Beyond our curriculum, we offer a stimulating variety of activities ranging from plays and concerts to community service projects and social events, often in collaboration with our student organization, the St. Mary’s University Society of Honors Scholars.
The great majority of our graduates go on to pursue further studies in medicine, law and other professions. We estimate that more than one-third will eventually earn doctoral degrees (M.D., Ph.D. or J.D.) in their chosen fields.
Incoming students who are not selected for the Honors Program have another opportunity to join the program after the fall semester of their freshman year. If they achieve a 3.85 GPA or higher after their freshman year, they will be invited to apply to the program. Many of the Honors Scholars graduate with honors (summa, magna or cum laude), win the Presidential Award and hold student leaderships positions on campus.
The Honors Program is focused on holistic development. It makes sure you have the critical-thinking skills you need to be successful in the outside world.
– Ashley Thomas, Biophysics major and Honors Scholar
To be considered for the program as an incoming freshman, students must have a minimum SAT (CR+M) super score of 1220, SAT-R (EBR+M) of 1290, or ACT composite of 27+. Once students are in the program, they must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher in their first year and a minimum 3.25 GPA after their freshman year.
Most Honors Scholars are recruited to the program directly from high school, where they typically rank in the top 5 percent of their classes, with commensurate scores on college admissions exams. Average SAT scores (critical reading plus math) are above 1300, with average ACT scores around 29.) We do not base admissions on numerical scores alone, but also consider such factors as leadership potential, effective writing and speech, and other talents.
Those interested in joining the program are urged to complete their applications for undergraduate admission to St. Mary’s as early as possible. Top applicants will be invited by mail to make a separate application to the Honors Program. To complete their honors applications, candidates will participate in an interview (by long distance if necessary) and write an imaginary letter of recommendation describing themselves from the perspective of a scrupulously honest external observer.
The Honors Council invites more than 100 students each year to apply for approximately 20 positions in the entering class. Final decisions are normally made by the first week of April.
Sophomore admission is an alternative avenue into the Honors Program. Sophomore admission is possible for St. Mary’s students who have achieved at least a 3.85 grade point average in their first year of study. Qualified students are notified of eligibility in the summer following their first year. After successfully completing the application process (including interview and writing sample), new members receive “catch up” advising and are formally admitted to the program in the fall.
There are no honors program scholarships per se. Rather, we offer an “honors guarantee” – a guarantee that every student who enters the program will receive (in the case of the current entering class) a minimum of $22,000 per year in some form of university-administered scholarship or grant support. Students who have already been awarded a university scholarship of $22,000 or more per year do not receive additional financial support by entering the program. However, those with awards below $22,000 are automatically raised to that level of support.
Honors scholars must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 in the first year and 3.25 thereafter to remain in good standing. Successful completion of the program is recognized at graduation, on diplomas and transcripts, and in a special letter of recommendation to graduate and professional schools or prospective employers, underscoring the achievement of having completed the “academic marathon.”
With a demanding sequence of eight courses culminating in a senior thesis, the Honors Program curriculum fulfills many of the core curriculum requirements which all St. Mary’s students must meet. Honors scholars, in addition to pursuing their major courses of study, normally take one of the following courses each semester:
First Semester. The Human Quest for Meaning explores the ways in which human beings have sought meaning in their lives, including the philosophical quest for ultimate meaning, the scientific pursuit of empirical meaning and the social search for ethical meaning.
Second Semester. The Focus of the Social Sciences introduces students to the nature and scope of the social sciences and to the methodological problems that arise in the study of human behavior. The course examines the interplay of thoughts, feelings and actions from several disciplinary perspectives.
Third Semester. Studies in Social Decision Making focuses on alternative methods of making social decisions and resolving problems. The course explores the relevance of classical and contemporary social theorists to the political and cultural issues we confront today, such as issues of war and peace, cultural conflict and environmental concern.
Fourth Semester. Emergence of the Universe provides a philosophical overview of the natural sciences, exploring the basic physical and biological processes that govern the evolution of the universe and the emergence of life on earth.
Fifth Semester. The Aesthetic Experience examines the arts as mirrors of culture, reflecting the dominant values of their age. Developments in art, music, literature and aesthetic consciousness are traced from the medieval period to our own times.
Sixth Semester. Religion: Experience and Tradition explores the relationship between religious traditions and personal religious experience through readings in the sacred literatures of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and the writings of major religious figures throughout the centuries.
Seventh Semester. Senior Thesis or Project is an independent project normally done under the supervision of a professor in the student’s major or a related discipline. A weekly seminar brings senior honors scholars together for collegial discussion of projects.
Eighth Semester. Western Experience, 1870-1980 explores the post-modern character of 20th century culture, the transformation of historical consciousness, and philosophical inquiry into the meaning of history.
Richard Cardenas, Ph.D.
Honors Program Director