Rutgers Honors College: A New Home–and a New Living/Learning Community

Beginning this fall, 530 first-year students will begin their honors experience in the brand new, state-of-the art Honors College Living/Learning Community (LLC). The facility is also the administrative home of the Honors College and provides classroom and conference space as well.

Dean Matt Matsuda tells us that “our new living/learning facility houses all first-year students in the Honors College as well as our administrative and advising offices, six seminar rooms, plentiful lounge and study areas for programming, and three live-in faculty apartments.”

Rutgers honors dormArts and Sciences and other honors programs at Rutgers will continue operations on various  Rutgers-New Brunswick campuses, but freshman entrants from now on will share the first-year residential experience at the new LLC, a fact that provides cohesion, mentoring, and lots of mutual reinforcement for the new students.

The Honors LLC is located in the heart of the College Avenue Campus, the oldest of the five New Brunswick campuses and site of the original university. The College Avenue Campus is home to the Student Union, Health Center, the school of Arts and Sciences, and many academic departments.

At at time when as many as 75 percent of applicants to the most elite colleges are capable of succeeding at those schools–while only 5-10 percent are accepted–public honors programs are an increasingly important option. (Arguments that as many of 80 percent of high achieving students can find a place in elite colleges are extremely suspect. Please see Is It True That 80% of Elite Students Are Accepted by Elite Colleges?)

Below are excerpts from a great piece on the new college and LLC, written by Adam Clark of NJ Advance Media.  One of the key points in the piece is that Rutgers, like many other public honors colleges and programs, is trying to give high achieving students in the state a public in-state option that takes into account the special abilities the students bring to the university.

By Adam Clark…

As an honors student in high school, Amanda Fraticelli loved the atmosphere of being surrounded by top students, she said.

Fraticelli, of Toms River, said she was motivated by the way students challenged one another to do better academically. While some of her high school friends went to Ivy League universities and Fraticelli picked Rutgers University, the incoming freshman doesn’t expect that challenging atmosphere to change too much.

“I like knowing that everyone else (here) cares as much as I do,” Fraticelli said as she moved into her dorm room on Thursday.

In Fraticelli’s residence hall, some students might care even more.

Thursday marked the official opening of The Rutgers-New Brunswick Honors College, an $84.8 million, 170,000 square foot complex where the best and brightest of New Jersey’s state university will live alongside some school faculty and the academic dean.

All 530 honors college stdents, with an average SAT score more than 600 points higher than the state average [of 1526], moved into the building that also houses the offices of their academic advisors and honors college administrators.

“It’s a transformational moment in terms of honors education here,” said Paul Gilmore, the honors college’s administrative dean. “It’s a way that we are making the state, the region, the nation aware of what an incredible resource Rutgers is.”

Rutgers is one of dozens of state universities nationwide investing in honors colleges as a way to compete with elite colleges to attract the state’s brightest students. The honors programs often offer upgraded housing, smaller classes and other perks to draw in top undergraduates.

In recent years, Rutgers has stepped up its efforts to recruit high-achieving students, starting a new scholarship program for applicants with top SAT scores and high school grade point averages. The efforts come as New Jersey remains one of the country’s largest exporters of college students — sending more freshmen to out-of-state colleges than most other states in the nation.

Rutgers has long had honors programs for students from certain campuses or schools. But the new honors college for the first time brings together the top students of all academic majors under one roof.

For some students, earning a spot in the honors college is simply a perk. They had planned to attend Rutgers anyway but like the idea of being surrounded by students with similar academic goals, they said.

The fact that the honors college is the newest residence hall on the College Avenue campus made the decision easier students said.

The double rooms come with the same amenities as other on-campus housing, plus carpeted floors and air conditioning. Some rooms at the end of the hall have a view of the Raritan River.

Unlike the large, group-style bathrooms in more traditional college dormitories, the honors college has smaller bathrooms throughout each floor.

On the ground floor, seminar rooms will host some of the first-year classes. An indoor-outdoor fireplace anchors a lounge and patio space.

Students have to pay slightly more to live in the honors college housing, which is only for freshmen, but they are also allowed to stay in their rooms over school breaks.

For parents, that fact that students will be living in a building with in-house academic advisors is a relief, they said.

“It gives us a better feel for how she is going to survive her first year,” said Fernando Fraticelli, Amanda’s father.

Administrators hope students not only survive but help make the honors college a showcase for the university, Gilmore said. Rutgers sees the program as a recruiting tool that will help attract the best student from New Jersey and beyond, he said.

SaraAnn Stanway, an Ocean Township High School graduate who scored a 2270 out of 2400 on the SAT, said she understood the honors college is beneficial both for the students and for Rutgers.

“It’s exciting that Rutgers made it for us, but what makes it ever better is that we get to make it for Rutgers,” Stanway said. “We have the opportunity to make the honors college prestigious and extraordinary, and I can’t wait to be part of it.”

LSU Honors College: Strong and Getting Stronger

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.”


Honors Residence Halls, Auburn University

Location, location, location. Most of the coed honors residence halls at Auburn are located in the “Quad,” smack in the center of campus. Not that honors students would need to fall out of bed late and need to make it to class in five minutes…but they could do so if they had to.

Housing is hard to come by at Auburn, but less so for honors students. The honors dorms at the Quad are Harper, Broun, Little, and Teague. These halls are older than the new, apartment-like Village dorms, but, again, it’s the location that makes the Quad honors halls so appealing. Honors students may also be assigned to older dorms on the “Hill.”

Please know that even honors students have to mind the details and the deadlines when it comes to reserving a room at Auburn. Honors students should also know that if they want to live in one of the honors halls, they cannot qualify if they want a roommate who is not in honors.

The official view: “All Quad rooms are configured in suites consisting of two double rooms (two students per room) connected by a bathroom. There are a very limited number of single rooms available. Quad rooms are furnished with an extra long (80”), bunkable twin bed, study desk and chair, chest of drawers, and closet for each resident. Rent includes all utilities including basic T.V. cable and wireless internet service. Washers and dryers are located in a laundry facility centrally located in the Quad Center. Residents receive their mail and packages at the mailroom located in that building as well.”

Students and college sites consider the Village to be among the best college living options in the country, and honors students can choose the Village over the convenience of the Quad. The Village is much newer, somewhat more expensive, but more private with quarters that are essentially apartments. Take it from a resident:

“Auburn’s Village housing is probably the best college living in the country, since instead of just a room, the Village is more like an apartment where one gets their own room. Auburn is expanding the Village dorms in order to house more students.”

Honors Residence Halls, University of Delaware

The Russell Complex at the University of Delaware features dorms with a “Z-shape” interior so that the two occupants have a diagonal separation between them for extra privacy. Russell is more or less required for freshman honors students (see official description below), but whatever a new student thinks about this requirement or the dorm rooms themselves, the Russell dining hall offers three things that can cheer up tired and stressed out students: pizza, hard ice cream, and omelets.

The word is that Russell is the place on campus where these appealing choices are the best.
Now for the official word:

“Freshmen admitted to the Honors Program are housed together in the Russell Complex on East Campus, a popular location that is a short walk from the University’s Morris Library. East Campus is also home to the Perkins Student Center, the Harrington Fitness Center, the Russell Dining Hall, and the Harrington Computer Site.

“Living in first-year Honors housing is a requirement of the freshman year in Honors, although it is possible to get a waiver of this requirement if you plan to live at home with a parent or guardian and commute to campus. The Honors freshman community is enhanced by Russell Fellows, upper-class Honors peer mentors who choose to continue living with the freshmen. They serve as a resource to help with the adjustment to college life and to plan programs and community building activities both inside and outside the residence halls.”

The Russell Complex houses not only honors freshmen but ROTC students as well. Russell has undergone a fairly recent renovation, and according to students the rooms and grounds are clean. The Resident Assistants and Russell Fellows are good at planning entertaining activities for the whole complex and for individual floors.”

In each double room there is a sleep area and a separate work desk and computer area. The desk measures 42 inches wide and 24 inches deep. Thompson and Lane are other honors dorms. All are located on East Campus, one of the best spots on the scenic but fairly large UD campus. Be aware, however, that Russell is not air-conditioned. Perhaps the best news is that most classes on “the Green” are only five minutes away. And “the Beach,” a popular campus common area, is close to the complex.

The Russell Complex also has a shared kitchen and a “quiet” study room, in addition to the adjacent dining hall.

Honors Residence Halls, University of Alabama

Of course, parents and prospective students are concerned about the honors curriculum, the quality of instruction, and the success rate of graduates—but let’s don’t forget that at the end of the day, literally, what may matter most is where we go to rest, or study, or…eat.

As a general rule, honors programs and colleges assign honors students to the best residence halls or dorms on campus. Honors colleges might offer an advantage, versus honors programs, in some cases because the colleges are often established or expanded in accordance with the principle that honors students are a group apart that will benefit from housing that is quieter, more centrally located, or more open to living/learning opportunities.

Although we do not plan to discuss the residence halls in alphabetical order according to the name of the universities of which they are a part, the first honors residences we will mention are those at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

The Honors College living options are in Riverside West, Lakeside West, Ridgecrest North and Ridgecrest West. “These coed living-learning facilities form the center of the University’s tightly-knit honors community. Because of the demand for Honors Housing, only incoming Honors College freshmen and current residents of Honors Housing can be accommodated. Space does not permit Honors College participants living in other residence halls to move to Honors Housing. For more information, please visit”

These dorms are located in the same general area. Riverside stands out because the pool and clubhouse that serves all the honors halls are located there. Another important feature of the honors dorms is there location near Lakeside Dining, which is said to have the best food on campus. The honors quarters offer a choice of (relatively) spacious rooms: singles, or two and four room suites. Some of these have shared kitchen facilities and a shared and furnished living/dining room.

Honors halls are not the closest residences to the center of the UA campus, but they are only about 10 minutes away from the heart of the campus, and are they quite close to the “Ferg,” the university’s student center. Some students believe that Lakeside/Ridgecrest are the best honors dorms because they have full community kitchens, especially important to students who enjoy the chance to cook some of their own meals.

Another great feature of UA residence halls is that the honors dorms are not the only excellent dorms on campus. Overall, UA housing is far above average, and in some cases is outstanding.