After five years of writing about public university honors colleges and programs, John Willingham has learned that excellence in honors education is far from limited to the nation’s most prominent flagship universities.
“Many well-known state universities do have outstanding honors programs, Willingham explains, “but increasingly one can find equal value in the growing number of honors colleges in non-flagship institutions.”
To prove the point, Willingham recently published the third in a series of guides titled, INSIDE HONORS: Ratings and Reviews of Sixty Public Honors Programs. And if you’re considering honors programs housed within top public universities, this 400-page guide (also available in digital format) is an invaluable resource for evaluating different aspects of the “honors” experience.
The original idea for the honors project grew out of a series of articles Willingham authored that compared various public university honors programs. In fact, the first edition of his guide attempted to “rank” programs.
The ranking was dropped in the second edition in favor of a “mortarboard” rating (similar to five-star rating systems) and is based on data obtained on honors graduation rates, class sizes, course range and type, honors dorms, and other honors benefits, including merit scholarships.
For the new third edition, Willingham was able to upgrade his data by obtaining detailed spreadsheets of course sections by academic subject, honors enrollment in each section, and critical data about the types of honors classes.
“I had to know how many honors classes were only for honors students and how many were mixed—honors and non-honors students,” said Willingham. “Finally, I needed information about honors ‘contract’ sections, regular classes where honors students have agreements with instructors to do extra work for honors credit.”
The resulting guide, together with an extremely useful website, provides a very comprehensive picture of what resources and benefits may be available through various honors programs. For the newest edition, a total of 50 programs were rated, while ten received unrated summary reviews.
Beyond the ratings, INSIDE HONORS offers lengthy narrative profiles of all sixty honors programs. And each profile contains data on the average and minimum admission requirements, including old and new SAT scores, ACT scores, high school GPA and class ranks as well as honors application deadlines and a list of other programs with similar admission requirements.
In other words, INSIDE HONORS is a must-have guide for anyone interested in exploring public university honors programs.
Here’s a sneak preview—the following 11 honors colleges and programs received an overall rating of 5.0 mortarboards (listed 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
Honors colleges and programs that received 4.5 mortarboards include the University of Central Florida Burnett Honors College, New Mexico Honors College, the Oklahoma State Honors College, Temple Honors Program, Ole Miss SMB Honors College, Arkansas Honors College, Delaware Honors Program, UC Irvine Campuswide Honors Program, and Honors Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill.
Note that CUNY Macaulay, Houston, and NJIT were not rated previously. And Oregon’s Clark Honors College and Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College have moved up to a 5 mortarboard rating.
Two honors programs with high ratings in past editions are included but not rated in the 2016 edition. The Michigan LSA Honors Program and the Echols Scholars Program at the University of Virginia are undoubtedly great choices for those who earn acceptance, but the (mostly) public data used in the past two editions to rate these programs is no longer sufficient now that much more information has been provided by other programs. Along the same lines, INSIDE HONORS does not rate UCLA and Wisconsin because internal data were not available from UCLA and the information provided by Wisconsin did not match the revised format.
For admissions professionals
Admissions professionals—members of NACAC, IECA or HECA—are invited to purchase the print edition of INSIDE HONORS at a discounted price of $14.41 (includes shipping). To order a copy, email Wendy at [email protected] and provide an address and organizational affiliation. She will then send an electronic invoice, payable by PayPal or credit card for fastest shipment.
In addition to both the electronic and print editions of the guide, individual rated programs profiles are now available for $2.99. They may be delivered the same day, usually within a few hours, for quick answers to questions or to do a comparison almost on the spot.
For more information on the publications or the honors project, visit the Public University Honors website.