Your Questions Answered - Autumn 2008

September 25th, 2008

The Autumn quarter has begun, and Dawg Daze 2008 is in full swing! As part of our Honors Freshman Welcome RSVP, we asked incoming students what questions they still needed to have answered - we've combined these with some of the most common questions from our 2008 Admissions season in this comprehensive article.


I'm curious as to the classes I'm required to take through the Honors program. How different are Honors courses from non-Honors?

The courses you'll take in Honors are designed to provide an intensive, interdisciplinary approach to your general education requirements. Instead of taking the Areas of Knowledge (the general education requirements for non-Honors students), you'll take courses to fulfill the Honors Core (Natural Science + Civilization). These courses are small, usually 15-35 students (with a few exceptions) taught by Honors faculty from around campus. While you'll definitely participate in small courses elsewhere on campus, Honors courses provide this seminar-style learning environment and close interaction with peers and instructors from your first year onwards. Honors courses aren't meant to replace the rest of your UW curriculum, but rather to provide a balance to the larger lecture classes you'll take, and a way to supplement your education with a different learning style.

How much harder are Honors classes compared to regular ones?

Honors courses aren't meant to be exhausting - they are meant to be intellectually challenging and stimulating. You'll be engaging with new material in new ways, and your courses are likely to be very discussion-based. Honors aims to expand your mind through engaged interaction: we want you to be interested in your courses and to participate actively in your education. If you aren't interested in your classes, or if you feel overwhelmed by them, come talk to us!

In an exception to this general rule, Honors sections of the "hard sciences" are designed to be accelerated versions of typically very academically rigorous courses. Therefore Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Calculus Honors sections will be pretty challenging. Again, talk to us if you feel they are not the right fit for you - we will do all we can do to help.

What is the process for a professor deciding/being approached to teach an Honors class?

Professors come to teach in Honors in a variety of different ways: often times, we recruit staff we have heard are outstanding, and ask them to formulate a course specially for Honors students in keeping with our goals as a program. Other times, professors ask to open their courses to Honors students, or to design a course for the program.

We try to maintain a balance of instructors and courses from different disciplines, as well as offering courses that have been especially popular in the past. So please let us know what you think, or if there is a course you'd like to see offered as an Honors option!

Are there new/different courses offered each quarter?

Yes! We offer a rotating schedule of courses, with new ones offered each quarter and each year. We are continually recruiting professors, instructors, lecturers and community members to teach for us to help keep our curriculum dynamic and engaging for our students.

Remember you can always get Honors credit for a challenging non-Honors course by completing ad hoc Honors. For more details, speak to an adviser.

Are specific Honors classes available for just that quarter, or throughout the year (i.e., is the course on Astrobiology available just fall term or all year around)?

Honors courses are specially created by faculty and staff from around campus and the Seattle community, and as such don't always operate on the same schedule as other courses on campus. Some of our courses are offered repeatedly but some are one-time chances. Most courses aren't offered each quarter (meaning Fall, Winter and Spring) but may be offered each year during a quarter (every Winter quarter).

Some general rules of thumb: most Honors seminars are only offered once. Honors sections of the "hard sciences" (Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology) are offered continuously in sequence. Ask an Honors staff member about other courses.

Are Honors courses available to take over the summer?

Sometimes. We usually have two or three Honors courses taught over summer, either during A or B term, but there is no set summer course schedule. For this past summer's listings, visit our Summer 2008 Course Archive.

You can also earn Honors credit over the summer by participating in an Honors study abroad option. For more information on that, see below!

Is it possible to take all my classes within the Honors Program?

No. The Honors program is not a separate school or college, and is aimed at integrating students into the rest of the UW, not isolating them. Honors does not attempt to replace the overall University experience; rather it aims to enhance it. Our interdisciplinary courses are meant to expose students to close interaction with faculty and peers and to create an atmosphere of academic and personal growth.

You will still need to participate in other courses: UW proficiency requirements, departmental prerequisites and graduation requirements, and electives.

How many Honors classes do we have to take to stay in the Honors Program?

You are required to take 45-47 credits (depending on your major) of Honors core coursework before you graduate. You are not required to take them at certain times, or at a set rate per quarter (see below for more information); as long as you fulfill these requirements (and those of your department) before you graduate, you will earn an Honors degree.

At what pace should I take Honors classes? One per quarter?

You are required to take nine 5-credit courses to fulfill your Honors Core. Most students take 1 Honors course per quarter, which leaves plenty of room for other courses in your major or electives, and most have no trouble finishing these courses by graduation. You will do approximately one-third of your coursework within Honors by completing the Honors core - the other two-thirds are devoted to the UW proficiency requirements (English Composition, Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning, and, depending on your major, Foreign Language), to departmental requirements for majors and/or minors, and to elective credits.

You are welcome to take more than one Honors course per quarter, on a space available basis (see below for more information). Make sure to sign up for a balanced, manageable schedule/course load!

Can I take more than one Honors class in a quarter?

We allow each student the opportunity to take one Honors Arts & Science (H A&S) 5-credit course and one Honors seminar each per quarter before we extend students the chance to take more than one 5-credit H A&S course per quarter. However, we keep active Wait Lists for all our classes, and are happy to give out add codes for multiple courses on a space-available basis.

Students are free to take Honors sections of the "hard sciences" (Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology) while taking H A&S courses. There is no limit on these - but speak to an adviser before you sign up for multiple courses like this in a quarter!

What is the average class size? Are the classes a lot smaller than regular classes?

Honors courses designated as "H A&S" are typically limited to 15-35 students.

Honors seminars (non-Freshman seminars) are usually 12-15 students.

Honors sections of humanities/social sciences (HIST, SIS) courses are usually around 20-25 students.

Honors versions of the "hard sciences" (math, physics, biology, chemistry) will usually be a little larger, around 50-65 students, but still significantly smaller than non-Honors versions of the same class.

Do my Honors core classes have to follow a sequence, or can I take a random combination?

It is possible to take Honors Civilization courses in any sequence you like, as they usually have no prerequisites.

The H A&S 220 Natural Science series may also be taken in any combination.

Honors sections of "hard" science courses usually must be taken in sequence. If you begin an Honors sequence, you may "step down" to the non-Honors version. However, if you begin a sequence in the non-Honors version, you may not "step up" to the Honors version in the middle of the sequence.

How flexible are Honors requirements?

Honors requirements are designed to ensure that students graduate with some breadth to their education - we don't want you to just know about one thing! In that way, they are inflexible: you must complete requirements in both Natural Science and Civilization. However, how you fulfill these requirements is open-ended. Our courses are designed to be interdisciplinary and broad-reaching, so they don't just appeal to one major or interest. Our changing course offerings mean that you have lots of opportunities to sample disciplines and instructors from all over campus teaching a huge variety of topics. And our ad hoc option means you can get Honors credit for a non-Honors course or study abroad option by taking on an additional - and pre-approved - project.

Remember that as an Honors student you still must complete the UW's proficiency requirements - those are non-negotiable!

Please explain the difference between College Honors and Departmental Honors.

To graduate with College Honors, students must complete two components: the Honors Core (general education requirements) and Departmental Honors within at least one of their majors.

The Honors Core is a replacement of the UW's Areas of Knowledge General Education Requirements. This component is broken into three categories: Honors Civilization (6 courses/30 credits), Honors Natural Science (3 courses/15 credits) and an Honors Seminar (2+ credits). Students must complete all 47 credits to satisfy this requirement.

College Honors students must also fulfill their department's Honors requirements. These requirements vary between majors, but usually include a few upper-level courses, an Honors thesis, research, or some other in-depth work.

Students must complete both components to graduate with College Honors.

Alternately, students may choose to only pursue "Departmental Honors" by fulfilling their major's requirements and the UW's Areas of Knowledge General Education requirements in addition to completing their department's Honors requirements.

How do departments award Honors credit?

When you choose a major, ask your departmental adviser about the major's Honors requirements. They will let you know what requirements you must fulfill to complete Departmental Honors and will determine which courses count as Honors for your major. Please be aware that some departments have competitive admission into departmental Honors and some do not.

How can I best use the Honors core classes towards my major?

Honors courses provide an interdisciplinary look at many topics. You may find that they don't directly relate to your major, but still allow you to examine the ideas of your major from a new angle.

Some of our Honors courses are Honors sections of popular classes, including History, Humanities, International Studies, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Math. These courses may help fulfill your departmental requirements.

Is it common to participate in Honors and double major?

Yes! Many of our students choose to double major and graduate with Honors. College Honors requires that you fulfill your General Education requirements by completing the Honors Core (Civilization + Natural Science) and also complete departmental Honors requirements within your major. However, you do not need to do departmental Honors work in all your majors in order to graduate "with Honors". Completing departmental Honors in one of your majors will satisfy this requirement and earn you an Honors diploma.

Is it possible to complete Honors requirements and a triple major?

Yes, you can triple major and graduate with College Honors! Again, you need not complete Honors in all your majors to graduate with Honors; Honors work within one major suffices (see above).

Does a student have to complete extra work in her minor to receive a "College Honors" degree?

No extra course work is required in your minor(s), only in your major.

How often do students get stuck frantically fulfilling Honors requirements before graduation?

Most Honors students find no problem in fitting the 47 credits required to complete the Honors Core into their time at UW. At a rate of 1 Honors course per quarter, you'll be done in around 12 quarters or three years, with plenty of time for non-Honors requirements (for majors and/or minors) and electives.

The best advice is to visit your advisers early and often! Doing this will ensure that you aren't neglecting any important requirements until the last minute.

Do you have to maintain a certain GPA to stay in the Honors Program?

Yes. You'll have to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.3 to remain in the program. If your GPA drops below 3.3, we'll arrange an advising appointment and monitor your GPA for the next quarter. If you are unable to bring your GPA up, you will be transferred from the program. Freshmen have two quarters to bring their GPA up after being placed on academic probation. If you have questions or would like to talk about your GPA, please make an appointment with one of our advisers - they are here to help!

In addition to this GPA requirement, most majors require a minimum GPA in related coursework (coursework within the department) to participate in Departmental Honors.

Is there a general Honors study center?

The Honors Suite, Mary Gates Hall 211, is home to a library, a computer lab, and a seminar room. These are all available (when classes aren't being held there!) for studying, either individually or in groups. Schedules are posted on the doors of each room to make you aware of reservation times.

Your department(s) may also offer study areas in their office(s).

There are over 10 libraries on campus:, with study rooms available. To reserve a room for studying (and equipment as well), go to and make your selections!

Is it harder to maintain a high GPA in Honors than in regular UW?

Maintaining a high GPA at the UW is challenging - regardless of whether you are taking Honors courses or not. Honors courses aren't designed to be so challenging that you struggle to maintain a good GPA. Instead, they are designed to provide a small-group learning community within the larger university. They offer personalized attention and a strong community network along with a more challenging academic experience. We find that most Honors students do as well - if not better - in their Honors courses as they do in their regular courses. If you are struggling with your Honors course, speak to your instructor or an adviser!

Do students in the Honors Program have time to work outside of school?

Yes! Many of our students work at jobs or work-study opportunities during the school year, on top of being involved in other activities on campus or in the surrounding communities. A balanced schedule and good time-management are key to ensuring you have an enjoyable quarter though.

The Counseling Center at UW offers tips on how to achieve academic and emotional success:

In addition, workshops on time management will be offered Autumn quarter at the following times:

  • Monday, October 13, 3:30-5:00pm
  • Monday, November 3, 3:30-5:00pm
  • Details:

What are the benefits of being a UW Honors student?

It's hard to pin down the benefits of the Honors Program, as they vary between students pretty widely. Some of the most agreed upon benefits include small, intensive, interdisciplinary Honors courses; early exposure to internships, research opportunities and service learning; personal connections with Honors faculty and staff; a dynamic community of like-minded peers; Honors study abroad options; the opportunity to apply for the Bonderman Travel Fellowship and Honors merit-based scholarships; and free printing in the Honors computer lab!

How does the Honors Scholar Award scholarship get validated to pay tuition?

Honors is pleased to be able to award scholarships to some incoming students and returning students. Details on these scholarship opportunities and application procedures can be found here:

Our scholarships are disbursed to the recipient's tuition account, and will credit towards the balance due. You can check the status through your tuition account on MyUW. These funds are usually disbursed before the start of the quarter. If you have trouble, contact Student Fiscal Services for help: or 206-543-4694.

Mary Gates Endowment Scholarships also include a book allowance each quarter. These funds will also be disbursed to your tuition account, resulting in a credit equal to the allowance amount. To access these funds for use, you can set up direct deposit of these funds through MyUW (you will need your bank's routing number) or you can receive a check from Student Fiscal Services.

Would most students say that the Honors Program helps them after graduation? For instance, will participating in the Honors Program help me get into a better grad school?

This is one of the most popular questions, and one of the most difficult to answer! When applying to graduate programs, there is no guarantee that having participated in Honors will ensure you entrance - but doing Honors course work during your undergraduate career can expose you to a wide variety of academic and non-academic opportunities which can help strengthen your application to such programs. Apart from the academic rigor of Honors courses, we hope that you take advantage of the non-academic aspects, such as the Honors community groups, and other opportunities, such as research, internships, study abroad, volunteer work, etc. These qualifications and experiences strengthen your graduate school application more than a simple "Honors" degree can, and are all part of what we hope you gain from participating in Honors. In short, Honors course work, with no other involvement in the community or the broader world of UW, is not enough to guarantee you entrance; like the Honors Program, most grad schools are looking for well-rounded, motivated and dedicated students. These opportunities are definitely available, and available through Honors, but not exclusively!

What are the benefits of the Honors Program for a pre-med student?

Much like the previous question, many students wonder if Honors helps them get into med school - and, similarly, the answer is "not exactly." The opportunities provided by Honors and the UW ensure that a motivated student here can complete academic and non-academic challenges that qualify them for medical school, but Honors alone is not enough! Pursue internships, research, and volunteer work as well.

Honors does offer advanced/accelerated options for many of the standard pre-med courses (Biology, Chemistry, Math), and these can pose a greater challenge for a student, thus preparing them quite thoroughly for medical school. However, again, these courses are not enough to guarantee acceptance to a medical school.

How is Honors advising different than other kinds of advising? Do Honors advisers have more or less time for students than regular advisers? Are they as capable of pre-med advising as pre-med advisers?

The Honors Suite (MGH 211) is also home to your Honors advisers - Aley Willis ( and Brook Kelly ( While Aley and Brook do most of the advising in Honors, Julie Villegas (, our Associate Director, is also available.

There are lots of great advisers on campus - you won't have just one during your time at UW! Honors is a great first stop, however, as we have the best understanding of the Honors Program requirements and how they'll fit into your overall plan of study for your major(s). And, if Aley and Brook don't know the answer, they'll know who on campus does!

Your departmental advisers are also the best resource for work within your majors. Make sure to speak to them about applying to your major and about doing Honors work within your department. A list of contact information for each department can be found at the Gateway Center website.

The Gateway Center (Mary Gates Hall 171) houses general Undergraduate Advising as well as specialized advising for pre-professional programs like pre-med and pre-law. Visit them online at

Are there many research opportunities with Honors Program faculty?

One advantage of the Honors Program is that our small class size definitely leads to a more personal relationship with your instructors and Honors staff. This relationship often leads to research or internship opportunities, because these community leaders have a better idea of what you are interested in, and can keep you in mind when they hear of and/or create these opportunities. Make sure to make your interest known - don't depend on them to come to you!

Julie Villegas ( helps to coordinate a lot of the Honors student research - make an appointment with her for further information!

Faculty are just one point of connection for finding out about research & internships - make sure to check out the Undergraduate Research Program: Also check with your department.

Think about participating in the Undergraduate Research Symposium. For details on last year's symposium, visit

HSAP puts on an Honors Research Colloquium each spring - stay tuned to your weekly Honors announcements for the opportunity to share your research with fellow students and prepare for the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

When can Honors students expect to be exposed to research opportunities?

Honors students engage in research all throughout their time at the UW. You can begin as a freshman, so don't hesitate to ask around, and check out the Undergraduate Research Program:

What kind of internship possibilities are available through Honors?

Internships are available on much the same basis as research opportunities through connections with Honors faculty, staff and other students. If you're interested, speak to Julie Villegas or one of our Honors advisers about positions they may know about.

Your department is often the best source of internship opportunities that relate to the fields you are interested in and they may ask you to participate in an internship for your departmental Honors requirements - in this case, they can provide you with a list of past internship positions and are usually able to help you arrange a new placement as well.

The UW Career Center can help with internship placements as well. Check out the current opportunities at

What kinds of non-academic activities does the Honors Program participate in?

  • Honors Housing
  • Honors Croquet League
  • Apart from these Honors-affiliated groups, Honors students participate in every club and activity on campus, from the Peanut Butter & Jelly Club to the Greek system to UW athletics. Whatever you're interested in, we're sure other Honors students are too!

What is the Honors Student Advisory Panel (HSAP)? When can I apply?

The Honors Student Advisory Panel is a small group of students dedicated to advising the Honors Program administration on issues important to its students. We try to ensure that those making policy are kept abreast of the thoughts and ideas of those whom the policy affects. HSAP functions as a liaison between the student body and the Honors faculty and staff.

You can apply to participate in HSAP next spring! Applications are usually due in early- to mid- May for the following school year.

What is the best way to meet friends in the Honors program?

  • Stay tuned to the Honors announcements to hear about upcoming events and read news about other current students and what they are doing.
  • Come to our events.
  • Study abroad.
  • Come by the office.

What events are there to meet other Honors students?

Aside from our Honors Freshmen Welcome Event, the Honors Program and Honors-associated groups sponsor various events throughout the year. In the past we've enjoyed pumpkin carving, a non-denominational Winter celebration, tea time with local community speakers, a Spring Fling, and our annual Celebration of Distinction. Honors House often organizes events for their residents and other students in the Program - information on these programs will be available via the Honors announcements.

Aside from organized events, the Honors suite (Mary Gates 211) is a great place to study, use the computers, and make friends with other students. We have a microwave, a library and a great staff! Drop in and say hi!

Honors classes are also a good way to meet Honors Program friends - and convenient for forming study groups too!

Are there Honors activities during Dawg Daze?

The Honors Freshman Welcome is the only event planned exclusively by the Honors Program to welcome new freshmen to UW. However, there are so many events that we're sure you won't be bored or lonely!

For a schedule of all Dawg Daze events, visit You'll also get a copy of this schedule at check-in.

Can you offer me a more detailed explanation on what services are offered to Honors students in the Honors Housing?

Honors housing provides Honors students the opportunity to live in the residence halls with like-minded students and experienced Honors upperclassmen RAs. It offers another point of connection between Honors students, is handy in forming study groups, offers 24-hour quiet floors, and is home to many excellent events (pizza parties, visits from campus figures like President Emmert, movie nights). All Honors students are invited to participate in Honors floor events.

Why are Honors floors co-ed when other floors aren't?

Honors floors are indeed co-ed, just like most other floors in UW residence halls. Single-gender floors are available upon request from Housing & Food Services (however, we do not have a single-gender Honors option). All bathrooms in residence halls are single-gender.

What are all these amazing study abroad options I keep hearing about?

Honors has several study abroad options designed to help students fulfill their Honors requirements and enjoy going abroad. These include programs to Amsterdam (summer), Argentina (summer), Berlin (summer), Rome (winter or summer), and Costa Rica (summer). We also host three direct exchanges, one in Argentina and two in the Netherlands.

You can also study abroad through almost any department on campus, so make sure to ask your department for options to help you fulfill your major requirements as well!

Honors also offers the Bonderman Travel Fellowship, a fellowship opportunity made possible by the generous donations of David Bonderman, a UW alumni.

Can I fit a study abroad into my major? How long are the programs - less than a month or a full quarter?

Most students find they have room in their schedules to fit in a study abroad during their time at the UW, whether they choose an Honors study abroad option or another one of the choices from elsewhere on campus. UW has over 400 study abroad programs, so finding one that fits your interests, schedule and major is definitely possible!

Programs vary in length - some are month-long programs, some year-long exchanges. Summer programs, including Exploration Seminars (, are a good option for students with a sequence-heavy schedule during the traditional academic year. Exploration Seminars are month-long, intensive abroad programs usually during August or September. Honors runs Exploration Seminars to Costa Rica and to Sierra Leone, West Africa.

And remember, you can get Honors credit for a non-Honors study abroad - just make sure to discuss it with your instructor and an Honors adviser before you leave!

What are the requirements to participate in the study abroad programs? How do I get into the study abroad program?

Each Honors study abroad has a unique course of study, so preparations for each vary. However, aside from our exchange program in Argentina (which requires Spanish proficiency), our study abroad options have no prerequisites for applying, and do not have language fluency requirements. Almost all of our programs also have preparatory seminars the quarter before departure to make sure all students feel comfortable with the upcoming experience.

I am interested in applying for a study abroad program and I'd like to know more about that process!

  • The first step is to pick your program! You can either choose one of the Honors options ( or ask your department or visit the International Programs & Exchanges (IPE) website for a list of all the study abroad options at UW:
  • Once you've picked a program, apply using the guidelines provided by the individual program.
  • If the program you've chosen is not an Honors-specific program and you'd like to still get Honors credit for it, make sure to speak to your study abroad instructor and to an Honors adviser to arrange ad hoc credit.
  • Attend an IP&E orientation - they'll help you register once you are accepted to a program.
  • Go!

How many Honors freshmen are entering this year?

There are 269 incoming Honors freshmen this year. Welcome to all of you!

How large is the Honors program compared to the entire student body?

There are approximately 1,500 undergraduates in the Honors Program. About two-thirds of these students are completing College Honors, while the other one-third is pursuing Departmental Honors. The overall student body of UW numbers around 40,000 students (undergraduate and graduate).

How many students graduate from the program each year? What is the overall success rate?

Each year, around 120-150 students graduate "with College Honors". These students complete the Honors Core (Civilization + Natural Science) and Departmental Honors work for their major(s).

Another 90-100 students graduate "with Distinction", having completed the Departmental Honors requirements demanded by their major(s). These students complete the UW's General Education requirements (the Areas of Knowledge) instead of the Honors Core.

A unit within Undergraduate Academic Affairs
211 Mary Gates Hall : Box 352800 : Seattle, WA 98195-2800
206.543.7444 : 206.543.6469 FAX
Creative Commons License Unless otherwise noted, all public content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License