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. We work with major departments to assist departmental advisors when they are working with Gemstone students. The Gemstone Program is dedicated to making sure students have a rich, intellectually stimulating and satisfying experience while they are at the University.

Can students graduate early?
Yes, that is possible, but students may only graduate one semester early.  The student is expected to assist the team with writing the thesis AND is required to be physically present at the Team 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 maybe be counted toward the University's General Education Requirements. Check Testudo for more information, and consult with your advisor.

What is the typical workload for a Gemstone student?
Typical? That really depends on the student and what he or she hopes to accomplish (double majoring, working, fraternity/sorority involvement, athletics, etc.), so, it is hard to say. The demands of extracurricular research are time consuming. Time management skills are crucial for students to manage the academic workload and extracurricular demands. Gemstone students are very busy; they learn time management skills early in their academic careers.

Can a student request a transfer to the University Honors Program, if after accepting the Gemstone invitation he/she decides Gemstone is not for him/her?
A student can request to transfer, but it is not guaranteed.  Students must be in good academic standing, and Honors must have space in the program to accommodate additional students.  If a student is considering dropping Gemstone, we encourage second semester freshmen to make this decision prior to joining a team, which happens in GEMS 102. See below for details about team formation.

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?
Teams start with 8-14 members. Ideally, teams are formed with around 10-12 members. 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 second semester sophomore year, or either semester junior year, and must be limited to one semester (year-long programs are not permitted). The semester before going abroad, students will work with their teammates and 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, but it can be combined with a summer and/or a winter term in order to extend the stay and 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.

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 7 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 freshman year, students take GEMS102, a course entirely devoted to the team selection process. In this class, all students first brainstorm and submit a variety of ideas. The Director and Associate Director then review the submitted ideas and accept the feasible projects, moving them into the second step. In the next phase, students get their project ideas “vetted” by an expert in the field to ensure that the project is realistic and possible. From this point, the topics brainstormed at the beginning are narrowed down through a preference voting process. Project sheet authors submit short commercials promoting their project and answer questions regarding their idea. Each student votes to narrow down the possibilities. At the end of the semester, students vote for the project on which they want to spend the next 3 years working. Students will then be placed on teams of 8-14 people according to these research preferences. All students within the program are placed on one of their top three project choices.

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 consult with your 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 in the sophomore year, you cannot change.  However, we provide resources and counseling for working with different personality types.  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.  You major isn’t connected to the Gemstone 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, make you should consult with your academic advisor and the Gemstone Associate Director to look at your program plan and ensure that you are able to get all of the necessary credits to meet General Education requirement, your major requirements and Gemstone requirements.

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