As an honors student in high school, Amanda Fraticelli loved the atmosphere of being surrounded by top students, she said.
Fraticelli, of Toms River, said she was motivated by the way students challenged one another to do better academically. While some of her high school friends went to Ivy League universities and Fraticelli picked Rutgers University, the incoming freshman doesn’t expect that challenging atmosphere to change too much.
“I like knowing that everyone else (here) cares as much as I do,” Fraticelli said as she moved into her dorm room on Thursday.
In Fraticelli’s residence hall, some students might care even more.
Thursday marked the official opening of The Rutgers-New Brunswick Honors College, an $84.8 million, 170,000 square foot complex where the best and brightest of New Jersey’s state university will live alongside some school faculty and the academic dean.
All 530 honors college students, with an average SAT score more than 600 points higher than the state average, moved into the building that also houses the offices of their academic advisors and honors college administrators.
“It’s a transformational moment in terms of honors education here,” said Paul Gilmore, the honors college’s administrative dean. “It’s a way that we are making the state, the region, the nation aware of what an incredible resource Rutgers is.”
Rutgers is one of dozens of state universities nationwide investing in honors colleges as a way to compete with elite colleges to attract the state’s brightest students. The honors programs often offer upgraded housing, smaller classes and other perks to draw in top undergraduates.
In recent years, Rutgers has stepped up its efforts to recruit high-achieving students, starting a new scholarship program for applicants with top SAT scores and high school grade point averages. The efforts come as New Jersey remains one of the country’s largest exporters of college students — sending more freshmen to out-of-state colleges than most other states in the nation.
Rutgers has long had honors programs for students from certain campuses or schools. But the new honors college for the first time brings together the top students of all academic majors under one roof.
For some students, earning a spot in the honors college is simply a perk. They had planned to attend Rutgers anyway but like the idea of being surrounded by students with similar academic goals, they said.
For others, the honors college was a factor in deciding to attend the school.
Maya Vadell, who considered Drew and Temple, said she’s not sure if she would have picked Rutgers without the honors college.
“It probably would have been harder to decide,” Vadell, of Plainsboro, said.
The fact that the honors college is the newest residence hall on the College Avenue campus made the decision easier students said.
The double rooms come with the same amenities as other on-campus housing, plus carpeted floors and air conditioning. Some rooms at the end of the hall have a view of the Raritan River.
Unlike the large, group-style bathrooms in more traditional college dormitories, the honors college has smaller bathrooms throughout each floor.
On the ground floor, seminar rooms will host some of the first-year classes. An indoor-outdoor fireplace anchors a lounge and patio space.
Students have to pay slightly more to live in the honors college housing, which is only for freshmen, but they are also allowed to stay in their rooms over school breaks.
For parents, that fact that students will be living in a building with in-house academic advisors is a relief, they said.
“It gives us a better feel for how she is going to survive her first year,” said Fernando Fraticelli, Amanda’s father.
Administrators hope students not only survive but help make the honors college a showcase for the university, Gilmore said. Rutgers sees the program as a recruiting tool that will help attract the best student from New Jersey and beyond, he said.
SaraAnn Stanway, an Ocean Township High School graduate who scored a 2270 out of 2400 on the SAT, said she understood the honors college is beneficial both for the students and for Rutgers.
“It’s exciting that Rutgers made it for us, but what makes it ever better is that we get to make it for Rutgers,” Stanway said. “We have the opportunity to make the honors college prestigious and extraordinary, and I can’t wait to be part of it.”
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