The Who, What, and Why of the University of Alabama’s Honors College


If you’re reading this, you probably have a connection to the Honors College. But how much do you really know about Honors? Who joins the Honors College and why? The benefits speak for themselves: priority registration for classes, Honors-exclusive housing, scholarship opportunities and a fancy certificate upon graduation to boost your potential job prospects. But belonging to the Honors College is meant to be more meaningful than a few superficial upgrades to your college experience. 

The Honors College exists to “build a community of scholars within a much larger institution,” according to Erin Jett, Director of Student Services for the Honors College. In a school of almost 40,000 students, one may worry about getting lost in the shuffle. The Honors College makes it easier to connect with one’s peers and professors by fostering a scholarly environment in Honors dorms, at Honors events, and in small Honors seminars. Honors classes, many of which have fewer than 40 students, provide a closer, more engaging environment in which students can learn, share their voices, and make connections with classmates and faculty.

“It can be hard if you’re in a class of 250 [students] to make a lasting impact,” Jett pointed out.

The Honors College offers other meaningful experiences too, such as leadership opportunities, research, study abroad, and volunteer work. The Randall Research Scholars Program and University Fellows Experience give students a chance to engage with the university and the community even more deeply. 

Who participates in all these activities? Who are the students in the Honors College? Most students join the Honors College in the fall of their freshman year, but transfer students and current UA students join the Honors College later in undergraduate as well. Honors students study a wide range of disciplines. Many Honors students hail from the College of Arts & Sciences, Culverhouse College of Business, and the College of Engineering, but there are Honors students from every college studying everything under the sun. Part of the beauty of the Honors College is that students are exposed to a variety of subjects while taking Honors classes. Olivia Lattanzi, a junior, provided a great example of how impactful the interdisciplinary structure of the Honors College can be. Lattanzi is a pre-med biology major who joined the Honors College in part to “differentiate” herself in preparation for medical school applications. Since her freshman year, due in part to her Honors professors, she’s also picked up minors in history and business. One of the ways the Honors College has benefited her is the mentoring program. 

“I’ve gotten to be a mentor and get more comfortable facilitating groups which has helped me a lot with my people and speaking skills,” Lattanzi said. 

So, is it worth it to join the Honors College? Sara Weigel, a senior, says yes. 

“I met all the requirements [for joining] and honestly the admissions task was you only had to write a paragraph,” she said. “It took me, what, 30 minutes to finish the application.”

 In other words, joining the Honors College was totally worth it. Jett agrees. Signing up “is super low risk for a huge possible reward, if you are making the most out of it.” Jett can’t recommend the Honors College experience enough, but her main advice to people who are considering joining is simple: “There’s no reason not to.” 

The University of Alabama always has great things on the horizon, and the future of the Honors College looks bright. “Honors is ever-evolving and always changing,” Jett stated. Faculty and staff meet often to discuss how they can improve and better engage students in the Honors College. “We are always concocting new initiatives and new programs with the goal of meeting student needs. . . So much of the student’s voice is taken into consideration,” she said. 

Jett also has advice for current Honors students. “Read your Honors College newsletter that comes out every Monday and follow us on our social media platforms so you can stay connected,” she insisted. “We tell you about free food,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes Dunkin Donuts just show up here and we need to get rid of them.” 

From donuts to scholarships to community engagement, the Honors College can improve the Alabama student’s college experience. The benefits are incredible, but most importantly, the Honors College can make this big university feel a little bit smaller. “I hear that a lot,” Jett said. “It just feels like home.” 

Nott Hall, Home of the Honors College