The Honors Experience: What to Expect
1. The Honors Classroom
a. As soon as you walk into an honors classroom, you will notice a marked difference from a regular classroom. There are only 20 students enrolled, and they all want to be there. This allows the professor to work with you more individually, give more feedback on your work, and mentor you for our student research conferences. In such an intimate setting, you have a great opportunity to get to know your professor, and more importantly your professor can get to know you, so when you ask for a letter of recommendation, he or she can write a glowing account of your accomplishments in the classroom.
b. We believe strongly in teaching our classes “seminar style”. This means that the chairs will often be in a circle instead of rows; the professor will often be listening instead of talking, and the conversation will often be driven by students’ questions rather than professorial answers. This is a longstanding and effective mode of teaching (think Plato and Socrates), so you will benefit from the process. Developing your verbal agility and confidence is an important part of honors classes.
c. Honors classes emphasize reading challenging primary texts, not simply textbook material. You’ll be reading material that you will have to study and re-read, and you’ll encounter the types of texts that have been discussed and debated in college classrooms throughout the world.
d. Honors classes emphasize writing and critical thinking skills through the assignment of at least 20 pages written work—this will better prepare you for the demands of university level work and challenge you to articulate your ideas and insights in clear academic prose. Our goal at the end of every semester is for you to have “conference-ready” essays, ones that you can deliver at our student research conferences.
e. The Honors Program offers seminars in a variety of general education classes that you need to transfer, all of which encourage you to improve your critical thinking, written and verbal communication skills, and to cultivate your awareness and understanding of diverse points of view.
2. Keys to Success
a. Honors classes are writing-intensive, so be sure to put aside some extra time for thinking, writing, and revising. Writing is where you bring together class discussions, outside readings, and critical thinking to demonstrate what you have learned about the material. Writing (and re-writing and re-writing) is a way to deepen and sharpen your thinking and to “own” what you’ve been studying. You can take advantage of the Writing and Reading Center to help you polish your writing, and you can visit your professor during office hours as you work through your outlines, rough drafts, and final copies. The Honors Program wants to help you to become a better writer, so be sure to use all available resources to help you write effective, interesting, and thoughtful essays.
b. Class members must attend regularly and come prepared. This last point is crucial. Any small group is demoralized and rendered less effective by sporadic attendance or poor preparation. Unprepared members may get something out of attending, but they sap the vitality of the group, diluting the honors experience for the others. And they can be detrimental if they try to bluff their way through a discussion. For our honors classes to do well, your full commitment is essential.
c. One of the best features of the honors classes is that they foster a sense of community. This can help you to succeed if you take advantage of it. Practically speaking, be sure to get contact information from some of your classmates so that in the rare event that you miss class, you don’t compound the absence by coming unprepared to the next class session. Beyond that, treat learning as something that takes place outside the classroom as well as inside—and remember that genuine learning is often collaborative. Create study groups (formally or informally) with classmates, talk about class materials over a cup of coffee, study together, and discuss ideas. This will enrich your learning experience, which in turn will pay dividends in the classroom, enriching the experience for us all.
d. In the Honors Program, we stress critical thinking, as do many other classes. Critical thinking means trying to think clearly and honestly—working to become an independent thinker, able to learn from others yet make judgments for oneself. Critical thinkers value intellectual honesty and seek to free themselves from hidden assumptions as well as the dictates of impulse and emotion. This is the ethical component of critical thinking. Critical thinkers do not think negatively. Yes, they notice problems. But they seek solutions. They reflect. They question. They think evaluatively. Success in your honors classes depends in large part on your openness and willingness to think critically.
e. Finally, honors students who succeed ask for help when they need it. Your professors, coordinators, counselor, class advocates, classmates can all help you to succeed. Reach out if you feel like you’re struggling. Chances are you’re not the only one who feels challenged. Take advantage of the small class to really connect with your professor and classmates; take advantage of the advising you can get from our program counselor and coordinators and from your professors.
3. Student Handbook
4. Student Publications
5. Integrity and Accountability
6. Counseling and Financial Aid Support System
a. We have an honors counselor assigned at each college. At Moreno Valley, you should contact Sal Soto. At Norco, you should contact Marissa Iliscupidez. At RCC, you should contact Monica Delgadillo-Flores in the Transfer Center, Karyn Magno, or Elizabeth Yglecias who teaches our Guidance 46 classes.
b. You can work with any of our RCCD counselors to complete your Student Educational Plan, a requirement for all honors students.
c. Throughout the year, we will have transfer workshops, including: “What You Need to Know about TAG and TAP”, “What Career Your Personality Wants”, “Introduction to the Transfer Process”, “Career and Major Workshop”, “Choosing a School for Transfer”, and others.
d. We also have a series of workshops on writing the application essays for the UC and common applications. You can work closely with our honors professors to write and re-write your essays, and at RCC, we even have the Creative Writing Club coming in to give you some tips.
e. At RCC, we have a financial aid liaison for the Honors Program: Deanna Murrell. She can answer all of your financial aid questions; she will lead workshops during the year, and she will even hold office hours in QD 207 once a month.
a. Honors Center
b. Field Trips
c. Class Advocates
d. Honors Parties and Potlucks
e. Community Service
f. Clubs on Campus