May 18, 2022  
CURRENT 2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog 
CURRENT 2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog

Honors College

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Office Information

101 Balsam Hall
(828) 227-7383


Jill Nelson Granger, PhD, Dean

April Tallant, PhD, Associate Dean

Emily Sharpe, MA, Director of Honors Advising and Honors Pre-Professional Advising

Colin Townsend, MA, Honors Advisor

Meredith Searcy BS, Executive Assistant

The Honors College serves approximately 1,300 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, service, and internship. 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 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, access to Honors courses, and special library privileges. Events planned by The Honors College Student Board of Directors are open to all Western Carolina University students.

Admission for First-Year Students. 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:

  • High School weighted GPA of 4.2 minimum,
  • High School unweighted GPA of 3.8 minimum,
  • 30 ACT or SAT score of 1370 minimum, OR
  • High School class rank in the top 10 percent.

In addition first-year students who achieve a 3.50 GPA or above on at least 15 credit hours in the first semester at Western Carolina University may apply 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.

Admission for Transfer Students. 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 students must maintain a 3.30 cumulative GPA at 1 to 30 credit hours and, a 3.40 cumulative GPA at 31 to 60 hours, and they must have a 3.50 cumulative GPA above 60 hours until graduation while typically carrying at least 15 credit hours per semester. Until completing the required Honors hours for the Honors diploma, Honors students must earn at least three (3) hours of Honors credit each semester. Students lacking at least three (3) Honors hours will be put on probation after the first term, and then removed from The Honors College if at least three (3) Honors hours are not completed by the end of the subsequent term. Students who intend to carry fewer than 15 credit hours in a given semester should petition The Honors College for approval. 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 The Honors College due to a lack of Honors hours per term must petition to be reinstated.

Advising. Honors students who have not yet declared a major or are changing majors are advised by an Honors advisor. 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.

Earning Honors College Credits. Honors students do not take extra hours to earn the Honors diploma; they do enroll in special Honors classes, usually in the Liberal Studies Program, to earn the hours needed for the Honors diploma. At the major level, Honors students may arrange for an Honors contract with the instructor of the course to earn Honors credit. Contracts are submitted online via the Honors Contract portal which is accessed through MyWCU. 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 study abroad may earn Honors hours by arranging a special Honors contract with the Dean before they travel.

The Honors College Diploma. The Honors 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 students must have at least a 3.50 cumulative GPA upon graduation and must complete one of these two tracks to receive the Honors diploma: (a) 27 Honors hours; or (b) 24 Honors hours and successful completion of Degree Plus level 3 (in any skill area). Graduation from The Honors College will be designated on the transcript.  Honors graduates wear the bronze Honors College medallion at graduation.

Honors College Interdisciplinary Studies Degree. Since 2004, Honors students have had the option to get expedited approval for Interdisciplinary Studies degrees. Interdisciplinary-Studies Honors students may complete Honors requirements and graduate with The Honors College diploma.

To gain approval for an Interdisciplinary Studies degree, the Honors student must do all of the following:

  1. Begin the process by consulting with the Honors Dean to identify a primary advisor..
  2. Work with the primary advisor to create an Interdisciplinary Studies degree proposal, which will include the completed Interdisciplinary Studies Program Form for Honors Students with all required signatures; a list of all courses needed to reach 120-128 total hours for the degree (including Liberal Studies); and a one-page statement from the student that explains how the proposed Interdisciplinary Studies degree will meet that student’s-post-graduate professional plans (career or graduate school).
  3. Follow the plan and all courses required, once the Interdisciplinary Studies degree is approved, to graduate.

Pre-Professional Programs. Honors College students can avail themselves of special advising to prepare for professional programs such as 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.

Honors 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. Most professional school programs, with some exceptions, now require a bachelor’s degree for admission. To make wise decisions regarding undergraduate prerequisite courses and selecting an undergraduate major, Honors students should contact a professional advisor in The Honors College and indicate they are interested in a Pre- Professional Program. They can call (828) 227-7383, email, come by The Honors College offices in Balsam Hall, or visit The Honors College Pre-Professional Program webpage.

Undergraduate Research. The Honors College works with other units in Academic Affairs to coordinate the annual campus-wide showcase of student and faculty research, The Research and Scholarship Celebration, and to support student research presentations at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Honors students also work with a member of the English faculty to write, design, and publish WCU’s undergraduate research magazine, Imagine. Please contact the Associate Dean for more information about these programs at (828) 227-7383 or check The Honors College Undergraduate Research webpage.

Center for Life Enrichment (CLE) Honors Scholar Program. Begun in fall 2013, this program is designed for exceptional students who are interested in preparation and sponsorship for prestigious national or international scholarships (for example, the Fulbright, Goldwater, Truman, or Rhodes).  Honors Scholars wear the special silver medallion at graduation.

Honors Scholar:  Admission and Scholarship.

All students admitted to the Honors Scholar Program will receive, each year for up to four years, a substantial merit scholarship. To retain and renew the scholarship each year, students must remain in good standing in the Honors Scholar Program. Only students admitted to WCU’s Honors College will be considered for the Honors Scholar Program.

Honors Scholars can only be admitted as first-year students to WCU. The program should not exceed 40 students in any given year and is therefore highly selective, typically admitting only 10 new students each year.

To be considered for admission, Honors Scholars must meet at least one of the following criteria (meeting all criteria will be the most likely profile for students admitted to the program):

  1. Minimum 3.90 unweighted cumulative High School GPA.
  2. If there is a weighted cumulative High School GPA, it must be at least 4.50.
  3. At least a 30 composite ACT score or 1370 SAT score.
  4. High school class rank in the top 10%.

As part of the admissions process, students must also complete a successful interview. Prospective Honors Scholars must be invited for an interview.

Good Standing in the Honors Scholar Program.

Honors Scholars must maintain all of the following:

  • A 3.50 cumulative WCU GPA at the end of the first chronological year,
  • A 3.60 cumulative WCU GPA at the end of the second chronological year,
  • A 3.70 cumulative WCU GPA in the third and fourth chronological years.

Beginning for the class entering in fall 2016, Honors Scholars must also complete both of the following:

  • USI 101 (Honors Forum), a one-hour course section specifically for the Honors Scholars; and
  • A specially designated three-hour English course to prepare students to apply for prestigious scholarships, fellowships, and graduate schools.

Special Programming for Honors Scholars

The CLE Honors Scholar Program Endowment Fund provides support for special opportunities that will help Honors Scholars attain prestigious awards and graduate school admission (support for study abroad, undergraduate research support, or special internships, for example).

The fund was established by the Center for Life Enrichment of Highlands, NC. CLE is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the educational experience of western North Carolina, with emphasis in Highlands, Cashiers, and Cullowhee.

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