Why Echols?


Because of their deep curiosity and intrinsic motivation, Echols Scholars enjoy flexibility in their academic requirements in order to pursue their individual scholarly interests. Echols Scholars are granted an exemption from the General Education requirements within the College of Arts & Sciences. While the majority of Echols Scholars will end up satisfying the General Education requirements by pursuing their wide-ranging interests, this flexibility enables them to explore new academic subjects and to take higher-level courses in their areas of interest from the outset of their time at UVA.

While Echols Scholars are exempt from the College General Education requirements, they must still fulfill the prerequisites and course requirements for their major, as well as the credit requirements for graduation from the College (120 credits, including 102 credits in the College). Completion of prerequisite courses is required for admission to programs outside the College of Arts and Sciences (such as the McIntire School of Commerce or Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy), and therefore Scholars seeking admission to these programs are encouraged to understand these requirements in constructing an academic plan.


Echols Scholars often have good ideas of their own for course choice each semester and for the long-range coherence of their program of study. Nevertheless, University faculty understand that freedom can be daunting to students coming directly from secondary schools, where so much is planned and scheduled for students.

First-year Echols Scholars first meet their faculty advisor during the first week of classes at the end of August. After that, advising occurs in November and April during the pre-registration process for the spring and fall terms, respectively. However, advisors all hold regular office hours during the semester and encourage Scholars to stop by even if there is no immediate reason to see a professor. It’s not uncommon for Echols Scholars to see their advisor regularly throughout the semester. If the advisor can’t answer a question, he or she can refer the Scholar to a colleague who can.

The assigned faculty advisor is not the only resource for information, although he or she is a crucial one. The Association Dean for Echols Scholars, currently Dr. Sarah Cole, holds daily office hours to attend to student questions. Individual course professors and Directors of Undergraduate Programs within the various Departments, Interdisciplinary Majors, and Distinguished Major Programs are also useful sources of knowledge. Additionally, the Echols Council hosts a student-to-student mentoring program for incoming first-year Echols Scholars. The mission of the Echols Peer Mentoring program is to provide first year scholars with a wide range of insights from older peers to help them quickly adjust to college life and excel at the University of Virginia. 


Along with a handful of other student groups, Echols Scholars are able to enroll in courses during the earliest times available to their class year. Priority enrollment is designed to help Echols Scholars to pursue their individual scholarly interests and explore new subject areas. Although priority enrollment does not guarantee that Echols Scholars will be able to enroll in all their chosen courses, it increases their chances of getting into highly popular courses and small advanced courses sought by many Scholars.

For additional information on course selection and registration policies see [http://college.as.virginia.edu/course-selection].


The "common living environment" has been a pillar of the Echols Program since its inception in 1960. The first-year living-learning community enables Echols Scholars to interact and learn from each other in an informal setting where curiosity, exploration, and scholarship are woven into daily life.  The Echols Scholars Program supports supplementary events and activities within the dorm, including special lectures from professors, career workshops, mindfulness activities, and creative study breaks. 

Echols Scholars are currently housed in the Balz-Dobie residence hall on Alderman Road during their first year. Echols Scholars are housed with Rodman Scholars (the honors program of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) and College Science Scholars, creating a unique residential experience.

Echols Scholars are not required to live in the First-Year Scholars’ community, but we encourage them to select this option on the first-year housing application. We believe that the common living experience offers students the chance to broaden their intellectual horizons by immersing themselves in an environment with avid learners with diverse backgrounds and interests.

Since making roommate requests with friends who are not eligible for housing in the Scholars residence cannot be honored, students interested in living in the Echols residence are discouraged from doing so. Requests for consideration of special needs or extenuating circumstances should be directed to the Office of Housing & Residence Life


Since the Echols Scholars Program is founded upon the principle of academic motivation and intellectual creativity, students in the program have the opportunity to define a course of study that will permit attainment of academic and career goals that fall outside existing majors or interdisciplinary programs within the college.

The principle underlying the Echols Interdisciplinary Major is that no existing major, or combination of majors, fully satisfies a student’s broader interests.  Students declaring the Echols Interdisciplinary Major do so with the provision that it will be their sole major.

Detailed information on the Echols Interdisciplinary Major, its requirements, and the process for declaring the major can be found on the Echols Interdisciplinary Major page.