What Are Honors Colleges?

If you’re in the process of applying for colleges and have started receiving informational brochures in the mail, you might’ve noticed requests to apply to a school’s honors college. If you’re unfamiliar with honors colleges, this is probably confusing. What are honors colleges? Are they different types of colleges? How do they compare to traditional universities?

Many institutions have honors colleges, and while they’re not necessarily different types of colleges, they have distinct characteristics and expectations that differ from other university programs. Here’s what you need to know about honors colleges and whether they might be a good fit for you.

What Are Honors Colleges?

In the same way that a university houses several different schools or colleges—such as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or the School of Nursing—honors colleges are specialized programs within a university that offer more rigorous academics, exclusive opportunities, and sometimes scholarships.

While the larger university has expectations around curriculum and community involvement, honors colleges may have supplemental standards that encourage students to go above and beyond.

The Honors College at Azusa Pacific University seeks to prepare students to become the next generation of high-achieving Christian leaders in their fields, whether that be in biology, theater, or philosophy.

What Are the Benefits of Joining an Honors College?

While honors students may have higher academic expectations, they typically also have access to exclusive benefits, like scholarships, internships, and study abroad opportunities.

For example, APU Honors College students enjoy the following benefits:

  • Small, discussion-based classes
  • Academically rigorous curriculum with no secondary texts, exams, or busy work
  • Open discussion of primary texts
  • Exemption from general education classes to support a minor or second major in humanities
  • Early class registration privileges
  • Financial support in the form of a $1,000-per-year scholarship; a personal library of classics; and free tickets to concerts, films, plays, lectures, and area museums
  • Access to a vibrant living-learning community for honors freshmen
  • Individualized attention
  • An outstanding liberal arts-style education with the resources and benefits of a comprehensive, Christian university near Los Angeles

How Do You Join an Honors College?

Honors colleges are highly selective. They generally require a supplemental application, which may include an additional essay, higher test scores, and letters of recommendation.

At APU, honors student applicants are required to have a high school GPA of 3.8 or higher. While test scores aren’t required, they’re recommended to increase your chances of admission. The supplemental application includes a writing sample and two academic references.

How Can You Prepare for an Honors College?

If you’re a high school student interested in joining an honors college upon graduation, you can start taking action now to equip yourself for the honors college experience.

Take Honors or AP Classes

High school honors or AP classes can help prepare you for the demanding nature of an honors college. These classes are typically more fast-paced and discussion-based, giving you the opportunity to experience the type of learning environment you might encounter at an honors college.

Pursue a Higher GPA

GPA requirements are higher for honors students, and you’ll need to maintain grades that reflect your honors status to maintain eligibility for the program and its benefits. Focus on subjects you struggle with, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your teachers for help. This is a great way to develop relationships with teachers in preparation for those recommendation letters, too!

Read the Classics

Many honors colleges—APU included—spend a good amount of time studying and learning from the classics. Use your summer break to become familiar with some of these texts to give yourself an edge once you enter the honors program. Examples include works from Aristotle, Augustine, Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis.

Get Involved in Your Community

While honors colleges have a strong academic focus, their goal is to help you apply that knowledge in the real world and make a difference in your community. Look for opportunities to get involved in your own neighborhood now. Not only will this strengthen your application, but it will also give you preemptive insight into how an honors education might help you create solutions in your community.

Joining an honors college is an excellent way to become deeply ingrained in a community of lifelong learners while preparing to make an informed impact on the world. Reach out to learn more about APU’s Honors College or to get started on your application today.