Lauren Vahldick

#BirdofMouth student blogger Lauren Vahldick is a senior public relations major.

As a senior Honors student at Illinois State University, I can definitely say the Honors Program has greatly enhanced my college experience.

The Honors Program is more than just a series of extra classes. It is an opportunity to customize your undergraduate experience and add value to your degree. There are so many benefits of being an Honors student—early registration, anyone?—and so many opportunities to learn the things that you want to learn.

As an Honors student, you are required to complete one Honors learning “experience” each semester. These six “experiences” aren’t just another class; they are meant to customize your education and add value to your degree.


Just as it sounds, Honors sections are courses specifically designated for Honors students. These sections are typically smaller, allowing more individualized attention. This also gives you the opportunity to meet other Honors students and get to know your instructor better. These courses can be general education or major specific. Since you have to take them anyway, making it Honors kills two birds with one stone!


Honors contracts allow students the ability to make any course an Honors course. To set this up, you will need to speak with your instructor and come up with an additional project to do.

I know what you’re thinking: more homework. It’s really not like that. Honors contracts gave me the opportunity to build relationships with some of my favorite professors (letters of recommendation in the future!). Plus, in my experience I’ve always picked projects relating to things that I’m interested in. For example, an Honors contract that I created was a crisis plan for an upcoming event through one of my internships, demonstrating what I learned in my Crisis Communication course.


There are two sections of Honors seminars: Honors Freshmen Seminar or Special Topics seminars. As an Honors freshman, you will have the opportunity to take either an Honors Freshmen Seminar or Presidential Scholars Seminar class. This is a great experience for you as an incoming freshman because it will introduce you to the Honors program. Seminars establish a foundation for student success in the Honors program and college in general, helping you to get on the right track right away!


Research projects and independent studies both fall under the category of Honors research. They are usually three credit hours but can be done as a noncredit experience, meaning you can still gain Honors credit and not have to pay tuition for it. Research may sound dry and unappealing, but these out-of-classroom studies can be about anything that interests you and are great resume-builders!


Honors explorations revolve around specific, unique topics meant to interest different students in different majors. These experiences try to relate these topics to what’s going on in the real world through pop culture or current events. An example of an Honors exploration is a study of drones and agriculture. I was a part of an Honors book club where we read and discussed Divergent and then all went to see the movie together. There’s such a variety of explorations that there is definitely one out there for you!

Elora Karim

Illinois State Honors student Elora Karim.


Gain culture and explore the world through an Honors travel experience. These experiences take learning outside of the classroom and into the real world through programs such as study abroad, local visits, and museum trips. Want to go to Europe and get credit for it? Your parents can’t say no to that! This year, Honors students have the opportunity to participate in an Honors travel program to Germany in May!

I cannot say enough positive things to describe my experience with the Honors Program at Illinois State! With so many opportunities, I was able to delve deeper into the topics that interest me and will take me further in my future career. If you are interested in more information or applying, please visit the Honors website.

#BirdofMouth student blogger Lauren Vahldick is a senior public relations major. Read more #BirdofMouth posts.