High school salutatorian Lori Standley '98 faced a dilemma when she looked for a college. Her intense interest in geography suggested that a large research university would be a good fit. Yet the intimacy of a small liberal arts college was also appealing. Standley found the best of both worlds in the Honors Program at Syracuse University. "SU is a big school, and I knew it would be a little intimidating," she says. "The Honors Program seemed to guarantee I would get to know my professors."|
By merging the best features of a small liberal arts college and a large research university, SU's Honors Program attracts some of the country's top students. This fall's entering class included nine high school valedictorians and seven salutatorians. Twenty-two percent of this elite group 36 studentsranked among the top five in their senior classes. Many were accustomed to the fast pace, extra attention, and intellectual stimulation of high school honors programsand expected more of the same in college.
Typical of the high-octane students attracted to the Honors Program is Jessica White '01, who plans to major in broadcast journalism and public policy studies. When she entered SU, her transcript was already feathered with 23 college credits she'd earned in high school through SU's Project Advance, a University initiative that allows qualified high school students to take first-year courses. After her first year on campus, her GPA was 3.92.
The highly committed students in her honors classes made White feel right at home. "Honors students seem more interested in what they're learning," she says. "That makes a big difference to me. I don't like to be the only student asking and answering questions."|
The Honors Program was established in the 1960s in The College of Arts and Sciences, went University-wide in 1986, and has tripled its enrollment in the past 10 years. It has two distinct components: General University Honors, which currently enrolls about 600 students, primarily first- and second-year students, and Thesis Project, with about 250 juniors and seniors. The first two years expand the breadth of the educational experience, while the final two years emphasize depth.
The two levels operate independently of each other, but both require strong academic credentials. This fall, 162 first-year students with average SATs of 1364 and class rankings in the top 6 percent entered General University Honors by invitation. Another 100 students will be admitted second semester, after applying for admission and earning a minimum GPA of 3.5 in their first round of college courses. This midyear window accommodates students who perform better than expected in college. "The best predictor of how you will perform in college is not your SAT score, but how you actually perform in college," explains D. Bruce Carter, Honors Program director.
The first myth about the Honors Program is that it only benefits academic superstars. In fact, students who enroll in the Honors Program spend most of their time in regular classes, stimulating other students-and faculty. "Honors students can be pretty demanding. They always want more information," says Carter. "They're very, very verbal, and they routinely raise the level of discussion a couple of notches." |
Ron Cavanagh, vice president for undergraduate studies, cites the Honors Program for spawning numerous innovations across campus. "It has been a laboratory for new curriculums and new pedagogies," he says. "Syracuse University's quest to provide smaller, more rigorous classes and more intensive advising for all students is modeled after the honors approach. The freshman seminars in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and The College of Arts and Sciences are also inspired by freshman seminars in the Honors Program. Integrating research into the undergraduate experience originated in the Honors Program, as did blending boundaries between our liberal arts and professional schools. The Honors Program is where the concept of double majors first took root. Honors students have helped SU evolve into a leading student-centered research university."