Why should I join the Honors Program at the University of South Dakota?

With an Honors Program that is “the best-kept secret in the country,” the University boasts winners “almost every year for big scholarships like the Goldwater and Truman, competing with big, Ivy League, private colleges that charge quadruple the amount for the same education.” - The Princeton Review

The Honors Program is made up of 350 of the most engaged and motivated students on USD’s campus. Our students are overwhelmingly successful at achieving a full, varied, enriching college experience. They hold more than 25 percent of all campus leadership positions, study abroad at a higher-than-average rate and compete successfully for nationally competitive scholarships and graduate school placements.

The Honors Program is not about overwhelming yourself with more information, it's about teaching you skills that will give you a competitive advantage in your chosen career. These skills will provide a foundation for a life of learning that will help you achieve your goals.

What are some of the advantages of joining the Honors Program?

Honors classes at USD tend to be smaller than the average class size and are taught by some of the most distinguished faculty members on campus. Students interact with their professors and fellow students through discussions both inside and outside of class. It's not unusual for students to form a lasting relationship with a faculty member from an Honors course.

The Honors Floor is a residence hall floor reserved for first-year Honors students and is one of the most vibrant, active and engaging student communities on campus.

The Honors office in Old Main is home to the Honors lounge, a study and meeting space dedicated to Honors students. Computer access and free printing, couches for lounging between classes and after-hours access to the building are just some of the perks.

Honors students receive priority registration and often register several days before non-Honors students in their class, helping to ensure they get the class schedule best suited for their lofty goals and busy lives.

The rigor and nature of the Honors Program makes Honors students at USD excellent candidates for many nationally competitive scholarships, as the associate director of USD’s Honors Program is the campus coordinator for those scholarships. USD also offers a number of scholarships for which Honors students are exceptional candidates. Information on those scholarships, among others, can be found on the Scholarship page.

Your education is earned both inside and outside of the classroom. Exposure to new people, places and ideas can be fun, exciting and inspiring. Through Honors Program events and activities you will have the chance to experience different cultural events, lunch with high-level academic administrators and meet experts in a variety of fields.

What are the requirements for applying to the Honors Program?

The Honors Program recommends applicants have an ACT score of 27 or higher (or an SAT score of 1220 or higher) and a high school cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher. If students do not quite meet one or both of the guidelines but are interested in joining the Honors Program, application is still encouraged. The Honors Program staff reviews each application individually and takes into account the difficulty of high school classes, leadership positions, overall involvement in school, work, community involvement and similar factors.

How do I apply to the Honors Program?

There are three ways you can apply to the Honors Program:

  1. Most students simply answer yes to the "Would you like this application to be used as your application for the University Honors Program?" question on USD’s General Scholarship Application. We use your info (high school GPA, ACT/SAT score, etc.) right from that form.
  2. You can apply using our online form.
  3. You can also print, complete and mail a paper copy of our application.

What is the deadline for applying to the Honors Program?

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis with no firm deadline, but it’s recommended that you apply by January of your senior year in high school.

Does it cost more to be in the Honors Program?

No. There is no extra cost associated with being in the Honors Program at USD.

Can transfer students join the Honors Program?

Yes. Transfer students with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher and who show evidence of success in academically rigorous classes may join the Honors Program on the Thesis Scholar track. Thesis Scholar students complete two UHON 390 seminars and write an Honors thesis.

I'm already a student at USD. Can I still join the Honors Program?

Yes. The Thesis Scholar track works for transfer students as well as currently enrolled USD students who have a 3.4 or higher GPA and who demonstrate interest in independent research. Students on the Thesis Scholar track complete the General Education Core Curriculum, take two UHON 390 seminars and write an Honors Thesis.

Is it possible to be a student-athlete and also participate in the Honors Program?

Absolutely! If you are a student-athlete and are interested in the Honors Program, do not hesitate to join. If the Honors Program is the right fit, you will not find it any more difficult to balance Honors courses with athletic practice, travel and conditioning than your other courses. The Honors Program regularly has student-athletes in its ranks and has a good record of graduating athletes in every sport.

What are the Honors Floors?

The Honors Floors are two floors in one of USD’s residence halls (Beede Hall in the North Complex) that are reserved for Honors students. The Honors Program was the first department on campus to start such a living-learning community, and it remains a great success and a model for other living-learning floors.

Students who live on the Honors Floors almost universally report a stronger sense of community and friendship; the Honors Floor communities are made up of involved, highly motivated students who care about their education and know how to balance it with a fun, social, engaging atmosphere.

In fact, the biggest regret we generally hear from Honors students is from those who chose not to live on the Honors Floors their freshman year; for that reason, all incoming Honors students who choose to live on campus are pre-assigned to the Honors Floors.

Can I live on the Honors Floors with a non-Honors student?

Yes. Honors students can request to room with a non-Honors student on the Honors Floor. The roommate request should be made as early as possible to have the best chance of being accommodated. Details about roommate requests are included in the online housing application.

Do I have to live on the Honors Floors?

Honors students who choose to live in campus housing are pre-assigned to the Honors Floors for the simple fact that first-year students who live on the Honors Floors tend to be more connected and engaged with each other. At the same time, we understand you may have other housing preferences so Honors students are not required to live on the Honors Floors.

If you choose to live in campus housing but would prefer not to live on the Honors Floors, please contact the Honors Program office at 605-677-5223 before May 31 to let us know. If you are a student-athlete, please discuss your housing options with your coach. About 33 percent of student-athletes in the Honors Program choose to live on the Honors Floors their first year.

What kinds of activities can I expect living on the Honors Floors?

In addition to programming planned for the Honors Floor by the upper-class student advisors living on the floor, students can expect frequent social, academic and service events planned by the Honors Association (USD’s student organization affiliated with the Honors Program). Honors students living on the Honors Floor are known for planning their own unique activities as well, from impromptu game nights to Nerf gun battles to ultimate hop scotch.

What are Honors students like?

Honors students have personalities and interests as diverse as the rest of the student body at USD, students from all majors and academic backgrounds call the Honors Program home. It’s difficult to describe “the common Honors student,” but they tend to be genuinely interested in ideas and learning, as well as having a rich social life.

Not only do the students in the Honors Program have the highest average GPA on campus, they are also the most involved. Over 27 percent of all leadership positions in recognized student organizations at USD are held by students in the Honors Program. Also, the last four student body presidents have been Honors students as have several editors of The Volante (USD’s student newspaper). Yet, Honors students make up only about 7 percent of the total undergraduate population, meaning our students are very well represented. Honors students are also athletes, ROTC cadets, musicians, actors, travelers, sorority sisters, fraternity brothers and much more.

Will I have an Honors Program advisor?

You will have an Honors Program advisor who works specifically with Honors students until you have completed 45 credits of college coursework (typically by the end of your second year, although transferring in AP and other college credits can alter that). Once you have completed 45 credits you will transition to having a primary advisor in your academic department. While you may not meet with your original Honors advisor on a regular basis once you’ve transitioned to the advisor in your academic department, the Honors Program staff members are always available to answer questions and give advice.

Are Honors courses more difficult?

USD’s Honors Program is not set up in such a way than an Honors course means more facts to memorize and more tests to take. Honors students generally agree that their Honors courses are not more difficult, just different. Smaller classes allow for more active student participation and involvement in class discussions. Honors classes focus on specific skills like critical thinking and persuasive communication. You learn to think for yourself by developing opinions and reactions to other people’s work. There are very few, if any, occupations where developing a well-informed and strongly communicated opinion will not contribute to professional success.

Students' grades in their Honors courses are almost always the same or higher than the grades they earn in their non-Honors coursework. It is rare for an Honors class to lower a student’s GPA.

How does the Honors Core Curriculum fit with my major?

The Honors Core Curriculum at USD fits with all majors on campus and does not interfere with four-year degree completion. The Honors Core Curriculum is a complete substitution for the General Education Core Curriculum (commonly called “generals,” classes all students must take regardless of their major). This means there are no “extra” classes to take aside from the two Honors seminars that must be taken over the course of a student’s third and fourth years. Honors students also complete a thesis during their last three semesters of study.

I have AP/dual enrollment credits. Will these be accepted by the Honors Program?

The Honors Program will accept AP credit for corresponding college-level classes with a score of 3 or better on the AP test. Dual enrollment and other transfer credit will be evaluated by USD’s Office of the Registrar to determine equivalent courses at the university for which credit can be granted. For Honors-specific classes, AP/dual credit is accepted for UHON 110 – Honors English. An AP score of 3 or higher on the AP Language and Composition test (NOT Literature and Composition) or college credit for English 101 – Composition will satisfy the UHON 110 requirement. We do suggest that you are very honest with yourself about the quality of your composition instruction and your comfort with reading and writing before you accept the credit. It is sometimes in a student’s best interest to take UHON 110 even if he or she has the credit already.

The other Honors courses in the Honors Core Curriculum (any class that begins with “UHON”) must be taken at USD. A complete list of college credit (AP, dual enrollment, IB, CLEP, etc.) accepted at South Dakota Board of Regents Institutions can be found here.

What is an Honors thesis?

An Honors thesis is the capstone project for all students who plan to graduate from the Honors Program at USD. The thesis can take many forms – from a scientific experiment or literary analysis to an original novel, play, or music composition – and allows students to explore a topic they are passionate about. Honors students have a thesis advisor, a faculty member that works closely with them throughout their thesis process, and a thesis committee made up of a small number of faculty members and other stakeholders who do work related to the thesis topic. This support network helps guide students through their thesis process to a successful defense and completion of the project.

Students’ thesis topics are as varied as Honors students themselves; some recent titles include:

  • The Peaceable Classroom: Teaching Peace at the University of South Dakota
  • Empower: Engineering Hope Through Microlending
  • Synthesis and Optical Properties of Cuprous Oxide Nanocrystals
  • Protein Kinase C Regulation of the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System in Mammalian Cells
  • A Comparative Organological Analysis of Eastern Asian Bamboo Flutes
  • Stress Response of Leopard Frog Tadpoles to Natural and Anthropagenic Factors
  • Food, Femininity and Family: The Discourse of Family Meals
  • Breathing Easy: Instrumental Breathing Techniques As A Way to Cope With Childhood Asthma

What opportunities will I have to study abroad?

Many Honors students at USD choose to spend some part of their college career studying abroad, whether a few weeks, a semester, even a year or more. USD’s Center for Academic and Global Engagement (CAGE) coordinates the University’s global learning (study abroad) programs including direct programs, faculty-led programs and other options for students. More information is available at the Center for Academic & Global Engagement.

What else goes on in the Honors Program?

The Honors Program sponsors all kinds of academic, service and social activities throughout the year. You might take a trip to the Sioux City Arts Center to view a Leonardo da Vinci or a Jackson Pollock exhibit, help collect canned goods for local food shelters, take part in game and movie nights and much more. Many of these events are planned by the Honors Association (HA), the student organization affiliated with the Honors Program. All Honors students are considered members of HA and can get even more involved with the group as one of its officers, helping plan events for fellow Honors students.

What are the requirements to remain in good academic standing with the Honors Program?

To graduate with the designation of University Scholar or Thesis Scholar, a student must have a 3.25 cumulative GPA at the time of graduation.

Honors students must have a 2.75 cumulative GPA at the end of their first year, a 3.0 cumulative GPA by the end of the fall semester of their second year and a 3.25 cumulative GPA by the end of the fall semester of their third year, then maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA throughout the rest of their time in the Honors Program. Incoming first-year students have two semesters to meet the 2.75 cumulative GPA requirement unless they were accepted to the Honors Program on provisional status (provisionally admitted students must meet the requirements set forth in their provisional admission letter).

Second-year students must have a 3.0 cumulative GPA by the end of their fall semester. If a second-year student does not have a 3.0 cumulative GPA at that time, the student will be placed on Honors academic probation and should achieve a 3.0 cumulative GPA by the end of their spring semester to return to good academic standing with the Honors Program. A student on Honors academic probation who does not achieve a 3.0 cumulative GPA by the end of the spring semester but does make progress toward that GPA, may remain in the Honors Program on the condition of continued GPA improvement. Such decisions will be made in consultation with the student, but ultimately decided by the Honors Program director.

The steps outlined above also apply to third and fourth-year students concerning the 3.25 cumulative GPA requirement. However, students must have a 3.25 cumulative GPA at the time of graduation to graduate with the distinction of University Scholar or Thesis Scholar.

A student placed on academic probation has one semester to demonstrate progress toward the minimum GPA requirement. Failure to make adequate progress for two consecutive semesters will result in dismissal from the Honors Program, regardless of GPA.

Note also that students must have cumulative GPA of 3.25 to register for Honors thesis credits (UHON 498). Additionally, students who do not have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 will not receive priority registration for Honors seminars (UHON 390) however, students may still request to enroll in Honors seminars and will be allowed to register if seats are available.

What are the requirements to graduate from the Honors Program?

Students who complete the Honors Core Curriculum and earn a 3.25 cumulative GPA in their USD coursework will graduate from the Honors Program with the special distinction of University Scholar. Students who enter the Honors Program during their sophomore or junior year, earn a 3.25 cumulative GPA, complete two Honors seminars and write a thesis, will graduate from the Honors Program with the distinction of Thesis Scholar.

What if I decide not to continue in the Honors Program?

You may decide to leave the Honors Program at any time. The classes you take as part of the Honors Core Curriculum will count toward the General Education Core Curriculum requirements. You will not have to repeat or re-take any of the core classes you have already completed as part of the Honors Program.