Why Your Teen Should Consider an Honors College

Honors colleges can be a cost-effective and highly rewarding undergraduate experience for top-notch students.


Published:

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While honors programs have existed in one form or another since the GI Bill first brought an influx of talented but cost-conscious students to public universities in the post-war era, the full-blown honors college is a more recent phenomenon. The majority of honors colleges were born in the 1990s, designed to lure Ivy-league caliber students to public institutions.

Today, it’s difficult to find a large, public university that does not advertise some type of honors distinction. Yet, with new programs sprouting up faster than dandelions in spring, determining the quality and value of a university’s honors experience involves looking at several key factors.


Class Size and Number of Honors Courses

Ideally, an honors college will offer a wide variety of honors-only courses in which class sizes are commensurate with those of elite liberal arts schools — typically in the 15-20 students-per-class range. In reality, the numbers of courses offered and students in the classroom vary widely across schools.

Despite its large size (over 1,000 honors students), The University of Mississippi’s Barksdale Honors College boasts more than 70 honors courses and class sizes of fewer than 15 students. A perusal of the ample and diverse honors course selections being offered by the honors college reveals that a large number of sections per course are also offered. For example, there are 29 sections of the freshman honors seminar set to run in fall 2018.

Arizona State University, Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University and Temple University offer a similarly vast array of honors courses as well as class sizes under 20. Unfortunately, some programs may only offer a smattering of honors courses with 15-20 students, supplemented by a majority of classes in 300-seat lecture halls. As such, be sure to ask your prospective college for a complete list of honors courses if this cannot be found online.


Does the “Honors” Experience Extend Outside the Classroom?

If your child is a fairly serious student, he or she may benefit by being surrounded by other academically minded students outside of the classroom. Sharing a living space affords honors students the chance to study or complete group projects together, and partake in unique intellectual experiences. Toward this end, it is important to find out if your student’s prospective school offers special honors living arrangements and, if so, what the offerings and policies look like, as they can take various forms.

The University of South Carolina encourages freshmen to live in their honors-only residence, which also includes three lecture halls that allow students to get to class without stepping foot outside. Boston University actually requires members of its Kilachand Honors College to live in a designated honors dorm as a freshman. Other schools, such as Michigan State University, have honors floors in eight of their residence halls across campus, rather than all in one building.


How Does the Cost Compare to Private Colleges?

It’s no secret that state schools have a significantly lower sticker price than most private colleges (sans merit aid considerations). Let’s say a North Carolina resident is choosing between Wake Forest University, a well-regarded private school, and the honors program at UNC-Asheville. Here’s how the financials break down:

Wake Forest (room/board/meals/fees): $71,682 x 4 years = $286,728

UNC-Asheville (room/board/meals/fees): $19,708 (in-state rate) x 4 years = $78,832

That’s a savings of almost $208,000.

This is far from the only opportunity to save by attending an honors college in the Carolinas. Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, North Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina also offer affordable honors experiences.


Key Takeaway

Honors colleges can be a cost-effective and highly rewarding undergraduate experience for top-notch students. In the best-case scenario, your student can enjoy all the benefits of a large university (research opportunities, athletics and a diverse student body) while still benefiting from an intimate, rigorous and individualized experience usually reserved for elite liberal arts colleges.


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also a co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

 

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College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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July 2019

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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: $5

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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Cost: See website for fees

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Cost: $20 and up

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Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
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Cost: Free: registration required

Where:
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Wine Feed
307 S Roxboro St
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market

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Cost: Free

Where:
Alston-Massenburg Center
416 N. Taylor St.
Wake Forest , NC  27587
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Cost: $5-$20

Where:
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1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Cost: $8-$18

Where:
Cedar Ridge High School
1125 New Grady Brown School Rd.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange Community Players
Telephone: 919-619-5856
Contact Name: Orange Community Players
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Meet celebrity and creative Guests from comics, movies, TV, science fiction, fantasy, anime, video games and other genres. Enjoy costume contests, photo opportunities, video game tournaments and...

Cost: $20 and up

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Kidzu Children's Museum
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Cost: $8-$15

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111 E. Second St.
Clayton, NC  27520
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Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
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Cedar Ridge High School
1125 New Grady Brown School Rd.
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Cost: $5-$20

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Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Telephone: (919) 977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
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Cost: $5 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

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Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: $5 adults, free for ages 12 and younger.

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Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: Free

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Durham Central Park
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cary, NC  27511
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800 Taylor St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $20 and up

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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More information

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Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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111 E. Second St.
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


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More information

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Cost: $5-$20

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: (919) 977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

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Cost: $8-$18

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1125 New Grady Brown School Rd.
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View map »


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Contact Name: Orange Community Players
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Enjoy a movie under the stars and play games at 7:15 before the movie begins.

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Join us during National Moth Week to observe some of our night-flying neighbors – MOTHS! Discover how to attract moths and their caterpillars in your backyard, hear about some of their...

Cost: $10 ($9 Members): No Fee for Accompanying Adult

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden - Growing Classroom
100 Old Mason Farm Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: NCBG
Telephone: 919-962-2887
Contact Name: Mike Dunn
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.