The Weber Honors College Mission
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. " - African Proverb
One of the most important aspects of participating in the Weber Honors College is becoming part of the Honors culture at SDSU and getting to know other diverse, curious, and motivated students who share a commitment to academic excellence. The mission of the Weber Honors College is, however, about much more than aspiration and academic excellence. It is also about providing a unique community of place and purpose and a gathering space for a diverse group of students who share a commitment to achievement, to giving back to the communities in which they live and work, and to deep engagement. Supporting an intentional community of diverse and engaged students, the Weber Honors College fosters an atmosphere of creativity, interdisciplinary conversation, intellectual engagement, and collegiality.
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An increasingly common question I am fielding these days is whether a student should apply to an honors college or an honors program. Just what is an honors college or honors program, you ask?
Well, it is not just graduating with honors or making it on the dean’s list. In a nutshell, honors colleges/programs function and exist as part of a larger, more comprehensive university and offer an enriched learning experience — smaller classes, excellent teachers, individualized educational opportunities and, in many cases, a dedicated living-learning environment.
Viewed as a way for high-achieving students to challenge themselves, this is an attractive option at an affordable price for many students. By offering a liberal arts-like feel but with the resources of a large public university, this path combines, in some ways, the best of both worlds.
The evolution of honors programs and honors colleges
Honors programs have been around for decades but really began to take off after World War II when GIs were coming home looking for what to do next. Private schools couldn’t meet the increased demand for college, and at the same time many students were unable to afford private schools anyway.
Some savvy public universities saw this as a market opportunity and began to offer enriched programs to attract talent. Most honors colleges have grown out of these honors programs, although it is no longer just public institutions that offer these options.
Private schools such as Boston University, Baylor, Hofstra and Azusa Pacific all have honors colleges, and there are now honors programs or honors colleges at various community colleges, too. Sacramento City College has an honors program where students in the program take challenging three-unit honors scholars courses (usually limited to 15 or fewer students), receive scholarships and earn an “Honors Scholar” notation on their transcript, among other things.
How is an honors college different from an honors program?
While their purpose is the same — to attract and challenge talented students — their structure and scope are different. While both a typical honors college and honors program have honors housing, advisers, a faculty board and a thesis requirement, honors colleges also typically have a dean, community outreach, an alumni society and an external advisory board.
The most common model for an honors college is one in which the college is situated within a large comprehensive public university. Students in an honors college may have one or all of the following benefits: small classes; more interaction with professors; early registration for classes; special activities (retreats, campuswide recognition banquets, dinners with faculty members); and priority interviewing for jobs and internships.
At some schools, students who participate in the honors program also may qualify for certain scholarships that otherwise would not be available to them. Graduating from this program also means that the honors degree is on the diploma and permanent record, which can be a distinguishing factor on a résumé.
What are the disadvantages?
With all of these benefits, why wouldn’t you apply to an honors college? Well, there are some disadvantages to consider. First, the high expectations and the level of rigor may not be a good fit for some students for whom the transition to college is not seamless. For these students it could jeopardize GPA or perhaps even undermine chances of getting into graduate school or getting a good job.
Another consideration is the “elitism,” whether perceived or real, that an honors college/program on campus may engender. And, as is the case with other small colleges, being in small classes and then also living with the same students may not work out if there is not a good social fit.
How to apply
That being said, what is the application process? Since honors colleges tend to be more selective than the university they are attached to, they generally have higher admission criteria to meet (higher GPA and test scores required) and additional application requirements such as letters of recommendation, essays and an interview. Think private school application.
Each school and program has its own application process and timeline, but most prefer students to apply early. At some schools you are automatically accepted into the program if you meet the criteria, while at others, you may need to submit a separate application. Applying to Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College, for example, is a two-step process. Apply to ASU first and then to Barrett.
Check each college’s website for more specifics or go to the website for the National Collegiate Honors Council, http://nchchonors.org, for more general information about honors programs.
Until next time
I hope you will do me the honor of considering my parting refrain: Remember, even if the honors college route is not your cup of tea, there is still a right college out there for you!
— Jennifer Borenstein is an independent college adviser in Davis and owner of The Right College For You. Her column is published monthly. She lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at [email protected], or visit www.therightcollegeforyou.org.
Honors colleges popular with Davis students
* Arizona State University Barrett Honors College
* Boston University Kilachand Honors College
* Oregon State University Honors College
* San Diego State University Honors College
* University of Oregon Clark Honors College
* University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College
* Washington State Honors College
Honors programs popular with Davis students
* Boston College
* Chico State
* Colorado State Fort Collins
* St Mary’s
* UC Davis
* University of Nevada at Reno
* University of Washington