We’ve asked someone who is in the Honours College program to comment on his experiences, and present a guide for any prospective Honours College students. A big thanks to Lenja Bystrykh!
Dear fellow American Studies students,
I am a third year student who alongside our major is doing the Honours College programme. This article is meant to give you an overview of the Honours College based on the three years that it takes to complete. If you are undecided whether to try the programme or if you never gave it much thought – this article is for you!
To start, some misconceptions about what Honours College entails exists among students. I would argue that many students (much like I used to) might think the programme is too difficult; too demanding; too time-consuming and even too alienating because of the way the programme is called. I was presented with an opportunity to apply for the programme despite my academic performance being nothing exceptional with an average of 7.0 for two courses at the time. I was to my surprise admitted into the programme and it turned out to be a great experience.
Firstly, I had the opportunity to meet many interesting people from different fields of study who I probably would have never met had I only done American Studies. In addition, Honours College – despite being more work (an additional 45 ECTs worth of courses you have to complete within three years) – it adds variety to your study experience. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to partake in different activities that are designed especially with the Honours students in mind. For example, you will have to go on a summer or winter school in your second year. You might be fortunate enough to land a spot in places like Rome; Lisbon; New York City and Rio de Janeiro. Groningen and the Waddenzee were also possible destinations and might sound less impressive; however I heard that these too were very enjoyable. Finally, Honours College does have its special perks. For example last year – though this was very unique – every Honours student was allowed to have one free ticket to see Archbishop Desmond Tutu receive his Honorary Doctorate in Groningen. That was truly a memorable experience.
This all sounds well and good, but how does one actually get into the programme?
As mentioned previously, I was surprised that I was granted an opportunity, because in the Admission Requirements section of the Honours College website it states as a requirement that “…you are among the top 10% of your degree programme cohort. This is based on the weighted average of all your marks in the first semester.” Despite this, it is also possible to get in with a lecturers’ recommendation! The university and the Honours College will send out several e-mails regarding the opportunity to apply as early as the end of November, regardless of whether you are a top-student or not. As University Dean Prof. Dr. J.E. Bosch-Boesjes e-mail to me in 2011: “Interested students should visit our website (www.rug.nl/honours) where further information is available [about applications].” Furthermore, actual applications occur in the beginning of January. The application process entails the following:
1) Filling in an application form.
2) Your CV.
3) Present a grade list.
4) Write a letter of motivation.
5) Include a letter of recommendation (mine was from our former study advisor).
6) Include a list of lecturers who are familiar with your study habits and their contact details. (I mentioned two lecturers – one within and one outside American Studies).
If all goes well, your application will be confirmed and you will be invited for an interview. This is the final stage of the application process. The Honours study advisor and a lecturer will get to know you in a formal interview. They will ask you about you and your application but there should be no unexpected surprises. From here on you will hear if you manged to get into the programme.
What will follow next are the two components of the Faculty of the Arts Honours College programme. Short descriptions will be provided where applicable, though relevant information can be found through this link.
There are two components to the Honours College: a Deepening Part (25ECTs) and a Broadening Part (20ECTs).
- There will be courses available within the Arts faculty especially catered to Honours students. In the first year the course Being Right and Being Judged Right (HCLE10105) will be mandatory for every student. The course reminded me of the American Studies’ special topic The Power of Speech (LAX030P10).
- In the 2nd year there is room for choice of a desired deepening module.
- In the 3rd year one can choose another deepening module or choose to do what is called a “research tutorial”. This tutorial is similar to a research assistant position in which you find a researcher who is willing to take you on for a semester as their assistant. This is typically done within the Faculty of Arts, though it is possible to do research elsewhere if it is somehow relevant to American Studies or a profession you wish to familiarize yourself with in the future.
a. Complete two Broadening Courses (10ECTs):
- Here students choose two courses outside of the faculty of arts in order to expand on their interests in other fields. One course relates to the summer/winter school, the other does not.
b. Petrus Camper Track:
- Academic Writing – I found it similar to R&C I and II.
- Training Debating – This is a unique course which teaches you how to debate using for example Oxford style of debating, among others.
- Summer/winter school – Your destination is typically dependent on the course(s) you follow in the broadening module. I for example followed Urbanization Question (HCRWB0205) which by following this course gave me priority for participating in “Summer School and Atelier Exploring the Postsecular City” (HCPL401FRW). You will not know what broadening module grants you priority to what summer school ahead of time. This is done in order to avoid situations where students pick courses because they think it will land them a particular summer school. You are encouraged to pick courses based on your interests.
- Atelier – is where 3rd year Honours students present their findings from the summer/winter- school. It is a large event at the end of the academic year and is open for the public to attend.
- TOP (Talent Development program) – This segment is a requirement in order to complete the Honours programme. Honours students work with councilors at the Talent Development Center in Groningen. Throughout the three years the employees will try to work on different aspects of students’ self-development.
Hopefully this has given you some insight into the Honours College. If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to send me an email.