General FAQ

This is the general FAQ page. We also maintain an advising FAQ page for current students.

**For students applying in Fall 2020: Can I apply to iCons if I am deferring entrance to Spring 2021?

Yes, you can apply to iCons if you are deferring to Spring 2021. The first class, ICONS 189H, is held in the Spring semester, so you will not be missing any required classes.

**For students applying in Fall 2020: How will iCons be different if working remotely?

Essentially, there will be no difference in iCons while working remotely. Students will still work on real-world problems, students will still be in interdisciplinary teams, projects will still be student-drive, and there will still be student reflection.

Who is eligible to apply to iCons?

The iCons program is open to first and second year students with science-intensive majors, such as those in the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Information and Computer Sciences, the School of Nursing, the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and the Bachelors Degree with Individual Concentration. Also, iCons is open to students who may not have a science major, but are on the pre-med track. If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact icons@cns.umass.edu.

When are iCons applications due?

The application period for iCons website typically runs from September 1 through the second Tuesday in October.

Is there a fee to apply or join iCons?

No, there is no fee to apply or join iCons.

How many students are accepted in each cohort?

iCons accepts 60 students each year, 30 students for the Renewable Energy track and 30 students for the Biomedicine/Biosystems track.

If I begin iCons as a sophomore, can I graduate in three years or will I need to stay an extra semester?

Completing iCons in three years can be done. You will need to take iCons 2 and iCons 3 at the same time. This requires early planning to make sure you have all the pre-requisites necessary for iCons 3. (Taking iCons 1 and iCons 2 at the same time is physically impossible, and taking iCons 3 and iCons 4 at the same time is not allowed.)

Can a student on an Exploratory Track in a STEM-related discipline apply?

Yes, you are eligible to apply.

Is there a penalty if I apply and am accepted and then I do not join?

No, there is no penalty. We will keep a waitlist of interested students.

What is the time slot for iCons 1?

  • Choose your courses assuming you do not get accepted. 
  • Try to leave the Tuesday/Thursday 11:30 -12:45 slot free so it is available if you do get into iCons. 
  • If you have to put a course in that slot, try to make it a course you can take later in your undergraduate career.

Will the iCons courses count for courses I already need to take?

This depends on your major. In all cases, iCons 1 counts as an Interdisciplinary General Education course. In almost all cases, iCons 2 fulfills the Junior Year Writing requirement. For participating majors, iCons 3 fulfills an upper-level elective. Finally, iCons 4 counts as the senior honors thesis (499 Y/T) required by the Commonwealth Honors College. Please refer to this chart to see requirements iCons courses fulfill in specific departments.

If I switch to a non-science or non-engineering major, can I stay in the iCons program?

It depends on whether your new major has sufficient technical content. Come meet with an iCons Director to determine if your new major fits well with the iCons program.

I want to study abroad. How does this fit into iCons?

Studying abroad will not interfere with iCons courses. The best solution is to study abroad in the fall of your Sophomore or Junior year. If that is not an option and you choose to study abroad during a Spring semester, you may take two iCons classes during one semester and not lose any momentum towards completion of the certificate.

Do I have to be in Commonwealth Honors College to be in iCons?

You do not need to be in CHC to be in iCons. However, all iCons courses have an H designation and fulfill credit toward the Honors program. Students who are accepted into the iCons program with a 3.4 GPA meet the acceptance requirements for CHC but still need to visit the CHC administrative office to officially enroll.

Are iCons students required to participate in internships?

No, but iCons students are strongly encouraged to complete at least one internship during their undergraduate careers - preferably two. The first to help you figure out what kind of organization you would like to work for, and the second to help you get your foot in the door of one that might lead you to a job after you graduate.

As iCons students, you are uniquely qualified for opportunities with organizations on the cutting edge of medicine and energy, including a growing number of companies that offer exclusive opportunities just for iCons students. To learn more about internship opportunities and resources, visit the iCons Student Success page.

How do you grade in teams?

We grade the product of the team and the collaborative process of the team. The product is a report, proposal, etc. and we grade for accuracy, quality of work, and does the product supply the required information for the audience intended. We grade the collaborative process based on peer and self-assessments.

How will iCons help me in my major?

The iCons program enhances whatever your major. The opportunity to work on real-world problems and to work with students from different majors with different points of view help you think about problems and coursework in a whole new way. A biologist may learn to think a bit more like a mathematician. A computer scientist can now see the viewpoint through a public health lens.

What is the workload/time commitment?

The time commitment is not different from any other honors-level course at UMass. The classes are part of your schedule and fill other class requirements, so you are not increasing your course-load in any way. Like in any class, your grade reflects the work you put in. There will be additional opportunities that will be voluntary, such as social events, additional research opportunities, and assisting the program.

Does iCons financially assist with research?

Yes, iCons can assist with research through our Research Fellows program.

Do iCons courses follow a format of midterms and finals or more based on papers and group projects?

There has never been a traditional exam in any iCons course, ever. Because the motivation for iCons courses comes from unsolved real-world problems, there are no textbooks, standardized content-based curricula, or “correct” answers like you may be used to seeing in science classes. The objectives of the program are to help students grow into their potential as leaders, applying their skills collaboratively toward assessing and solving those real-world problems. That definitely takes the form of projects, presentations, and delivering the outcomes of this creative work to people who can benefit from the advances in science and technology we make.

Is there a way to work on iCons group projects without being in iCons?

This has happened, in cases where an iCons student has individual collaborator(s) outside of the program. For example, a student working on a project in iCons 3 might reach out to people they know from their major or from other classes they have taken, if they need the expertise those peers offer in order to make progress on their project. However, there is no formal mechanism for this and you do not receive academic credits from iCons. If you want to partner with iCons students on their projects, you might want to look at the UMass iCons Innovation Portal to see the kinds of problems that they are working on and use the contact links therein to reach out to the students themselves to offer your participation.