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Benefits and drawbacks of honors programs


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#1 klmama

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 10:20 AM

What benefits and drawbacks come from being in an honors program?  Dc has been invited, but has no interest; I want to be sure skipping the opportunity isn't going to be a huge mistake.  Thanks for anything you can share.


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#2 JanetC

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 10:41 AM

This varies quite a bit from school to school. You will have to research your school of choice.

Things to look for:
Extra workload interfering with being on a sports team or holding a job
Access to research opportunities
Honors "perks" like better housing, priority registration, honors academic advising more personalized
Honors sections taught by a professor rather than a grad student
GPA requirements to stay in honors program
Honors graduation requirements more in line with applying to grad school, rather than merely finishing a degree
Honors classes oriented around the humanities, when student is STEM (or vice versa)
Need to stay in honors program to maintain merit aid

Honors means whatever the college wants it to mean, and not all colleges do it the same way
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#3 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 10:47 AM

This varies quite a bit from school to school. You will have to research your school of choice.

Things to look for:
Extra workload interfering with being on a sports team or holding a job
Access to research opportunities
Honors "perks" like better housing, priority registration, honors academic advising more personalized
Honors sections taught by a professor rather than a grad student
GPA requirements to stay in honors program
Honors graduation requirements more in line with applying to grad school, rather than merely finishing a degree
Honors classes oriented around the humanities, when student is STEM (or vice versa)
Need to stay in honors program to maintain merit aid

Honors means whatever the college wants it to mean, and not all colleges do it the same way

 

Yes.  Some honors colleges allow direct admit into majors that otherwise students have to apply and see if admitted.  Some honors college acceptances lead to interviews for elite programs within the HC and/or additional scholarship opportunities.



#4 FaithManor

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 10:53 AM

The benefits for ds and dd were in access to more advanced classes earlier, networking, references from professors, unique internship opportunities.

 

The downsides were pressure/stress and increased costs because both schools charged more tuition for the honors program and then significantly more for "honors housing". We found that the benefits did not outweigh the cons because they were fast developing networking on their own, and getting really great references because they of TA work and tutoring. Ds did not need to enter the honors program to be eligible for TA and tutoring. He now has amazing references from his professors. He was admitted by reference of professors to the honors courses that he wanted for next semester, but has had no additional stressers nor requirements to live in the more expensive housing. DD dropped honors due to the expenses and never felt any angst or repercussions for doing so. I suspect that all of this is very institution dependent as these programs vary so wildly.


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#5 Heigh Ho

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 03:27 PM

The student may have required honors classes to take which mean less room for electives in his major.

#6 Heigh Ho

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 03:28 PM

..

Edited by Heigh Ho, 03 January 2017 - 03:29 PM.


#7 Harriet Vane

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 04:09 PM

Depends on the school. That said, when dd was invited to join the HC at her second choice school, she chose against it. The extra classes were all classical philosophizing, which she hates. She preferred to spend her time getting credentialed in her areas of interest. If she had stayed at that school, that would have meant getting her teaching degree for secondary ed social studies, and she would have given time to a double minor either in Spanish or World Languages + TESOL. 

 

She did not apply for HC at her first choice school because her rejection of the HC at the second-choice school forced her to crystallize what was important to her. She has chosen similarly at school now--she is getting her teaching degree in secondary ed social studies, with minors in Spanish and International Studies. There's simply not time past that for extra classically focused studies and discussion groups. 



#8 happypamama

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 04:40 PM

We had to take a certain number of honors credits every year, but they could be upper level classes as freshmen/sophomores (or grad level as juniors/seniors) or special honors sections/classes or even an honors option in a regular class. They didn't have to be in our majors at all. Mine were a few honors classes to fulfill gen ed requirements and upper level courses in my major. We also had to do a senior honors thesis, but we received up to six credits for it toward our major. I did not find the honors workload to be a huge burden at all.

Perks:
Nicer housing
Priority registration
More personalized advisor
Hefty scholarship
I believe it was easier to get research opportunities and such; I never personally took advantage of that sort of thing because I had my own interests unrelated to my major, but I do know that just saying I was part of the honors program was often useful in getting doors to open.

It seems to vary with the college though.

#9 Melissa M

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 09:00 PM

My daughters list priority registration (on a campus of 44,000, this is a BIG deal), access to special programming and job/internship opportunities, and campus-wide recognition as the chief benefits of the honors program. The required academic points can be earned in the context of the student's major; so, for example, for two of the four academic points she earned this past semester, the physics major completed a project in which she learned Python in order to model various physics concepts. The psych major had similar success submitting her research assignment in one of the university's labs for qualifying points. Activity points can be earned through leadership seminars, board positions, volunteer activities, performance or art exhibition, etc. They plan to begin working on those this coming semester. Neither has had any complaints about the additional work -- nor about the program's stringent standards for retaining the designation.



#10 Dotwithaperiod

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 01:25 PM

Ds's honors group is different. They choose about 30 freshmen per year, give half of them a scholarship award. They don't get early registration. They live in the crappiest, smallest dorm that houses 100 kids, but the size seems to really cement relationships( the other kids are internationals and a few naive kids who assumed honors dorm equaled fancy perks.)They're all required to take 2 advanced writing and lit classes the first year. They then need 2 or 3 more classes by the time they're seniors. Some will fulfil Gen Ed requirements. The profs submit ideas for classes and a board of admins and students choose 2 per semester. They're often unique, special interests of the teachers that they may otherwise never teach. Ds just finished one on music and lit of WW1. They spend their last year on a capstone project, get paired with a mentor who meets weekly, and ends with a mini-thesis presented to the honors department. For grad purposes, it seems to count as a Minor.
I think Walt has appreciated the camaraderie of the small group. He's also deeply in love with his capstone project, which I think will benefit him later in grad school.

Edited by Dotwithaperiod, 05 January 2017 - 01:27 PM.


#11 katilac

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 02:07 PM

Echoing that it varies greatly from school to school. Plus some will have an honors program, while others will have an actual honors college. 

 

dd has just completed her first semester in honors college, so it's early days yet, but so far she likes it.

 

They get very high priority registration - she registered for her first semester in April, and registered for spring well before fall classes ended. They have an honors advisor and a regular advisor. 

 

She feels like honors housing leads you to meet more students who really want to do a bit more, and you also see the same people more because of required honors courses. 

 

Her merit aid is not tied to being in the honors program, a huge plus. The honors program does have a higher GPA requirement than her scholarship, but both are reasonable (3.0 and 3.25). 

 

There is an honors fee, but it was very reasonable, like two hundred bucks that goes toward programming, special scholarships, and so on. 

 

They have a good variety of honors classes, plus the option to turn a regular class into honors (you meet with the prof teaching the class and the honors dean to sort this out). 

 

They have started a specific effort to make students aware of awards and scholarships, and to guide them through the process (like Fulbright Scholar, etc). 

 

A senior capstone project is required, which I imagine will be time-consuming. 



#12 klmama

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Posted 07 January 2017 - 12:59 PM

Thanks for all the info! 



#13 MarkT

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 11:14 PM

https://admissionsin...onors-programs/



#14 calbear

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 11:39 PM

I got into one but opted against it for a better school which meant I was opting to be a little fish in a big pond. The program had special advisors/mentors, housing, perks, etc. It wasn't the program I had my heart on either.


Edited by calbear, 06 September 2017 - 11:39 PM.


#15 G5052

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 07:14 AM

At the community college, you do extra work for each class, and if you do enough classes that way, you get a seal on your diploma and notice in the graduation program. DS didn't do it.

 

If DS had started at the 4-year where he is now, they have a separate dorm and a variety of extras that are really worthwhile. That we would have done if we had gone that way.



#16 JumpedIntoTheDeepEndFirst

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 10:32 AM

DD and her roommate began freshman year in honors.  They had special/extra classes and special housing (only freshman have this option at their school).  The roommate dropped honors because the schedule for honors seminars didn't align with the course schedule for STEM classes.  DD continued with honors this year which means some added course work.  Her school has 3 types of honors degrees-Latin Honors based on GPA, completion of the Honors Program (which, if successfully completed naturally leads to Latin Honors as well) and departmental honors based on a thesis. 

 

I think she has a fairly standard honors program at a small LAC but I would take warning from her roommate's experience.  She has the grades and talent needed to complete the Honors Program, this is truly a case where departmental organization/course scheduling doesn't allow her the required hours or time blocks to complete the degree.  Which, in my opinion, is a problem I would have liked to have known in advance.

 

 

Way back in the day as a college student I was offered an honors college at a big state U.  It functioned as a living/learning environment with professors, classrooms, and dorms being co-located.  It did seem like a great option but certainly not the only path to happiness or success.

 

 



#17 WoolySocks

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 11:22 AM

This has been a really interesting discussion.  I am looking carefully at honors programs as a possible way to make some schools work better.  At least socially freshman year while my quirky kid might be trying to find his people.  If it's a bunch of extra hoop jumping, he might not be into it.

 

 

The downsides were pressure/stress and increased costs because both schools charged more tuition for the honors program and then significantly more for "honors housing".

 

This is outrageous IMO.  Why should schools make it more expensive for their sharpest students to get an educational and social experience perhaps more tailored and meaningful to them?  I'm going to be on the lookout for this.  Thanks for the warning.
 



#18 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 11:39 AM

This has been a really interesting discussion. I am looking carefully at honors programs as a possible way to make some schools work better. At least socially freshman year while my quirky kid might be trying to find his people. If it's a bunch of extra hoop jumping, he might not be into it.


This is outrageous IMO. Why should schools make it more expensive for their sharpest students to get an educational and social experience perhaps more tailored and meaningful to them? I'm going to be on the lookout for this. Thanks for the warning.


We have never experienced greater charges for honors courses, but we have for honors dorms. Justifiably so, bc honors dorms are single rooms built in suites vs. doubles. Students didnt have to live in honors dorms to be in the honors college, though.

The 2 honors programs my kids have been in have been more than worth it in every aspect. Ds will be graduating with honors this spring.
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#19 elegantlion

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 07:14 PM

I'm at a small regional state university. Our honors program has two parts, general studies honors and majors honors. You can do either or both. Majors honors allows you to do a senior thesis type of project, which you have to present or submit for publication somewhere. I finished my project this summer, after about 18 months of work with a mentor. 

 

Honors students get priority registration, which is still a big deal because we have fewer sections available. General studies honors have honors sections of all general studies available. They are smaller classes with generally one more big assignment, and much better discussion. We also have colloquia to take, which are generally fun classes where professors get to teach something off the beaten path. This semester I'm taking a class on space cowboys taught by a biologist. My mentor is planning one on ancient aliens (sadly I'll be graduated by the time he teaches it). 

 

As far as fees and housing, I'm not sure. I do think there is honors housing, and incoming freshman can get special scholarships. I joined the program my second year of college and have chosen not to do the general studies honors. 



#20 Matryoshka

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 08:41 PM

The downsides were pressure/stress and increased costs because both schools charged more tuition for the honors program and then significantly more for "honors housing". 

 

UMass Amherst now does this too.  It's $600/year extra for the Honors program, and then $600-$2000 more per year if you choose Honors housing (optional).  So, instead of offering merit money to the smartest applicants, they charge them more.  :confused1:

 

I was in the Honors program there back in the day, and that wasn't true back then (and they didn't even have Honors dorms). Honestly, it was a bit lame back then.  I got a gold star on my diploma (whoopee), and no one ever cared.  The program seems a lot better now, but it'll cost you.

 

Almost happy dd who just transferred there didn't get in to the regular Honors program (in spite of 4.0 GPA coming in, AND being in the Honors program in a different state U).  She's decided to do Departmental Honors instead (sounds very similar to the difference in General Education Honors vs. Major Honors someone else described).  She has to take a couple of honors courses in her major and write an Honors thesis, and she can apply any time.  She's in a foreign language dorm instead, and really liking it.

 

Other dd is in Honors at UMass Lowell.  Honestly like the program there better.  No upcharge, they still get nicer housing, and the Honors Dean is practically throwing money at the kids (tons of $1000 grants for all kinds of things).  Dd also went on an Honors trip to Cuba over Intersession.