Best Honors College and Programs and What to Expect

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If you’re a high-achieving student who loves challenging yourself, chances exist that you dream of attending an honors college. Honors colleges and programs are known for the amount of opportunities they open for students. However, they’re not so easy to get into. There are so many things you should know about honors college before applying to improve your chances. One of them is whether it’s the right fit for you.

To help, we’ve written an article that reviews the best honors colleges and programs in the United States, their important features, and stats that can help guide your decision.

Understanding Honors Colleges and ProgramsUnderstanding Honors Colleges and Programs

Although there’s no best definition for honors college, most people see it as a specialized program designed for high-achieving and exceptionally motivated students. This Program is usually taken within a college with specific academic and co-curricular requirements. To gain admission into an honors college, you must apply, and this application is usually done during the usual college application process.

Honors colleges around the country are usually designed to function differently. Still, regardless of how an honors college functions, it requires students to take honors-designated courses, which are usually more rigorous versions of traditional university courses. The relatively smaller size of honors classes makes for better student-professor interaction.

It’s common to see people interchanging honors colleges with honors programs. However, the key difference between both is the university’s size. Most bigger universities have many colleges (like the College of Music, College of Engineering, etc.). Will call their honors opportunity as honors college. Thus, designing it to function differently from the university.

On the other hand, most smaller universities name their honors opportunities as “honors programs.” Irrespective of the size and operational differences, it’s important to note that none is superior to the other.

What to Expect From an Honors College or Program?

What to Expect From an Honors College or Program?

It’s important to note that most courses offered in honors programs and colleges resemble those of non-honors students. However, teachers are tasked to explore these courses more in-depth. So, it’s safe to refer to honors programs as programs that allow you to dig deeper into the challenging aspects of each course. It also helps to know you’re embarking on the journey with like-minded people. Honors courses also typically feature seminar components, so students can go beyond merely memorizing concepts to having valuable conversations about the subject matter with professors and fellow students. This creative learning technique helps expose you to deeper knowledge while learning the real-world application of what you’ve learned. We’ve also found that many honors programs feature internship opportunities, community service components, and related extracurricular activities to help you better understand the subject matter.

Some of the popular courses in honors programs include:

  • Honors English
  • Honors Biology
  • Honors Psychology
  • Honors History
  • Honors Christian Studies
  • Honors Speech

Before choosing honors courses, review your college’s academic brochure to see which courses apply to each Program.

Top Honors College and Programs

Top Honors College and Programs

Now that you know what to expect from an Honors College/Program, you’re probably considering applying for one shortly. However, one of the first pieces of information you’ll seek while searching for how to get into an honors college is which are the best programs in the country.

We’ve done the heavy lifting by reviewing tons of honors programs/colleges in the United States and picked five of the best for you. As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, there are many different types of honors colleges and programs, so students would typically need to choose one that suits their unique personality. We’ll include a diverse array of honors colleges in this list to help you find the best fit. Let’s go!

Arizona State University Barrett Honors – 88% Acceptance Rate

There are good reasons why many experts rank Asu’s Barrett Honors College as one of the best. Most experts cite the extensive guidance the college provides students. It typically offers three tiers of advising to students, including a major advisor, an honors advisor, and a professional mentor in all majors. Of course, pre-law and pre-health students get additional advisors to help them navigate the tricky waters. It’s the only Honors College with a Nobel Prize recipient teacher.

Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College – 8-10 % Acceptance Rate

The 8-10% acceptance rate into the Schreyer Honors College makes it one of the most competitive honors colleges in the country. However, the experience is worth the competition. Think about the unique opportunity of being mentored by members of the Society of Distinguished Alumni. That’s not to mention the opportunity for building close relationships that the relatively small classes offer.

Most students will also access exclusive funding for study trips and research while enrolled in this college. Another unique feature of this college is that it doesn’t consider school GPA and SAT scores during admission. Instead, the admissions committee looks at students ‘ ability to think creatively, as demonstrated in their admissions materials.

College of Charleston Honors College – 90% Acceptance Rate

This honors college boasts one of the highest acceptance rates in the country. Yet, it can deliver unforgettable experiences to every student. The college’s Honors Living and Learning Community is the heart of the Program. The college provides faculty advisors willing to work closely with students to achieve their aims. Classes are also typically small, and students can participate in year-long community service projects.

University of South Carolina Honors – 62% Average Acceptance Rate

If you want a career in research or anything close to it, consider the honors program at this college. Their attention to detail is why they produce the second-highest Goldwater Scholars of Ivy League College after Harvard. Of course, it’s one of the largest honors programs, with an estimated 2,300 students. But that doesn’t affect the resource allocation. In fact, the college boasts of offering about 600 honors courses, with smaller class sizes that allow honors students to enjoy one-on-one interaction.

Clemson University Honors College – 62% Acceptance Rate

Although they don’t publish their admission rates, many people still believe that Clemson Honors College is one of the most challenging colleges to get into. This is largely because of the school’s rigorous GPA requirements. Notwithstanding, there are many benefits to attending this honors college. Some of them include:

  • Reception of priority registration
  • Eligibility for research grant application
  • Extended library privileges.

This honors college is also known for the many academic opportunities it offers students, one of which is the very popular EUREKA! program that invites incoming honors students to engage in rigorous research.

Choosing the Best Honors College or Program: 5 Things to Consider

Choosing the Best Honors College or Program: 5 Things to Consider

Now that you know some of the pros and cons of honors programs, you’re eager to know how to choose. There are many top Honors colleges in the country, but not all are for you. Making the right choice requires a careful look. Here are some factors you should consider before choosing an honors college or Program.

The Quality of the Honors Program Versus the University Quality

One of the first things you’ll learn when applying for an honors college is that a university’s reputation is usually different from the reputation of its honors college. A college may be big and popular, but its honors program won’t meet the same standard and vice versa. So, while researching an honors college, do well to research its characteristics and benefits independent of the characteristics of the college. Ask vital questions like:

Is the honors program a “value added” feature?

What is the honors program rating?

Do honors graduates gain easy entrance to top graduate schools?

The best way to find answers to these questions is to visit the college and question current students.

Think About How Present and Involved Advisers Would Be As You Seek Prestigious Scholarships

Honors students often have access to prestigious scholarships like Rhodes, Goldwater, Truman, Marshall, etc. However, the extent to which honors college students enjoy these scholarships depends on how much the school is willing to do. So, check the Program’s success rate in achieving these awards. Most people prefer an honors college with special staff dedicated to preparing students for these awards.

Curriculum Requirements 

Generally, students must complete certain requirements when enrolled in an honors college. One such requirement is to complete honors hours equivalent to 25% of the university’s required graduation time. Other requirements include extracurriculars, group projects, internships, volunteer activities, leadership training, etc. While choosing a program, you should check all these requirements and be sure you can keep up with them. Not being able to meet all requirements often means you’ll be unable to graduate with others.

Check the Honors Housing Situation

Another area to look at is the housing situation. For example, large universities have special housing for honors students. Such schools will typically have designated learning communities for specific programs. The designated learning communities mean a more conducive environment to form study groups with people of similar interests. Special housing situations can also give students access to campus and integrate perks like computer labs, communal kitchens, etc.

Check for Additional Application Requirements

It’s common to see students being discouraged from applying to some honors programs because of the extra application requirements involved. Most honors colleges require an additional essay (some more than one).

We’ve even seen scenarios where schools wait until potential honors students gain admission to their university before extending their honors application to them. UCLA is an example of a school that waits for students to be admitted.

Wrapping Things Up: Honors College Courses You Can Take and What to Expect

With all the information available online, pursuing your honors college dream is now easier. However, it would help if you still did your digging to find the best honors colleges and programs. A detailed look at class size, graduation rate, stats, and campus culture can help you find the perfect fit. If you’ve read this article to this point, you’re equipped with all the right information to begin your honors journey. However, if you’re still unsure how to start, you can refer to our guide to honors college to find out more.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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