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Should You Consider an Honors College or Program?

Honors colleges and programs are found in universities everywhere. They recruit high-achieving and highly motivated high schoolers. Should you apply?

What is Honors?

Honors at the college level may seem like an elite club for overachievers. It’s not. These programs can help make the most of your higher education experience. Institutions recognize diverse gifts among students and cultivate those gifts. For example, significant resources are devoted to developing intercollegiate athletes. Honors does the same for academically gifted students.

Why Honors?

Honors students arrive on college campuses with a natural aptitude for succeeding in the classroom. They believe hard work and persistence pay off. But they also have needs. They need assistance in understanding their giftedness. They are often intellectually skeptical, prone to ask questions and less likely to accept easy answers. They need challenge to stay motivated and stimulated. They need an environment where being smart is prized, where success does not mean being labeled a “geek” or “nerd,” where going the extra mile is not frowned upon, and where no one is criticized for “wrecking the curve.” These students need to work alongside peers and faculty who share excitement about learning and high achievement.

Is Honors right for you?

Being smart is not enough to benefit from a collegiate honors education—you need a particular disposition. Honors is ideal for those who answer “yes” to questions such as, “Are you fascinated with new ideas?” “Do you enjoy spirited conversation?” “Do you crave challenge?” “Would you like to cultivate intellectual friendships with students and faculty alike?” “Do you desire to love God with your mind as well as your heart and soul?”

What is different about an Honors education?

Almost every honors program offers pedagogical practices that heighten student engagement and improve learning. You will likely find academic rigor, writing-intensive courses, student-faculty interaction, opportunities for research, service learning, and a capstone experience. The best programs go one step further, offering a common intellectual experience, engagement with life’s big questions, and a focus on ethical learning.

Are there other benefits?

Honors communities are typically tight-knit, forming bonds in and out of the classroom. Students enjoy smaller classes and ample opportunities to study abroad, earn scholarships, and practice leadership. Completing an honors program also provides an edge when applying to top graduate schools or gaining entry into competitive job markets.

What else should I consider?

College is more than a gateway to prestigious, lucrative careers. It is also a time to explore life’s big questions:  Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we headed? Who is God? What are our responsibilities to Him and to others? What is good? What is true? What is beautiful? Seek out an honors college or program that explores life’s big questions, cultivates virtue, and instills character.

A Good Fit?

One such program is the Honors College at Azusa Pacific University in beautiful Southern California. In the APU Honors College, whatever your major focus, from Nursing to English, Business to Biology, you also enroll in a great works program that nurtures deep thinkers and articulate communicators with strong moral character. Check it out at

About the Author

David L. Weeks, Ph.D., is dean of the Honors College at Azusa Pacific University.

The APU Honors College telos—its aim, purpose, end—is to liberally educate the next generation of intellectually-gifted Christian leaders. The curriculum starts with the premise that good leadership requires the cultivation of moral and intellectual virtue—the habits of the heart and of the mind that enable one to determine what ought to be done and how best to do it. Check out an Honors College devoted to helping the next generation of Christian leaders grow in wisdom and virtue at

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