Honors Institute Previews the Grad School Experience

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Heather Schmidt, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Director of Regional and Chapter Development for Division 4.

We all know the impressive statistics on how Phi Theta Kappa impacts the likelihood of associate and bachelor’s degree completion. After spending a week at Wake Forest University at my first Honors Institute, I’m going to make the bold prediction that the trajectory of success for Phi Theta Kappans will likely include the attainment of a graduate or professional school degree.

Going into the week with no expectations or point of reference, I must admit that I did not anticipate the déjà vu moments or flashbacks to graduate school. The seminar groups are not unlike the structure and feeling of discussion-based graduate school courses, where students learn as much or more from their classmates as they do from the instructor.

If you enjoyed the lively exchange of ideas and intellectual stimulation during Honors Institute, you will appreciate grad school. If you felt compelled to collaborate and reflect AFTER and outside of sessions and seminar groups, then you will not just enjoy but thrive in graduate school.

I had no doubt, even prior to attending my first Honors Institute, that all active Phi Theta Kappa members could handle the academic rigor of both undergraduate and graduate school. However, witnessing the eagerness and sustained interest of our members to fully engage in cohort-style learning prompted me to speculate about the likelihood of success in graduate school.

Even for students who could not attend Honors Institute, all is not lost. I met several members and advisors who, as the only representative of their chapter, attended with the intent of replicating the model at their regional level. If this happens, I’m confident that those students engaging in well-designed Regional Honors Institute programming will also be counted in this number.

I hope that members will consider this perspective and, as a result, start exploring opportunities to pursue a graduate school education. If you have your sights set on a graduate or professional degree, then I would strongly encourage you to think about your educational end goal and work backward. This strategy will help you make an informed decision about where to transfer and what major to pursue.

In the same way that you looked to your seminar leader (likely a new acquaintance), do not be afraid to seek counsel from a graduate school faculty member or program coordinator and ask for their advice regarding your next steps — even while still in community college. What better way to create an early, personalized connection with a graduate school that may result in your acceptance? At the very least, following their advice will provide you with some solid objectives and motivation to pursue a bachelor’s degree with confidence and purpose.