Dec 03, 2022  
ARCHIVED 2012-2013 Undergraduate Catalog 
ARCHIVED 2012-2013 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Honors College

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Office Info
101 Balsam Hall/Main Campus
(828) 227-7383

Honors College Website

Brian Railsback, Dean
Steve Carlisle, Associate Dean 
Emily Sharpe, Director of Honors Advising and Pre-Professional Programs

The College serves over 1,300 Honors students and manages programs that are open to all undergraduates at Western Carolina University. The Honors College is a student-centered enterprise that enhances the educational experience for high-achieving students, encourages innovative teaching, learning, and curriculum development, serves students and faculty across all disciplines, and encourages and supports undergraduate research. Of special emphasis is The Honors Path, an educational framework designed to help Honors students make the most of their abilities.

Honors College Benefits. Honors College students are invited to live in Balsam or Blue Ridge Halls. Honors students also benefit from a special diploma (see “Honors College Diploma” below), priority registration, the opportunity to customize their curriculum (see “Honors Curriculum” below), access to Honors courses and special library privileges. Social events put on by The Honors College Student Board of Directors, such as dances, lectures, parties, special trips, or tournaments, are open to all Western Carolina University students.

Admission. To be considered for The Honors College, incoming first-year students must have a high school record that meets at least one of these standards: weighted 4.0, 1875 SAT or 30 ACT, or top 10% of the high school class. First-year students who achieve a 3.50 GPA or above on at least 12 credit hours in the first semester at Western Carolina University will be invited to join The Honors College. After the first semester, students who have at least a cumulative 3.5 GPA are welcome to meet with the Dean to be considered for admission on a case-by-case basis. Transfer students who have a cumulative 3.5 GPA from an accredited college or university are encouraged to apply for admission to The Honors College.

To Remain in The College. Honors College students must maintain a 3.10 cumulative GPA at 1 to 29 credit hours, a 3.20 GPA at 30 to 59 hours, and must have a cumulative 3.33 GPA at 60 hours until graduation. Until completing the required 24 Honors hours for the diploma, Honors students must earn at least 3 hours of Honors credit each semester; students lacking at least 3 Honors hours will be put on probation after the first term, and then removed from The Honors College if 3 Honors hours are not completed by the end of the second term. A student who is dropped from The Honors College may be reinstated if the cumulative GPA is brought up to an acceptable level. Students dropped from Honors due to a lack of Honors hours per term can meet with the Dean to be reinstated and may be allowed to register for Honors courses or do Honors contracts to return to good standing in the College.

Advising. Honors students who have not yet declared a major or are changing majors are advised by the Director of Honors Advising or the Associate Dean. Honors students who have declared a major are advised by a faculty member in the major department; for questions related to The Honors College or its programs, students are welcome to meet with an Honors advisor or the Dean.

Honors College Curriculum. Because of their academic achievement, Honors students are able to “customize” their Liberal Studies and degree programs. In Liberal Studies, an Honors student may elect to take a higher level course in place of the Liberal Studies course (this requires a completed approval form, available at the Honors Office). If the Honors student completes the higher level course with a B- or higher, the student will receive Honors credit for the course. Honors students may create their own degree program (Special Studies degree) with “fast track” approval. For more information on the Special Studies degree and the approval process, contact the Honors Dean.

Honors College Special Studies Option. Since 2004, Honors students have had the option to get “fast track” approval for Special Studies degrees. Of course, Special Studies Honors students can complete Honors requirements and graduate with The Honors College diploma.

To gain approval for a Special Studies degree, the Honors student must:

  1. Begin the process by consulting with a primary advisor (check with Dean Railsback to determine who this will be).
  2. Work with the primary advisor to create a Special Studies degree proposal, which will include the completed Special Studies Program Form for Honors Students (PDF) and all required signatures, a list of all courses needed to reach at least 120 total hours for the degree (including Liberal Studies), and a statement (ususally one page) from the student that explains how the proposed Special Studies degree will meet that student’s professional plans after graduation (career or graduate school).
  3. Once the Special Studies degree is approved, the student must follow the plan and all courses required in order to graduate.

For more information or to get started, contact Dean Railsback at 828-227-7383.

The Honors College Diploma. The diploma, available in any major at Western Carolina University, is a special honor—a signal of high achievement to employers and graduate school admissions officers. Honors College students must complete 24 Honors hours and have at least a 3.33 cumulative GPA upon graduation to receive the diploma. Graduation from The Honors College will be designated on the transcript. Honors graduates wear The Honors College Medallion at commencement.

Honors College Credits. Honors students do not take extra hours to earn the College diploma; they do enroll in special Honors classes, usually in the Liberal Studies Program, to earn the hours needed for the College diploma. At the major level, Honors students may arrange for an Honors contract with the instructor of the course (this is a one-on-one project worked out between the student and the instructor) to earn Honors credit. Contract forms are available at the Honors Office or at, the Honors College website. Transfer students who have Honors credit from other institutions must meet with the Dean to determine how Honors credits will be accepted at Western Carolina University. Honors students who travel abroad may earn Honors hours for the experience by working out a special Honors contract with the Dean before they travel.

Honors College Scholar Program. This is designed for exceptional students who are interested in preparation and sponsorship for prestigious national or international scholarships (for example, the Goldwater, Truman, or Rhodes). To complete the program, Honors College Scholars must complete at least 12 Tutorial hours (these are not additional hours, however, but they do count as Honors credit). Incoming first-year students who have achieved a minimum weighted 4.0 high school GPA and at least a 1300/2000 SAT or 33 ACT score may be admitted. First-year students who make at least a 3.75 cumulative GPA on at least 12 hours may be admitted. Honors College Scholars must maintain at least a 3.75 cumulative GPA to remain in the program. Graduates of this program will receive special recognition on the diploma and transcript.

Pre-Professional Programs: Pre-Medicine, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Law, Pre-Veterinary Medicine, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Dental, Pre-Optometry, Pre-Physician’s Assistant, Pre-Occupational Therapy, Pre-Chiropractic.

Students who attend the University to prepare for admission into a professional school are provided with a variety of options for the programs they may pursue. Students should make decisions early in their undergraduate career regarding preparation for professional school. The majority of professional school programs now require a bachelor’s degree for admission, although there are still some exceptions. To make wise decisions regarding undergraduate prerequisite courses and selecting an undergraduate major, students should contact the Pre-Professional Advisor at The Honors College. Call (828) 227-3277, email, come by Balsam Hall, or visit the website at

Undergraduate Research. The Honors College sponsors Undergraduate Academic Project Grants, which are grants of up to $400 each, to support supplies or travel related to student research and creative/performance projects. Please contact the Dean for more information about these programs at (828) 227-7383 or check the Honors website under “Undergraduate Research.”

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