Honors Programs

As the recruiting mail arrived, I built a list of  colleges that offer honors programs or honors colleges.

Interestingly, colleges have a different perspective of how to treat gifted students than our high school.  In our public high school, the highest student:teacher ratios, by policy, are in the GT classes.  The philosophy is apparently that the gifted kids can fend for themselves and more money should be directed at the lowest students.

Finally, in college, we can turn the paradigm on its head.  Some colleges offer their “honors scholars” classes with  lower student:faculty ratios, special advisors, dinners with faculty, etc. etc.  Some even have special dorms for honors students.  The philosophy is to ensure the gifted students get the best possible education.  Maybe that is self-serving on the colleges’ part in that they get to brag about the caliber of students they attract, then hope they will distinguish themselves as alumni and reflect well on their university.  Regardless, it’s an appealing option.

Honors programs provide a way for gifted students to find each other, to develop dialogue and friendships with their intellectual peers.  I’m particularly looking for honors programs at the larger schools and at the somewhat less selective schools, where the gifted kids might have a tougher time finding each other as freshmen.

My tentative hypothesis is that honors programs that include honors housing are preferable, but I don’t have any data to back that up.  I chose not to participate in the residential honors program at my alma mater, Stephens College, but have come to regret that decision as I realize students in the honors program developed stronger, longer lasting friendships that almost any other group on our campus.  My son lived on the honors floor at University of Oklahoma, and his friendships were all with guys on his floor .


Honors Programs:

  1. Arizona State University, Tempe AZ – Barrett Honors College (2989 students, 8 residences)
  2. Auburn University, Auburn AL – honors dorms, priority registration, small classes
  3. City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College – 4 classes together plus some upper level classes
  4. DePaul University, Chicago IL – Honors Program (200 students); option of honors dorm new for 2009-10
  5. George Washington University, Washington DC – Honors program (120 students), accelerated program and special programs
  6. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana PA – Robert E. Cook Honors College (residential program; core curiculum)
  7. Miami University, Oxford OH – Honors Program (residential option)
  8. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI – Honors College (non-residential)
  9. New College, Sarasota FL – the honors college of the University Florida system
  10. New York University, NY – National Merit Finalist Program
  11. Northeastern University, Boston MA – Honors Program
  12. Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX – University Honors Program or Hilltop Scholars Program
  13. Tarleton State University, Stephensville TX – Honors program with dorm, parking, seminars, trip to conference
  14. Texas A&M University, College Station TX – Honors programs
  15. Texas A&M University at Galveston, TX – Honors program, research opportunities in marine biology/ geology / sciences / transportation
  16. Texas Tech University, Lubbock TX – Honors College
  17. The Ohio State University, Columbus OH – Ohio State Scholars or University Honors Program (external review)
  18. Union College, Schenectady NY – Scholars Program
  19. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa AL – small classes, priority registration
  20. University of Delaware, Newark, DE
  21. University of Houston, Houston TX – Honors College
  22. University of Kansas – University Honors Program includes priority enrollment, honors courses
  23. University of Missouri, Columbia MO – Honors College, dorm
  24. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM
  25. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – “inclusive & permeable” Honors Programs (6% of freshmen)
  26. University of Pittsburgh, PA
  27. University of  South Carolina – Honors College with 1200 students, honors dorm
  28. University of Texas Arlington – Honors College
  29. University of Texas (Austin) – 6 honors programs:  Plan II, Business, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Dean’s Scholars (natural sciences), and Turing (computer sciences) with Honors Quad


A somewhat comprehensive list

Honors Programs & CollegesThe National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) published  a guide to honors programs in 2005, which lists almost 600 such programs.  Unfortunately, their list isn’t complete.  For instance, it doesn’t list George Washington University nor my alma mater.    But they do provide some information that might not be found on a school’s website, such as the number of students in the honors program and whether there are academic advisors specifically for the honors program.  Otherwise, much of the information could likely be found on an individual school’s website.   I wish the book had a list by state, instead of just alphabetically, so people could search for colleges in their targeted geographic area.

If your library doesn’t have a copy of the book, you can try using the alphabetical list of NCHC member institutions on the NCHC website.


Best Honors Colleges at Public Universities lists

In Reader’s Digest’s May 2005 “Best of America”, they identified three public universities as having the “Best Honors College“:

  • Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College
  • Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College
  • U of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College

In 1993, Money Magazine identified 8 honors programs as offering “The Best Deals in Public Education“:

  • Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College
  • Indiana University at Bloomington
  • Michigan State University at East Lansing
  • Pennsylvania State University at University Park
  • University of Georgia at Athens
  • University of Pittsburgh at Oakland
  • University of Utah at Salt Lake City
  • Washington State University at Pullman

The Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College highlights the honors programs at 3 public universities:

  • University Of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Residential College
  • University of Texas (Austin) Plan II
  • University of Virginia Echols Scholars Program

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sherry  |  July 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    My son is an incoming freshman in UT honor program. He got a study hall converted room with 3 other student living together. UT doesn’t care you are honor or not. Don’t believe UT honor program anymore.

  • 2. Dan Golden  |  March 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    While prepping to lead a Jr class student/parent college kickoff at our LA high school, I found your Honors piece a very helpful introduction to your website and your work. Along with Lynn O’Shaugnessy’s blog, I think you’ve got a great meld of practical and supportive advice with the right tone,and want to make sure to have all my students follow your entries.

    One question unresolved–I can’t seem to find your own name anywhere on the site, difficult if one wants to give attribution and praise to a colleague. Advise on your identity?

    Thanks for helping me to illuminate the growing array of school within school models, as big players acknowledge that their dismal NSSE numbers in terms of ‘engagement’ make them vulnerable to lots of questioning about efficacy and cost.

    I came to my high school to develop a life planning model rather than traditional college counseling that obsesses on the ‘getting in’ element after 42 years in higher ed back east. An unregulated industry with no real competition or cost caps is a dangerous one without thoughtful contributors like you.

    Who are you?

    Thanks, Dan Golden

  • 3. Non-camera Phone  |  May 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    M1 Plans…

    […]LOL! And you mean you have never seen on the BlackBerry websites like these ever? Sheesh.[…]…

  • 4. Robert  |  September 23, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Tulane has a program

  • 5. Shannon Watts Michael  |  January 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Add University of Boston’s Kilachand Honors College to your list. The program, in only its second year, invites only 90 students out of a freshman class of 4,000 to become students in KHC. Students are housed together in dorms and one residential house, take one KHC course per semester taught by one of BU’s best professors in small classes averaging 25 students or less, are provided extracurricular opportunities that range from attending cultural events in Boston to closed lectures from the best and brightest in various industries. Most significantly, the KHC just this fall received a $25 million pledge from businessman and philanthropist Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74) for specific use by the honors college. Here’s a few links about the program: http://www.bu.edu/today/2011/kilachand-honors-college-will-follow-its-dream/ and http://www.bu.edu/uhc/

  • 6. kris r.  |  January 24, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    St. Michael’s College in VT has an honors program, which has an optional honors housing component. My son loves it! His floor is just honors kids and substance-free kids, and it’s a fantastic environment.

  • 7. Theresa Culley  |  June 23, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    University of Cincinnati in southwestern Ohio has a unique University Honors Program that helps students maximize their educational opportunities while pursuing their passions and using their gifts and talents to make meaningful contributions to society. See: https://www.uc.edu/honors.html


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