This past December, I randomly decided it was time to put my academic successes to the test and apply to Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) at the University of Massachusetts. I figured if I met the requirements necessary, there was no harm in applying — worst case I got rejected. Honestly, somewhat surprisingly, I got accepted.
The application process was not as demanding as I thought it would be. They ask for brief answers to three supplemental essays, one of which asking what about area of research you plan to study for your honors thesis/project. The honors curriculum is broken down into two options: either the full either Multi-Disciplinary (MH) or Departmental Honors (HD). Both entail five “Breadth of Scholarship” courses consisting of two seminars, two Gen-Ed courses, and a College Writing Course. Usually these are fulfilled in the first two years of the program. It continues to the “Depth of Scholarship” requirements for upperclassmen. These, depending on being on the MH or DH track, require four more classes to use as credits towards a two-part honors thesis or project, in an area of research either towards your major or in any disciplinary. As an entering junior, I will have to double up on honors credits to meet the requirements in time.
This is where it gets stressful.
I’m currently enrolled in 201H: Ideas of the World. I can already tell that I will prefer the small discussion-based class, as opposed to my usual 100-person lectures. However, the work load is heavier than what I’m used to taking. While it’s not necessarily very hard work—it’s primarily been only reading so far—it requires time management skills that I am in the process of adapting. Going forward, I will have to take two honors classes a semester, as opposed to the regular one, to graduate as an honors student on time. While it is too early to tell if this will be too hard for me, I’m on the DH track, so the honors classes I will take will be about my major anyways (something I look forward to learning about).
Because Commonwealth Honors College requires higher expectations to be met academically, the administration recommends meeting an advisor once a semester to make sure you’re on track with your course load. This way, the school makes sure the amount of work isn’t too stressful- they want us to push our academic ability, but obviously not to the breaking point.