Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Honors College?
The Honors College provides academically motivated and enthusiastic students at the University of Maine with the intellectual experience and close working relationship with faculty members characteristic of the best small colleges, coupled with the extensive choice of majors and opportunities for original scholarship available at a nationally-recognized research university. The Honors College is a community of approximately eight hundred students and numerous faculty members who share a common commitment to learning which both broadens and deepens the educational endeavor.   Return to top

What is special about Honors education at The University of Maine?
The Honors College provides an approach to education quite different from what you would find in many traditional educational settings. Honors classes, preceptorials and tutorials, are very small (8-14 students representing a wide range of disciplines) and are based on active learning and critical engagement. This means that you learn by asking questions, by writing, and by interacting with your fellow classmates and faculty facilitators. Honors classes are taught by some of the University’s most distinguished professors. Students say that their Honors courses teach you to ask good questions and to find your own answers, instead of depending on authorities to tell you what is correct.  Return to top

Will all my courses be Honors courses?
No. The Honors College offers a self-contained curriculum that is designed to provide students from all disciplines the opportunity to explore interesting academic topics in considerable depth while developing skills in critical thinking and independent scholarship. Students accepted into the Honors College are jointly enrolled in at least two colleges, that in which they complete their major(s) and the Honors College. Usually Honors students take no more than one Honors course each semester. In this way, students in the Honors College are continually involved in Honors and at the same time they are fulfilling the requirements for their major program of study.   Return to top

Are these the same as the honors courses I took in high school?
Probably not. Most high school honors courses are enriched or accelerated courses in a particular discipline, for example, Honors English, Honors Math, or Honors History. Our Honors courses are interdisciplinary. This is one of the real strengths of our curriculum; it provides an opportunity to explore topics from a myriad of viewpoints and brings together students and faculty from diverse disciplines to investigate some of the big questions that are at the center of who and what we are.  Return to top

Can AP credit be used to satisfy Honors requirements?
Sorry, but no. The interdisciplinary nature of the Honors core means that high school Advanced Placement courses can not be used to waive courses in the Honors curriculum. However, many of our students have taken many AP courses in high school—those courses help prepare students for the rigor of Honors College courses.  Any AP credits that you have earned will still transfer in as college credit, and if you have AP credits in biology (for example), you will still be able to get out of taking BIO100!   Return to top

Well, in that case, do I have to take more courses to graduate with Honors?
Nope. The curriculum is designed to complement the curriculum for your major. Honors fulfills most of the University’s general education requirements and integrates into your degree program without increasing the number of courses you need to take to graduate. It is, of course, important to work with your advisor, your college’s Honors Secretary, and the Honors College staff to make sure everything fits together the way it should.   Return to top

What about requirements?
To graduate with Honors, students need to achieve a 3.30 gpa, complete the Honors curriculum which includes the Civilizations sequence, at least one Honors Tutorial or Tutorial Alternative, and the Honors Thesis—details can be found at Honors College Requirements. Students entering the University in Fall 2013 or later also must complete Honors 180 A Cultural Odyssey and Honors 170 Currents and Contexts.

Speaking of requirements, here’s the GOOD news: the Honors curriculum fulfills the Human Values and Social Context, Ethics, first-year composition, and “writing-intensive outside your major” requirements of the University of Maine.  The particulars and more information can be found here.  In addition, the Honors thesis fulfills the capstone requirement for a large number of our majors! More on that is found here.   Return to top

Are Honors courses much harder than regular college courses?
That depends on what you mean by “harder.” Honors courses are challenging, often requiring more reading and more involvement than many other courses. However, the small size of Honors classes promotes a supportive atmosphere and encourages ongoing and significant discussion between students and their instructors. Honors classes are also consistently interesting. Students often find that the time they spend on their Honors courses seems to pass more quickly than when they are preparing for other classes.   Return to top

Just what do we study in Honors?
Almost everything. The first- and second-year Honors Civilizations: Past, Present, and Future sequence is built around those important ideas and fundamental questions that scholars have discussed and studied for thousands of years. Through the reading of primary texts, among them Inanna, The Odyssey, The Republic, The Inferno, The Prince, Frankenstein, The Origin of Species, and Silent Spring, students and faculty jointly investigate critical ideas and issues, exploring both the inclusions and exclusions represented by the texts. These courses examine the development of civilizations, factors that influenced that development, and what the future might bring, and do so in an interdisciplinary way encompassing the arts, humanities, social, natural, and physical sciences.

In their third year, Honors students enroll in at least one of the twelve or more different tutorials that are offered each year by the Honors College. In these tutorials, eight students and a faculty member engage in the academic exploration of a topic of mutual interest. Recent tutorials have included The Interaction of Science and Society; Writing and Meditation; Diet, Health, and Nutrition in Prehistory; A Social and Philosophical Critique of Education and Democracy; Chaos and Organization; Just and Unjust Wars; Poetry & Poetics of the International Avant-Garde; and Ethical and Social Dilemmas of Biology. These tutorials allow students and faculty to explore interdisciplinary topics and areas that are not normally addressed in the University curriculum.  Students can also complete the third-year Honors requirement by engaging in an academic or experiential learning opportunity not available at the University of Maine and registering for a Tutorial Alternative.

In their fourth year, Honors students undertake their Honors thesis work which is almost always done in their major field. In addition, throughout the four years of the curriculum there are other courses offered by the Honors College that students may elect to supplement their programs of study. These include opportunities for independent work, small group investigations, and internships, as well as courses that supplement the core curriculum and introduce research methodologies.   Return to top

What is the Honors Thesis?
The Honors Thesis is an opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty on a research or creative enterprise that brings to a conclusion your undergraduate academic experience. The student selects the thesis topic in collaboration with a faculty advisor; the large and diverse faculty at UMaine means that students can find advisors capable of supervising research in almost any scholarly area. Most often the thesis research is performed in the general area of the student’s major(s), and in many cases the thesis research counts toward major requirements as well as toward the requirements for graduation with Honors. Honors Theses come in many different forms; for some students the thesis will resemble traditional academic writing, for others it will be a creative composition, perhaps music, creative writing, artwork, or choreography, and for still other students it will take the form of innovative curriculum, engineering, or business design.   Return to top

Does Honors make sense for my major?
The Honors College curriculum is designed to complement every major field of study. Your major will be in one of the University’s degree-granting units: The Colleges of  Engineering, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Education & Human Development, and Natural Sciences, Forestry & Agriculture, or the Maine Business School, and you will be a member of both that unit and the Honors College! Each unit has designated a faculty member as Honors Secretary for students majoring in its disciplines, and your Honors Secretary can help you to tailor your program of Honors work to fit effectively with your major. Two members of our staff, the Honors Associates, are graduates of the Honors College at the University of Maine. They’ve “been there” and can help you negotiate and navigate the opportunities and challenges of a great education.  Return to top

Can I join after my first year?
We encourage students to apply whenever they feel ready, but we strongly recommend that you begin Honors in your first year. Many of the benefits of Honors, such as very small preceptorials and close contact with a faculty preceptor, are especially important as you adapt to college life. Students who join after their first year usually say that, in retrospect, they wish they had begun Honors earlier. In addition, joining the Honors College after the first semester of your second year makes completing the coursework significantly more difficult.   Return to top

What if I am planning to study abroad?
Great news on this front! We’ve always strongly encouraged our Honors students to take advantage of all academic opportunities including study abroad. Honors students studying for at least one semester abroad can fulfill their third-year tutorial requirement using the Tutorial Alternative! With this initiative in place, the Honors curriculum is even more flexible, enough to allow for a semester or a year away from campus. In addition, study abroad experiences often contribute to the development of wonderful Honors theses!   Return to top

Suppose I try it and find it isn’t for me. Can I withdraw?
Absolutely. You can withdraw at any time. The Honors courses which you have already taken will remain on your record; all of these courses count for regular university credit and satisfy general education requirements necessary for all students.   Return to top

Won’t being in Honors lower my GPA?
Almost certainly not. All of our data suggest that students receive the same grades in Honors courses as they do in their non-Honors courses. Faculty teaching Honors courses are aware of the ability and motivation of Honors students and grade accordingly. Often students enjoy their Honors courses so much that they get better grades in them than in their other courses. In addition, graduate admissions officers and prospective employers view your Honors courses as evidence that you are highly motivated and willing to work hard to get the most from your undergraduate education.   Return to top

But it seems daunting – what other support will I have?
The entire staff and faculty of the Honors College are here to support you. Since our classes are so small, you will certainly have a good relationship with your preceptors during the Civilizations sequence. In addition, the Honors Secretaries for each college and the Maine Business School are very interested in your successful progress – they’re great resources. Last, but certainly not least, the full-time staff of the Honors College: the Dean, the Coordinator of Student Academic Support, and the Honors College Associates are committed to facilitating your education culminating with a degree with Honors!   Return to top

Can I live in Honors housing?
As a matter of fact, we do have dedicated Honors housing! Thirty-six Honors students reside on the second and third floors of newly-renovated, historic Colvin Hall—the first floor and fourth floors are the Thomson Honors Center—truly a living & learning environment. Another eighty-five Honors students reside just across the street in beautiful Balentine Hall, which became an Honors residence in 2003.  First-year students who request Honors housing who can not be accommodated in Balentine or Colvin Halls are clustered in one of the other residence halls on campus.  Of course, there is no requirement to for Honors students to live in Colvin, Balentine, or any other Honors housing; many live in other residence halls on campus or live off campus.   Return to top

What sort of graduate schools do Honors College students attend? Do they receive national scholarships or fellowships?
Here are some examples, but there are many others! Honors graduates have gone on to Harvard, Georgia Tech, Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Connecticut, Northwestern, Cornell, Yale, Tufts, Penn State, and the University of Toronto. Honors grads have completed law school at Rutgers, Boston University, the University of Syracuse, American University, and Maine Law. They’ve gone to medical school at Dartmouth, the University of Vermont, Johns Hopkins, Case Western Reserve (MD/PhD), and Yale (MD/PhD).

Several Honors College students have received Goldwater Scholarships (300 annually in the country) in recent years. Several students in the Honors College have also won Udall Scholarships (80 annually in the country). In 2006 a graduating senior was awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship for graduate education (one of 77 in the country in one of the last years it was offered). In 2008 a graduating Honors student was awarded a Madison Fellowship.  In recent years, a number of Honors College graduates have received Fulbright Grants to study internationally.    Return to top

Will Honors help me to get a better job after graduation?
There’s no easy answer to that one. One of the main goals of an Honors education is to provide you with significant academic opportunities while you are enrolled at the University of Maine. As your major will prepare you for your chosen field, Honors provides “value-added” benefits of interdisciplinary explorations and additional intellectual challenges. To an increasing degree, those who succeed in their chosen careers are those who can communicate effectively, ask probing questions, analyze possible answers, and select effective strategies?all of which are abilities which Honors develops in its students.  And, of course, a degree granted with Honors and having the title of your thesis on your transcript always impresses potential employers.   Return to top

What else does The Honors College offer?
In addition to challenging classes with motivated students and enthusiastic professors, the Honors College provides a supportive out-of-the-classroom experience. All members of the Honors community are welcome to use the Thomson Honors Center 24 hours a day, seven days a week for studying, talking, reading the newspaper, watching a video, or just relaxing. The Honors College Student Advisory Board organizes activities including cookouts, parties, movies, and lectures. Honors students also have special opportunities to attend national, regional, and state conferences as well as cultural events on- and off-campus.   Return to top

Can I talk with someone who went through Honors at UMaine?
We’re happy to connect you with a current student, and our two Honors Associates are staff members who graduated very recently from Honors, so they have the inside scoop. Please feel free to contact either Associate: Molly Hunt (207.581.3201) or Danielle Walczak (207.581.3285)—they’d love to talk with you.  Also, you can contact current members of our Student Advisory Board at this link!   Return to top