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Graduating With Honors

By Tresa Erickson

You spent much of your senior year of high school searching for a college, and now that you have finally been admitted to one, you can't wait for your freshmen year to start. Just think. In a few months, you'll be living on your own and attending classes. Before you can do that, though, you must enroll in classes for your first semester. Everyone suggests that you go for it and enroll in the honors program at your college, but you're not sure. Regular college classes are going to be hard enough-no need to add to the burden with tough honors courses, right? Perhaps. Although they often cover more material, honors courses are not necessarily any harder than regular college classes.

Many colleges and universities offer an honors program. Enrollment in such a program is usually by invitation only based upon criteria like a student's class rank and ACT or SAT scores. Some colleges and universities make the selection process highly competitive by asking for letters of recommendation and a writing sample. Once they have joined an honors program, students must complete a set number of honors courses in order to graduate from the program.

At the majority of colleges and universities across the country, honors courses are designed not to be harder but to cover more material in more depth. Whereas a regular college history course might explore an issue like the Watergate scandal in a week or two, an honors course might devote a month or even the entire semester to the subject. In addition, the course might involve more discussion and projects, and perhaps even a field trip or two, to round out the experience.

Honors courses are generally smaller and present more of an opportunity for instruction from top-notch professionals. Many honors courses are taught by professors who know the issue in great detail rather than by instructors, and some courses are even taught by more than one professor. A class on ethics, for example, might include instruction from any number of professors from disciplines like science, history and anthropology.

Because their focus is so narrow, honors courses can be quite informative and fun. Should you be invited to join an honors program, consider it seriously. Don't say no until you have consulted with the honors-program coordinator at your college or university and found out about the program's requirements and classes. You never know-you might just find an honors course on an issue that you are mad about and the course might turn out to be one of the best ever.

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