Yes, We Have a Book

Editor’s Update, December 28, 2016: Readers can now buy individual honors program profiles, at low cost.

A new edition was scheduled for publication in September 2018; now, it has been delayed until early or mid-October.

The following programs will receive rated reviews in the 2018 book:

Alabama Birmingham
Arizona St
Central Florida
Colorado St
CUNY Macaulay
Florida Atlantic
Georgia State
Nevada Reno
New Jersey Inst Tech
New Mexico
Oklahoma St
Oregon St
Penn St
South Carolina
South Florida
Texas Tech
UT Austin
Virginia Commonwealth
Washington St
West Virginia

These programs will receive detailed but unrated reviews:

Florida International
Mississippi St
Portland St
Texas A&M
UC Irvine

You should know that the new book is very data-driven–it is “more steak than sizzle,” as one reader noted about the previous edition as well. 

Thirteen data points in each program are compared to the means for all 50 rated programs. There is considerable narrative, however, especially about unrated features such as study abroad, financial aid, and undergraduate research.

Counselors, consultants, and honors professionals: email Wendy,, for discount information and invoicing.

Here is additional media recognition of INSIDE HONORS:

In the Washington Post (August 26, 2017), Jacques Berlinerblau, a professor at Georgetown University, recommended INSIDE HONORS as a “handy guide” to honors colleges, which “try to identify the best scholar-teachers on the Quad (regardless of their politics), place them in small classroom settings, and properly train them and incentivize them to completely commit to undergraduate teaching. That’s what all colleges should be doing. And that’s what all parents should be looking for.” 

Columnist and consultant Lee Bierer: “John Willingham has literally written the book on Honors Colleges. INSIDE HONORS: Ratings and Reviews of Sixty Public University Honors Programs…where he shares his methodical research results. His research has demonstrated that increasingly one can find equally excellent value in the growing number of honors colleges in non-flagship institutions. But to find that value, you have to look deeply into what Willingham calls the ‘ground game’ of honors colleges and programs.”–Charlotte Observer, February 20, 2017.

Columnist and author Frank Bruni: A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs was “…first published in 2012 and updated last year. It’s linked to, which began in 2011 and, like the [new] book, provides thorough appraisals of individual honors colleges and programs and intelligent thoughts on how they fit into the higher-education landscape.”New York Times, August 9, 2015.

In his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admission Mania,  Mr. Bruni includes the book in his “Suggested Reading” section, writing that “…honors colleges at state universities have much to recommend them and warrant serious consideration. This straightforward analysis of the best ones gives them the spotlight they deserve.”

Nancy Griesemer, College Explorations: “… if you’re considering honors programs housed within top public universities, this 342-page guide (also available in digital format) is an invaluable resource for evaluating different aspects of the ‘honors’ experience.”Washington Examiner, November 7, 2014. (Nancy Griesemer is an independent educational consultant based in northern Virginia. She is a graduate of Penn and Harvard with a certificate in college counseling from UCLA.  She is not affiliated in any way with Public University Press or this site.

Writing about INSIDE HONORS on February 7, 2017, she says the book is “a must-have guide for anyone interested in exploring public university honors programs.”

The 489-page Kindle version AND print version of the 2016 edition are now available.

Inside Honors also has much more information about merit scholarships than the 2014 edition included. The 400-page print version was published on October 1, 2016.

Libraries and book stores can order from Ingram’s.

Since 2012, we have either ranked or rated 84 public university honors colleges or programs. After the 2012 edition, we began using ratings instead of rankings. It is not that our present methodology could not be used to rank programs–in fact, it is more in-depth than that used by other college rankings and ratings, given that its focus is on a relatively small number of programs. But individual rankings offer more than they deliver, asserting distinctions based on extremely small, debatable differences. This is not to say that rankings are not entertaining.

Although we do not individually rank the honors colleges and programs, all of the the 11 honors colleges and programs that received the highest overall rating of 5.0 “mortarboards” in 2016 would rank in the top 10, including ties.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Arizona State, Barrett Honors College
Clemson, Calhoun Honors College
CUNY, Macaulay Honors College
Georgia Honors Program
Houston Honors College
Kansas Honors Program
New Jersey Inst of Technology (NJIT), Albert Dorman  Honors College
Oregon, Clark Honors College
Penn State, Schreyer Honors College
South Carolina Honors College
UT Austin Plan II Honors Program

CUNY Macaulay, Houston, and NJIT were not rated previously. Oregon’s Clark Honors College and Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College have moved up to a 5 mortarboard rating. In the 2014 edition, the Michigan LSA Honors Program and the Echols Scholars Program at the University of Virginia were rated, and both received an overall rating of 5 mortarboards. They both receive unrated summary reviews in the new book because we could not obtain the necessary data for our new, more rigorous rating methodology. Either university, or either honors program, would be an excellent choice.

Inside Honors is the only publication that provides detailed ratings and reviews of major public honors colleges and honors programs. It is widely used by honors administrators and college admissions consultants. Most of the programs rated in the book have a national reach, with scholarships that offset out-of-state residency costs.  If you came to this page via an ad or link and you know you aren’t interested in our book, then please do check out the 400 posts that provide free information on this site!

 The book rates all honors program components on a five-mortarboard scale (similar to five-star ratings for books and films) and compares the overall honors rating with the U.S. News ranking of the university as a whole.  The 2016 edition features detailed information about honors courses, the number of honors class sections by subject, actual honors class sizes, and honors completion requirements for 50 major public university honors programs. And there is updated information about actual average test scores (not just minimum entrance requirements), actual HSGPA averages, honors graduation rates, prestigious awards (Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, etc.), honors housing and benefits, availability of honors dorms, priority registration for honors students, and the ratio of honors staff to students

The detailed data we have received from honors Deans and Directors has yielded profiles that are approximately 6-7 pages in length for each program.

It is important to note that we do not claim that the fifty programs we review are necessarily the “best” fifty programs in the entire nation, though many are certainly among the very best.  But our main goal is to show which of the 50 popular and highly-ranked state universities under review have the strongest honors programs, especially in relation to the reputation of the university as a whole.

Editor’s Note: The print version is 400 pages in length, and the Amazon price will be $16.95, plus shipping, ($3.50 to $4.00).

It costs about $3.75 less (18% discount) to buy the paperback direct from Public University Press because of free shipping, with similar speed of delivery (about three weeks).  (Please see below for purchase via PayPal/credit card or by check.)

We offer secure direct purchase through a confidential PayPal or credit card (“Buy Now” tab below) at a total price, including shipping, of $16.95  This is the lowest cost option. If you want expedited shipping, or you want to pay in advance, by check, or you would prefer to use a credit card (also confidentially) without going through PayPal, please contact You will need to include your shipping address for these payments.

 Please use the same contact to request complimentary review copies (media), bulk order, or group discount options.  Thanks!

Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingrams.