Special Collective with the Student Honors advisory committee
Edited by Caroline Koch // Art By Leighanne Crawford of AIGA
The title of “Honors program” to most conjures terrifying images of a classroom filled with eager hand-raisers making jokes about mathematical theory and brown nosers that would rather do homework then go out on a Friday night. Many students are turned off from Honors classes and the Honors program by the stigma that it’s only for the smart kids, the intellectuals, the Phi Theta Kappa elite and they miss out on what is some of the best and most advantageous opportunities of the COD experience.
Honors students are usually viewed as puffy, smart kids looking down on the rest of us plebeians from their high and mighty pedestal of intellectual achievement. Oh and telling someone you’re in an honors class usually garners the wide-eyed, sarcastic “ooooohhhh-well-aren’t-you-awesome” response, immediately rendering you an annoying snob.
Many students are turned off from Honors classes and the entire Honors program by the stigma that it’s only for the smart kids, the intellectuals, the Phi Theta Kappa elite and they miss out on what is some of the best and most advantageous opportunities of the COD experience.
Not your high school Honors class
Allow us to take out the Men In Black neuralyzer and erase from your memory the preconceived notions you have of Honor classes: more time, more homework, harder tests, 287 page papers. In high school, the hallways are polarized with Honors and AP students, and the kids who aren’t; in college, we’re all on the same level.
As you may have heard (but probably not) COD has an Honors program complete with Honors classes… Yeah, crazy right? There is a definite lack of knowledge as to the tangibility of taking Honors courses. If you have a grade point average of about a B, you qualify. Yep, you read that right. The 3.2 minimum prerequisite paints the far less daunting picture of a class filled with everyday students like you and I who want to get a little more proactive with subject matter than just a lecture, homework and midterms. The best way to assure a deeper study of a topic that has sparked your interest, or grant yourself the opportunity to really think critically among your peers is trying out an Honors course.
Lecture is a snoozefest
Maybe you’ve wondered if the lecture/test format of high school is the only one that exists. We promise, it’s not. In fact, many four-year universities have seminar style classes that serve as more of a large scale discussion about a reading or topic. Take a popular gen-ed class like American History, it doesn’t have to be all about memorizing dates and names of generals. While Honor students encounter these essential facts, the meat and potatoes of class is spent critically analyzing how historical figures arrived at certain decisions, and a closer look at how the consequences of history affect us today. Doesn’t that sound infinitely cooler than listing the presidents and writing an essay on why the Emancipation Proclamation is important?
COD’s Honor courses challenge the traditional ‘get through the test’ mentality that many students have developed. Rather than consuming information just to spit it out again in a test, an Honors class may have you digest that information and decide what it means to you, allowing you to build true authority on subjects without busy work.
Often times students wonder, “when am I going to use this in real life?” throughout our school careers (me particularly, in stats class), this is the answer to that question. Post-secondary education grants the opportunity not just to obtain an occupational degree, but give people a forum to become better thinkers. To be able to nourish keeping an open mind and broaden the boundaries we’ve grown up in, opens the door to constructive conversation that can be applied to any situation throughout life. An Honors class can nourish your voice, not only in history or humanities, but in the community you build long after that of a college hallway.
Holy benefits Batman
If there ever were an answer to the rising cost of college, it’s scholarships. Applying is as simple as going onto COD’s website and searching “scholarships.” Now consider this: if you meet the requirements for a scholarship, it is more than likely you qualify to take an Honors course! Having the recognition of both on a transcript when transferring to a four-year institution separates applications out of the stacks almost immediately.
Although 15 Honors credit hours are needed to graduate with an Honors notation from College of DuPage, prospective colleges see each honors course on your individual transcript as an academic advantage. It’s pretty amazing that your transcript will earn the prestigious “Honors” title by simply trying out a differently formatted class.
Honors courses on a transfer transcript also signify a student’s commitment to challenge their own academic goals and workload management. These kinds of positive attributes draw attention to not only your transcript, but your character. Taking Honors courses shows initiative, passion, and a good work ethic – all attributes admissions officials look for in prospective students. Scholarships and Honors can open doors to faculty and alumni before you even set foot on another campus; plus the added benefit of saving some money isn’t half bad either.
Honors beyond the classroom
Of course in the context of academia the “Honors” branding holds substantial value, but the Honors program on campus extends far beyond a lecture hall.
Maintaining a steady GPA and enrolling in an Honors course also allows possible transfer students to be considered part of the Honors Program, which serves as a chance to dial down the COD network into a more conceivable group of peers and friends. The sheer size of COD’s campus population can be a lot to digest. Becoming a part of the Honors community allows for a more intimate school experience, cultivating more thoughtful relationships with classmates and professors, making the sometimes overwhelming college experience manageable.
Honor students can take advantage of an endless stream of extracurricular resources as well, including participation in the Honors Student Advisory Committee. A group of students working alongside the Honors Faculty Advisory Committee to continue the evolution of the program. The unique relationship between faculty and students create a collective that is truly “for us, by us,” meaning student feedback and input bear great weight in future program decisions.
Other Honors events to take advantage of: the Ice Cream Social provides networking experience and a chance to meet other students enrolled in Honor classes; transfer information sessions allow applicants to meet college admission officers before submitting paperwork; and the International Halloween Party is just a plain-ole, global good time.
Students may also be interested in the Honors Symposium, a statewide opportunity to present professor approved research on special topics. Each year the competition for acceptance into universities increases, especially for transfer students, and while high test scores and grade point averages are valuable, admission officials are drawn to personalities and credentials that jump off the page. Presenting a paper at the event not only displays serious initiative, but provides practice for skills required in augmenting an educational edge; an action proving an applicant to be a leader, and intends to enhance the academic environment at their respective university.
So. The nerds. The geeks. The uber-smart kid you thought you never could be. It’s not as far off as you may have thought after all. We challenge you to take a leap of faith: you in an Honors class is possible. One of the coolest nerds of all time said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected… don’t settle.” Learning in college, much like that initial dirt stain on a fresh pair of Nikes, is completely inevitable – so let’s expand the boundaries of what that word can mean. Don’t cram yourself into a box simply because you may not think you can, like Steve Jobs said, don’t settle – take back the reputation of the nerds – be a yardstick of cool.
Student shares how Honors program “opens the world up“ after turbulent past
Change is a good thing. I often wonder why it is resisted so vehemently, especially when the easiest part is the first step; to stop the old actions or the pattern of thought. What follows is finding a new way, the much more difficult second step.
How does a high school drop-out, former gang-member and ex-drug addict find a way to acclimate back into society in a productive manner? I cannot give a perfect answer, I can just tell my story.
A person firing a weapon in anger is an experience that has psychological effects that endure throughout one’s life. Now, that statement may have you expecting to hear a story from a veteran of a foreign war. Unfortunately, this is not that kind of story.
I used my first narcotic before I was ten years old. By the time I was thirteen, I was a member of a criminal organization, a street gang. I had been expelled from my first school. Over the next two years I was arrested time and time again for petty disturbances, I had seen my first friend in a coffin with bullet holes in his flesh and stitches forming an x-marks-the-spot on his temple. I had witnessed crime in all capacities from shootings to destruction of property. I had given up on school, society and most of all, myself.
Fast forward to my early twenties. With a hard drug addiction that would take me beyond just having a record, I spent a year in prison, for which I was lucky. Spending that time to stop the pattern of thought I had developed, was my first step. I was reading, exercising and getting treatment.
Back in “the world” I graduated from high school, got in to classes at COD and built up a nice GPA. Looking back, I feel like I wasn’t really doing anything. I ended up finding a class that I really wanted to take, one of those one-of-a-kind classes that COD offers, and it was an honors class. I investigated, found out what the requirements were and worked to meet them. With a little effort, I became an honors student.
Taking that first set of honors classes really struck me. I was struck by the fellow students; their ambition, drive, and intelligence. I was struck by the faculty; they created an open environment were the more the students participated, the more that everyone would get from the classes. I was struck by myself; the increase in motivation, in the ability to dig deep and find that intelligence I once possessed and in a general feeling of ownership of a responsibility that I had to others. In my opinion the honors program at COD opens the world up.
As an adult student it may be hard to start over again, despite having a persistent value towards change. You have this ambition and this drive, the hardest part is figuring out how to put it into practice. In average classes you can feel like just another face in a seat, but in honors classes you can actually sit in the driver’s seat replacing the professors to some extent. You have the freedom to chase your interests as they relate to the larger topics at hand in the respective course.
When you are an adult student or just a motivated student; you have experience and things to say, you have a voice; in regular classes you may be creatively stymied because the opportunity to express your thoughts and develop them is lost, in honors classes you will flourish and grow. I am not saying honors classes saved my life or anything that dramatic, just that they gave me a way to practice the changes that I wanted to make.
Nowadays, I am in a number of federations, societies and councils; I have presented at academic conferences and will continue to. I have met some amazing people, some of whom I call friends. I have even developed friendly relations with a few honors faculty members. I am making my future an honorable one.