What is the Honors College?

Commonly asked questions, and how it can set students up for success after graduation

It’s been around for more than 50 years. But there are still a lot of misconceptions about the U’s Honors program. “People mistakenly think it’s harder, more expensive, or only for the high school valedictorians,” says Sylvia Torti PhD’98, dean of the Honors College. “But that’s just not the case.”

The Honors College is about looking at college education from a different perspective, says Torti. “The world would have us believe the college experience happens a certain way: Find your interest. Find your major. Find what makes you comfortable,” she says. The Honors College challenges that idea with deeply engaged learning and a strong sense of community. “The richer path is through others: seeing disparate thinking, views, and people.”

So, what is an Honors degree? We asked Torti some of the most common questions to get a better idea of what it’s all about.

What is expected of an Honors student?
The Honors program is an eight-course, 24-credit-hour curriculum that represents a particular way to approach general education. Courses include two intellectual traditions courses, one writing, one science, and three Honors electives. Every Honors student must complete a thesis project housed within their major. And although not required, Honors students can choose to live in Honors-specific on-campus housing.

Can you complete an Honors degree with any major?
Absolutely. There are more than 2,000 students enrolled in the Honors College, representing 136 different majors.

Is it more expensive?
There is no extra tuition charge, but there is a $75 per semester fee to support Honors-specific mentoring, events, etc.

How can an Honors degree benefit students in the future?
An Honors bachelor is the highest undergraduate degree conferred by the U. It can boost a graduate school application. More than 70 percent of U Honors graduates report getting into their top choice graduate schools. And the likelihood of being accepted to medical school jumps by 30 percent. Honors College graduates include 31 Goldwater Scholars, 22 Rhodes Scholars, and five Churchill Scholars. Many Honors alumni note that the thinking and writing skills developed in Honors have helped to propel their careers as graduates in every major.

Are Honors classes harder?
They’re just different. The classes offer more support from the professors, as well as fellow students. Since class sizes are small, students develop strong communities. Classes are discussion-based and require students to think deeply about what they are reading, talk about it, and situate the ideas historically, in our contemporary world, and within their own major.


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