When I was a senior in high school, once I decided that Loyola was the school for me, the next question was whether or not I wanted to apply to the Honors Program.
In high school I always took honors and AP classes, but applying to such a selective and competitive program as I entered college seemed a little too risky to me. I remember attending one of the Learn Loyola programs on a saturday during my senior year; my mom and I chose to attend an information session about the Honors Program.
I was fascinated by the idea of intensely studying and actively discussing the great texts of the world, spanning from ancient to modern times, but I was intimated by the small number of applicants the program admitted from such a large entering freshman class.
After some discernment, I decided not to apply. It wasn’t worth my time, I concluded, not when senior year was already so busy with endless commitments and responsibilities.
But at the last minute, I changed my mind. And I am forever grateful that I did. The program has been completely revamped this year, beginning with the class of 2016, so that seminars are a little bit different for students and Honors students will take all of their core classes within Honors Program requirements. But I don’t want to confuse you, so I’ll just talk about why I love the Honors Program and how it works for me.
How the Program Works
Ending with the class of 2015, Honors Program students are assigned to a “section” at the beginning of their first year. The course sequence that I’m taking within the Honors Program then is Ancient World, Medieval World, Medieval to Renaissance, and Modern World, one of which is taken each semester for my first four semesters at Loyola. Each of these classes, depending on the department of the professor who teaches it, will count for the first core requirement in either theology, history, philosophy or English.
The coolest thing, though, is that for half of my time at Loyola, I will have a small, round-table, discussion based class with the same group of people, because Honors sections remain the same.
As Honors students we also take our fine arts and ethics requirements within the program, and our upper-level core requirements in theology, philosophy, and English are required to be 300-levels instead of 200-levels, while the upper-level core requirement in History is required to be a 400-level.
Students in the class of 2016 and those entering in the future, I encourage you to check out the current structure of the Honors Program sequence to see if you’re interested.
Aside from stimulating discussions with fellow students both inside and outside of class, and reading timeless texts such as Plato’s Symposium, St. Augustine’s City of God, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Honors Program also offers students many really cool extra perks to being in the program.
About once a month there are free tickets available to Honors students (and if available, their friends as well!) for concerts at the Peabody Institute and theatrical performances at
Center Stage. Last year I took advantage of both concert and play tickets, and last Friday night I went to see An Enemy of the People, written by Ibsen and adapted by Arthur Miller, at Center Stage.
Each semester the program offers colloquium events to students, engaging our minds in hot topics in the world and encouraging us to use the learning and thinking process we’re taught in class outside of class as well. Last spring I attended an event facilitated by fellow students, a writing professor, and a philosophy professor, on the topic of what the upcoming election should really be about.
The best colloquium though, has to be the annual Honors Program day-trip to New York City at the end of October. The trip is mainly for first-year students, who explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art and specifically tour the ancient section (which is related to their first course in the sequence), but if space is available on the bus, upperclass students are invited as well. After a few hours at the Met, students have the rest of the day to explore NYC with their friends.
Every September there is also an Honors dinner, for students from every class year, where students share their experiences in the Honors program, some really delicious food is enjoyed, and we all have an excuse to dress up.
And I can’t forget the option to study abroad at the University of Glasgow, open only to Honors students. This is definitely highly important to me, because I’m planning to go next year! My family is from Scotland and I traveled there last summer after high school graduation, so I’m looking forward to return and study under the Principia Consortium Study Abroad Program.
Ultimately, I’ve made some of my closest friends through the Honors Program: people who challenge the way I think about things and offer me new ideas as well. And the professors I have had are truly engaged with our learning and growing process as well, available to us both during and outside of class hours. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to learn in such a unique setting.