Doing the Honors

The University Honors Program has some weaknesses, but some strengths as well.

Erin Lengas

When I applied to the University of Minnesota over two years ago, I didnâÄôt realize the one simple application also made me a candidate for the University Honors Program âÄî something that would prove to frustrate, better, worry and challenge me.

With my acceptance letter, I also received a letter of recognition that IâÄôd also been accepted to the Honors Program. I was thrilled by my acceptance to my dream school and proud my hard work had qualified me to graduate with honors.

Now, as the end of my third semester of college is nearing, I am beginning to wonder if being a member of the Honors Program is really worth it.

The programâÄôs mission, as stated on their website, is âÄúto guide and challenge students from across the University as they develop into broad, creative, independent and informed thinkers.âÄù I find that statement vague for such an esteemed program. For me the question is, âÄúWhat sets the Honors Program apart from the rest of the University?âÄù

My freshman year, the answer to that question was, honestly, not much. It is possible that I simply did not know what college classes were like, but my honors courses did not seem any more difficult or engaging than my nonhonors courses.

My real frustrations began this year as a sophomore. The honors course I am currently enrolled in âÄî while entirely engaging, interesting and informative âÄî has personally presented me with a great amount of work and stress.

My irritation only continued when registering for the spring 2012 semester. As sophomores, honors students are required to complete four honors experiences, which can be classes, volunteer work or internships, among other things.

None of the courses for my journalism major were offered with an honors section, and honors classes that filled a liberal education requirement were either uninteresting or already full. With approximately 500 honors students at the University, the program needs to provide a wider range of classes that fulfill honors requirements.

Between meeting course requirements, maintaining the mandatory 3.5 GPA and the extra workload in class, the Honors Program has done nothing but unnecessarily add to my stress, or so it seems. However, if I dig a little deeper and peel back the layers of frustration, I clearly see the silver lining of the Honors Program.

Melanie Richtman, a sophomore in the program, currently serves as the communications chairwoman on the Honors Executive Board. Although the program also frustrates Richtman at times, she appreciates the fact that it forces her to work harder.

âÄúItâÄôs something to work towards, other than just a degree,âÄù Richtman said.

While I sometimes think that employers will not be more likely to hire someone because they graduated with honors, Richtman reminded me that if there is another equally qualified candidate, graduating with honors could easily set a future employee apart.

ItâÄôs easy to look only at the negatives and not realize the ways the Honors Program benefits me. Some benefits are obvious âÄî smaller class sizes, individualized advising and automatic admission into the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. However, the greatest thing I have gained so far is a greater work ethic.

While considering the advantages of the program, my mind continued to fall back on the tried-and-true saying, âÄúWhat doesnâÄôt kill you makes you stronger.âÄù

Of course, never during my honors experience have I feared for my life. But I do believe that the extra work I put in now will build invaluable skills for my future, such as time management, work ethic and, most importantly, learning how to fail and having the determination to pick yourself back up again.


Erin Lengas welcomes comments at [email protected]