The Honors Difference

Being an Honors student means that your life will be significantly different than that of a traditional student.

The extra efforts that are expected of Honors students may appear intimidating and time-consuming to first-year students who aren’t sure what awaits them. My first worry upon entering Honors was that there was no way I’d have time to adequately participate in 15 service hours per semester.

Unlike me as a freshman, first-year Honors student Kayla Towery isn’t worried about getting her service hours done.

Photo courtesy of Kayla Towery

Kayla Towery, freshman, Diagnostic Medical Sonography

“Completing the community service and cultural events for the Honors requirements will not be that difficult to fulfill due to the fact that Big Rapids is a large part of the Ferris community, which results in plenty of opportunities for the Honors students,” she said.

Jacob Longenecker, a junior in Honors feels that the most difficult aspect of the required community service is finding the time to complete it.

“I expected the community service to take a large chunk out of my free time but overall it really hasn’t,” he said.

I was also concerned about attending and reporting on three cultural events each semester. However, Ferris hosts so many events that the options are almost endless. Honors sophomore Jacey Culross also notes how effortless it is to fill the cultural event requirements.

“Cultural events are not hard to get at all,” she said. “The RAs in your hall may put on programs that count as your cultural events; many may take groups to cultural events, too.”

Ferris tries to bring in speakers and events that appeal to students, which Kayla is thankful for.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Longenecker

Jacob Longenecker, junior, Biotechnology

“Cultural events around campus won’t be that hard to attend either since most of the scheduled ones so far seem to touch on aspects of my life,” she said.

With 200+ options for RSOs, it also isn’t hard to fulfill the RSO membership requirement and join one that is interesting and relevant to your life. RSOs are a great way to meet people, but being a member of one comes with benefits beyond that.

“RSOs make it very easy to get your community service hours in,” said Jacey. “They also provide great advice about courses and professors.”

Experienced Honors students can provide advice on which Honors course to take as well, especially since that is another requirement of Honors. It may seem difficult to fit Honors courses in your schedule, especially when so many students feel as if there isn’t already room for the classes required for their major. However, many Honors classes count towards Ferris’ general education requirements and are usually more hands-on that traditional classes.

“I enjoy the Honors courses because they are more challenging and full or people in the exact same boat as you,” noted Jacey.

Photo courtesy of Jacey Culross

Jacey Culross, sophomore, Criminal Justice

Along with community service, RSO membership, cultural event attendance, and taking Honors courses, Honors students must keep a certain GPA (either a 3.25 or 3.3, depending on when you joined Honors) to stay in the program.

Jacey advises freshmen that as long as they keep up on the study habits they had in high school, they’ll excel in their classes and keep their GPA high.

First-year student Carlton Thompson has a relaxed attitude about maintaining his grades, as well as all of the Honors requirements.

“All I have to do is participate, really—to get involved in college and just make sure I actually try in my classes,” he said. “So it will be rather easy.”

The requirements may seem like a big deal and though it may be tempting to put in the bare minimum and grudgingly go through the actions, that’s not the point of them existing. All of the extra stuff expected of you is there for a reason—so that through community service, GPA requirements, and cultural event attendance you will be exposed to activities and ideas that you probably wouldn’t participate in on your own. The greatest advice I can give is to find things that interest you, not just things that seem like the least amount of work. It really will make all the difference.

Photo courtesy of Carlton Thompson

Carlton Thompson, freshman, Mechanical Engineering Technology/Rubber Engineering

First semester of my freshman year I kind of looked at the requirements as something I had to force myself to do. I didn’t truly enjoy the community service I chose to participate in—it just sounded easy. I would find myself dreading the weekly meetings for my RSO, and eventually I just stopped going to them and to my weekly community service activity because I realized it wasn’t for me at all. Towards the end of first semester, though, I found an RSO I really enjoyed that also presented service opportunities for me. That’s when I realized that the point of all the additional requirements weren’t there to exasperate us Honors students, but to help us. 

As for Honors classes and GPA, Jacey is right. If you’re intelligent enough to make it into Honors, you most likely will have no problem maintaining those. Just put in the expected effort and you’ll be fine. If you do find yourself struggling with any of the requirements, though, any Honors staff member (and probably even any Honors student) will try their hardest to assist you with your needs.

I have a feeling a lot of current Honors students wouldn’t have initially joined Honors if there weren’t incentives for the extra work. There are incentives, and some pretty awesome ones at that.

Freshmen get a single room in an Honors dorm for close to the price that traditional students pay to share a room with another person. (Or, the can choose to apply the housing scholarship to a shared room and save money.)

Kayla is excited about the differences having her own room will bring.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Thomas

Hannah Thomas, freshman, Pre-Nursing

“Being able to live my first few college years in a single room allows me to have the feeling that I am more independent, which in turn requires me to understand myself when it comes to certain situations and academic work,” she explained.

Jacey explains why having a single room is so beneficial for Honors students.

“It is hard for some people to share a room, so the Honors single room is a wonderful thing to have. I know it was wonderful not having to have other people come into my room whenever they wanted or to deal with someone else’s mess,” she said.

Peer mentors are also a benefit to the Honors Program. Freshmen are assigned an older student as their “mentor,” whose purpose is to help familiarize freshmen with Honors life and Ferris life.

“Peer mentors are also wonderful to have to ask questions, ask for advice, or anything else. They do a great job of getting the freshmen out on campus and showing them Ferris life,” said Jacey.

According to Jacob, the fact that Honors students also receive priority registration is the biggest perk of the program.

“The early registration alone is worth it to stay in Honors,” he said. “Honestly, it’s the whole reason I joined. Life is much less stressful when you’re able to get into the classes you want.”

Honors students also get special consideration for some programs and colleges, as well as an extremely helpful and caring staff. Freshman Hannah Thomas is ready to take advantage of the staff and see how they will benefit her while she’s at Ferris.

Photo courtesy of Chaz Shugars

Chaz Shugars, freshman, Professional Golf Management

“Even though the year has just begun, I can already tell that having an extremely helpful and friendly staff has really helped me get acclimated to life and classes here on campus,” she said.

From a completely honest student perspective, most of the Honors students I know joined solely for the single room. Not going to lie, that was one of the main reasons I joined. Honors students are exceptionally busy so having your own room and not having to coordinate schedules with another person is a great blessing. I’m not in a popular major, so getting the classes I want isn’t that difficult, but it is nice knowing that I probably won’t ever have to stress over it like a lot of students do. The most beneficial thing I’ve received from Honors, however, is getting to know the staff and all the opportunities I’ve been presented with through the, I know that if I contact a staff member with a question or want to set up a meeting, they’ll do everything to make themselves available to me. Not all university staff members do that for their students, so that’s something very special about being in Honors that students should take advantage of.

Because there are quite a few things that Honors students do that other students don’t, our time here at Ferris isn’t the same as other students’.

First-year student Chaz Shugars knows that Honors will change his Ferris life for the better.

“I feel like it will enhance my college experience and force me to think on a higher level all while in a comfortable atmosphere,” he said.

Kayla knows that the Honors changes will help her reach her full potential “both academic-wise and social-wise,” and she is right.

Jacey is thankful for the way Honors has helped her academically.

“I would have struggled with my grades if it wasn’t for being in an Honors hall,” she explained. “I could use the study room for group projects or go to my room and know that no one would be there to distract me.”

I definitely wouldn’t have been exposed to so much my freshman year if it weren’t for the Honors requirements. Jacob feels the same way.

“If it weren’t for Honors, I wouldn’t have done the community service I’ve done or attended the cultural events I’ve attended,” he said.

I probably also wouldn’t have joined an RSO or met as many people if I hadn’t been in Honors. Honors is a big fan of socialization activities, which can be awkward at the time but are actually an easy way to meet people.

Carlton hopes to get “a quality education and a quality social experience” through being in Honors. So far, it’s working for him, especially socially.

“[Being in Honors] is a healthy and easy way to make friendships off the bat,” he said.

One of the main differences of being in Honors is that by being in an Honors dorm and taking Honors classes, you’ll be surrounded by wonderful like-minded people with a desire to better themselves.

You’ll meet some of your best friends because of Honors, which both Jacey and I have already done in our time here. Jacob also has gotten to know many people from Honors that he might not have otherwise.

“I wouldn’t have met some of the people I’ve met here at Ferris, whether is was directly though the Honors program or through the events I’ve attended because of the program,” he said.

Your friends who are in Honors aren’t going to be the friends that are convincing you to skip out on your homework or service projects so that you can go do something else that sounds more appealing. They’re going to be the ones sitting right beside you in a study room Sunday night while you frantically attempt to get all your weekend homework done before your 8am on Monday.

Not everybody stays in Honors for all four years of their time at Ferris. From each new class of Honors students, some leave for various personal and academic reasons somewhere during their college carrer. Most students don’t enter the program with the intentions to drop it, though. Somewhere along the way, some students simply grow tired of keeping up with the requirements. Do freshmen foresee themselves quitting?

Chaz definitely does not anticipate dropping Honors along the way.

“I see it being a challenge but I’m not one to quit,” he said. “Honors will help me to effectively manage my time while challenging me to become a better person through extra involvement and commitment.”

Hannah feels the same way as Chaz.

“I don’t think I would quit Honors because there’s too much work or too many requirements,” she said. “This program has presented me with many opportunities that are beneficial, not just to my education, but to me as a person as well.”

Kayla honestly admitted that she could see herself quitting if the requirements were too difficult, but it would be her “last resort.”

Carlton doesn’t think he’ll ever drop Honors.

“The requirements to stay in aren’t that much more of a burden than the non-Honors student,” he said.

I considered dropping out of the Honors program before second-year students could live off campus and still be in Honors. I’m thankful that rule was enacted because now I can still be in Honors while living in my cozy apartment. I think the main reason people drop Honors is that once they are out of the dorms, they may not see a ton of incentive to stay in the program. Those students are also the ones who probably did the bare minimum to keep their Honors standing and didn’t get out of the program what students are intended to get out of it.

And what do Honors students intend to get out of the program?

Chaz hopes that Honors will “help [him] to effectively manage time while challenging [him] to become a better person through extra involvement.”

Hannah believes that Honors will challenge her to step outside of her comfort zone and “develop into a well-rounded person in society.”

Kayla also knows that Honors will nudge her away from her comfort zone.

“The Honors Program is holding me to high expectations and sometimes I feel as if I lower expectations for myself,” she said.

Carlton thinks that Honors will “help [him] come to appreciate the importance of service in a community.”

Even though I haven’t had much more experience than them, I can assure these freshmen that Honors will do all of those things and more for them.

One unintentional side effect about Honors is that by living in an Honors residence hall, having a single room, and attending many Honors events, a lot of your friends tend to also be Honors students. For some, it may be challenging and intimidating to meet people outside of Honors, or even to make friends in your own dorm.

Hannah was a “little worried at first about making friends outside of Honors.” Now, though—not so much.

“Now that I have started classes and I’m beginning to join RSOs, it has become very easy to make friends with all types of students here at Ferris,” she said.

Kayla is also slightly concerned that all her friends will be Honors students, but she doesn’t necessarily consider than an issue (and it’s not—Honors students are the best!).

“I am a little worried about meeting friends outside of Honors due to the fact that most of the social events I go to seem to be Honors orientated,” she said. “However, the friends that I have made [who are in Honors] are friends that I certainly do not mind hanging out with on a daily basis.”

Carlton doesn’t share Hannah and Kayla’s apprehensiveness about socializing outside of Honors.

“By no means am I worried about meeting/making friends outside of Honors,” he explains. “Most of them are [not in Honors] to be honest, but it’s not really a surprise seeing as how there are so many more non-Honors students than Honors.”

Upon first arriving at Ferris, you’ll start to notice that the majority of your friends are Honors students, but once you get more immersed within the university and activities, you’ll start to meet all sorts of people at Ferris.

College is really tough, but Honors tries to make the path a little smoother for its students. Here are some last words of wisdom to new Honors students, experienced Honors students, and to all Ferris students.

Though it is essential that students focus on academics, Jacey advises students to make room for other aspects of college, too.

“Manage your time,” she said. “Make time for studying, friends, activities, and you. Don’t forget ‘you’ time! It’s the most vital because you can’t do well in school or have a lot of fun if you don’t give yourself a little down time every now and then. Don’t forget to get involved! Being in an RSO not only can be community service hours and a leadership position, but also advice and friends.”

Jacob suggests to keep an open mind about new experiences, both for Honors and for Ferris.

“My advice is to never treat something from the Honors Program as a chore,” he said. “Consider community service as an example: You can show up in a bad mood, go through the motions just to get it done, and then go home. You may get your hours, but you don’t gain much from the experience and at that point it’s just a waste of time. But if you show up optimistic, keep your mind open, and just have a good time, not only might you learn something, but you may also make new friends and provide a valuable contribution to the community.”

Honors students are recognized for being hard workers and having strong study habits, but make sure to take time to have a social life and focus on other aspects of college aside from the academic part. Honors students are remarkably busy, but it is possible to balance everything. If you do feel overwhelmed or that the Honors requirements are too much and too frustrating, talk to someone about it—don’t just quit the program.

Also, although it may be tempting to stay in your room alone and nap all the time (especially during the never-ending winter), force yourself to get up and participate in activities. One of the best things about college is being exposed to all different types of fascinating people and ideas, which sometimes may be more challenging for an Honors student since they’re so focused on completing the requirements and doing well in classes. I know I’ve said this a lot but I can’t reiterate it enough—take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. The Honors Program knows that its members all have tons of potential and do all they can to aid them in showing it.

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