How to Succeed in the Honors Program
hints from someone involved in higher education for twenty years...
Be an active rather than passive student.
This means participating in class in productive ways: ask questions, offer alternative readings of a text, and help your fellow honors students.
Visit your professor's office.
Professors are here to help in many ways. Stop by to solicit help on your papers, clarify a point made in class, or just say hello.
Don't wait until the last minute to complete assignments, think about what classes to take, or submit an application for a fellowship, internship, or graduate school.
Ask for help.
Most Honors students have not had to learn how to ask for help in high school, but this is a fundamental part of succeeding in college, graduate school, and in the professional world. Use your college experience to learn how to work with mentors. Most people like the satisfaction that comes with mentoring a younger person and you'll find that it helps advance your career.
Participate in the Honors Program beyond just taking classes.
The Honors program is made up of a community of students and professors. Plenty of learning goes on outside the classroom as well. You will also find that upper-class honors students have a wealth of information that they would love to pass on to beginning students. Much of this informal mentoring takes place at Honors events outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities also give students a chance to develop leadership skills. Harvard University professor Richard Light's recent book "Making the Most of College" notes that of the 1600 students interviewed about what most impacted them in college, 80% chose an event outside of the classroom.
Check your email regularly.
The program director, Honors faculty, and Honors student leaders post many opportunities about deadlines, new classes, research opportunities, trips, and scholarship information by email. But you can't take advantage of these if you don't read your email regularly.
Try something new.
The Honors program is designed to challenge students and expose them to new academic experiences. Take advantage of these opportunities by enrolling in a class outside your area of interest, attending a lecture on an unfamiliar topic, or submitting a proposal for a conference presentation. Who knows? You might like it.
Create a record keeping system.
One of the things students create while in college is a record of performance. This is reflected most obviously in your transcript, but there are all sorts of other records of your work, including graded papers, notes from classes, other written evaluation of your work, and listings of job responsibilities for work study jobs. When it comes time to apply for fellowships, search for jobs, look at graduate schools, and ask teachers for letters of recommendation, you will find it much easier to conduct these activities if you have all those records gathered in one place. So get a small, portable accordion folder and start saving important documents in an organized fashion starting freshman year. Trust me; you'll be happy you started this.
Go to class.
One way in which college is distinct from high school is the fact that many classes employ a seminar style approach to class that emphasizes intensive discussion over memorization from a textbook. Therefore, it is essential to go to class, since the material that comes up in class sessions can't really be recovered through mere copying of notes. Students who tend to earn the best grades are those who attend class sessions regularly. You should make it your top priority over work commitments, extracurricular commitments, or travel plans.
Try to minimize time spent at an outside job.
While it is clear that most college students need to work part-time to pay some of their bills, far too many students devote too many hours each week to low-paying jobs and fail to treat college as the long-term investment that it is. Do everything in your power to cut back on your hours at work (even if it means temporarily giving up a nicer car, better clothes, or a spring break trip) and use that extra time to do better in class, get involved on campus, or develop a research project. You only have one chance to take advantage of all the resources that college offers.