So, you have heard great things about honors colleges and college honors programs. Now what? In this blog post, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata will guide you through various factors to help you figure out if one of these would be a good fit for you (or not).
What is an Honors College ?
Usually, an honors college is part of a larger school, such as a university system, but often has its own funding sources, residential buildings, and activities specifically designated for honors students to use, live in, and participate in. I tell my students that these big schools often want to offer honors students some of the warm and fuzzy feelings of a liberal arts college, which is dedicated to giving undergraduates more attention and care than a typical big research university would.
Some perks and requirements you may find within an honors college:
- Separate application guidelines, with distinct prompts and specific restrictions about who can write your letters of recommendation
- Small living communities with other honors students
- Social / networking opportunities with other honors students, faculty, or professionals
- Priority class registration
- Smaller class sizes
- Exclusive classes, events, and scholarship opportunities
- Mandatory thesis /capstone projects
- Access to internships or research opportunities designated for honors students
- Additional required coursework or assignments
Honors colleges vary widely. So, it is important to dig deep to understand if their philosophy of learning and living is a match for you if you were to be accepted.
Read more: Why It Is Important to Find Your “Best Fit” College
From an admissions standpoint, an honors college will have an admit rate much, much lower than the school in general. For example, sometimes students do not realize that applying to Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University is very selective because they are thinking of the overall admit rate to ASU, which is very generous (as of today at least). This means you will need to take this into account when building your college list – an honors college may very well be a “dream” or “reach” choice when the college at large may occupy a different category of risk.
You may also want to research honors colleges with a very clear view of how these programs intersect with your life goals inside the college and beyond college. Schreyer’s Honors College students at Pennsylvania State University can apply to an Early Assurance Program for Penn State’s medical school, which could be very attractive if you wish to become a doctor one day, for example.
What is a college’s Honors Program ?
These are programs often requiring students to meet a variety of standards, such as keeping a certain grade point average or completing specific courses within a major or department. This is more like an academic lane. Students may need to complete additional assignments and/or projects in order to graduate “with honors.”
One of my students was interested in the University of Washington, and I encouraged her to consider the honors program because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subjects and activities that she pursued in high school. She applied – and that program turned out to be one of her acceptances. She ultimately decided to attend the University of Washington because of the opportunities related to that specific program.
What should you think about before applying?
- Treat the application as an entirely separate entry on your college list, as in, it should “count” in your mind as a separate college, with its own category of risk.
- Research honors programs and colleges deeply before deciding to apply – don’t underestimate the work involved with applying to one of these. You might ultimately decide to apply to another college instead of applying to an honors option due to your overall workload in the application process.
- As wonderful as these might be, you might look at the requirements for being a student in an honors college or honors program and decide – hey, this is too restrictive for my needs!
We hope you learned more about honors options so that you are better prepared for your college research process. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Insight counselor. Cheers!
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This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.
Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.