Students now required to apply for UI Honors program

Honors at Iowa is doing away with automatic acceptance to their program. Starting this year, students must apply to Honors no matter their test scores.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Honors at Iowa and the UI Admissions Office have worked closely to develop a new way of admitting students to Honors.

Doing away with automatic acceptance, Honors hopes to reach more students who may be a good fit for the program, said Susan Dickinson, the assistant director for high-ability recruitment in the Admissions Office.

Dickinson, who serves as liaison between the Admissions Office and Honors Program, has worked closely with the Honors staff to decide what the new application is going to look like.

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In the past, there has been a specific threshold for students to meet. If their GPA was 3.8 and their ACT score was 30 or higher, they were automatically invited to join Honors when admitted to the UI.

If students were below the standard, they were able to petition with a letter of recommendation, a transcript, and a brief statement about why they want to be in Honors.

The Honors staff worried that with the cutoff scores, they were missing out on students who would be a good fit for the program, Dickinson said. In addition, the staff wanted students to gain more knowledge about Honors before deciding to join. To do that, the program decided to add an application process.

“This really let us have conversations about who would be best served by Honors, trying to make it a bit more inclusive than just the high-school GPA and ACT scores,” Honors Associate Director Bob Kirby said. “We are trying to be a bit broader in whom we attract to the program.”

Once students are admitted to UI, they may apply for Honors. The application includes one-page essays, activities lists, and copies of their transcripts, Dickinson said. Honors is looking for students who took challenging classes in high school and did well, have depth in their activities, and wrote a “personality-filled” essay.

“We are also trying to value part-time work outside of class,” Dickinson said. “We know that if students are working 10 to 15 hours a week as a high-school student, their GPA might be a little lower, but there are a lot of skills they’re learning in that part-time work that will help them be really successful as a college student.”

Honors is going to use information it receives from the applications to cater to students’ needs, Dickinson said. The staff members will look into what first-year seminars and social programming Honors may offer based on details from the applications.

“The biggest advantage: It’s going to get us a population of students who really want to be in the program, students who are excited to be a part of Honors at Iowa,” Kirby said.

ITS and the Admissions Office built the application with the help of Honors assessment director Emily Johnson, ensuring that it is easy for students to find and fill out.

Dickinson will work with Honors staff to review applications once they start coming in this fall. The application is live now, and it will be used to admit incoming students for the 2019-20 academic year.

“I like the fact that the intention is to reach a wider audience,” first-year Mia Battani said. “It feels more inclusive; I like the diversity that’s involved. It will help to get people with more varying strengths in academics to feel like they have a home in Honors.”