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Why choose to be in an Honors program?

MSMeadMSMead Registered User Posts: 194 Junior Member
I haven't seen too much discussion about honors programs. My son has been accepted into two of them so far. I have a bit of a problem with them at the moment. I know that they are all different depending on the school but the classes seem to be heavily reading, essay based in the first year ( in all that I've researched). My son is smart but heavily math and science focused. I also want him to be focused on doing well and getting used to the heavy workload in his regular and engineering classes. The idea of extra essay/reading based classes etc. as a freshman is concerning to me. One program says its not "more work" but the same classes he would normally take just more intense and will be with "like" students. That sounds great but then with more research I discovered that when he goes to honors orientation in June they will hand him a book to read and require a 4 page essay about the book on the first day of college in August. Then, when the honors college does their August volunteer effort (after moving in a day early), there is a "what I have learned" essay due after that. I haven't even told him this because who wants to do that on summer break .I wonder how necessary "honors" is. I did speak to one student at the school and he stays in honors for the early class registration and that's it.

I did see in a couple of other posts that many engineering students in other schools don't do honors for this reason. Any thought?
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Replies to: Why choose to be in an Honors program?

  • vistajayvistajay Registered User Posts: 601 Member
    Really depends on the school. My D is in an honors program and yes there is more reading and essays involved but she likes it because the teachers are amazing and the class topics are really interesting. But her major is not one of the more challenging. I would have similar concerns as you if my child were going into a demanding major and/or had to keep a high GPA.
  • WImom94WImom94 Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    edited February 17
    Hi @MSMead! Our D is a current freshman in the honors college at OU. It has been a good experience for her so far. I think you are right that it is important to look at the specifics of each honors college program your S is considering. This article was shared with us at an informational meeting when our D was considering applying. It makes some interesting points. http://www.chronicle.com/article/Whats-the-Point-of-an-Honors/144227/ There is an exchange in the comments section that speaks to engineering students in an honors program.
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Registered User Posts: 2,882 Senior Member
    I told my oldest D that I didn't see any benefit to being honors. She was also in a brutal major, but that wasn't the issue. I just didn't see the value in cordoning off a "like" group of students when, to me, one of the benefits of a college education is exposure to people who are not "like" you. There were some other benefits, but they weren't that great. Honors students could register ahead of the crowd, but D had sophomore standing walking in, so not that big a perk. Also, as someone who was "honors eligible" she was allowed to take honors classes on a space available basis. She took a few, but it was nice not to have to do the whole program and for what? A designation on her degree that meant....pretty much nothing.

    Some kids (and parents) are really into that stuff. If your kid wants to try out honors, let him. It's not like he's locked in forever if, after the first year, he decides it's not his thing.
  • TinijocaroTinijocaro Registered User Posts: 65 Junior Member
    At SUNY Buffalo, much smaller class sizes and early registration are two big pluses. Many opportunities to be involved in the community in many ways through the Honor's college. Son applied to grad schools a while back and there was a place to mention if you were regular curriculum or honors. It can make a difference for grad school acceptances.
  • SouthFloridaMom9SouthFloridaMom9 Registered User Posts: 3,272 Senior Member
    We had similar concerns about honors programs at various schools, and it does depend heavily on the school.

    Our son will not do lots of extra reading and writing no matter how we cajole, bribe, or threaten. He has enough to deal with in his engineering pre-reqs.

    On the other hand, I would have loved most of the honors programs I have seen. Then again I'd never survive Calc 3 or physics with Calculus.

    Again, it really depends on the school and the student.
  • MSMeadMSMead Registered User Posts: 194 Junior Member
    Wlmom94: Interesting article. I will be exploring my son's honors program opportunities further. In looking at his engineering curriculum for several schools, I can't really see any room for honors classes unless they are within the curriculum. That would make sense but, at one school they have him doing essays etc. before classes have even started. I am concerned that this will be loaded upon him in addition to his required curriculum over the next few years. I have a lot of questions. I also have to be careful because I know my son only tolerates classes that are not in math or science. But, he will need these other classes to be a well rounded, communicating, engineer. I want him to be excited about college, finally being able to focus on what he wants to do. I worry that a 4 page essay before the first day of class will be discouraging and viewed as just more "school" like high school is.
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Registered User Posts: 2,882 Senior Member
    That is a strange way of looking at it. Unless your kids will be attending colleges that aren't very selective with admissions, then their schools themselves have "cordoned off a like group of students." And, if your children are selecting "brutal majors," they have essentially cordoned themselves off from the rest who aren't in those tough majors.

    Fair point.

    Honors courses were primarily in the gen eds and special required honors seminars (which were given "free" if they put a student into overload--something that would happen in certain majors). For students in heavily sequenced, rigid majors--I'm assuming like engineering and a few others--those gen eds are the only chance to really break away from the kids in the major with whom you move lock-step through the program. If you then take those classes with all the same honors group, well you've expanded circle, but not by all that much. Also, for kids in very sequenced majors, gen eds are limited by schedule to begin with. Then, they are further limited by needing something with honors designation. I just didn't see much benefit to offset the limitations. Huge schools with lots of offerings and really big honors programs...well, maybe a different story.

    Anyway, kid graduated 2 years ago, #1 in her cohort in her major, currently waiting to hear back from grad schools. Not having the honors designation on the degree really didn't seem to make a difference. She enjoyed the few honors courses she chose to take, but I don't know that the extra work (because say what they will, all the reading and writing IS more work---and some kids LOVE it) would have enriched her college experience much.
  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 Registered User Posts: 1,276 Senior Member
    My son has been accepted into college honor programs and I find it frustrating to get an accurate read on what it entails and whether it is worth it. I too have the same reservations as the OP. I can understand that they all differ. Is the honors program at the local CC really that much of an improvement? How about at the local city college? Flagship? Elite?. How does one really know.

    It almost seems like you have to jump into the program to see what it is like and then decide. But by that time your GPA could be threatened. Employers want a high GPA just to select the candidate pool for interviews. They will not even look at you without a high GPA. Honors or not. I guess it is the same as in HS. It is great to challenge yourself with AP classes except when those AP classes go wrong and blow out your GPA. How many kids took the risk of more challenging work only to find out they came up short by missing out on top 10% of class and a lower GPA which meant they missed out on colleges they wished to attend.
  • MagnetronMagnetron Registered User Posts: 2,143 Senior Member
    My D is a junior in her Honors College. Her best friends in HS were all smarty-pants and her ACT score was 10 points above the average student.

    She has seen a number of benefits. First, the Honors classes are focused while the regular school equivalent is largely busywork. While the regular freshman English section is covering word choice and grammar, honors kids are learning how to write a research paper. That gets carried through to the History and Philosophy classes. Second, the honors class can give out mostly As. Third, when it is time for a group project, the work is done early and is of exemplary quality. S1, not in the HC, hates having group projects. Fourth, with the early registration, she gets to craft her schedule. Having it on her transcript was never a consideration.

    S2, a HS senior, did not apply to the Cal Poly Honors Program because they do not have early registration and requires extra work.
  • CADREAMINCADREAMIN Registered User Posts: 2,857 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    fwiw, I have one engineer at large private that chose not to do honors, and as a senior now, for him it was absolutely the right decision. Ended up he had so many writing assignments and at least two classes I recall that were geared specifically for tech writing within his engineering curriculum for engineers/scientists, on top of many many essays throughout his four years in GEs, writing specific classes and about every other class (they write a lot in college these days). Also, gave him time to pursue other higher level classes within the engineering major, besides starting in Calc III and upper level physics as freshman.

    At another smaller population private for my D, they told us going in that engineering was not well coordinated with honors and they didn't see the need to try harder to work with them because engineering is basically honors throughout (small classes, high output, etc). They said there were times you just couldn't take an honors class because it was only offered at the same time as a required engineering class, and basically, oh well. Point was, they didn't see any real benefit in engineers being in honors (at this particular school). So that was those situations.

    After all this, I have one considering a large public this upcoming fall (not engineer/science) and we are "battling" over the honors thing. (At this school, you pay more for honors, that was new to me.) After fours years of honors and AP classes in hs, she would rather not do it in college and doesn't see the point. I get that, but can't let go of the priority registration and discussion based classes. But I have heard of students not enjoying those and preferring lectures. Frankly, I get that, you can't hide in those and have to be "on" everyday. Sounds great, but I am not the one waking up to do that every morning. :) If you tell her she will be with "like minds" she will totally hate the idea, as singling anyone or group out is not this generation's thing to do.

    Am glad to see this discussion.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,242 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    It depends greatly on the school.

    U of Wisconsin (Madison) has an Honors Program. No special dorms or Honors survey classes. Here 's the Letters and Science version, some schools/colleges do not have one. Three kinds of Honors degrees- liberal arts, in the major and comprehensive. Student decides which by which requirements to meet. Also three ways to get Honors credit- an honors course, honors section of a course or individual arrangement of work to do in a regular course. A B or better is required for honors credit. A thesis (such as science research) or grad credits in the major (good for math which doesn't lend itself to the research as easily as other fields may) and a 3.5 gpa. Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Math all have Honors sequences that are rigorous. Plus there are other Honors sequences and courses one can take all semesters as an undergrad.

    STEM majors will obviously have different paper writing expectations than Humanities majors et al. I believe Engineering now offers an Honors degree that means students will have done breadth (L&S) courses for honors- in the past they had stated the engineering majors were all sufficiently high in caliber no honors was indicated. Nice to acknowledge those who go above and beyond in other fields than their major.

    The overall caliber of UW is high enough that regular courses can be rigorous enough and the student body can provide a good peer group for many. Those who choose an Honors course typically want the material offered. It can mean smaller classes and a professor for the discussion group. It can mean having a TA when the whole course is Honors- the best TA's get those assignments and professors like teaching the Honors freshmen/sophomores- perhaps because they have the interest/enthusiasm for the subject matter.

    btw- what the #3 post considers "brutal" may not be any different than many other majors. Those with aptitude/intelligence/a good background/interest in the field may find it a lot easier than many other majors. Those who enjoy writing would find many papers a lot easier than doing STEM problem sets, and vice versa for those majors. "Brutal" can be used to describe math grad school admissions given the high caliber of world wide applicants to top grad programs. It does not apply to the math major for those who enjoy it and are good at it.

    Honors is done for oneself, not the resume. The decision to pursue honors classes depends on the student and the school. Some regular versions of courses can be just as rigorous, just in a different way (Calculus comes to mind- the Honors sequence is theory, not problem based- suiting different needs).I personally like the UW system- there is no need to segregate students into dorms (even honors students within the same major have different preferences for living situations, as I can attest) nor do they have mandatory course all honors students need to take. Survey courses instead of material specific courses that STEM, social science and humanities majors are lumped together in seems terrible to me (I have seen course descriptions for some schools online). Some schools offer courses for only the first year or two. Taking a survey course may mean less time for an indepth course in a subject.

    No two students are alike. This includes those who want the added depth/rigor of Honors courses, even those in the same major. Perhaps the choice of college will be determined by how the Honors College/Program is conducted.

  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 13,555 Senior Member
    On CC I always see the suggest to look into honors programs, like every kid would like them. My nephew was asked to be in one (and he was a super high stat high school kid), and didn't even consider it. My niece loved it. One of my kids, who wasn't asked and wouldn't qualify, would love it (and her roommate freshman year was in honors but chose not to live in Honors housing, so D got a little taste of it). My daughter who would be eligible but whose school doesn't have it, would have run screaming in horror from an honors curriculum.

    D2 gets to register early because she's an athlete, but neither of my kids have ever had an issue registering for classes. D1 often has classes with only 20 kids in them. She knows her professors even when there are 120 in the lectures (not often, and always a smaller discussion group).

    D2 is in engineering. If she was required to take one or two honors classes per semester, I'm not sure she'd graduate on time. She usually only has one non-engineering course per semester (English, econ, western civ), and the final thesis wouldn't be easy to schedule either.
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