Guide for College-Bound Honor Roll Students

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Table of Contents: College Survival Guide for Honor Roll Students
1. Major Differences Between High School and College
2. Challenges Students May Face in College
3. Is an Honors Program in College Right for Me?
4. On-Campus Support Services for High-Achieving Students
5. Expert Advice
6. Additional Resources for College Success

College provides an ideal environment for honor roll students to explore their full potential. Many colleges offer honors programs for exceptional students. Learners in college honors programs benefit from smaller class sizes and more advanced courses.

Honor roll students can use this guide to determine if a college honors program aligns with their goals. This page covers some of the challenges that even the most high-achieving college students face. This guide also includes some support services and resources that can help high-achieving students make the most of their time in college.

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Major Differences Between High School and College

High School College
Attendance is mandatory and school administration largely dictates class schedules. Students enjoy more control over their courses. College professors may not take attendance, but students are expected to be in class.
Teachers assign homework, papers, and projects, and often provide ample class time to complete work. They usually remind students about important due dates to help learners stay on track. Students receive a class syllabus with essential information. They complete work outside the classroom. Class time is devoted to lecture and discussion. Professors may not remind students of important due dates.
Classes are scheduled one after another to fill up the entire school day. Classes start at varying times, and students may have open hours between classes.
Course material can often be easily assimilated with a modest amount of study time. Students often must devote several hours of study time each day for each class.
Teachers are readily available to discuss student work, projects, term papers, reports, and other coursework. Professors post regular office hours. However, students may still need to wait to speak with their professors.

Challenges Students May Face in College


  • Financial Management

    Many college students struggle to balance the costs of tuition, books, and housing. Creating a budget and setting aside an emergency fund can help students stay on top of their spending. Learners can also apply for scholarships or part-time jobs.


  • Homesickness

    College students may experience homesickness living away from home for the first time. Fortunately, this feeling usually fades with time. Connecting with new friends can help students create a sense of home on campus. Additionally, students can stay in touch with family and friends through video calls.


  • Coping with Stress

    College students face a variety of academic, financial, and social pressures. Even the most high-achieving students may feel overwhelmed at times. Learning effective time-management skills can help students manage their schedules. Planning ahead helps ensure that learners maintain a healthy balance of studying, work, and self-care.


  • Social Anxiety

    Experiences like eating in the cafeteria, attending parties, and meeting new people make college fun and rewarding. However, these experiences may lead to fear or discomfort for students with social anxiety. Counseling can help learners cope with severe social anxiety.


Is an Honors Program in College Right for Me?

High school honor roll programs reward students for earning high grades. However, a college honors program is a selective program within a college. It features its own highly challenging and advanced classes. Honors programs exist at both public and private colleges. Many state colleges offer honors programs to attract honor roll students who might otherwise attend top-tier private universities.

To enter a college honors program, students generally must earn higher grades in high school than most other students admitted to that college. They must also earn higher standardized test scores. Some college honors programs invite qualified students to join them. Others require students to complete a separate application. To stay in the program, admitted students must maintain above-average grades.

Honors programs may include various benefits, including honors dorms, early class registration, and smaller class sizes. Students enrolled in a college honors program may also gain access to special scholarships, internships, or research opportunities.

On-Campus Support Services for High-Achieving Students


  • Academic Advising

    Academic advisors help students develop study plans to achieve their academic goals. They also help connect students to other campus resources, such as counseling and financial aid. Some colleges assign first-year students to an advisor. Others offer an advising center where students can drop in for help.


  • Academic Support Center

    Academic support centers offer free tutoring to help college students master challenging coursework. Tutors are usually advanced students or graduate students who excel in their tutoring subject. Enrollees should ask their academic advisor where to find the academic support center.


  • Campus Counseling Center

    Trained counselors at the campus counseling center can help students cope with mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. They can also provide confidential help with matters related to gender identity, sexual orientation, relationships, and personal crises. Contacting a professional can help students learn new strategies for coping with problems.


  • Career Center

    At the career center, students can browse available jobs and internships. The career center also provides help with resume writing, job applications, and interview skills. Students should ask their academic advisor where to find the career center.


College Transition and Success for High-Achieving Students

Expert Advice

Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college prep company that provides boot camps and tutoring on college applications, SAT prep, and academic subjects. Patel earned a political communication bachelor’s degree from George Washington University. He has helped more than 1,000 students, young professionals, and C-level executives with college admissions and college success.

Q. What Are Some Tips for Straight-A Students Transitioning to College?

Students who coasted through high school often think they can do the same in college. This isn’t possible. You can’t rely on raw intelligence to get you through college. College is not free, and if you don’t take your academics seriously, you will suffer both the financial and opportunity costs.

You must be meticulous about organization to achieve your full potential. Write assignments in a planner and dedicate time to complete them. If you have an upcoming test, form a study group or make flashcards. You will not have time during class.

Q. What Are Some Pointers for Honors Students Attending a Campus Where They Are Surrounded by People Who Match Their Intellect?

Many great students haven’t been challenged like this before. In your first year, be easy on yourself. You might fail a test because you’re used to quickly looking through your notes and acing anything that comes across your desk. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, take failure as a learning experience and change the way you study.

Q. What Are Some Ways Honors Students Can Balance the Pursuit of Academic Excellence and Still Enjoy College's Social Aspects?

Work purposefully. Establish a daily or weekly schedule to create balance between the different parts of your life. Also, make time to relax. This might mean reading a chapter in a book, taking a hot shower, eating a meal without looking at your phone, calling a friend, or walking in town.


Additional Resources for College Success


  • Federal Work-Study Programs Federal work-study programs can benefit students who must make extra money to help cover their expenses. This guide explains how federal work-study programs work, and how students can find this type of job.
  • iStudiez Pro This app helps students track their schedule, assignments, and grades. Being organized and planning ahead can prevent students from feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Evernote Students can use this app for taking notes, organizing, and storing documents. Having everything synced between their smartphone, computer, or tablet ensures that students will never lose important information.
  • My Study Life This app can replace students' paper planners. Learners can store calendars, homework, and exams in the cloud, so they can access whatever they need at any time.

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