Nothing But a Nerd: Inside the Honors College
Yes, that’s right. I’m a freshman in VCU’s Honors College. For better or for worse, ‘til graduation do we part; I am a member of this small, eclectic community within the VCU bubble.
had not been my first choice when applying to schools my senior year of high school. It ranked about third. However, after I was accepted (with a couple dollar signs from VCU as a bribe), it started to look like a great location with decent programs and a reasonable price tag. The Honors College started sending me literature—I hadn’t even heard of it when I first submitted my application. Eventually, thanks to the leniency of VCU’s deadlines, I was able to apply a little late and get in.
The perks of Honors status at VCU, in order of “awesome-ness,” are the early registration, privilege to live in West Grace Student Housing, and Honors classes that are capped around 20 people. We register far before many students have even thought about meeting with their advisers—which isn’t always the advantage it seems. We may have access to totally empty lectures, but trying to get into the Honors core classes (which are equivalent to the University core) is like World War Three. We also run into more problems that require overrides—when they introduced the PreReq Check last semester, I assure you many frustrated tears were shed. West Grace, home to many freshman Honors students, is a wonderful little gem. About 170 people can live here, in single rooms that extend down four hallways from a central lounge on each floor. Downstairs, we have the Honors College offices, as well as another lounge, study rooms, music practice rooms, and a computer lab where we can print more cheaply than if we went to the library. The small class size for Honors courses is a nice refresher from the 300-person lecture style. It certainly helps us build a community of our own within a larger community—with all the classes, freshman through senior, able to interact as equals in many settings.
This may all sound amazing, but not everything about the Honors experience is a delight. We all have an intense course load; many of us take the maximum credits per semester or more. We also have strict requirements to stay here—a GPA of 3.5 and above is necessary to stay in the program. Each semester, we have to attend three “Berglund Seminars.” These lectures, while often interesting, seem to be scheduled at the same time as all of your classes, no matter your major.
I sometimes find it frustrating to live in such a quiet building—not many people venture out of their rooms, and when they do, it is to study together. I frequently wish for the boisterousness and close quarters of the other dorms, mostly because I don’t always want to spend my evenings sitting quietly with people who are busy studying. On the other hand, we don’t really keep each other up at night!
I will be spending next year in West Grace, because a single room and private bathroom with a friend across the hall still beat a cramped apartment for my sophomore year, at least. One thing about the Honors community that I cannot say anything against is the community itself. The logistics may be a little hazy, but within the Honors College, it is easy to find people with similar experiences. We’re all “nerds,” after a fashion. I think a special bond is formed at 3 o’clock in the morning when you’re sitting together working on your Rhetoric (HONR 200) paper. Furthermore, living with upperclassmen interspersed on each floor is great for guidance—to get insider advice on good professors, you really just have to walk to the guy next door and ask. I’d certainly advise incoming freshman—as well as current VCU students, who can still join in later years—to consider the perks over the quirks of the Honors College, and think of the outstanding benefits to be gained from living in an environment filled with people brought together by academics. For all the flaws, I never felt like a lost freshman, and I think the Honors College was a major contributor to supporting my assimilation into VCU.