The Benefits of an Honors Program
From my experience in University Honors at Virginia Tech I have come to the conclusion that there is one primary benefit to being a part of an honors program at any school: opportunities. It’s amazing to see and learn about all of the opportunities that come from being in an honors program. There are the standard ones at most schools, such as priority registration or smaller class sizes, but at some schools there are many other larger, more diverse benefits.
University Honors at Virginia Tech has a wide variety of opportunities offered to the Honors students beyond just the standard benefits that many people first think about when they think of honors programs. Honors students are offered priority registration for classes, which can be a major advantage to get into popular classes or classes that are offered at a time that you really need, as well as Honors classes, which can be much smaller than general classes, especially for the general education classes that are required for most majors.
Here are some of the unique opportunities that University Honors offers at Virginia Tech:
Sophomore Scholarships – In University Honors at Virginia Tech honors students are offered the opportunity as sophomores to apply to the sophomore scholarship program. This program is comprised of six different scholarships, all a little different based on the requirements within the scholarships, which give students the freedom to design their own study abroad experience for the summer between their Junior and Senior years. It is a highly competitive program that offers an amazing opportunity to literally design your own learning experience.
Presidential Global Scholars – This program is a semester-long study abroad trip to a Virginia Tech owned villa in the Swiss Alps where students have the opportunity to earn a full semester’s worth of credit while learning how to be a global citizens and experiencing different cultures. A unique pillar of the program is the faculty involvement on the trip, including Terry Papillon, the director of University Honors, Daniel Wubah, Vice President and Dean of Undergraduate Education at Virginia Tech, and Nikki Giovanni, an award winning poet and professor in the Virginia Tech English Department. All three of these faculty members, along with others will be travelling over to Europe for an extended period of time during the semester to teach different courses and lead short travel excursions.
Honors Residential College at East Ambler Johnston and Hillcrest – Both of these residence halls are University Honors halls, meaning that only members of University Honors can apply to live in these halls. The Honors residence halls offer a unique experience for students to live in communities with other Honors students, allowing students to work in collaboration with students in many of the same classes or work together in mentoring relationships. Many faculty members also participate in University Honors living and learning communities’ activities, allowing honors students living in the Honors houses to get the opportunity to interact with the faculty members.
Beyond these specific opportunities, University Honors also offers many opportunities in research, internships, jobs, and faculty mentoring, just through the daily programs that are offered to the Honors students. University Honors puts on many different weekly activities which are casual, come-and-go-as-you-please type of events where students and faculty members can socialize. These opportunities give Honors students a direct connection with the faculty within the University, allowing them to create and build relationships with faculty members, which could lead to research positions, internships, or just a mentorship.
When choosing an honors program at any school you are applying to, look to see what opportunities they offer. Most do offer the standard priority registration and smaller, more challenging classes through honors classes, but others, like as explained at Virginia Tech above, offer some that are unique to just that university. These unique opportunities could be scholarships, faculty mentoring, research programs, study abroad experiences, really anything. There are many ways to learn about honors programs at different universities. If you have the opportunity to visit a school, attend an honors information session or set up a meeting with one of the honors staff. From my experience, honors staff love to meet exciting, proactive students and really enjoy discussing the programs that their school offers. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the schools you are looking out, check out their website for more information or don’t be afraid to contact a member of the honors staff by phone or email. Again, honors staff are generally more than willing to help out.