For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Sep 14 2015
by Danielle Newman

Why You Don't Need to be an Honors Student in College

By Danielle Newman - Sep 14 2015

As millions of high school students get adjusted to college, each student has a lot of decisions to make. One of those decisions involves choosing which classes to take. Most colleges offer honors courses to certain students, but should you always choose to take them?

Yes, I know, many universities require honors program students to take a certain number of honors classes. In those situations, many students don't have a choice. But for those who do have a choice, taking honors classes in college may not be the best idea, especially your first semester. 

As my high school's valedictorian, I took plenty of honors and AP classes. In my first semester of college, I chose to take zero. At my university, honors courses aren't required, and any student is eligible to take them. Our honors college doesn't have "members." You can be involved as little or as much as you'd like, which means that you don't have to take honors classes. In fact, at orientation, our adviser recommended that we don't, at least not our first semester. 

Honestly, for many people, there's no reason to continue to push yourself unless it's in a subject you really want to learn more about. Unlike in high school, honors classes aren't weighted and don't add to your GPA if you do well in them. In college, they can hurt your GPA more than they can help it. Because they're so much more difficult in many colleges, getting a "B" in your honors course brings your GPA down, and graduate schools don't care that the reason you got that "B" was because the class was an honors class. Unlike in high school, taking honors classes doesn't make your transcript look significantly better. A lot of students are only aiming to get a bachelor's degree anyways, so it's not like you're sending your transcript to any graduate school or medical school. Even those planning on applying to graduate school or medical school, they care more about your GPA and scores on exams like the MCAT or LSAT than they do about the classes you took your first two years in college. In general, employers care more about your degree than the classes you took in college. 

In addition, just going into college is hard enough. The course load is already going to be much harder. In many cases, students have to adjust to living in a new city, state, or country. Taking an "easier" course load can help in this process. If you decide later on in your college career that you want to challenge yourself, then go for it! It's just safer for many students to take it easy their first semester and then go from there. It can really be the difference between making it and breaking it during the first semester of school.

Disclaimer: If you want to take a few honors classes, go for it! Just be careful and take a safe course load for your intellectual level. Don't push yourself harder than you can handle and be confident about any decision you make. Good luck!

Lead Image Credit: Andrew Moore

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Danielle Newman - University of Pittsburgh

Danielle Newman is a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Bioengineering and plans on becoming certified in prosthetics and orthotics. Before college, she was the historian of her school’s student government. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @daniii_newman!

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