COLUMN: The honors program isn’t worth it


Daniel Schwalm

An honors medal sits on top of a graduation cap. The honors medal is awarded once students in the program graduate from Loyola.

Maleigh Crespo, Design Chief

As a promising high school senior, I applied to dozens of colleges and universities across the country.

From Ivy Leagues to local community colleges, I didn’t limit myself when applying to schools, but I did have to take other factors into consideration: available academic programs, travel, scholarships, and the overall cost of attendance.

When I finally narrowed down my decision to two schools, Loyola was my preferred choice. Even though it was my dream school, I still worried about the cost of tuition.

So I made my way to the scholarships page on the university’s website where I stumbled upon the honors scholarship, which awards $5,000 to all students admitted into the honors program and can be renewed every year.

For the next week after that, I worked with my high school guidance counselor to carefully craft an application and essay by the priority deadline that would ensure my acceptance into this program. A $5,000 scholarship would help my financial need greatly and be the deciding factor to attend my dream school.

Long story short, I was accepted into the honors program, and my fate was sealed.

At this point, my entire college decision was riding on this honors scholarship, so you can imagine my dismay when I received my financial aid package and it did not include my honors scholarship.

Honors students later found out that only Ignatian scholarship winners received a scholarship from the honors program, which was a full-ride, despite what the university’s website said.

Suddenly, the plan I once had was completely shattered, and I was left picking up the pieces.

Not wanting to burden my parents with this newfound hardship, I began applying for jobs everywhere I could because going home was not an option. I started my job at Loyola-Sodexo at the beginning of my freshman year, working nearly 30 hours a week to make ends meet.

I had no time to make friends, explore the city, or study. I was falling asleep in my classes and struggling to keep up with the workload of a first-year college student.

It was overwhelming, and it felt as if I never got to fully acclimate to my new environment. Most of the memories of my freshman year are few and far between. I was always running between class and work with hardly any free time.

Now, in my second year of college, I’ve come to regret many of the decisions I made in my first year, particularly choosing to stay in the honors program after not receiving the scholarship.

With no financial assistance, the benefits of the honors program are hollow.

Each semester, honors students are only given roughly three to five classes to choose from that fulfill the mandatory honors requirements. All while our non-honors peers get to take classes that actually interest them.

Professors have even complained about teaching honors classes to students who have no interest in the subject matter, only taking courses to fulfill the honors core requirement.

To combat this, some professors have experimented by creating fixed rosters for their classes, consisting of a 50/50 ratio of honors students to non-honors students. The idea is to ensure there is a greater ratio of students actually interested in the class.

But it shouldn’t be this way. Students in the honors program worked hard to get into the program, and they should be able to take classes that they can actually enjoy and excel in.

Sure, students in the honors program are able to have priority in choosing their classes (undeniably, a nice perk), but with limited honors classes, there is, again, no real utility in the program.

According to Loyola’s website, the honors program works to create an “enriching academic environment” for admitted students. But how is this any different from the goal of all Loyola students who are required to fulfill the Loyola core curriculum rather than the honors core curriculum?

The honors program has the potential to be great. So many outstanding students, who I’ve grown to call friends, are part of the community, but there are countless students unwilling to join because of the lack of benefits.

Furthermore, the honors program is meant to foster a community, but many of the friends that I made through the honors program have left due to a lack of reward and satisfaction with the program. And those bonds have since diminished.

Despite many alumni saying that the honors program enhanced their college experience and allowed them to build a community, since I’ve been in the program, this hasn’t been the case. Perhaps, this is due to the lasting effects of the pandemic. Regardless, the honors program could be doing better for its students, especially after many of us had failed expectations after not receiving scholarships for being in the program.

Now, the Ignatian scholarship has been discontinued, and the $5,000 scholarship is now actually being awarded to honors students admitted in subsequent classes.

But what about those of us in graduating classes prior to 2026?

What about those of us who were sold a false narrative?

Where is our restitution?

Without the financial assistance, the honors program isn’t worth it.

There are few employers who will consider my membership in the honors program as a factor in my hireability. The only potential benefits may be applying to grad schools. However, there are many honors students who aren’t even considering grad school.

So, as far as I’m concerned, there needs to be something more substantial than receiving a medal for being in the honors program.