One of the main reasons I came to Salem State was I was offered a spot in the honors program. While it offered many benefits, scholarships and priority registration to name a few, what drew me in was the strong sense of community and close knit friendships many found. I am glad to say that that I did find these things, and so much more. I found a home made up of some of the most brilliant and most unique people I have ever met. Being in an honors program creates a college experience unlike any other and creates some universal truths that really only an honors student can fully understand.
As part of the requirements to graduate with honors, you need to complete a thesis in your major. This can be anything from a research paper, to a service project, to some sort of creative endeavor. I have seen theses that are a whole novel, and some that are literally two pages long. Entering as a freshman, I decided it was better for my mental stability to not think of that daunting project. Yet now, as a rising junior, I am realizing that I cannot escape it. So, if any of you have social work thesis ideas, send them my way. I am not kidding.
A unique relationship forms between an honors students and their program director. This is the person who you can talk and know that they will not judge you, for they have literally seen everything. They will advocate for you like no one else and make sure to help you in any way possible. And of course, when it’s time for you to finally graduate, even if it took six years, they will push you out of the nest and watch you fly. My director, Joanna, even refers to herself as “honors mom”. Directors are truly special in every honors student’s heart.
If your director is your first parent, then your advisor has to be the second. They are the professor who guides you through this academic quest. Some hand hold and help you, while others let you sink or swim, just like real parents.
4. Double, triple, or quadruple majoring is the norm, not the exception.
As a social work major with a Spanish minor, I am considered abnormal in the program for I only have one major and one minor. The number of people I know with more than one major, and more than one minor, is staggering. I honestly do not know how they do it on top of completely the honors curriculum. The best part is most graduate within four years.
5. Taking more than five classes in a semester is also the norm.
Honors students have special permission from the department to take 22 credits a semester, as opposed to the normal 18. The number is students who do this is mind blowing. It helps them complete their multiple majors and minors on time or it helps them graduate early. As you can see, us honors kids are over achievers.
6. The lounge is a 24/7 haven.
Part of the perks of being an SSU honors student is usage of the honors lounge, located in the library. It is a quiet, comfy little room with water, coffee, and snacks. Think of the Hufflepuff common room but filled with Ravenclaws. On the average day, you can see students doing homework, talking to other honors students, or taking a quick nap between classes. It is also a place where commuters and residents can actually be together, which is a rarity. For a lot of us, it is a home away from home. One student even keeps a pillow in here.
Yes we get early registration, but that does not mean it goes smoothly. Due to the fact we are the first group of students to go, we always have to deal with any bugs the system has. This semester, the registrar forgot to open registration so we all were locked out of the system for a half hour. Imagine a bunch of type A people fighting for the ideal schedule, and that is what the honors program Facebook page looks like on registration morning.
Like any college student, honors students love free food and we get a lot of it. Between various events, Bagel Tuesdays, and a constant supply of free coffee in the lounge, honors students are well fed and generally very happy college students.
I actually have never experienced this first hand, as I lived in separate dorms from my fellow honors students. However, being in the program guarantees four year housing, as long as you live with other honors students in an assigned space. As a freshman, this is a great opportunity to get to know the people who you will be in constant contact with for the rest of your college career. It is also a breeding ground of unnecessary drama that sometimes makes me wonder if we are college students or middle schoolers. At the end of the day, we all love each other just like sibling.
10. Receiving that gold stole is the moment all of us wait for.
After passing in your thesis, you receive a beautiful gold stole and a medal to wear at graduation. It is a moment of pure pride, and pure relief. You survived four years of tough classes and completed a project that many do not even attempt until grad school. Of course, this is only a momentary feeling since you shortly realize the real world is now even closer.