Motivated high school students with strong academic records and good writing skills can find enriched learning environments, faculty mentoring and a ready-made social niche through university Honors Colleges. Many universities, including those in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, provide these additional programs at no extra cost to their most academically talented students.
The programs, however, are selective. To apply, students must meet minimum academic criteria and submit additional application materials, such as supplemental essays and recommendations. Because space is limited, qualified applicants should apply as early as possible.
The advantages of selection to a university Honors College are many. For one thing, selected students may be eligible for exclusive scholarship awards. For another, these students will have additional opportunities to explore their academic interests via specialized in-depth courses and co-curricular projects and events; and additional opportunities to engage in academic research, take on leadership positions and participate in enrichment activities with their like-minded peers.
On larger campuses an Honors College serves as “a school within a school,” so to speak. George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia, for example, serves more than 21,000 undergraduate students; GMU describes its Honors College of about 1300 Honors Scholars as “a small selective liberal arts college at the heart of a major research university.”
A few of the benefits GMU offers its Honors Scholars are priority registration; a living-learning community residential option with distinctive learning opportunities, such as presentations and field trips; an Honors College curriculum with smaller classes taught by senior faculty; and “direct access to the Postgraduate Scholarships and Fellowships Program… with advice about application to nationally competitive fellowships.”
Some Honors Colleges might also include a peer mentors program – seniors serve as guides and mentors to freshman students, who in turn become peer mentors themselves during their own senior year; possibilities for civic engagement and leadership, which may include preferential access to internships; international experiences via activities, events, seminars and unique study abroad programs; and service opportunities in clubs and organizations both on campus and in the community.
Students can find out more about Honors Colleges at publicuniversityhonors.com. For specific details, many schools also schedule supplemental Honors College information sessions that students can attend during a campus visit. Additionally, links to the web pages of the Honors Colleges at Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia universities are below.
George Washington University
Coppin State University
Loyola University Maryland
University of Maryland Baltimore College
University of Maryland
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Christopher Newport University
College of William and Mary
George Mason University
James Madison University
Old Dominion University
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia State University