Experience Over Credit: Why We Stay in Honors

Izzie Wilcox

Why would someone choose to take 24 additional semester hours during their time at the University of Iowa? For Honors students, this is a no brainer. The University of Iowa Honors Program’s requirements are matched with perks, unique experiences, and amazing faculty to back up the additional course load. 

Every year, hundreds of students are admitted into the Honors program, but how many stay to complete all the requirements? No one understands why students stick with Honors through graduation better than Addison Woll, the Honors assessment manager and admissions coordinator. 

“It’s easier to stay involved with something when you can see the benefits in real time,” Woll explained while divulging the relatively new Honors reflection process. Since altering the Honors curriculum in 2016 to include experiential learning and a reflection component, the Honors program has seen an increase in its completion rate by 33.9%. 

With the Honors Program’s goal to become more accessible and equitable, experiential learning opportunities continue to grow and change. Students can study abroad, complete internships, and even complete service learning. “The experiences that you talk about, the depth of your experiences, are what are going to make or break [your interview],” Woll said explaining why students are so drawn to the experiential learning aspect of Honors. “That’s the value in Honors.” 

Apart from the obvious desire to gain invaluable and unique experiences, Alyssa Ricke, who will graduate this year, offered another take on her experience in the Honors Program.  “One of the people I met through the honors program I actually live with.” Ricke said. They met through an Honors course, benefitting from the small class size.

Alyssa Ricke joined the Honors Program after her first semester at the UI, and now with the hopes of attending graduate school, she’s thankful for her time spent in Honors.  “[The Honors Program] pushed me to do things that I wouldn’t have otherwise… being in a lab and having experience in a lab is very important if you want to get into a graduate school and I wouldn’t have joined one so early without honors,” Ricke described. 

The Honors Program has opportunities for social, personal, academic, and professional growth. As ambitious students, it’s easy to get caught up in the question “why not?” rather than the question “why stay?” However, once we take a step back, it’s easy to find meaning in the work we’re doing. Whether it’s making a friend or creating memories, the Honors Program provides numerous opportunities to grow outside of the classroom. 

So next time you find yourself wondering, “why stay?” stop by the office hours of one of the amazing Honors faculty, like Addison Woll. Whether it’s talking about your academic plan, your life plan, or whatever is occupying your mind at the moment, the help and care our Honors faculty provide is a reason in itself to stay. You may even get the opportunity to listen to Addison Woll talk about his love of beekeeping, yet another reason to stick with Honors. 

Addison Woll  


Alyssa Ricke


Author Bio:

Izzie Wilcox is a second-year student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, majoring in economics on the pre-law track with a minor in art history. In her free time, she performs in an Iowa City improv team and is a tour guide for the university.

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