Are you a high-scoring, top-of-your-class student? Perhaps you’ve earned a spot on the principal’s honor roll? First, let me congratulate you on these individual accomplishments; the personal characteristics and academic habits you have developed have laid a strong foundation for your future success.
Besides being able to reap the rewards of academic excellence, your high grades enable you to other advantages—some obvious, like scholarships; some not so obvious, like eligibility for your university’s honor curriculum.
But wait, what even is an honors college track? And what is the difference between honors colleges and honors programs?
What are honors in college?
Like in high school, honors curricula in college are distinguished from the standard curriculum due to intellectual rigor and/or higher workload. The academic and behavioral expectations are high; in return, students benefit from a focused, mutually engaged learning environment amongst like-minded peers.
In college, it is common to need qualifications or departmental eligibility in order to join an honors program. If you are interested in pursuing this path, researching your options can be key. In addition to a high GPA and rigorous course load, you will need to have strong test scores. Academic ambition and drive are important characteristics in all honors students, as well as the ability to thrive in a demanding environment.
If you’re curious about where honors curricula are available around the country, you can peruse this working list of programs and colleges in the United States. To find the right fit for you, consider what academic advantages and benefits are important to you, such as:
- Conversations with faculty
- Smaller classes
- Exclusive scholarships
- Dedicated housing (live and learn environment)
- Special academic opportunities
- Early class registration
- Or others—each program is a little different!
Honors structure: college or program?
According to one source, “[a]n honors college is usually a separate, stand-alone college within a larger university system — similar to a university’s school of business or college of education. Honors colleges usually have their own buildings and facilities, faculty and administration, and dorms.”
On the other hand, “[a]n honors ‘program’ isn’t a separate college unto itself, but a series of courses or seminars within a college or department.” So an honors college could be a standalone institution, while honors programs are offered by an umbrella institution. Though the terms may be used interchangeably, it’s a good idea to verify—and dig a little deeper into the honors program specifics, so you can decide for yourself.
For instance, when I studied at UC Berkeley as a student in the College of Letters and Science, I was able to enroll in a series of honors seminars in addition to my regular coursework. During my senior year, I researched and wrote a thesis project for my departments. Nonetheless, I lived, studied, and worked amongst the larger campus community. Though honors weren’t something I was actively aware of or searching for during my college applications journey, I’m glad I was able to participate in both worlds! I urge you to look into these programs now to take advantage of the best offers possible.
There are plenty of universities for you top students seeking a unique college experience through an honors program. Do your research to find the options you can benefit most from. Congratulations on your accomplishments so far; and keep up the good work!
If you need guidance during this (or any other) college-related decision process, consider consulting with an expert. Empowerly is here to help, and our students understand why our data-driven approach works. Book your consultation to learn more today.