Dr. Lynne Goodstein has a wealth of experience in honors education, having directed the program at the University of Connecticut for many years. The UConn program has more than 1,600 students, and about half of them live in honors residence halls; another quarter live elsewhere on campus.
Even though Dr. Goodstein is leaving honors to return to the classroom, she shared her insights into developing effective, high-impact programs for honors residences and facilities during a session at the National College Honors Council annual conference in Boston.
Below please see her “top ten” recommendations. Parents and prospective students should find these useful as they visit honors colleges and programs across the country.
The programming for residence halls should have clear goals and learning objectives.
Variety is extremely important; the “menu” should include community service, along with social, academic, and professional development and opportunities to meet with faculty.
The programs should be tailored to match the changing needs of students across four years. This means offering a wide variety of activities in the first two years, including many social programs to develop a sense of community. During the last two years, programming becomes more closely-related to specific professional and academic interests.
Programming benefits from partnerships with cultural centers on and off campus, with academic departments, and with the university office of residential life.
Residential assistants (RA’s) should be well-trained and understand the connections between their programs and honors goals.
Incentives to students are important, but should not be excessive. Students should not be required to attend too many programs—about five in the first two years is recommended.
Honors staff need to focus on online and other means of communicating meeting the topics, dates, and times of program events..
Honors staff should solicit and read student response forms for use in future planning.
At UConn, one of the most successful programs is the “Lunch Bunch,” a series of luncheon meetings during which honors students have informal discussions with faculty, whom they get to know on a more personal basis.
The Honors in the Arts programming allows students to develop or expand an interest in the arts and meet new people in small groups. Book clubs are another way to expand student interest and promote positive associations.
Leadership programs and alumni presentations tailored to specific majors and professions are also
successful and help to sustain ties between generations of students.
Students in the honors program at Texas A&M University now have to meet a new set of requirements to remain in the program, and now all freshman honors students are assigned to the honors learning community.
But the program also offers more flexibility now, allowing students to contract for honors credit in a broader range of classes.
TAMU honors housing received a high evaluation in our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs. So it’s not a burden for all freshmen to live in the honors community. They begin their freshman year there, and now, with a separate honors application in place, they can receive better advising and more readily get the classes they need through the priority registration available to them.
“The transition from high school to college has been pleasant because of all of the people I met in the program [who] help me with whatever I need. It’s a nice sense of family that we have going on here. I have a lot of friends who are having a hard time adjusting to college because they feel very alone, but I haven’t faced that problem because of the Honors functions and living with the people in my classes,” said Deanna Sessions, freshman electrical engineering major.
In addition to the housing change, students must now meet the following minimum continuation requirements:
Maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPR and a 3.25 in Honors course work
Make progress toward distinction requirements by taking at least 6 hours of Honors course work each academic year
Participate in the HFLC (freshmen) or at least one HSC event per semester (continuing students)
Update an e-Portfolio and meeting with an advisor at least once per year
Plan and execute a capstone experience in their junior or senior year that synthesizes and integrates their educational experiences in the form of a research or scholarly project
Please note that the 6-hour credit requirement per year is a minimum to remain in good standing, while the actual completion requirement to graduate as an honors fellow is at least 27 hours of coursework and and 3-hour capstone project. Honors students may of course also earn Latin honors, requiring at least a cumulative university-wide GPA of 3.5 for cum laude status.
The minimum requirements to apply to the program remain the same: at least a 1250 SAT, with both verbal and math scores of at least 570.
The Honors College at Texas Tech University is one of only a few honors programs that offer fast-track options to attend law or medical school at the same university, and the joint program between the honors college and the medical school even allows honors students to skip the MCAT before entering med school.
The joint Early Acceptance Program allows Honors College students to waive the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and to apply early to the School of Medicine during their junior year.
“To be eligible for the Early Acceptance Program, you must be enrolled in the Honors College, have entered Texas Tech University as a freshman, maintain residency in the state of Texas, and acquired a composite score (earned in one test administration) of at least 1300 on the SAT or at least 29 on the ACT upon matriculation at Texas Tech University.”
“The Honors College and the Texas Tech School of Law have collaborated to create two exciting new opportunities for Honors students who plan to attend law school. The Early Decision Plan allows eligible students who intend to attend the TTU Law School to receive notice of their acceptance as juniors but complete their undergraduate degrees prior to entry into the law school. The Early Admission Program (“3+3 Plan”) allows eligible Honors Arts & Sciences students to enter law school prior to graduation after they have completed 100 hours of coursework. The “3+3″ program enables eligible students to complete both a baccalaureate and a doctor of jurisprudence in approximately six years.” [Emphasis added.]
Eligibility for the honors college as a freshman requires a minimum SAT score of 1200 or an ACT of 26 or a place in the top 10 percent of the applicant’s high school class to be considered for admission. Admission is not, however, guaranteed with these credentials. Applicants with International Baccalaureate diplomas are assured of admission. Current students are also considered for admission if they have earned a 3.4 GPA.
The regular honors curriculum requires 24 hours of honors course work for freshman entrants, and 27 hours for students who enter later. Six hours must be in upper-division courses, six must be in 3000-4000-level courses, and freshman entrants must also complete a first-year series.
In order to graduate with highest honors, students must also complete an additional six hours of research and thesis work.
The honors housing at Tech appears to be a strong option: students in Gordon Hall share two-bed suites that have private baths and that share a common living area with the adjoining suite. Gordon hall as its own laundry, and the Fresh Market Cafe serves both Gordon and neighboring Bledsoe Hall. Gordon Hall is on the east side of campus, closest to science and engineering classrooms and farther from business, English, foreign language, and philosophy classrooms.
Another honors college is taking a giant step toward providing state-of-the-art honors residential housing to a greater number of students: The Commonwealth Honors Residential Complex at UMass Amherst will be one of the largest and finest honors residential communities in the nation when it opens in Fall of 2013.
The new complex in effect should move the Honors College into the top 20 in Honors Factors (which including residence halls and dining) among the 50 colleges and programs we plan to evaluate again in 2014. The Honors College is among the larger programs in the country, and the size of the new residential complex is a good fit for a large program.
The complex will include 1,500 beds, including 600 for first-year students and 900 for upper-division students. The central location is only five minutes from the library and very near a new recreation center. The complex will also include nine classrooms and offices for the Commonwealth Honors College in buildings from four to six stories high, set in the midst of several courtyards.
The complex will have its own cafe, open 24/7, and is not far from multiple dining options in the Campus Center and Southwest Campus areas.
“Commonwealth Honors College currently serves about 3,000 students in 88 majors. It provides an intellectually challenging honors curriculum, creates a community of scholars and helps prepare future leaders by providing an academic avenue for highly motivated students to delve deeply into their studies. It is also the only such school in the region to provide a four-year honors course of study that includes a highly demanding six-credit honors capstone project. The college plans to gradually increase its incoming classes from 485 this fall to 600 per year.”
Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, said this new complex will improve an already excellent program. “Commonwealth Honors College is the premier honors college in New England serving the greatest number of students in the largest number of majors,” Clarkson said. “This new complex will serve as a visible representation of the commitment of this campus to academic excellence and will help attract even more students to the program.”
In our frequent reviews of honors residence halls, we come across a wide variety of room configurations, with the most typical being the traditional shared double with corridor baths or a combination of traditional rooms with some suite-style rooms that allow four students in two adjoining rooms to share a common bath.
But the Global Scholars Hall at the University of Oregon offers not only these basic options but an amazing six additional options. The hall will soon have its own dining facility, the Freshmarket Cafe, offering sushi, pasta, rice bows, deli sandwiches, special expresso drinks, and fresh produce.
The Clark Honors College at U of O ranked 24th out of 50 in Overall Excellence and 23rd in Honors Factors in our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs. The Global Scholars Hall was not yet open at the time of publication, and if it had been open, the Clark Honors College would have ranked even higher with a stronger score for housing.
Home to students in the Clark Honors College, College Scholars, and global language scholars studying Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, or German. Students in these groups must apply through their program for a place in the Global Scholars Hall. There are classrooms and study facilities in the hall, which even has its own librarian.
Here are the room options in the 450-student hall:
1. Traditional double with in-room sink;
2. Enhanced single with in-room sink;
3. Double with its own bath;
4. Triple with three sets of furniture, in-room sink, and no private bath (the least expensive option);
5. Single with its own bath;
6. Four-person suite, featuring two double rooms with a shared bath between them;
7. Six-person suite with one bath, with a private hallway, common living area and furniture, and three double rooms;
8. Two-person suite with bath, where each student has a single room and both students share one bath.
The Global Scholars Hall is open for Fall 2012, but we include it as “new” for 2013 as well.
The Honors College at the University of South Carolina, ranked number one in our category of Honors Factors, now offers an extremely impressive choice of honors courses–a projected 464 courses for 2012-2013, up from about 300 in previous years.
In our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, the Honors College had the strongest overall curriculum ranking and was one of only a handful of honors colleges or programs that received the highest possible score for honors housing.
In order to provide advising and other services to support this range of courses, the staff size has grown from 18 to 20 and is in the process of growing to 22 in the next month or so.
The Honors College will provide over $200,000 in 2012-2013 to Honors undergraduates for research and travel. This funding is in addition to resources that students can access through the undergraduate research office (available to all students).
And now the College offers priority registration for all classes for honors students, not just for honors classes.
The College also provides 100% of its students with some form of scholarship funding.
Our planned post on updates and improvements to honors programs will appear in the near future, and we hope at least a few programs will provide information about new scholarship opportunities. In the meantime, thanks to the transparency of the Colorado State site, we can report that there are some great opportunities for entering honors students there, even if they are out-of-state residents.
All students admitted to the honors program receive a $1,000 scholarship, and remain eligible for renewal through four years if they maintain program requirements.
But highly qualified OOS students are eligible for a $9,000 renewable scholarship, whichcovers about three-fourths of the OOS tuition and fees. To be eligible, applicants must meet the February 1 priority deadline and have a 1300/ACT 29/ and at least a 3.8 GPA.
All National Merit finalists, Boettcher finalists and scholars, Monfort Scholars, National Hispanic Scholars, and National Achievement Scholars also receive this scholarship automatically if they apply by the February 1 priority deadline and list CSU as their first choice school.
The good news doesn’t end there. OOS students with SAT 1230/ACT 27 and a GPA of at least 3.6 are eligible for a $7000 a year scholarship.
The regular application deadline for honors is March 1. Admission is based on a combination of test scores and GPAs, allowing students with very high GPAs to be admitted with somewhat lower test scores.
The average SAT of admitted students is 1340, ACT 31, and weighted GPA 4.15
But admission is also likely with the following test/GPA combinations:
SAT 1310/ACT 30/ GPA 3.7;
SAT 1280/ACT 29/GPA 3.8;
SAT 1240/ ACT 28/ GPA 3.9;
SAT 1200/ACT 27/ GPA 4.0.
All also require a recommendation from a high school counselor, who will be contacted.
Automatic invitations are issued to students with the following combinations of test scores and GPAs:
SAT 1400/ACT 32/GPA 4.0;
SAT 1440/ACT 33/GPA 3.9;
SAT 1490/ACT34/ GPA3.8.
Once admitted, students can choose between two honors tracks. Track 1 requires 13 hours of honors core classes and seminars; 6 hours of honors credit in the department, college, or major; and a total of 4 hours for honors research and thesis.
Track 2 is essentially an honors in the major track. It totals 17 hours of honors credit, including the 1 hour freshman honors seminar, 12 hours in the major, and 4 hours for the thesis and research.
The strongest departments at CSU are biological and agricultural engineering 23rd in the nation; civil engineering, 37; environmental engineering, 41; and overall engineering, 67. Chemistry ranks 45th, statistics 40, and all science departments are ranked number 82 or better in the nation. Of special importance to pre-vet students is the very high ranking–number 3 in the nation–of CSU’s vet school.
Honors students have a great residential opportunity. About 240 of the 360 new honors entrants each year can enjoy the amenities of the Honors Academic Village. The residence hall features two-person suites with a private bath. Immediately adjacent is one of the best campus dining facilities, Rams Horn Hall. After freshman year, honors students may live in nearby Edwards Hall, an older facility with traditional rooms and corridor baths.
As we review honors curricula we sometimes encounter so many options that we find it difficult to emerge with a clear impression of the requirements. The curriculum for the University of New Hampshire Honors College is that rare combination of clarity and flexibility that can be readily understood.
Moreover, the curriculum is extensive, requiring 32 hours of honors credits for graduation if students pursue the University Honors Designation. This option includes 16 hours of honors seminars, usually limited to 20 students, which also count toward general education requirements. Then students go on to complete another 16 hours in Honors in Major courses, including at least 4 hours of which are the honors thesis.
This kind of clear integration between honors general education requirements and departmental specialization, including a thesis, strikes us as one of the most sensible ways to structure the honors curriculum. Students who do not choose to receive the University Honors Designation simply go straight to the Honors in Major track when they reach upper-division status.
A typical first-semester freshman entrant should have an ACT/SAT of at least 29/1970, and rank in the top 10 percent (or equivalent) of her high school class. Second-semester freshmen may also apply if they rank in top 10 percent of their college; if students have a 3.4 college GPA but do not rank in the top 10 percent of their college, they may submit a personal essay and teacher recommendations to the honors advisor.
Honors students may apply to live in Hubbard Hall, a co-ed hall that houses about 250 students in traditional rooms with corridor baths. Hubbard is not as close to some classes as other dorms, but it is still in a good location near Williamson and Christensen residence halls. All three are very convenient to Philbrook Dining Hall, one of the major dining locations on campus.
Hubbard Hall is definitely the place for the most serious students on the UNH campus. Here is what some of them say:
“The Hubbard Hall community is perfect for incoming freshmen; it allows them to be around other freshmen and some upperclassmen. Also, it provides a good balance where one can explore social things in a safe way, and still have a quiet place to live and study to come home to.”
“Hubbard is a nice dorm which has an environment that provides many social and academic opportunities for students who wish to make a bunch of new friends as well as maintain their grade point average.”
Among the best academic programs at UNH are earth sciences, history, sociology, and English. The intellectual law program at the law school is one of the leading programs of its type in the nation.
In the last decade, the LSU Honors College has grown and improved, and with a recent emphasis on prestigious scholarships and an expanded honors residence hall, the college is a strong option in the South.
Now with about 1,200 students, the College is in our category of “smaller” programs–those with fewer than 1,800 honors students. It appears that the recent trend in honors colleges is to establish residential scholars’ communities of 1,000–1,200 students.
Admission to the College is selective, with a “recommended” SAT of 1330 (ACT 30), plus an essay. A minimum score of 660 on the SAT critical reading portion is also recommended. An ACT composite score of 29 is acceptable if the English score is 31. The deadline to apply is November 15.
The Honors House Residence is located in West Laville Hall (renovated in 2010) and now in East Laville Hall, newly renovated and open to students in the Fall of 2012. Both are located adjacent to the 459 Dining Commons and the French House, home of the College. About 600 students can be accommodated in the halls, both of which have central air conditioning with individual room controls. One important feature is that the halls are available to students for all four years of residence. Although the baths are corridor style, each room has its own sink.
Next to the Honors House is the academic center of the Honors College, the French House, an historic building resembling a French chateau, where small seminar classes are held, students meet with specialized advisors, and all Honors College events take place, ranging from classical concerts to Quiz Bowl tournaments.
The honors curriculum is substantial, requiring 32 hours of honors credit, including a thesis; an overall GPA of 3.5 is required for graduation. (This overall requirement compares very favorably with those of the fifty honors programs we have formally evaluated.) At least 6 honors hours must be in seminars, and at least 12 hours must be upper-division courses, including the thesis.
Students can earn “sophomore honors distinction” if they complete 20 hours of honors work in the first two years, including 6 hours of honors seminars. Upper division honors distinction requires exemplary work in junior and senior courses along with an excellent honors thesis.
Honors credit may be earned in honors-only seminars; in small versions of regular classes, with an honors component; and in honors “option” courses, requiring the student to arrange individual instruction with a professor. Honors students have priority registration for honors courses.
Since 2005, when LSU established the Office of Fellowship Advising within the Honors College, LSU students have won 13 Goldwater awards for undergraduate research in STEM fields, and have had 15 finalists for the Truman Scholarship for postgraduate studies. LSU students also earned seven National Science Graduate Research Foundation grants in 2012. The establishment of a fellowship office within the honors college or program is an important consideration for prospective students who have an interest in prestigious awards.
Honors students are also encouraged to travel and study abroad “to enrich their education and to gain a wider perspective on the future of this country. The Honors College sponsors summer study trips to China and to South Africa, where students learn foreign languages, engage with students from those countries and learn about their cultures.”
The Honors College at the University of Utah may have more interesting options for living, learning, and participating in honors projects than any other program or college that we have reviewed–and we’re not talking about the fabulous skiing that is so accessible from Salt Lake City.
Okay, we do have to mention that the brand new Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Community (MHC for short) does in fact have a ski wax room as well as storage space for skis and bikes.
But what is most impressive is the thoughtful, coherent, yet flexible curriculum that blends effectively with so many living and learning options that it will be difficult to list them all.
Admission is selective but holistic, with no ironclad test and GPA requirements. From what we gather from the website, applicants are “highly likely” to be admitted with SAT 1490 (ACT 34) and above, plus a GPA of at least 3.8. It appears that “likely” admission requires an SAT of around 1360 (ACT 31) and a GPA of 3.6 or so. SAT of approximately 1250 (ACT 28) and a GPA of 3.5 or higher may require the applicant to go through a portfolio admissions process. The portfolio must contain two letters of recommendation, a graded writing sample that includes the name of the teacher who issued the grade, and a personal statement of 1-3 pages. Portfolio applications may require four or five weeks for review.
The requirements for the preliminary honors certificate are six hours of credit in Intellectual Traditions (IT) courses; three hours of credit in an honors writing course; and six more hours that can be from several honors core options. These include American Institutions; honors calculus; and core courses in behavioral sciences, physical and life sciences, fine arts, Construction of Knowledge, or any honors seminars. Note: AP credits can apply to general education requirements but DO NOT displace honors course requirements.
The university honors degree requires an additional six hours of honors courses and a thesis or capstone project. Most departments also offer an honors track, and even those that do not offer the separate track do have honors advisors that can supervise the thesis.
It appears that it would be difficult not to continue taking honors courses, given the range of options.
Students can select honors internships “to work alongside a community leader in a real-world situation to bring about change in a community,” meanwhile receiving a $1,000 stipend for the 16 weeks required to complete the internship.
Or students can take honors tutorials that enable them to work one on one with a faculty member on a research project, while meeting with the instructor weekly.
Most interesting to us is the option to participate in the honors think tank collaborative classes, limited to 12 students, many with different majors. These two-semester courses bring students together to apply multidisciplinary perspectives to a “contemporary societal challenge under the guidance of faculty,” and also carries a stipend of $1,000.
Students may also participate in honors cohorts of 20 students, who focus on topics of mutual interest. Examples are cohorts for religious studies, environmental studies, pre-med, pre-law, ethics, American Studies, Sciences, and LGBTQ studies. Students meet monthly to discuss their projects and aims.
The legal cohort, for example, allows students to attend hearings, meet with judges and attorneys, do legal research, learn about the Socratic method of teaching, and study case law and courtroom practices. Students also have the opportunity to consult with advisors about the many career options and specialty fields available to lawyers.
Another exciting feature is the early assurance program, which is open to students with SAT scores of 1170 or higher (ACT 26) and GPA of 3.8, who want to attend graduate school at the “U.” Most honors students are eligible. The program allows students to take up to two years to decide on a graduate major–a remarkable level of flexibility.
Each year, the most elite applicants to the early assurance program are selected as Eccles Distinguished Scholars, who receive full support for tuition, fees, and housing as long as they remain eligible.
All honors students are eligible for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which offers some grants of $1,200 for first-time research projects in collaboration with and $600 in renewable grants.
Students may earn honors credit for studying abroad and can choose from seven special honors options:
Theater, humanities, and fine arts in London
British studies–the Bloomsbury Group–in London
Environmental studies in Costa Rica
Summer studies in Berlin
Summer studies in Cambridge
Social work in Mexico
Writing in Costa Rica
Students may also receive credit for non-honors study-abroad courses, but not for courses in language study abroad.
The new Marriott Honors Center (MHC) is opening this Fall. The MHC is located near the Huntsman Center on Campus, at the intersection of Mario Capecchi Drive and South Campus Drive. The MHC has 309 beds in apartment/suite configurations, and there are plans to expand the facility.
The MHC has its own cafe, coffee shop, laundry, ski wax room, music room, secure bike storage, and is near a TRAX line that provides transportation around the city.
The residence hall includes an honors core experience floor for students who have not decided on a major; a first-year honors floor for students who have chosen a major; an upper-division honors community; and residences for Eccles School of Business honors students and College of Engineering honors students.
Additional honors communities are located in the Officer’s Circle section of the campus. These include The Law House for pre-law students; the Honors Innovation House; the Poulson House for students working on capstones and theses; and another Honors First-Year Floor at Sage Point.