Honors programs — lots of schools have them, but are they worth the extra work you have to put in for the designation? My answer is the usual — “it depends.” Depends on what you want to do with your life and what you expect the honors programs to actually do for you.
Mike’s wondering the same thing right now. Should he stick with the honors program even if it means an additional semester or two of college, or should he drop it and graduate on time?
Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy reading it.
You’re welcome, good sir. And not as much as I enjoy writing it!
Here’s my situation: I’m a Theology major who wants to be a pastor or a bible teacher, whatever position becomes available first. To be a bible teacher at a private school I have to take all the same teaching classes as any other teacher. The problem is, I have two years left and so many schedule conflicts that it’s actually pretty hard to complete the teacher education program in undergraduate unless I drop Honors Program.
Drop it like it’s hot! (FORESHADOWING ALERT!) OK, I guess that’s just an outright spoiler.
I’m really nervous about dropping Honors, though, because I also want to pursue a PhD in religion so I can become a professor but would like some pastoral experience before I teach pastors.
More on the details in a second, but you will not irreparably harm your ability to get into a Ph.D program by dropping the honors program as an undergraduate. Honors programs are cool in that they let you voluntarily hold yourself to a higher academic standard, and sure, that’d definitely look nice on grad-school application. But doing an honors program isn’t the only way to get into grad school, so don’t worry about that.
Anyways, I’m assuming that being an honors student will give me an extra boost for when I am applying for graduate schools for my doctorate.
I’m not worried about masters level because I know the schools I want to attend for a masters degree aren’t tough to get into. The schools I want to attend for my doctorate, however, are probably difficult to get into.
Well, remember — college (and everything else, too, really) is all about “what have you done for me LATELY?” What you’ve done most recently outshines what you did way back when by a factor of five, at least. For you, that means that how you fare in the master’s program you complete will far outshine whatever you do or don’t do in undergraduate school.
The theory also holds true regarding high school activities when you’re trying to get a job or get into a master’s program. High school activities were important on an undergrad application because — well, that was your most recent stuff, your most recent level of achievement. But by the time you’re ready to go to grad school or to get a job, no one cares about what you did in high school anymore. Instead, we want to know how you did in undergrad school — again, your most recent level of study and achievement.
The older the achievement (or infraction, as the case may be) — the less it matters to anyone. Words to live by, trust me.
So anyway — don’t worry about a Ph.D program not wanting you because you didn’t do the honors program. Just kick ass in your master’s program and you’ll be fine.
Right now I’m looking at Wheaton College (I believe they admit 4 students per year) and a colloquium of universities and seminaries that include Princeton Theological Seminary, also a tough program to get into.
Those are tough odds, for sure. Thing is, though, the part about you wanting to be a teacher or pastor is immediate and real and, with certainty, you want that. With a Ph.D, though, it’s different — it’s a little further off on the horizon and there remains a fair chance that, however enthusiastic you may be about it now, you may change your mind later.
Who knows? You may enjoy teaching so much that you want a Ph.D in education, or you want to just teach the same class forever, or you want to be a superintendent, etc. Possibilities are endless once you get rolling in real life.
Because of that, my rule is to bank on the bankable — do what you need to do in order to get that pastor/teaching job that you want and need right now, and then let life unfold a bit, after which you can re-focus on that Ph.D if you choose to do so.
What do you suggest? Should I keep my honors and work harder (16-18 credit semesters instead of 12 credit semesters), spend some more money (about $2,000), or should I make life simple and just do general ed. classes?
Well, having said all of the above, it just kinda depends on your abilities and what you’re comfortable with, and how badly you personally want that honors program certificate. If you can roll with 16-18 credit semesters and you really want it, then go for it.
However, the tone of your email sounds like you think that’d be pushing it, and if that’s the case, I don’t see any real harm done by not completing the honors program.
For the rest of you reading this who are considering or are already doing an honors program, here’s the deal: those programs are great in that they show you’ve got initiative to challenge yourself. No denying that.
However, in terms of whether they’ll help you get a job, it’s really kind of a crapshoot. The problem is, employers don’t really know what they entail. They vary widely from school to school.
At some places, honors-program students are taking the same classes as everyone else, except they’re an “honors” version that maybe requires an extra couple of research papers or something similar. At others, there are extra, separate courses involved, and perhaps even more extras outside the classroom.
We just don’t know. And if we don’t know, then we’re pretty much left to give you that extra prestige based upon our own sense of awe at your having completed an “Honors” program/certificate/whatever, and that sense of awe varies a great deal from person to person.
That’s my two cents for the day. What about you honors programs students, teachers, rejects, etc. — what say you? Let us know in the comments below.