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Honors Colleges

SchoolNewsSchoolNews 30 replies11 threads Junior Member
Can anyone share the basics? My S is interested in Engineering. I don't love the idea of a huge university, but he thinks that is the best way to have access to the toys (my word) and enough critical mass of people interested in the same subject. I worry about huge classes, the inability to even register for necessary classes, and the financial hit that public universities are taking.

Are all Honors Colleges created equal? Are these typically reserved for in-state applicants?

Thank you
28 replies
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Replies to: Honors Colleges

  • 1Lotus1Lotus 377 replies25 threads Member
    Interested in this topic as well.
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  • usma87usma87 590 replies4 threads Member
    @SchoolNews - No, all Honors programs are NOT created equal. It's a gross generalization, but there are two basic approaches. The first, an honors program as part of a separate college with specific classes up to and including a thesis project. The second, almost an extracurricular or club with some special "sections" in classes.

    I have a second son going through the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State. ASU's approach is a separate college. Freshman take "The Human Event". It is two classes that focus on a variety of books. All majors at Barrett are required to take these. For an Engineering major, your son could look for an Engineering professor teaching the class. Each professor picks the readings they will work through in the class. ASU is one of the few Honors programs that requires a Thesis for graduation.

    My sons were also accepted to some UC's. The impression we got from them is the EC type Honors program. It was difficult to see the value from the information we were given. I have a son at Notre Dame. Their program is a small, invitation only, competitive program. Beyond the designation as an "Honors" student, I am not sure the significance of the program there. My son is not in the Honors program at Notre Dame.

    We have been happy with the ASU approach. They meet your son's criteria of a large research school. The Barrett Honors College provides a "small college feel" but access to big college amenities.

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  • BuckeyeMWDSGBuckeyeMWDSG 1124 replies15 threads Senior Member
    edited August 28
    The only honors college I can think of that is reserved for in state residents is https://macaulay.cuny.edu/ which comes with full tuition merit aid https://macaulay.cuny.edu/admissions/tuition-and-merit-scholarship/

    Are there any others?

    The Ohio, Arizona, Alabama, New Mexico publics we considered all welcomed out of state students, although the merit aid varied quite a bit between them.
    edited August 28
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  • vistajayvistajay 1589 replies28 threads Senior Member
    Just about every state school has honors programs now, though most tend to have an intro course or seminar but not separate honors courses all the way through. The big benefit I see, even in those that are honors programs in name only, are that most allow the honors students to register for courses before the general student population, and many have separate honors dorms freshman year. The downside for an engineering major is some require a 3.5 cumulative GPA.
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  • BuckeyeMWDSGBuckeyeMWDSG 1124 replies15 threads Senior Member
    "The downside for an engineering major is some require a 3.5 cumulative GPA."

    That is part of the reason my D chose the Scholars (freshman only, small theme based living learning community) program at Ohio State and transferred into the Honors program after she was accepted into her engineering major.

    My S wasn't interested in any of the Scholars themes and chose to start in the honors program as a freshman. As far as toys, he really enjoyed working with lasers in the physics department to create holograms to fulfill his visual arts credits through an honors course.

    Ohio State has reduced all class sizes to 50 or less because of the pandemic and the honors courses tend to be around 20.

    https://honors-scholars.osu.edu/future-students

    Scheduling doesn't seem to be an issue the way it used to be. They have an app and you choose what classes you are interested in and it generates different schedules to choose from. You can even block off times you are unavailable. It sure beats the scraps of paper/bulletin board method I had to use.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2265 replies21 threads Senior Member
    D is in the Honors College at Utah, where you have to take a certain number of Honors courses (4 core courses and 3 electives, some of which can count towards your major and/or Gen Ed requirements) and complete a thesis: https://honors.utah.edu/degree-and-course-planner/

    All the honors courses are small (30 students or fewer) and either reserved for or with priority for honors students. First year honors students are typically matched to an LLC and take a specific Honors course for that group of students. You need to maintain a 3.5GPA as well, but that's not hard. They have great housing specifically for Honors students, plus Honors advisers etc.

    It is completely different to Honors at the UCs where there seems to be little point in undertaking the extra work for Honors courses (AFAIK departmental honors theses are handled separately).
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10871 replies136 threads Senior Member
    My D is in the honors college at Purdue. She just started her third year of engineering. Honors college there has been amazing. Beyond the typical honors college perks of housing, special advising, priority registration etc. there have been a ton of leadership opportunities, Research, employment, and lots of networking. Honors engineers have their own design course which was hands-down my daughters favorite course freshman year.

    As others have noted, there are big variations between how universities run their honors colleges. Definitely not a one size fits all.
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  • CollegeMamb0CollegeMamb0 156 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Benefits
    Housing (living with other Honors ('smart') kids. Often much nicer dorms.
    Smaller class sizes for Honors sections
    In some programs, being a bigger fish and getting noticed

    As well as Honors Colleges, some schools also have other specialist programs such as Randall Research Scholars and Blount Liberal Arts Initiative (engineers invited too!) at Alabama. These are invitation only based on application and interview. There is also Capstone Scholars at South Carolina. These types of programs will give you lots of opportunities to get noticed by professors, do research and other work, and sometimes have special housing arrangements. I'm sure there are versions of these at a lot of universities so worth researching.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10871 replies136 threads Senior Member
    Level of competition for honors college also varies widely. It's not a no brainer to be accepted to HC, no matter how high a student's stats. Each school does it differently.

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  • PublisherPublisher 11912 replies161 threads Senior Member
    edited August 28
    I do not have enough time to detail specifics, but the College of Charleston, the University of South Carolina, the University of Georgia, and the University of Mississippi all have Honors Colleges or Programs (Georgia) which are well established & well funded (last time I checked).

    Whether or not these schools honors are suitable for engineering students is another issue.

    Clemson has a lot of engineering students so it may be worthwhile for OP"s son to consider.

    Penn State's Honors College at one time had an overwhelming number of engineering students.
    edited August 28
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  • usma87usma87 590 replies4 threads Member
    @SchoolNews and @1Lotus - I will also add that having an "Honors College" has become very popular. It is a way for some large schools to draw higher scoring students to their school. There are some great posts here to provide insights into a number of opportunities.
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  • CamasiteCamasite 245 replies10 threads Junior Member
    University of Washington honors college has a reputation for being dominated by ultra-competitive high achieving pre-med type students who push the grading curves out to stratospheric levels. My daughter is applying there, but she is a bit nervous about jumping into that rat race as she isn't interested in pre-med and isn't so grade oriented.

    By contrast, University of Oregon's honors college seems more like a liberal arts college within a larger university. But then you pay an additional $4000 or so for the privilege of doing honors college there.
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  • UWfromCAUWfromCA 1340 replies55 threads Senior Member
    edited August 29
    Re: #12

    This page lists the majors with the most entering (2017-2019) and enrolled (2019) students in Washington’s Honors Program:

    https://honors.uw.edu/about/who-are-honors-students/

    In recent years, the Honors Program has enrolled about 225 to 250 freshmen. All are strong students (for example, the ACT range for freshmen enrolled in 2019 was 32-35), and many are computer science, engineering and science majors, but many others are social science, humanities and business administration majors. Over 100 majors are represented in the Honors Program, and the graduate profiles reflect this diversity of academic interests.

    https://honors.uw.edu/community/grad-profiles/

    https://honors.uw.edu/community/grads/

    https://honors.uw.edu/about/

    I believe the Interdisciplinary Honors Program students take an Honors course (which are mostly small seminars) every quarter or so to fulfill their UW general education requirements. The possible presence of a couple ultra-competitive pre-meds should not deter your daughter from enjoying a course in, for example, “Russian Art and Architecture” or “Women in Greek and Roman Antiquity” if of interest to her.
    edited August 29
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  • HighTide2020HighTide2020 119 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Interested, too. I had the impression that the honors program or college would be more important at a large university- sort of narrow the place down. I know they are not all the same. I think Georgia has a particularly good one and it's hard to get in.
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  • CamasiteCamasite 245 replies10 threads Junior Member
    UWfromCA wrote: »
    Re: #12

    This page lists the majors with the most entering (2017-2019) and enrolled (2019) students in Washington’s Honors Program:

    https://honors.uw.edu/about/who-are-honors-students/

    In recent years, the Honors Program has enrolled about 225 to 250 freshmen. All are strong students (for example, the ACT range for freshmen enrolled in 2019 was 32-35), and many are computer science, engineering and science majors, but many others are social science, humanities and business administration majors. Over 100 majors are represented in the Honors Program, and the graduate profiles reflect this diversity of academic interests.

    https://honors.uw.edu/community/grad-profiles/

    https://honors.uw.edu/community/grads/

    https://honors.uw.edu/about/

    I believe the Interdisciplinary Honors Program students take an Honors course (which are mostly small seminars) every quarter or so to fulfill their UW general education requirements. The possible presence of a couple ultra-competitive pre-meds should not deter your daughter from enjoying a course in, for example, “Russian Art and Architecture” or “Women in Greek and Roman Antiquity” if of interest to her.

    Thanks for the link to all the data. We had not seen that before. She is definitely applying to the Honors College. She is just going by "word of mouth" from older friends who have gone on to UW. Her HS has quite a big pipeline of students going to UW, especially from her HS marching band which is the largest in WA. So she hears word back from her band friends ahead of her about life at UW and that is one of the things she heard.

    It won't make or break her exprience at UW if she gets in or not. Judging from the stats, it is extremely competitive, although she does all within the range of students accepted.
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  • UWfromCAUWfromCA 1340 replies55 threads Senior Member
    Best of luck to your daughter, Camasite. No doubt, she will have a lot of great options, and UW would be happy to get her. I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Husky Marching Band perform at Stanford last year. The game was awful (for the Huskies), but the band was awesome!
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  • CamasiteCamasite 245 replies10 threads Junior Member
    UWfromCA wrote: »
    Best of luck to your daughter, Camasite. No doubt, she will have a lot of great options, and UW would be happy to get her. I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Husky Marching Band perform at Stanford last year. The game was awful (for the Huskies), but the band was awesome!

    Marching band is actually one the big reasons she wants to go to UW. Camas HS sends a bunch of kids up to UW to play in the band every year and up until this year she has played every year at Husky Stadium during Husky Band day with all the other big HS bands in WA. So disappointed to have marching band canceled this fall but hopefully they will have football and marching band in the spring this year to finish off her school year. The Husky band kids all come home and talk about how much fun it is. It is probably a bigger motivation to go to UW than the Honors college frankly!
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 84672 replies752 threads Senior Member
    vistajay wrote: »
    The downside for an engineering major is some require a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

    Regardless of whether there is an honors program and whether the student is in it, be careful if there is a secondary admission process to the desired major with a GPA that high, or students in the major must maintain a GPA that high to stay in the major.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 84672 replies752 threads Senior Member
    UWfromCA wrote: »
    Re: #12

    This page lists the majors with the most entering (2017-2019) and enrolled (2019) students in Washington’s Honors Program:

    https://honors.uw.edu/about/who-are-honors-students/

    12.3% pre-sciences*
    10.5% computer science
    6.9% engineering undeclared*
    5.7% pre-major*
    5.1% biochemistry**
    4.3% pre-social-sciences*
    3.2% pre-health-sciences* **
    2.9% political science**
    2.6% business

    Seems like many of these are students facing GPA pressure either to get into a major (*) or for future medical, law, or other professional school applications (**).
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  • wis75wis75 14407 replies65 threads Senior Member
    NOT the same at all! This topic has been covered over the years. You/your son actually needs to check into the overall university and then how Honors is done. UW-Madison (ie Wisconsin) has an excellent Honors program in L&S which does not force students into the same classes at all. Nor do they segregate into separate housing. The diversity in honors students' favored dorms is great even within the same major.

    First your son needs to look at the overall caliber of the schools. The regular classes at one U may be honors caliber at another. He needs to look at courses available not only the first year or two but advanced classes related to his proposed major.

    I agree a larger school is likely a good place for the numbers of students with similar interests. Remember that large U's are like cities with many different neighborhoods. you spend your time with the group taking generally the same classes but everyone has different electives for fun or to meet requirements. Large schools more often have a more diverse course listing- obscure topics to have fun with.

    The stats on how many enrolled in an Honors program don't really matter, what matters most is the available classes. Plus- at a top tier U even the regular classes are likely to be more content filled/challenging and the overall student body at a higher level.

    Years ago by now I looked at some honors programs/colleges websites. For some the structure required all honors students to take the same survey courses instead of choosing an indepth course. Plus they offered nothing after the first two years. Others offered many honors options for various courses, through senior year. Housing with the masses can work well as we are all multifaceted- not just our academics or major.

    It is interesting to me to hear about U-dub (vs UW)- both are strong flagships. And the marching bands. It is was also interesting for me to see how my UW Honors experience was similar to my son's generation- many same STEM course options with content changes of course (well actually not necessarily- son's honors calculus sequence was theory based instead of the problem based most science/engineering students need so his textbook had a 1960's copyright).

    You want the school that isn't heavily recruiting honors students to improve their student body. Your son wants to not be the top student but with peers. There are a lot of elite U students at their state flagships.
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