Is your student a high academic achiever, self-motivated, and inspired by rigorous thought and debate among like-minded peers? Then encourage her to consider college honors programs.
Honors programs — and honors colleges within larger universities — provide accomplished students the opportunity to work closely with professors in an intimate and demanding academic setting. While individual programs vary, they share defining features:
Honors programs began to pop up after World War II when demand for higher education surged. Elite private colleges could not accommodate all qualified applicants, nor could all students afford them. State universities and less-selective private schools responded with richer study opportunities to attract talented students, in the form of honors programs.
Today, these programs can be an attractive alternative for a bright student seeking academic rigor without the steep price tag of a top liberal arts college or major research university. Most honors students take at least one-quarter of their classes in the program. At a large state university, an honors program can provide the equivalent of a small private college education for a much lower cost, and the intellectual challenge keeps high-achieving students motivated.
Additional features and benefits of many honors programs:
If all this appeals to your student, she should research the admissions requirements for the schools she is interested in. Many automatically consider all applicants for honors status (for example, it may be offered to the top 10% of admitted students); at others, students must apply separately. Be aware that honors program deadlines may differ from a school’s regular admission deadline.
Some or all of the following criteria will be considered for entrance:
Making a positive impact on society is certainly not limited to honors students — but such programs tend to be geared specifically toward that goal, as with Northern Arizona University’s mission to produce graduates who are “learners, leaders, citizens, and catalysts.” If your student would flourish in such a setting, encourage her to pursue the rich resources an honors program can provide.
Other recent articles by Wendy Worrall Redal:
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