Academic Honors or Advanced Programs all come with a tremendous stereotype: stuck up overachievers with deep pockets and time to kill.
Let me shatter that sweet little illusion.
For me, the honors program has always held something deeper for me: traditional school classes just didn’t hold my interest. They had no challenge, no point in spending my time in them. Because of the troublesome nature of my childhood, mostly related to financial troubles, I desperately needed somewhere else to channel my focus.
My family had no money, and I had little time. I’ve worked whenever possible to help alleviate the financial burden my family had weighing down upon them. Many students in my school, not just the honors kids, lived in one of the richest neighborhoods of the city. Many of them had never seen what a lack of money did do to a family and their collective composure. I have to say, I didn’t really get along with most of them.
In going to college, I wanted to go somewhere that was equally, if not more challenging than the classes I had during my high school years. I couldn’t really go out of state, so my options were slim. Westminster College was close, private, liberal, and had one of the most unique and challenging Honors Programs I’ve ever seen.
Not only did I have to suffer through six years of those kids looking down on me for belonging to a lower class, but I would now have to spend the next four years among the same crowd, or suffer a lacking education.
Imagine my surprise when I decided to place my education first, and found that the Honors Program was nothing like that of my high school. Sure, there were a few matching the above description, but the majority of them were there for the same reason I was: they wanted something more than just a traditional college education. Those around me wanted to prove that they could handle a challenge, not just to impress their parents, but mainly so that they could become stronger in whatever field they chose.
Granted, the program isn’t incredibly diverse. Predominantly it consists of 18-22 white females, but even among that population, their interests and believes differ so greatly that it more than makes up for the slightly lacking racial diversity.
I’ve only been out to college for a year, but looking back I can already see the impact that my Honors classes have had upon many aspects of my life. My writing comes across in a polished and smooth manner (most of the time), I am better able to organize my time and accomplish what before I thought was impossible. Diverse beliefs and points of view make sense, I can see where they originate and how they compare to what I believe.
For the past three years, I have been working through Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The book is about 1069 pages and reads like Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: packed with all sorts of insight and each page could yield a lengthy essay without lack of points to discuss and analyze. The reason the book has taken me so long is that I did not feel that I had a deep enough understanding to write an essay that would be considered worthwhile. Going through the nine month Humanities course required the first year of the Honors Program taught me the skills needed to analyze important quotes, pick out how they related to a greater theme of the novel, and properly extrapolate on those points in a well constructed paper. Let me tell you, those rich kids who were just in the Honors Program in high school to please their parents wouldn’t last more than a month in this workshop.
So while my ramblings may not have convinced you that Honors Kids aren’t just a bunch of brats going to college on their parents’ money, I will tell you that the combination of skills I learn in the Honors Program are not available anywhere else. They are of such caliber that I know that once I have my diploma in hand, the possibilities available to me will range much farther than almost any other kid with a college diploma.