Good Honors Colleges and Programs for Average Excellent Kids

I would appreciate some discussion on what are the best and very good honors programs for an average excellent student. I have been looking and see a lot of programs that just offer the nicer dorms and priority registration, but not much else of substance other than a few smaller classes in classes that may not be relevant.

What programs are out there that make a material difference for the students who participate? (Bonus points for data that shows that outcomes for Honors students are measurably better than non-Honors students with similar stats for med school/grad school/otherwise).

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My D had an amazing experience in honors college at Purdue. Aside from housing and registration, they have great honors advisors, honors study abroad opportunities, their own job fair, research (which is required to graduate with honors), leadership development, and they promote strong relationships with students and professors in the honors community.


Penn State’s Schreyer is one of the premier honors colleges in the nation. It offers much more than just priority registration and honors dorms.


By “similar stats”, do you mean high school stats used for college or honors program admission, or college stats that are eventually relevant to professional or graduate school admission or employment after college graduation?

I’m not sure that data exists… and if it does, it will come with LOTS of asterisks and caveats.

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I recently came across a program that claimed to have data that demonstrates that among kids with similar high school gpa and test scores who were pre med, the honors cohort had higher mcats and medical school admissions rates than those who did not participate in the honors program. He didn’t share the hard numbers, but I found them credible.

But as we know and is oft repeated…correlation doesn’t equal causation. Is it possible the honors students were better test takers all along - meaning part of how they became honors students was a high SAT/ACT score - which means they were already well-suited for preparing for and eventually excelling at the MCAT regardless of honors participation?


Exactly. Not just high test scores, but they’ve also been excellent students in other ways.

This is just like how people point out that the Ivies and other elite schools produce outstanding graduates. No doubt they’re given huge opportunities and resources, but the students have also been pre-screened for excellence. So it’s no surprise that they’re going to excel.


It’s a little different, but take a look at Chadbourne Residential College at UW-Madison. It’s a dorm that doubles as an academic community, has its own set of academic advisers and is connected to the L&S Honors program. It’s effectively a residential honors college, so it makes the university seem smaller than it actually is.


Of course its just a correlation, but to be fair the claim was presented as such and made in passing.

I was wondeting if anyone else was making claims. It seems that among students of many programs, they perceive it is a waste of time, aside from the perks like priority registration.

It all depends on how the honors program is structured. Some schools have “living learning programs” and special courses and opportunities (including career advising) that aren’t available to others. And students I’ve known in these types of programs have generally been very satisfied. Rutgers Honors College and the UMD Honors Program are two local/regional honors programs that are popular with high stats students in our area (New Jersey).


I think each honors College is different - in what they offer, what type classes, how many are required. They are all independent and not necessarily the same.

Then you have schools like UMD and U of SC that have multiple levels - Honors, Scholars , etc.

You have some like where my son went -it’s the biggest Honors program in the country but he didn’t care for it. Had the dorm he wanted. Had early class registration. He did little, did no enrichment but they let you stay and like many just sort of don’t achieve Honors for graduation he didn’t like the required humanities. He got into Purdue but did not like their program requirements so didn’t apply to Honors whereas @momofboiler1 loved it. So that goes to show it’s really an individual program and at each an individual evaluation. My son’s gf did take advantage at Bama and loved it. They also have small programs within - Randall Research, Blount, MCCullough Medical. I’m guessing others do as well.

My daughter is at a mid size school and has taken full advantage. Even her core classes are small - not just the Honors but she’s in two cohorts within Honors. One for top and one for internationally focused majors. And she’s met diplomats, attended many speeches. Even gone to special dinners where they teach you proper etiquette/ie how to act with VIPs. This semester she’s in the DC program (for Honors students) - and has an internship at a major Think Tank - which she said is overwhelming her two days in - but she’s going to experience the real political world - like it or not - this from an “average kid” school.

I’ve heard good things about Rutgers and KU as maybe two less known

At some, like Pitt for example, anyone can take the classes - whether or not you are part of the program.

Many colleges have programs, known or otherwise, and many are likely good if they are a fit for the student. Some may be the entire school like Wilkes at FAU.

But I don’t think you can just say good Honors. I think you need to look deeper. It’s not the same as comparing two colleges. Honors can and will have huge variances.

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I think it really depends on the school and even schools not “known” for their Honors College can provide a lot of extras. As far as measuring outcomes, I think that is unknowable because of the type of student who tends to dive all-in in honors programs.

My D22 is in the Honors College at Oregon State, which doesn’t have a “national” reputation.

Honors students get segregated housing and class registration priority, which is nice, but it is lots better if you also come in with AP credits because then you can have sophomore or junior class standing your first year. Classes register as follows: Athletes, Honors Seniors, Other Seniors, Honors Juniors, Other Juniors, etc.

Each Honors student also gets a separate Honors advisor. My daughter loves her regular advisor, so the Honors advisor seems superfluous, but a lot of her friends are not happy with their regular advisor so it is nice to have the extra support in Honors. There was also a 1 credit Honors class covering the whole thesis process for first years.

In Corvallis, there are specific Honors classes and also Honors sections of many regular classes, which are smaller. So, for instance, my daughter took an Honors-only Political Science course (“Governing After the Zombie Apocalypse” that examined what could/should go into a new government constitution, etc.) and an Honors Writing course. But she also took Honors sections of an accounting course, introductory business course, etc. They all provided a higher degree of interaction with instructors and classmates, which she appreciated.

There are also a lot of community-building activities. The Corvallis Honors dorms will host game nights or self-care fairs or movie nights with food. There was a summer reading assignment for first years and organized discussion groups for it the first week on campus. There is a lounge with printers, snacks, resources just for Honors students. There was a research fair type event where students could go talk with professors about their research and my daughter had some good interactions with a professor who could become her thesis supervisor (remains to be seen).


What unique things are offered by Penn State’s honors college?

Student Programs - Life at Schreyer - Schreyer Honors College (SHC) at Penn State University (

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William Schreyer alone donated $55 million just to the Honors program. That funds a lot of opportunities like travel and excellent professors.

some honors programs require the students to live in an honors dorm with other honors students. my daughter specifically did NOT want that. she is a 1st year at UGA in the Honors program there. It’s a bit early to judge it overall but I think it offers a lot of opportunities besides just the dorm and honors classes- like advising, internships, speaker events, scholarships…

I suspect she will not take full advantage of it all by choosing to live in the regular dorms but that’s how she wanted it. but all of her classes this semester (her 1st) are under 20 students, and she seems very happy.

For Ohio State, when you apply, you can choose either Honors or Scholars- she chose to apply to Scholars. The honors program there adds academic responsibilities and opportunities, like in the classroom, while the Scholars program adds more social and community service opportunities- outside the classroom. that sounded more interesting.

for Maryland, I don’t think you choose. You’re placed into Honors or Scholars, and the differences are similarly academic vs extracurricular, I think.

For UMD, please see the Honors Integrated Life Sciences program.

“ 1. The data available from the HPAO indicates that previous cohorts of UMD Honors students in life sciences majors have medical school acceptance rates above 80%. We anticipate that due to the above programs, the cohorts of ILS students should have comparable or even higher acceptance rates.”

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And it is also depending of people’s value of all these Honor Programs… I and my DD did not care… She had a presidential scholarship but ended up in University Honors at UMD. That Honors program was pretty much useless busy work. Extra courses were not interesting for her in that LLC. She was denied entrance to Honors program for Humanities (she was applying for Engineering), DCC, or programming. At open house to my question why a student with a lot of AP and DE classes would be interested in an Honors program that just extends time in college with unnecessary classes that are not required for the major, I was told “who would want to graduate early?” So if ILS would benefit premed kids, not all programs are useful. When I asked can a student take a scholarship and not to participate in any Honors program, I was treated like I am out of my mind, because DD would be in that case living not with Honors’ students but with the rest of the students…
DD wanted specifically to live with Humanity kids and get an Engineering degree. She did not want to hear about classes after classes and wanted to be around kids who are interested in reading and theater… Apparently, that was not encouraged by UMD…
So DD is not attending UMD partially because we were so upset about all that Honors programs system that many people like so much…

This is somewhat different. Ohio University has what is call it’s “Honors Tutorial College”. It’s patterned after the Tutorial system at Oxford University. It’s rather selective as there are only a few positions a year in each of the disciplines that offer a tutorial degree. It is best for students who are very self motivated and want to have a degree of independence in their curriculum. I believe it comes with a full tuition scholarship but you’d have to confirm that. It’s not for everyone but for the right student it’s awesome.