Gemstone Honors Program
Gemstone students

Frequently Asked Questions

Will being a Gemstone student allow me to graduate in 4 years?
Students can and usually do graduate in 4 years but it depends on the student's personal choices. Some students may take longer to graduate because they spent time studying abroad, interning or working in a co-op position. We support our students' academic aspirations and will work with major departments to assist departmental advisors when they are working with Gemstone students. The Gemstone Honors Program is dedicated to making sure students have a rich, intellectually stimulating and satisfying experience while they are at UMD.

Can students graduate early?
Yes, that is possible, but most students will graduate a semester early. The student is expected to assist the team with writing the thesis AND is required to be physically present at the Thesis Conference in the spring of their fourth year. Students can reference our Academic Procedures to get more details about graduating early.

Do students have to take additional credits to earn a Gemstone Citation?
Yes, Gemstone requires that students take a total of 18 additional credits over 4 years. These credits are taken in addition to what is required for the student's major. Eleven of the 18 credits are the per semester credts that students earn for doing research  in their teams. See Curriculum for more details. Some Gemstone courses also count towards the University's General Education Requirements. Check Testudo for more information, and consult with your academic advisor in your home college or Gemstone’s Coordinator for Student Engagement.

What is the typical workload for a Gemstone student?
That really depends on the student what they hope to accomplish so it is hard to say. While the research process does take a lot of extra time, most students would agree that time management skills are immensely helpful in juggling multiple responsibilities and commitments in addition to coursework. Many of our students will double major or add a minor, hold leadership positions in extracurricular activities, conduct research outside of Gemstone, participate on club sports teams, and more. Gemstone students are very busy; they learn time management skills early in their academic careers.

Will students earn scholarship money because they are a Gemstone student?
There are no special scholarships offered simply because a student accepts the Gemstone invitation. If you have questions regarding scholarships, visit the Office of Financial Aid's Scholarships page.

Do Gemstone students have to live on campus?
We do not have mandatory housing. We have priority housing in Ellicott Hall for Gemstone freshmen, but students have to let the Housing office in Resident Life know their intentions. Students receive information about Housing options from Resident Life.

Can Gemstone students double major?
Sure, Gemstone students are ambitious and talented, so many students double major. Students will need to work closely with their major department(s) to familiarize themselves with degree curriculum requirements. Students may need to take many credits, but it is possible to earn two degrees or double major (there is a difference; one is not equivalent to the other). The Undergraduate Catalog will provide you with details on the University's distinction.

How big are teams?
Team sizes are largely dependent on the size of each Gemstone cohort. Generally, most teams will start with 6-12 students, although some may be smaller or larger. Please view the list of teams to get an idea of the size for each class.

Can Gemstone students study abroad?
Yes! Gemstone students are encouraged to study abroad as long as they adhere to a few required guidelines. Study abroad must take place in the second semester sophomore year, or either semester junior year, and must be limited to one semester (year-long programs are typically not permitted). The semester before going abroad, students will work with their teammates and faculty mentor to create a contract outlining what they will accomplish for the team while abroad. Students will also be responsible for staying up to date on and contributing to the team's progress. Though only one semester away is permitted, it can be combined with a summer and/or a winter term in order to extend the stay. Students are welcome to study abroad as often as they’d like during the summer and winter terms. View the Academic Procedures page for more information about studying abroad. Students are encouraged to visit the Education Abroad website for the most updated information regarding travel restrictions and limitations.

Once a student has been accepted into the University, do they now have to fill out a separate application for Gemstone?
No. Gemstone students are selected from those applicants who have been offered a place in the Honors College. The process requires that these new Honors College students indicate their preference about which of the five programs they prefer on the Honors College website.  Later in the spring semester, students who have been selected for Gemstone will be notified.

How does the Gemstone Program compare to the other Honors College living-learning programs?
To learn more about the differences between the 6 programs within the Honors College, please visit the Honors College website for a comparison.

What are some recent Gemstone team projects?
Team websites can be found on the Team Research page. Projects span the education, political, and laboratory science fields, to name a few. Most project ideas are entirely student-generated, and therefore the possibilities for future projects are limitless.

How does the Gemstone team selection process work?
The second semester of the first-year, students take GEMS102, a course entirely devoted to the team formation and selection process. In this class, all students are able to brainstorm and submit a variety of research ideas via a project sheet. Students may submit multiple project sheets. The Gemstone staff review the submitted project sheets to ensure that they are feasible. From this point, the topics are narrowed down through a preference voting process by the students in the first-year cohort. Project sheet authors submit short commercials/advertisements promoting their project and answer questions regarding their idea. The research topics are narrowed down to typically 10-12 total teams. Students will then be placed on teams based on their engagement throughout the course, voting preferences, and research preferences. Students are only placed on teams that align with what they have submitted in their final voting form. Teams are typically formed the week after spring break.

Do the courses I have to take for Gemstone satisfy any of the General Education requirements?
Yes, they do! For more information, check Testudo and our Timeline for Team Success to view which Gemstone courses count towards General Education. It is also a good idea to double check with your academic advisor.

Do I have to take the required Gemstone courses at specific times?
Yes, you do. The Gemstone curriculum has a specific structure and the required classes must be taken in their designated semester. For more information on what you’ll take when, and how this will fit into your schedule, see Four Years At-A-Glance.

What if I don’t like one of my team members? Can I change teams?
Once the teams are formed and you are placed on a team, you cannot change teams. However, we provide resources and help students on teams navigate the intricacies of team dynamics and any team challenges that may occur. Though there can be some team conflicts, it is a valuable learning experience, and all of our teams successfully work through these challenges.

Do I get to pick what project I work on and who I work with?
Yes. The team selection process occurs during GEMS102. For more information about how the process works, see above.

Can I change my major if I am a Gemstone student?
Absolutely. Your major is not connected to your involvement in the Gemstone Honors Program, and many students find once they arrive on campus that they want to do something else. However, if you do decide to change your major, you should consult with your academic advisor and the Gemstone Coordinator for Student Engagement to look at your program plan and ensure that you are able to get all of the necessary credits to meet General Education requirements, your major requirements and Gemstone requirements.

Can I register for HONR seminars?
Access to HONR seminars is limited by living-learning program membership, matriculation year, and progress towards the Honors Citation:

Matriculation Year Completed Citation? Access to HONR Access Ends
2016-17 N 1 per semester Spring 2020
2017-18 N 1 per semester Spring 2020
2018-19 N 1 per semester Spring 2020
2019-20 N No N/A
2020-21 N No N/A

If you have any questions not answered here, please email gems@umd.edu.