What is the University Honors College (UHC)?
Perhaps the UHC can best be described by its mission: to promote excellence in the teaching and mentoring of undergraduate students and to provide opportunities to undergraduate students for an enriched education at the University of Pittsburgh. The UHC offers honors courses throughout the various schools and majors, provides supplemental advising and housing in University residence halls, and encourages research and scholarship. In addition, it can confer a distinctive research degree, the Bachelor of Philosophy, signifying unusual breadth and depth of education.
What are the benefits of having an honors college that is not a membership organization?
A distinctive feature of the UHC is that unlike honors programs and colleges at virtually all other universities in the United States, students do not apply for membership, students are not accepted into the UHC, and students are not rejected for membership. Rather, all undergraduate students who seek an enriched education are invited to pursue the rigorous academic opportunities provided by UHC programming.
Many students enter college with serious plans for acquiring an excellent education and concrete ambitions for what they might do after graduation; yet many other students do not develop such plans until after they had been in college for one or more years. When they do develop such plans (which, after all, is one of the reasons they go to college in the first place), and they turn to the UHC for enriched educational opportunities, we want them to know that the UHC is happy to provide them with such opportunities.
What is the Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) degree?
The BPhil is a special degree awarded by the UHC. (The BPhil is the degree title and not related to the academic discipline of philosophy.) Students qualify for the degree by completing an academic program of unusual breadth and by performing independent research and scholarship culminating in a written thesis document that is presented publically and defended before a faculty committee that contains an outside examiner. In other words, in several respects undergraduate students are expected to perform like graduate students.
How do I apply to the University Honors College?
There is no separate application to the UHC, nor is there membership in the UHC.
I have been told that I am not eligible to be a member of the honors college because I am a transfer student. Is that true?
No, although keep in mind that no student is a member of the UHC.
What are honors courses?
Honors courses are undergraduate classes sponsored by the UHC in conjunction with individual faculty and departments at the University of Pittsburgh. Many honors courses have a smaller class size in order to facilitate discussion and interaction between professor and student and between student and student. These courses tend to be more challenging than the non-honors courses by providing more in-depth coverage of the course material, and by emphasizing critical thinking and synthesis of information. In short, students work harder in honors courses; they read more, write more, and think more, and in consequence they learn more.
How can I take honors courses?
Automatic eligibility to enroll in honors courses requires a minimum 3.25 cumulative GPA (or, if a first-year student, who has not yet established a GPA at Pitt, either 1450 combined SAT math and critical reading scores or a 32 ACT math and English subscores average).
For any student not meeting these requirements, you may be given permission to enroll in an honors course by meeting with a UHC advisor or with the couse instructor to discuss your particular situation. Such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Please note that you do not need to obtain a permission number in order to enroll in an honors course if you are using Self Service Enrollment and you have a 3.25 cumulative GPA at Pitt. Also note that obtaining a permission number for an honors course does not guarantee you a seat in the class (i.e., the course may already be full).
Will taking honors courses hurt my GPA?
No, not unless you don’t do well in the courses. An analysis of the grades of students in honors courses and the same students in regular courses indicates an average difference of 0.01 in GPA. Although honors courses are more challenging, the instructor is passionate about the topic being taught and students are excited about the subject matter. These two factors together generally create a dynamic classroom environment in which good things happen (including good grades). In other words, among the keys to success in an honors course are your interest in the subject matter and your willingness to work hard to master the material.
Are honors courses weighted when my GPA is computed?
No. An A in an honors course carries the same weight as an A in a non-honors course. On the other hand, honors courses are noted in your transcript so that it is readily apparent to anyone who looks at it that you have selected a more challenging series of courses at the University.
Since I’m eligible to take honors courses, am I required to enroll in them?
No. You will not lose your “honors eligibility” or merit scholarship from Pitt if you do not enroll in honors courses. Instead, you can elect to take what courses you want, when, and how often (if at all). Our goal is to have students take ownership of their own education and take initiative in crafting the mix and sequence of their academic experiences.
I understand that the UHC has advisors. What do they do?
The UHC provides supplemental advising that is particularly helpful to students who wish to pursue multiple majors, special projects in research and scholarship, and/or interdisciplinary work. Students interested in academic advising should contact David Hornyak, director of advising in the UHC. In addition, the UHC advises students interested in pursuing national scholarships such as the Rhodes Scholarship, Fulbright Scholarship, NSF Grants, Marshall Scholarship, and Goldwater Scholarship as well as many others; interested students should contact Judy Zang, Shannon Mischler, or Ian Riggins in the national scholarships office of the UHC. The UHC also provides academic advising to students with the Politics and Philosophy major (contact Dave Hornyak), students who are interested in a career in the health professions such as medicine and dentistry (contact Andrea Abt or Angela Illig), and students who are interested in academic community engagement (contact Holly Hickling).
Does the UHC have its own housing or residence hall?
Yes, the UHC does offer an Honors Living Community. The Honors Living Community for first-year students is located in Sutherland Hall West. Other honors residence halls, Forbes-Craig and Pennsylvania Halls, are for second- and third-year students. Students with an interest in the UHC are not required to live in the Honors Living Community nor does living in a different residence hall preclude students from taking advantage of all that the UHC has to offer. Students wishing to live in the Honors Living Community must complete an application through the UHC in addition to their standard housing contract.
What else does the honors college do?
The UHC provides many opportunities for an enriched educational experience, each of which is open to all interested students. We encourage you to sign up so that you can receive information about UHC activities by e-mail, or to visit our page on Facebook.
What is Honors Day?
Honors Day is a one-day event for admitted students at which the UHC describes its activities, programs, and services. Honors Days occur twice during the spring semester. Visit the Office of Admissions & Financial Aid website for more information.
Can I arrange a visit to the honors college?
Yes. The UHC holds information sessions every Monday and Friday throughout the year, at 1:00 p.m. on the 35th floor of the Cathedral of Learning. Information sessions require no registration; simply pick a date that works and visit. Other arrangements can be made by contacting the UHC at 412-624-6880.
What are the benefits of being active in the honors college?
The curricular and co-curricular opportunities available through the UHC may enable you to develop an academic program of study that prepares you well for your life after college – whether you move directly into a career after graduation, continue your education in graduate or professional school, or take time off from your formal education to pursue some other activity (e.g., joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps). Aside from these extrinsic benefits through participation in the UHC, there are intrinsic benefits as well – simply stated, students who enjoy intellectual stimulation find that UHC opportunities are interesting and fun.
Learn more on our Year in Review webpage.