Why I'll always be glad I joined the Honors Program

The Honors Program only encompasses a small percentage of students at Loyola, but I believe it is home to some of the brightest and most dedicated students on campus.

I made the decision to apply to the Honors Program because I wanted to be really challenged in my courses to reach my full potential academically. And I’m very glad I did. I have made some of my closest friends through this program, and I’ve developed meaningful relationships with professors that have led me to pursue research, apply to competitive graduate school programs, and explore other opportunities that I would not have otherwise. 

Students with faculty member Student highlight document

A few things that set the Honors experience apart

You’ll quickly learn how to survive in a high-pace classroom environment

Within the first month of my first Honors class, I had already read the Odyssey, the Iliad, Herodotus’ History, and parts of Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War. That’s a lot to take in—and it was definitely overwhelming while I was doing it. But looking back, I know that I could do it again. What’s more, it gave me confidence in the years that followed as I started taking more upper-level classes for my major and choosing challenging electives... and it built a foundation for me that will serve me well in my future graduate school studies (my goal is to earn my Ph.D. and maybe even teach history someday).

You’ll build relationships with faculty that go beyond the classroom

In small Honors classes, you get to know your professors really well. I was also able to take advantage of summer research not once but twice—through a grant funded by the Center for the Humanities and again during my senior year—with the help of a professor and mentor, Joe Walsh, Ph.D., professor of history and Classics. Every summer, Loyola’s Center for the Humanities funds students to do independent research based on a topic of their choosing. Any undergraduate student attending Loyola can apply for one of these grants, as long as the major focus of their research and the mentor for the project falls within the humanities.

Dr. Walsh helped me write and submit a proposal to the Center, and the board chose my project based on the competency of the proposal, the mentor’s recommendation, and the overall prospects of the project.

The following year, I was invited to do a history senior honors thesis by the history department. This is not something that every student has the opportunity to do, so I knew that I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Dr. Walsh was kind and adventurous enough to agree to oversee my research project for basically an entire year, for which I am grateful. 

You’ll enjoy some wonderful off-campus excursions and experiences

There are a ton of cool (and free!) off-site trips and events that Honors students can take advantage of. All first-year Honors students go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their first semester and then to Medieval Times: Dinner and Tournament during their second semester. These trips were a lot of fun, especially because they provide an opportunity to spend time with the people in your program outside of class. I also got to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with my Modern World Honors class.

You're a part of a long-standing tradition at Loyola

Loyola’s Honors Program has several interesting traditions. Every September, the program hosts a dinner for all students and faculty. Members share reflections of their time thus far in the program as a way of documenting growth and sharing entertaining anecdotes, and to give the new students a sense of the learning, the connections, and the community that awaits. After these reflections and enjoying amazing food, it is the program’s tradition for new Honors students to receive a copy of St. Augustine’s City of God from their mentor. (Passing The City of God from one class of Honors students to the next bonds program members and emphasizes the program’s value of knowledge.) Honors mentors are upper-class students who help ease the transition to Loyola and to the program for the new students and who serve as a friendly face on campus during those first few weeks when everything and everyone is new.

First-year students also participate in a signing ceremony for the Honor Code, during which they sign their names in a big book that’s been signed by all Honors Students who have come before them. Then the Honors faculty toast them with bubbly fruit juice. 

Other Honors traditions are holiday costume contests and an annual Christmas party in Hug Lounge. Everyone is encouraged to participate in Presence for Christmas, a program organized by the Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ) to help Baltimore families celebrate the holidays. This same evening, the sophomore class provides entertainment, either performing holiday songs or rewriting something in the spirit of the Honors Program. It’s always a wonderful evening with good food and a chance to catch up with friends and professors at the end of the semester before the winter break.

You’ll meet some of your closest friends through the program

All first-year Honors students move in a day early for Honors Orientation. That same evening, the students all gather around the sand volleyball courts on campus to hang out, get to know one another, and play a game or two of volleyball.

Students Toasting with Fruit Juice Honors Students on Hike Honors Halloween Party
Left: As is tradition, new students toast with bubbly fruit juice after signing a book that holds the signatures of all Loyola Honors students, past and present. Middle: Students engage beyond the classroom and hike a nearby trail. Right: The annual Honors Halloween Costume Contest awards prizes to the most creative and original participants.
I vividly remember one kid sitting down next to me at the beginning of the evening and nervously asking me my major and where I was from. We soon discovered that we have a shared passion for Classics… and we’ve been friends ever since.

I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve made through the program, even if some of the strength has been made in groaning about our classes and course load. 

I thoroughly believe that being in the Honors Program has enriched my Loyola experience and academic career, and I strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in being challenged and making meaningful relationships with faculty and fellow students to learn more. You can even come and sit in on some classes and talk to current Honors students to see what it’s really like. Many of us—myself included—are happy to tell you why we will always be glad we applied and joined Loyola’s Honors program.

Learn more about the Honors Program at Loyola University Maryland