Why Your Teen Should Consider an Honors College

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


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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

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

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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September 2019

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Cost: Free

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Compare Foods Parking Lot
2000 Avondale Dr.
Durham, NC
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Cost: Free

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City Market
214 E. Martin Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Jay's Italian Ice
Telephone: 919-780-4169
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Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of...

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
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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See Peppa Pig and her friends embark on a new adventure in this live stage show. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $29.50 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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See Peppa Pig and her friends embark on a new adventure in this live stage show. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $29.50 and up

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Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: FREE

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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Robert Gibbs discusses his latest book, "Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation." Ages 8-12. Purchase the book from Quail Ridge to reserve two seats for the event and a...

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Quail Ridge Books
4209 Lassister Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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We are Voted BEST consignment sale in the Triangle and TOP 10 in the NATION!! Our sale features Children's Clothing including a wonderful boutique section, costume section, and coats section,...

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Cary Towne Centre
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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Enjoy a free sunset movie by the picturesque Lake Raleigh. Take a picnic blanket, lawn chairs and a non-perishable food donations (human and pet) on Fridays in September to NC State's...

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Lake Raleigh Meadows
Campus Shore Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Each year more than 30,000 visitors come to BugFest to experience over 100 exhibits, crafts, games and activities. This year's theme is beetles. Interact with entomologists and other scientists...

Cost: Free

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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919.707.9800
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Each year more than 30,000 visitors come to BugFest to experience over 100 exhibits, crafts, games and activities. This year's theme is beetles. Interact with entomologists and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919.707.9800
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Cost: $5

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Piney Wood Park
400 E. Woodcroft Pkwy
Durham, NC  27713
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Telephone: 984-329-5970
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Cost: Free

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Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
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Knightdale Station Park
810 N First Ave
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Main Street Creedmoor
301 N. Main St.
Creedmoor, NC  27522
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Sponsor: City of Creedmoor
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Contact Name: Angie Perry
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Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Towne Centre
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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Cost: $5 suggested donation; free for children under 12

Where:
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

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
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
River Park
114 E. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborouh, NC  27278
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This family-oriented event includes corn milling demonstrations and costumed tours of Yates Mill, and other event activities including a fun children’s scavenger hunt activity, live music and...

Cost: Free, though there is a $3-5 fee for mill tours

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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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

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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Cost: Free

Where:
West Point on the Eno
5101 N. Roxboro St.
Durham, NC  27704
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

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
Website »

More information

Celebrate diversity in Wake Forest with live performances, traditional cuisine and family entertainment. 

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: $11.25 – $20

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre's Rose Garden and Stephenson Amphitheatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Live bands showcase this event that also features a kids zone, vendor village and food trucks.

Cost: $15 advance tickets, $20 at the door. Free for ages 5 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre's Rose Garden and Stephenson Amphitheatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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The Teen Advisory Board invites you to meet up with other gamers to mingle, snack, and test your skills for prizes! Guests are welcome to bring their own controllers/fightsticks. Register by...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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The Clayton Center presents country crooner Billy "Crash" Craddock in concert. Sing along with Crash as he belts out his biggest hits, including Knock Three Times, Rub It In, Ruby Baby, Broken...

Cost: $25 plus taxes & fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second Street
Clayton, NC  27520
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Sponsor: The Clayton Center
Telephone: 919-553-1737
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