Is Honors the right fit for me?
The Honors Program, for all its extra credit hours and added rigor, has some students questioning whether it’s really necessary for achieving their goals.
To earn an Honors Degree — or, even more rigorously, an Honors Degree with Distinction, for which students complete an Honors thesis or project — students dedicate themselves to more challenging coursework and material.
Honors students must maintain a 3.4 GPA, in addition to at least 12 Honors credits in one’s major, 12 Honors credits in 300-level courses and three credits of an Honors senior experience, like a seminar or a Capstone course.
This may seem like a waste of time, but the Honors Program is more than a special degree, or an extra cord around your neck at graduation. It is about the experience it offers students who are truly interested in learning and want to be academically challenged in their courses.
The Honors Program consists of approximately 12 to 15 percent of students in each incoming class. The program places its first-year students in two smaller, separate classes — ENGL 110 and colloquium — to create a stimulating academic experience.
Delice Williams, an assistant professor in the department of English, oversees an Honors ENGL 110 course.
“I tend to design assignments that are a bit more demanding and complex than I would put in some of my other classes,” Williams says, regarding her Honors classes.
“Honors classes are not just harder. Students who want or expect to be part of Honors classes should expect that there would be more students who are as motivated as they are,” Williams says. “So, I think that is the qualitative difference — that you have a greater percentage of students who are driven and focused and ready to work and excited about ideas.”
“It’s not just ‘here let me give you more work’ because that’s just not interesting,” Williams says.
The smaller nature of these classes can create a more focused and enjoyable learning environment. One of the objectives of a closer learning space, according to Williams, is to “encourage a different kind of focus and thinking.”
“Because you have fewer people in a conversation, you have more opportunity to dive deeper in the conversation,” Williams says. “It is a huge benefit students should seek out whenever they can.”
This different kind of class setting may advance students’ understandings of the material they are learning, which, in turn, creates a strong foundation for other classes.
The Honors Program also offers their students opportunities to gain a closer relationship with professors. For instance, the Munson study breaks held at Redding Hall, the first-year Honors residence hall, allow students to meet with faculty in a casual environment.
Additionally, Honors students are given priority registration, and they may receive peer-mentoring and Honors-specific advisement, too.
“It helps to have priority when registering,” Abby Farkash, a sophomore neuroscience major, says. “It can be really difficult to get into certain classes, especially neuroscience classes, as there are so few.”
Raymond Peters, the assistant director of the Honors program, believes that an Honors degree can assist students after college, too.
“It shows graduate schools, professional schools and employers that you are willing to push yourself beyond a curriculum that is needed to graduate,” Peters says. “[It shows] that you are really interested in broadening your perspective and learning for the sake of learning.”
It is noteworthy, however, that the Honors Program is not for everyone, and, as such, may not provide students with the opportunities that are relevant to their goals. It is simply an addition to one’s major, not a necessity for achieving a certain objective.
“We expect a higher level of motivation,” Peters says. “It’s not about intelligence. It’s about motivation, drive and interest.”