From the outside looking in, the Honors Program may seem like an elite, exclusive club for the geniuses, overachievers and highly intelligent students. It can seem slightly intimidating to join an academic program that wants students to “develop rigorous and comprehensive critical thinking” during their freshmen year. Before I already scare you off, let me clarify: critical thinking doesn’t mean thinking so hard you get a searing headache, it simply means analyzing a concept or idea beyond your original interpretation. In my experiences as a fourth-year Honors student, I can attest that the Honors Program is not just structured for Albert Einstein-type minds or designed to stress you out, it’s for anyone willing to think outside the box and make a concentrated effort to expand his or her view of the world. I would say the key difference between Honors and non-Honors courses is that in Honors, you aren’t trying to merely pass the course; you are genuinely seeking insightfulness and pursuing personal enrichment.
The value of UNF’s Honors Program is something that does not receive enough recognition, nor are the benefits are emphasized enough. Participating in Honors courses provides the challenges necessary to stay motivated and stimulated, but without an incredible amount of work. I think often times new college students shy away from pushing themselves academically and want to sign up for the easy courses with the professors who don’t take attendance or give quizzes. Not to sound like your mom here, but you’re in college to challenge yourself. There are so many benefits of joining the Honors Program; you’d be silly not to at least give it a chance.
• Honors travel grants: The Honors Program has created special opportunities for its students to study abroad. Each year, students are offered opportunities to take classes in various countries including Ghana, Greece and China. (I’ve been to both Ghana and Greece and they were experiences of a lifetime that helped shape my future career endeavors.) In addition to travel scholarships, Honors offers special funding opportunities to enable students to learn through internships and research.
• Cooler classes: No, seriously. I am currently taking the Honors course Food Subcultures and it’s the most fun and interesting class I’ve ever taken. So far we have made grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron, our professor brought us homemade chocolate chip cookies, we’ve eaten oranges, avocados, star fruit and many other produce items, plus taken field trips to cow farms, elementary schools and a cannery. Jealous yet? Past Honors courses include Politics of Harry Potter, Intro to Forensic Sciences and Philosophy through Film. Many of the courses include a field-trip component; something I bet you thought you’d never get to do again after elementary school.
• Group projects: Say goodbye to the days where you did all the research, put together a PowerPoint and presented the project because no one else in your group contributed any effort towards the assignment. When there are group projects in Honors, you don’t have to worry about being the only student who does all the work to make sure the group gets an A. You are working with like-minded individuals who are bound by a common priority to further their education — and keep their grades up. This might actually be the best benefit of joining Honors.
• Even smaller classroom sizes: UNF already offers a 20-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, but Honors classes are even more tight-knit than that. It’s so great getting individualized attention, and the professors will go above and beyond to help or give guidance and advice. The community developed within Honors classrooms is unlike anything found in a regular classroom. The respect and support you gain from classmates and your professors are unmatched academic relationships. I’ve even been able to create very beneficial mentorships with my Honors professors, who are always looking out for your best interests and seek to help you academically and in the career world.
What does it mean to be an Honors student?
Everyone gets something different out of being an Honors student. For me, it means working with professors who know you by name and remember you through your college years. It means traveling to other countries in order to understand foreign cultures and make international friendships. Being in Honors means being supported by faculty, participating in intellectual discussion, being surrounded by students who motivate you to think deeper and receiving that Honors diploma, cord and transcript upon graduation. The UNF Honors Program has helped me become a more culturally educated citizen of the world we live in. I have learned to think outside the box, and push myself out of my comfort zone.
Being a part of the Honors program doesn’t mean you are expected to live like a hermit in the library (although some people really just love Tommy G.) or swap weekend activities with your friends for reading pages of ancient Greek literature. Honors courses will challenge you, but not to the point of a mental breakdown.
If I successfully convinced you that joining Honors would be the second-best choice of your collegiate career (first-best being the decision to become an Osprey, duh), then fill out your Honors application now! If I haven’t persuaded you to become a member of the Honors Program just yet, please scroll to the top of the page and read this blog again. Maybe you missed all the perks I listed.