What it’s like to be an Honors College student

By: Ragan Love

As of Fall 2021, I am a junior at Portland State and am a student in the College of the Arts and the University Honors College. Since this is my third year, I have lots of insight on how these two programs work and the one I get the most questions about is the Honors College. The name itself is a little intimidating but it has been so beneficial to my academic life. 

You are probably wondering why you should join the honors program instead of taking university studies so here are a few benefits you receive while in the program: 

  • Priority registration, you get to register for classes before the rest of your class, ensuring that you have a spot in that course.
  • Honors tutoring for not only honors assignments, but any writing you need help with (like resumes, writing assignments for other classes)
  • Preparation for graduate school

Here’s how to join PSU’s Honors program and what it’s like along the way:

The Year you Apply: If you are an incoming first-year or you are transferring, the Honors College is ready to take applications from you! The deadlines for each of the scenarios is available at the link below. 

Before you can submit your application, you are probably wondering what is required! For first-year applicants, you will need to submit the honors application on the same portal as your PSU application. What the honors program looks for is a motivated student with strong writing skills. If you don’t know if you fall in the category, apply! I didn’t know if I was a good match, and looking back now, I am so glad I applied. 

Year One

The first year classes consist of teaching you how to read academic papers and write about them. There are two specific types of papers that you write in the program that you have not seen before so the professors teach and help you perfect this new style of writing. Depending on the professor, the subject you write about will be different. My first year professor’s discipline was about Southeast Asian traditions, so that is what we wrote about. 

Year Two

The second year is looking at the three disciplines: social science, natural science, and humanities. Even if these aren’t your forte, you still learn about each of them. You spend the whole quarter learning how to conduct research in that discipline. As a music major, the humanities class was the most interesting for me and the natural science course was the most challenging. 

Year Three

The third year is where you can do a little bit more. For starters, you have to take one quarter of a seminar. I chose a humanities seminar where we discussed Antigone and the political/family dynamic that she experienced. For the last two quarters you can choose what you do, you can take more seminars or you can take part in research or an internship. While this needs to be approved by the Honors College administration, they are very open and will help you shape a beneficial project. I did a research/independent study with my flute professor where I spent the quarter analyzing flute compositions from french female composers. It was so fun and interesting and was part of my favorite class of that quarter. 

Last Year

The fourth year is where all of these skills come together and you work on creating a baccalaureate thesis. This again is open ended — you choose a topic and work with an advisor throughout the entire year to create this overarching project. If you are curious about topics people are doing, thesis presentations happen every quarter and you are welcome to watch as many as you would like. I am preparing to start my thesis process so I do not have much to say about the process but I can say I am excited to start my research. 

There is a lot that you get to do while part of the honors program, including learning in a discussion format rather than a lecture format. I get to center my own general education around what I want to do in my life, like equality in the classroom, music, and education in general. I have been able to take advantage of the resources available to better my writing and education in and outside of the honors college. 

If you would like more information, visit the Honors website!