As seniors review their college lists, they might find themselves caught between their desire for the intimate learning environment of a liberal arts college and the options and experiences available at a large university. One way to have the best of both worlds is through a university honors program. Many public and some private universities offer honors programs that provide great benefits, including preferential class registration, special honors classes, enhanced advising and enrichment programs.
Honors classes attract top professors who enjoy teaching bright, motivated students. In most programs, students are not required to take all honors courses, and often take one or two honors classes each semester along with their other classes. Honors classes are smaller and students can pursue a subject in more depth. Some programs require students to complete a senior project to receive an honors designation on their transcript.
Many schools offer separate honors housing. Having a residential community where students take their studies seriously can be especially important at schools that are known for a party atmosphere. Honors students are generally not required to live in honors housing, but it’s nice to have the option.
The University of Arizona and Arizona State University offer honors programs. These are such large universities, each with more than 30,000 students, that an honors program is a great way to create a sense of community and to be assured of having real contact with professors. Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College creates a living-learning community featuring classrooms, advising center, computer room and residence halls. Honors advisors help students find opportunities for research, internships and study abroad. Students who are interested need to apply both to ASU and the Barrett Honors College.
Some honors programs provide financial incentives. Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College offers a renewable scholarship of $5,000 to all first-year students, and provides grants to students who study abroad. The school offers more than 300 honors courses each year. Like many honors programs, Schreyers boasts of high placement rates to graduate and professional schools.
While many large public universities have honors programs, some states also offer the option of a separate honors college. St. Mary’s College of Maryland may sound like a religious institution, but it is the state’s honors college. With about 2,000 students, this liberal arts college offers a private school type of education, with small classes and lots of faculty interaction, at public school prices.
Private schools can also have honors programs. At Boston’s Northeastern University, students have access to separate honors sections of courses, as well as interdisciplinary honors seminars. They can live with other freshmen honors students, and enjoy excursions to the theater and symphony.
These are just a few examples of the many honors programs available at colleges and universities across the country. While a few require a separate application, most schools will invite applicants with top grades and test scores to join their honors programs. These programs can offer terrific benefits, but as always, it’s important to do your research and make sure the school is a good match.