal cap on the number). The major benefit of program gives a hint about what we look for in a potential Echols Scholar. Echols Scholars are free from the "area requirements" (called the core at other schools). The intent is to give them freedom to delve into the subject areas about which they're passionate. Other benefits for Echols Scholars include: special academic advising, special housing (with Rodman Scholars), and the option to complete the Echols interdisciplinary major. There are a few sources of scholarship money for Echols Scholars. There's plenty of more information on the Echols Scholars Program website.
Rodman is the scholars program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). SEAS is a smaller school and the Rodman program is a bit smaller than Echols as a result, with 30-40 new members each year. Rodman Scholars get pre-registered for their first year SEAS courses. They are supposed to get "the best" faculty and work at a fast, advanced pace in their classes. In addition, Rodman Seminars are classes that meet less frequently than traditional classes, are "pass-fail", and include scholars from all years. The topics aren't set and student input helps decide what is taught in these classes. Rodman Scholars also live in
special housing with Echols Scholars. More information can be found on the Rodman Scholars Program website.
First year applicants can't apply for Echols or Rodman. Every CLAS application is reviewed for Echols and every SEAS application is reviewed for Rodman. Student who don't receive the designation as first years may apply for their second year.
With Echols and Rodman being as selective as they are, academic excellence is obviously critical to becoming a scholar. Beyond that, though, is sort of an intangible: passion and love of learning. I find that when I review applications, that idea is conveyed little by little until at some point, I'm inspired to flag the application as a "possible scholar". That feeling can come from anywhere, but it often comes across in a combination of places: the essay, recommendations, and extracurricular activities.
At some point in our reading season, we start rereading all the applications that were flagged as possible scholars. Each folder gets at least two more reads by officers before a final decision is made.
There you have it! If you don't get an invitation into the program this year, remember that you can apply for it for your second year. Remember also that there are plenty of students at UVa who have a fantastic academic experience without being named an Echols or Rodman Scholar.