Are College Honors Programs Worth It?

By the sound of it alone, it’s apparent that being a college honors program student is a huge honor. However, there is a catch to everything. Being invited to or admitted into such a program must come with great responsibility. And now you are wondering if it’s a much better idea to go for it than a regular college program.

College honors programs are worth it for students who are exceptionally motivated to face some academic challenges as well as enjoy research, internship, travel, and extracurricular opportunities. But just like during the admissions process, there are requirements to meet to stay within the program.

Not every college student is cut for a college honors program.

Whether you are invited to attend or qualified to apply because of your academic profile, read on. In this article, we will talk about the nitty-gritties of college honors programs, from the advantages and disadvantages associated with taking them to the things that make them entirely different from high school honors courses.

Pros of College Honors Programs

The most important benefits that come with being a part of college honors programs are smaller classes, priority class registration, cheaper college, and increased job market value. Unfortunately, there are also a few disadvantages that come with being a college honors program student.

First things first: not all college students are eligible for college honors programs. Getting invited to attend a college honor program or being accepted into it after applying is, in itself, an advantage.

Just about anything you can think of that can make your college experience unforgettable can be enjoyed if you are a college honors program student. They range anywhere from having your dream class schedule to getting employed at your dream company.

So, in other words, there are many perks that come with it during and after college.

Here are some of the most noteworthy pros of college honors programs:

  • Early registration for classes. Many college students find it frustrating not to have their first-choice classes. As a college honors program student, you don’t have to subject yourself to this problem. That’s because you will be allowed to register for classes earlier than the rest of the student body.
  • Smaller classes. When building a college list, it’s not uncommon for students to look at a school’s student-to-faculty ratio before deciding whether or not to shortlist it. You will be more than happy to learn that the average number of students at a college honors program class is 15 only.
  • Special mentoring. A smaller student-to-faculty ratio helps ensure that a professor will be able to spend more time with you. Well, a college honors professor is not just any other professor. He or she is usually one of the best faculty members around, which means that you can have the best possible learning experience.
  • Better housing. Large institutions for higher education with honors colleges (we will discuss this matter in a few, so don’t stop reading now!) usually offer housing exclusive for college honors program students. More often than not, these special dorms are bigger and have more amenities.
  • Lower cost of attendance. In many instances, college honors programs are synonymous with college scholarship programs. It’s because of this why being a high-performing student can let you enjoy low tuition and fees. It’s not uncommon for a college honors program student to get half- or full-tuition scholarships.
  • Travel opportunities. Honors-only excursions, field trips and volunteer work are activities that enrich the academic and social lives of college honors program students. In some instances, students travel locally, while other times, they go abroad to have a more comprehensive understanding of their field of study.
  • Internship opportunities. You don’t have to graduate from college just to have real-world experience. Thanks to a college honors program, it is possible for you to actively partake in activities that are beyond the classroom experience, most of the time preparing you for a career after graduation.
  • Better marketability. Speaking of which, being a college honors program student allows you to enjoy many different career opportunities after earning your degree. The presence of “Graduate of the Honors Program” on your diploma can make you stand out from the rest of the job applicants.

There are many perks that come with being enrolled in a college honors program. Alas, there are also some downsides that come with taking college honors courses. But by keeping your eyes on the prize, you might find that a college honors program is not that more difficult than a regular college program.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the cons associated with college honors programs:

Man worried about the history

Cons of Honors Programs

  • Admissions requirements. Again, not every student can apply for a college honors program. There are requirements to meet, such as having a minimum high school GPA and standardized test score. Requirements for admission tend to vary from one institution offering a college honors program to the next.
  • GPA requirements. Your high school GPA is crucial if you want to gain admission into a college honors program. And to stay within it, maintaining a good college GPA and meeting other requirements is a must.
  • Added tasks. Students who are taking a college honors program should prioritize college more than anything else. That’s because there are more things to learn and more tasks to complete than those who are taking regular college programs. So, before agreeing to the program, check that you are fine with having extra tasks.
  • Maintaining balance. Refrain from assuming that being a college honors program student will isolate you. If truth be told, you will still enjoy the entire college experience. It’s due to this why being able to manage your time very well is an important skill to have if you want to complete the college honors program successfully.
  • Discriminated against. As a college honors program student, you will earn the respect and admiration of many students. However, some will likely be envious and thus treat you differently.

Differences Between an Honors College and Honors Program

An honors college is a physical structure where honors programs are available. It is usually seen at a large institution for higher education, such as one with various schools or colleges. On the other hand, an honors program is the honors education itself offered with or without an honors college.

There are a few things that honors colleges and honors programs share. Leading the list is the fact that both consist of advanced courses suited for high-performing students who want more than a traditional academic experience.

However, there are also certain things that set the two apart from one another.

As the name suggests, an honors college is a school within the institution. So, in other words, it is something that your eyes can see, and your feet can walk on. More often than not, an honors college has more than just classrooms — it usually has residences in which students enrolled in honors programs live.

Keep in mind that not all colleges and universities offering honors programs have honors colleges.

Earlier, we mentioned that an honors college is often seen at a large school, usually where there is plenty of space available for many different buildings. Because of constraints in resources, smaller institutions offering honors programs do not have the capacity to have honors colleges within them.

And since an honor college is a separate physical structure, it’s not uncommon for it to come with a name. In some instances, it has a stand-alone name. However, it can also be as plain as “Honors College” placed after the name of the college or university that houses it. Example: The University of Something Honors College.

Here are some institutions for higher education and the names of their respective honors colleges:

UNIVERSITYHONORS COLLEGE NAME
Arizona State UniversityBarrett, the Honors College
Biola UniversityTorrey Honors College
Brooklyn CollegeMacaulay Honors College
Drexel UniversityPennoni Honors College
Florida Atlantic UniversityHarriet L. Wilkes Honors College
Indiana University BloomingtonHutton Honors College
Le Moyne CollegeIntegral Honors Program
Louisiana State UniversityRoger Hadfield Ogden Honors College
Mississippi State UniversityShackouls Honors College
Morgan State UniversityClara I. Adams Honors College
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyAlbert Dorman Honors College
Nova Southeastern UniversityFarquhar Honors College
San Diego State UniversityWeber Honors College
Tulane UniversityNewcomb-Tulane College
University of GeorgiaMorehead Honors College
University of KentuckyLewis Honors College
University of South FloridaJudy Genshaft Honors College
Valparaiso UniversityChrist College
Honors Colleges

Some colleges and universities hold honors program classes at designated locations (honors colleges).

But then there are also those that conduct honors program courses in areas that are not exclusive to these classes. So, in other words, these institutions offer honors programs but they do not have honors colleges.

With the exception of the fact that they are not held in buildings specially made for them, honors programs available from schools without honors colleges are pretty much the same as those administered at honors colleges.

Needless to say, no matter if honors programs are held at honors colleges or elsewhere, the fact remains that enrolled students will still experience a unique academic experience, challenging courses, smaller class sizes, separate residential areas, access to the school’s facilities, and cheaper tuition and fees.

And just like honors colleges, honors programs are usually called “Honors Programs”, commonly appearing after the school’s name. But some honors programs have their own names, which makes them unique and exclusive to the institutions for higher education offering them.

The following are some colleges and universities and the names of their respective honors programs:

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITYHONORS PROGRAM NAME/NAMES:
Albany State UniversityVelma Fudge Grant Honors Program
Albion CollegePrentiss M. Brown Honors Program
Dordt UniversityKuyper Honors Program
Houghton CollegeScience Honors, London Honors, East Meets West
Kennesaw State UniversityPresident’s Emerging Global Scholars, Great Books
Manhattanville CollegeCastle Scholars Honors Program
McCombs School of BusinessCanfield Business Honors Program
New York UniversityPresidential Honors Scholars Program
Samford UniversityUniversity Fellows
St. John’s UniversityThomas J. Cox. Jr. Honors Program
Stevens Institute of TechnologyPinnacle Scholars Honors Program
Stony Brook UniversityUniversity Scholars Program
The New SchoolRiggio Honors Program
Union CollegeSeward Interdisciplinary Fellows
University of AlabamaRandall Research Scholars Program, University Fellows Experience
University of FloridaLombardi Scholarship, Stamps Scholarship
University of Texas at DallasCollegium V Honors Program

Differences Between Honors Colleges and Regular Colleges

Honors colleges offer honors programs. On the other hand, regular colleges offer traditional programs. As not every student is eligible for honors programs, only a fraction of the school’s population attends honors colleges. Still, honors college students may attend classes at regular colleges.

The key difference between an honors college and a regular college lies in the programs available.

Earlier, we established the fact that the primary difference between an honors college and an honors program is that an honors college is a tangible object, which means that you can see and touch it.

An honors program, meanwhile, is what’s being offered at an honors college — although it can be offered as well at a regular college if an honors college is not around.

It is important to note that not all institutions for higher education in the US with the capacity to offer honors programs have the ability to establish honors colleges.

So, if you are admitted into an institution’s honors program, you will be spending most of your waking hours at an honors college with students who are also admitted into an honors program.

As a matter of fact, it’s likely that you will also be spending your sleeping hours with them as honors program students usually have their own dorms.

Just in case that an honors program is available but an honors college isn’t, you and your honors program classmates will be spending your school days at a regular college, although you will have your very own classrooms.

But whether or not there’s an honors college, you can expect to take some classes with honors program students only, while the rest of your classes with students taking traditional programs at the school.

Needless to say, honors program students get to enjoy the best of both worlds. They are able to experience what it’s like to be taking honors courses and at the same time have a sense of what it’s like to be taking regular courses.

In some colleges and universities offering honors programs or have honor colleges, honors program students are given priority registration and scheduling of classes.

This allows them to balance their honors courses and regular undergraduate courses very well, thus allowing the entire experience to go as smooth sailing as possible.

So, is an honors college harder than regular colleges?

Not necessarily.

Again, not everyone is eligible to attend honors colleges. Those who are invited to attend them or those who apply and get accepted are, first and foremost, already bright students. And this is why the challenges of going to an honors college suit them without much trouble.

Difference Between College Honors Courses and High School Honors Courses

High school honors courses are high school courses that are harder than regular high school courses. The grading standards are harder, too. College honors courses, in contrast, are not harder than regular college courses. Rather, they are enriched college courses with the same grading standards.

College-bound high schoolers who are thinking about attending some of the most selective institutions for higher education in the land take high school honors courses to impress college admissions officers.

There are high schools in which AP and IB courses are considered as the high school honors courses.

However, the difference is that AP and IB courses allow high schoolers to earn college credits, which can come in handy after high school.

Meanwhile, high school honors courses do not allow high school students to earn college credits. Both AP and IB courses and high school honors courses, however, allow high schoolers to exhibit college readiness.

Simply put, high school honors courses are regular high school courses made harder.

So, in other words, they are higher-level courses that go deeper and cover more materials at a much faster rate. It’s exactly due to this why high school honors courses can make a student’s college application look impressive.

There is no denying that high school honors courses matter to college admissions officers.

However, they don’t matter at all to potential employers. Instead, college honors courses are what matter to them — completing a college honors program can make it easy for a job-seeking person fresh from college to win the confidence of a potential employer.

So, then, what is an honors program in college?

Unlike high school honors courses, college honors courses are not simply more challenging regular college courses. They are enriched college courses administered in smaller classes and by the best faculty members, and where the students partake in discussions, debates, seminars, workshops, internships and various extracurricular activities.

It’s because of this why college honors courses are not for everyone. And despite their exclusivity, college honors courses have grading standards similar to the grading standards in normal college courses.

For instance, if your average GPA for regular college courses is 3.75, it’s very much likely that your average GPA for college honors courses is 3.75 also.

Refrain from assuming that being in a college honors program will keep you from being a well-rounded student.

Especially if you are very good with managing your time, you can still successfully engage in all sorts of activities that most college students love to take part in, and maintain the required GPA for college honors program students.

And because you will take both college honors courses and regular college courses, you will still be able to meet a lot of undergraduates and make a lot of friends.

Your college experience will not be that different from the rest. But your diploma will surely be different from theirs!

Just Before You Apply to an Honors Program

There are many perks that come with being a college honors program student. They range anywhere from having a better on-campus residence, shelling out less money for tuition and fees to enjoying better employment opportunities after graduation. However, there are a few sacrifices to make.

Before agreeing to complete a college honors program, spend plenty of time weighing the pros and cons. After doing so, you will have an idea of whether it is going to be an honor or a burden.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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