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Honors College: 10 Most Common Questions Answered

Depending on your success as a student, when applying to universities, you may come across the term “honors college.” Many universities across the United States hold such programs to offer a more rigorous academic environment and potential scholarship opportunities. If you are considering applying to an honors college, you need to understand a few things. 

Let’s make sure you know exactly what honors college is, some common questions prospective students might have about honors college, and some of the advantages/disadvantages of choosing an honors college. It will also cover the impact an honors college can have on your future career and potential job opportunities.

Ready? Let’s go! 

Honors College - 10 things you need to know.

1. What Is an Honors College?

An honors college is an elite program within a university or institution of higher education. Students who perform well in school and seek an enriched path of courses may be asked to join or accepted into an honors college program. 

Honors college programs were initially introduced with the intention of mimicking the experience of a liberal arts school. A liberal arts education is designed to include elements of a variety of subjects in school instead of other programs that are more specific and refined. Liberal arts focuses on being a well-rounded student, so it requires taking courses in sciences, humanities, language arts, history, and more. 

Source: Princeton Admissions: What Does Liberal Arts Mean

Honors college is aimed toward a more rigorous and well-rounded education. The curriculum is designed to challenge students of similar academic caliber and have them interact in the same learning environment for the purpose of overall betterment of themselves in and outside of the classroom.  

If an honors college program is something you are considering applying to, you should be aware of its different requirements and coursework. It requires effort and dedication to be successful in an honors college. 

The overall purpose of honors college is to produce well-rounded students that are prepared for any career field. It places students with a similar level of dedication to their studies in a smaller classroom setting.   

2. Is Honors College a Major?

Honors college is not a major. A major in college is a specific area of study that a student focuses on while they try to earn a degree in that same area. Some examples of college majors are business, chemistry, secondary education, English, communications, or art. 

If you join an honors college, this does not affect your choice of major. You will continue to focus on the same subject of your degree, simply within a more competitive program. An honors college may require you to take additional courses or courses outside your major, but overall, it will not impact your focus of study in college. 

Honors colleges will accept majors of all kinds. Your academic background and achievements or certifications will also be taken into account when applying to an honors college.  

Students accepted into an honors college may choose from an array of majors and minors. The emphasis on a complete education will still allow you to obtain an undergraduate degree in whatever area of study you might choose. 

3. Is Honors College Harder? 

One of the primary purposes of honors college is to be more challenging than the other colleges within a university or educational institution. Like honors-level classes in high school, it offers the same basic curriculum as the other colleges, just at a faster pace with some additional aspects. 

If you are considering applying to an honors college, you should consider how rigorous the curriculum is designed to be. Some honors colleges will require commitments outside of class, including: 

  • Volunteering
  • Internships
  • Research
  • Work-study programs
  • Other community service activities

Some classes in honors college are held in a “seminar” style, which allows more collaboration, discussion, and sharing of ideas with peers in class. This might not seem like a large requirement, but it will entail far more participation in class than other courses in a regular-level academic college. 

Honors college is intended to offer specialized courses that meet the needs of students who are interested in more intense classes that aim to push them toward the next level.

Depending on the university or institution, additional courses may be required to remain in the program. For example, if you are a biology major in an honors college, it might be necessary to take courses in language arts or humanities, even though it does not directly relate to your major. 

4. Is It Harder To Get Into Honors College?

It’s more difficult to get into an honors college compared to the general university. This is by necessity, as the nature of the academics an honors college offers requires a higher level of academic excellence. Only students with elite grades and diverse scholarly foundations are accepted. 

When students apply to college, they usually overlook the honors college program. Honors college requires a supplemental, separate application in addition to the regular admission process to gain admittance into the school itself. 

An honors college is designed to be a more competitive section in a university made up of multiple colleges. Most honors colleges require a high GPA or standardized test scores (such as the ACT or SAT) to be considered for admittance. You must meet a certain score level for your application to be examined. 

5. Is Honors College More Expensive?

The answer to this question depends on what your baseline for “more expensive” means.

When comparing an honors college to a liberal arts school, the cost of honors college is significantly lower. However, when comparing the cost of honors college to the regular university tuition, honors college is usually slightly more expensive. 

Honors colleges were created to attract the same type of students who would apply to a liberal arts college. Liberal arts schools are usually private universities that charge large amounts of tuition. The average tuition rate for liberal arts colleges is about $25,000, while the cost of a typical state school or public university is around $15,000 (source). 

If you are a student with impressive academic achievements considering applying to a liberal arts school, you might want to apply to a university’s honors college instead. Even though honors colleges can charge additional fees up to $2,500 per year, the cost is still significantly lower than that of a liberal arts school.  

6. Can I Join Honors College After Freshman Year?

Whether or not you can join honors college after freshman year depends on the specific university you’re attending. Some honors colleges will allow students to apply after their freshman year, while others will only accept students who apply before freshman year. 

Different honors colleges run their programs and make their admittance decisions differently. 

If you’re scouting for good honors college programs, the top-tier ones usually let students apply after their freshman year and will also accept applications from transfer students. This gives students a second opportunity to join the program if they were not accepted the first time or did not apply at all. 

However, other schools do it differently. For example, the honors college at Rutgers University does not accept students after their first year. 

If you visit the Frequently Asked Questions section of their honors college page, it states that a student’s first year is an integral part of their program, so they do not accept students after this point. However, the University of Delaware allows students in any year to apply to their honors college. 

Sources: University of Delaware and Rutgers Honors College

If you’re thinking about honors college, you should find out about their admissions processes before applying. This information is usually on their website, or you can contact the school directly.  

7. Is Honors College the Same as an Honors Program?

Honors colleges and honors programs are not the same. They are built upon the same foundational idea, but honors college usually has more overall benefits than an honors program. 

Both are designed to be competitive and prestigious programs that offer advanced courses and exclusive opportunities. However, an honors college comes with far more advantages than an honors program. Honors college students are offered a unique environment and more opportunities compared to other university students. 

Honors college provides everyday classes of smaller size, rigorous academics, and the overall private liberal arts college experience at a less expensive tuition rate. Depending on the program, there may be additional benefits, such as:

  • Priority registration
  • Extra scholarship money
  • Community housing with other honors college students

On the other hand, an honors program does not involve an honors college’s fully immersive experience. It is simply a program that you complete while attending a regular-level college within a university. 

8. Is Honors College Worth It?

Honors college is worth it for those who are willing to commit to the rigorous schedule. Any program in college will be what you make of it. If you are a dedicated student prepared to put in the work to be successful in an honors college, graduating from a program such as this can open countless doors for you, inside and outside of school. 

On the other hand, getting a degree from a university is an accomplishment just as worthy as getting a degree from an honors college. People who graduate from a regular university or college can be just as successful as those from an honors college. 

Overall, honors college will require a more significant amount of additional studying, tuition, and overall effort into academics. Additionally, it may look more impressive on resumes, depending on the company. 

9. Do Employers Care About Honors College?

Employers do not place a lot of weight on graduating from an honors college. While it might be an eye-catching addition to your resumé, overall, it will most likely not be a deciding factor when it comes to employers and potential job opportunities.

However, graduating from an honors college may include the benefit of more close-knit connections with alumni, which can sway an employer’s decision. 

But when considering the whole picture, employers will care far more about your background and prerequisites rather than whether you graduated from an honors college. 

10. What Are the Requirements To Be Accepted in Honors College?

The specific requirements for an honors college will be dependent upon the program. As a whole, honors colleges typically require high standardized test scores (such as the ACT and SAT), high GPAs, and overall stellar academic performance in high school or earlier years of college. 

Honors colleges are meant for the best of the best, and that doesn’t just mean academically (though that is a huge part of it). Honors colleges also look at your community service record, whether or not you participated in well-rounded extracurricular activities, and how you portray yourself.

This means they may check out your social media profiles to see what kind of person you are in your private life. That’s why it’s so important that you don’t post revealing, provocative, or otherwise unprofessional pictures and posts online. 

If you are a student who performs well academically and looking for rigorous university education, applying to an honors college may be the right fit for you. 

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