#098 How Your Teen Can Benefit from an Honors College with Sylvia Borgo Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:30

University Honors colleges are not just about prestige. They offer smart classes, a strong sense of community and an enriched curriculum. Think of it as an academic booster for your team. With all the other parts of the college bound journey you have to navigate, it can seem daunting to understand how honors colleges work, determine if it’s a fit for your team and navigate the ins and outs of applying. My guest today is an expert in college admissions. Instead of treating honors colleges as an afterthought, Silvia Borago works proactively with her students to consider this option as they build a perfect college list for them. She sharing critical insights to guide you and considering the Honors College option for your teen. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. Well, hi, Sylvia, welcome back to the podcast. It’s so great to have you again. Last time we talked about demonstrated interest, but we’re going to talk about honors colleges today. Welcome.


Sylvia Borgo  01:47

Thank you so much for having me. Lisa, I’m really excited to be here to talk about honors colleges.


Lisa Marker Robbins  01:52

Me too. So, you know this, I always feel like honors colleges are often overlooked. When I’m talking to students, do you feel the same way? 100%


Sylvia Borgo  02:04

It’s almost like an afterthought. They have a balanced college list, hopefully. And then they think about Oh, is there something else that I’m missing? I guess I’ll consider honors colleges, if you say so.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:16

Yeah, it is. It’s like, I was talking to a kid recently. And they had everything submitted. And they’re like, oh, you know, should I look at? Or like, oh, gosh, no, not this shouldn’t be an afterthought. Right? It should be part of the whole strategy. When they’re building that college list, which I know you’re really knowledgeable in this area. So you probably work it in earlier than the typical family, if they’re just doing it on their own, you know, might be an afterthought. So to help our listeners, first of all, let’s define Honors College, because I’ve also found in those afterthoughts, that there are many misconceptions about what an Honors College even is. Yeah, that


Sylvia Borgo  03:01

sounds great. So an Honors College is typically found at larger public institutions typically, and essentially their specialize brats within a college or university that provide a different experience for those students who enroll. And at this point, I want to make a distinction between an Honors College in an honors program, the think of one Yeah, typically speaking, honors colleges are a little bit more robust in what they provide and what they require than an honors program. If you think about an Honors College as like a college, like the school and so let’s say for example, your state public institution has an A school of engineering, or a school of nursing or a college of education, they also then have the Honors College, so it’s a very distinct grouping, much like the school of engineering or the School of Nursing, etc. They tend to be very small and intimate, although that depends definitely on the the size at many different public institutions. And best of all, in my opinion, they offer enhanced curriculum and opportunities.


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:16

I you know, I love what you said about like, they’re small because sometimes, you know, my passion is college majors and guiding teams, the you know, begin with the end in mind, think about just like with your strategy in you and I were talking about a student you were working with that how like, they don’t have that end in mind. So it makes it harder to build the college list. Sometimes I’ve found with the students in my launch Career Clarity course. They maybe think they wanted a smaller school and the major that they have and who would best help them be equipped for that major and future career that they’ve chosen might be in a larger university. So I often say like, don’t miss for, you know, a student who’s qualified, which we’ll talk about who that is, you know, don’t miss the opportunity to maybe get into an Honors College because it does provide that smaller group of students that can give you a little bit more of that intimate feel within that large university. Yeah,


Sylvia Borgo  05:20

absolutely. The benefits are amazing. Because of that high touch environment at where you could very well be as a first year student will be in a ginormous class with, say, 100 students, 120 students, 500 students, or Honors College will require you to meet possibly in a smaller cohort of those honors students for that same class or meet more regularly with the professor the class, so many benefits. Absolutely.


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:50

I you know, I’ve even noticed where honors colleges because they’re building community with their, which they’re very intentional about, they’ll also arrange to do social events, right? They’ll do community service together, they’ll have football, watch parties together. So it’s, you know, the benefits are just the academic benefits or the the small community, but like, there’s some social benefits as well. Sometimes I’ll have parents say, Well, gosh, my kid, they’re just, they’re not gonna want to do the Greek system. And that, you know, that’s how like kids find their people. And I think that always gets like, overblown as far as what the numbers really are. But this is a way to get that community even that social sense as well. Have you found that 100%


Sylvia Borgo  06:40

I am such a fan of honors colleges that I know several students, many students at AP them at honors colleges, and actually a couple of them who, who turned down an offer from their more famous forum from a more famous institution and decided to go to the Honors College after researching the benefits and the support. And yes, that sense of community. So the students that I’ve sent to that I’ve suggested they consider honors colleges and have considered Enrolling or did enroll, come back and tell me Oh, I’m, I have a great group of friends. We’re also like minded. We’re all oriented in our academics. We all care about XYZ, me, I met them during orientation week, and now we’re best friends, and we’ll be roommates next year. Again, fantastic community building. It’s,


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:33

you just brought up that idea of like, kids who maybe got into, I’m just gonna say, a brand named school that they were looking for, or a more rigorous school than the university where they get into the Honors College. You know, families need to really think about like, you might be at a better price point, if you have a budget, most families have a budget, some do not. And we work with all I know you and I both work with people on the whole range of the continuum budget wise. But if you have a financial constraint that yet you are aiming for, like, oh, you had this wish list of the school that maybe be I don’t know, 70 $80,000, but that’s out of your budget, but that’s where your heart and desire as far as the academic preparedness and the rigor, this Honors College can get you some of that in a much more affordable way, don’t


Sylvia Borgo  08:30

you think? Yes. 100%. And, and the outcomes, and maybe we’ll get into this in a bit, but many of the honors colleges are, are the mission is to provide a robust education. I have a quote actually from a dean at the Honors College D in Kentucky, I believe, Western Kentucky University, and if I may, I’ll go ahead and they’re out. And he said, he said that their mission is to simulate the equivalent education of a top 25 small, private liberal arts school. And what the outcomes how they measure the outcomes is are such as, let’s see a place like Williams that’s the first small private liberal arts college that comes time. It Williams is sending, let’s say 10% of their students on to be Fulbright scholars, can their honors college do the same? If Williams is tracking 95% of their students have a job within six months of graduation in their intended field, and their honors college say the same thing. And that’s their mission to simulate the experience of a of a very robust, small high touch the liberal arts curriculum and I think that’s fantastic for an incredible ice cream. Absolutely.


Lisa Marker Robbins  09:51

I love that quote. Because it’s, you know, it really encompasses what we just said about like lower price Point, many of the same benefits that are going to be open to the students and Western Kentucky University is only about four hours from where I am is a beautiful campus. And it’s not the first place you think of when you think of rigor, but it’s a gorgeous campus. Nice size for students who want a bit of a, you know, football feel and see a all of those things so fantastic. Now, as you’re thinking about any other benefits that were missing, yes,


Sylvia Borgo  10:32

actually, if I may, yeah, we’ve heard about some of the benefits that as a parent, and as an IEC I love but let’s get some of the fun stuff, some of the benefits for the students, because the students are like, Well, what do I get out of it? Of course, they’re 1617. And that’s a very natural question. The benefits of from the students perspective is honors colleges sometimes have an honors village and Honors Residential area, with the best dorms on campus, the most updated the most modern, guaranteed housing in many situations. And the best residence, dining food hall. I know a student at Barrett, Arizona State University, they have a gelato bar, like literally they can have ice cream every day of the the week. They also have the special events. I actually if I may, my I know as my son is at an Honors College. And every once in a while, I’ll say hey, do you need like a sweatshirt? Or you know, I’m at the store? Should I you know, should I plan to get you because like, No, I’m good. They give us so much swag. He has sweatshirts and T shirts and, and water bottles and blankets and reading gear all from the Honors College that he just gets from showing up at these wonderful social events for the community. So those are all the fun things, the better Dining Services and the better res halls and the guaranteed housing and really nice swag indoors. That’s fantastic. As a parent, and as an IEC. What I like about honors colleges are the smaller cohort of students, the extreme academic career professional support, they usually have an academic advisor, a program advisor, a departmental advisor, a career advisor, they have, of course free writing center, etc, etc. And then they have these opportunities that are available only to Honors College students such as they may have study abroad opportunities where you go study abroad for a week, two weeks of summer, only with the honors kids in a very interesting class led by one of the honors college professors, and perhaps priority registration at many of the honors colleges, guaranteeing that you are at the front of the line and you can vary the law, you can probably get the classes that you need when you need them, which will limit the possibility of you spending an extra amount of time there because you just couldn’t get into the physics track or the math track. So that might be the best one of all I don’t know, there’s so many to choose from, which ones are you


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:11

right now? Well, I do like that priority registration is interesting. A student that I was talking to recently who’s a senior Cook, who’s not in an Honors College could have graduated a semester early. She’s in a fantastic internship, while she’s like working 20 hours a week plus going to school full time. But because she did not have priority registration, because she’s not in an Honors College. It delayed her in getting just one required class for her major. And she has to go another semester to finish out the four years but affordability wise, she could have finished academically in three and a half years. If she would have been at the front of that line. Now. It wasn’t a best fit for her. Because if you and I sit here and we talk about like, all of these amazing benefits. So I’m sure every listeners like oh my gosh, I want my kid in the Honors College. How do I make this happen right? By the student IDs referred to the Honors College wouldn’t have been a fit. And actually, it probably would have put a lot of undue stress on her even if she would have qualified which I don’t think she would have. So we don’t want to stress our students out. So let’s talk about for whom is an Honors College really a best fit? Yes,


Sylvia Borgo  14:32

this is great. So I feel like at least somebody who is willing to consider not considered but rather take full advantage of what an Honors College program will offer them. Oftentimes an Honors College will have extra requirements. So for example, a senior thesis or they will have an honors contract where X amount of their classes need to be at honors level Now what does that look like that mean, that may be research with a professor for one semester, that might be an augmented paper. So instead of writing a 15 page, research paper, you as an honor student need to write a 25 page research paper, so extra requirements. And I find that, again, trying to mimic that small liberal arts private college curriculum, if that is the mission of some of the honors colleges, certainly I can speak for all of them, I find that students need to really enjoy more than just their one major. So for example, if you are a computer science major, that’s fantastic. But Are you also a strong reader? And are you also interested in history, and you will also enjoy writing, for example, so really being interested in more than just your intended field of study, because it couldn’t be an interdisciplinary program with a requirement to take two semesters of writing instead of one semester of writing. So but generally speaking, any student who really wants a challenge wants a different experience, and isn’t necessarily looking for the parks, like the gelato bar, but is looking for wow, I have so many interests, and I am such a interdisciplinary or multifaceted individual that this Honors College is going to allow me to explore all of my interests and passions. Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:28

it’s almost like we talked about you’ve got your major, do you have a double major? Do you get a minor? I mean, it almost fulfills that for students who are have high academic achievement. They’re motivated, self directed learners, they like research and enter disciplinary fields. So it can be a real win win for them. Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, I always tell students like do your homework, because you’ve said I can’t speak her all honors colleges, and with 3700. Universities and colleges in the United States. Of course, we don’t know all of them. So I always say to families in my course, like be a wise consumer, right? Ask the right questions, see what the benefits are? Have a question for you. Like I’ve had students say, if I apply to the Honors College, do I have to stay in the Honors College if I get in there. And so you just did a really great job for describing what I think fits many honors colleges, you’re, you’re going to have to take, you know, not just sociology, but honor sociology that has more rigorous requirements to earn that credit, you’re going to have to maybe do a capstone project or paper. So there’s going to be more work. And we know that college alone is more work, students often get surprised, we’ve had plenty of episodes about in there some of our most popular how to help your student navigate, going from the rigor of high school transitioning that college and the freedom but the increased rigor that comes with that. So let’s say somebody gets in, and then they go, Wow, this is not what I thought it was gonna be, is there an obligation to stick with it


Sylvia Borgo  18:15

forever? Not that I know of no. So I feel like I actually even know one student who started at an Honors College last year and now as a second year college student, they left that college the requirements like that extra writing class, and, you know, the the freshman seminar class, just they were, they were like, Why? Why is this for me? I, you know, I don’t really care about that. And so then I feel like most honors colleges and again, I can’t speak for all of them would say, Okay, we’re clearly not a good fit, and they go ahead and break up. So yes, you can leave and Honors College, I


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:49

think it I think it goes into the idea of like, so you’re not gonna get kicked out of the university. And I always say to students, it can feel like the university’s admissions, even, you know, the university as a whole, your professors. Sometimes kids can feel like, Oh, they’re against me, or it’s, they’re not for students. These are people who like young adults, and they’re there to support you. And the colleges, frankly, university one a positive outcome of getting you in and out getting you a degree, it is not in their best interest to have students not finishing on the hole. So I found that as well, is the little bit that I’ve worked with students with honors colleges, just because focus of my work is different, centered on college majors and careers. But as the little bit that I get exposed to it, I have found that like, if you find there’s not a fit, they would let you get out of that honors college and just, you know, participate in the university in the way that suits your needs, so that you’re getting a good outcome, meaning the degree in the field that you’re best suited for. So let’s talk about the application process because I know not all of these application processes are created equal. So what does that look like?


Sylvia Borgo  20:04

Typically, like you mentioned, you are admitted to the university. Sometimes you apply before, but you can apply at the same time parallel is where you’re applying to the University. And yet, you’re also, at the same time, once your portal opens, typically what I have seen as you apply to the University, you establish your user account when they receive your application with your passcode. And then from then on the university communicates with you through their own portal. At that point, it could be a couple of days, it could be a couple of weeks, you then have access or they will communicate how to apply to an Honors College. And that application can be more robust. You we could easily expect that it’s going to be a more robust application or an added element to your original application. Meaning that, for example, maybe you did not the college application did not require letters of recommendation when you applied through the common app, but maybe the Honors College does. I have seen obviously, essays supplemental essays why like why is Why do you want to come for Honors College? And so sometimes it could be two essays, three essays. I know there’s an Honors College, Penn State’s Honors College is famous for being an incredibly rigorous application, which many many supplemental questions. So the application or elements are a little bit more robust, robust than the typical, the common app application for that university. And they expect you to understand who they are the Honors College and meet the case for why they are a good fit for you.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:44

You know, I I’ll also go back and say like, I’ve seen a pic of Ohio State University, they, which is just an hour and a half from where I am in Cincinnati, but they literally only have you check a box on your main common app. And once COVID hit because I think my best guess is just purely because of numbers. They dropped the essay I used to love their essay it was about to which fictional character do you relate the best. And I thought it was a fantastic topic for an essay, but they dropped it. So at Ohio State, it’s simply like, check the box, and they will consider you within the scope of your common app. I know at Purdue, which is not that far away, the cradle of astronauts they call it, they give you three essays on the front end and the common app going. So you don’t have to do anything after you submit. But like other universities, to your point, you’re not even gonna get access to that honors application until you’ve applied to the university. You know, my daughter’s at University of Cincinnati. And you don’t even get a chance to say like I want to be considered, they’re just going to look at your entire application and the common app, and then they’re gonna decide, do you deserve an invitation n so it’s, I have found in my numbers might be skewed. So you know, let me know what you found. But I found that there’s actually more schools that say, Do you want to apply? Here’s our process, fewer of them do what the University of Cincinnati do, which is just like, we’re going to look at all of our applicants, and we’re going to invite the cream of the crop into our process. Have you found that to be which of those do you think is more common?


Sylvia Borgo  23:34

Oh, I think I agree with you. Yeah, it is more common. I think that it can be as simple because they weren’t. They want to see who’s out there. They want to see their applicant pool, who’s interested. Do you want to be considered? This is how you go about it? Yeah, I think I agree with you. Well, I


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:50

think too, it goes back to. I’ve talked with other guests before about like college capable and college ready just in determining maybe for a student who struggled in high school, like they might be capable of doing the academic work, but are they ready to go? And when I’m doing college major and career coaching, I’ll say, smart kid can do many smart adults can do many, many things. However, just because we can do doesn’t mean we should do because it may not align with what fills you up the most. Right? So I think of like how the University of Cincinnati does it I’m sure other universities do as well, but it’s like they’re just saying oh here it looks like our can do group. But just because they can do to the point of the student you just sat and I’ve known a student at the University of Alabama who started in honors and then decided that it wasn’t for them. Just because we can do doesn’t mean we should do and I think I would also caution maybe parents even more on that side right because pay Parents should not be in the driver’s seat of this, their student really needs to know like, what are those additional requirements, and you might have a student who’s capable, but it might not aligned with what they want their college experience to be. So we got to ask the right questions and do a lot of listening.


Sylvia Borgo  25:15

Absolutely. Because as both you and I know, and I’m sure your listeners know, there is no one way to do college. So if you choose an Honors College, great, and if you choose to do robotics League and marching band, but not the Honors College, if you decide that you’re going to graduate in three years, while you have you’re on that path, fantastic, then there may not be room in your honors quality, in your experience for the added curriculum of the Honors College. So everything is perfectly fine on the table, you can consider whatever is best for you.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:50

I just, I think I walk away here at the end going like do your homework, be a wise consumer, which is something that my listeners hear me say all the time. But figure out know yourself well enough that you can make the choices that align and keep track. I mean, I could we were just talking about the application process. My mind was like, oh, gosh, don’t lose sight of this families is just like, you know, with the regular application process. Have you sent your test scores? Have you got your recommendation letters? What is the deadline? Are these hard deadlines? Are you going to miss out on scholarships? If you missed that early action deadline? So homework, homework homework, keep track of everything. Do you have any parting words of advice, Sylvia?


Sylvia Borgo  26:39

Gosh, no, I know that we’re recording this right before the holiday buzz. So I just want to wish all of your listeners a fantastic holiday season.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:46

Thank you. And if they’re like, Wow, that Sylvia knows her stuff, and I want to keep in touch, where is the rule? Put it in the show notes. But where’s the best place for our listeners to find you? Yeah, I


Sylvia Borgo  26:59

have wonderful resources and information on my website, and that is D J, educational consulting.com.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:08

Great. And we’re gonna link to that in the show notes that I’m gonna say, I’m a follower of yours on Instagram, and you create great reels that are informative. I know you and I go back and forth on Instagram. I think you’re one of the IECs who just does a fantastic job on your social media channels. So I think you’re you’re definitely worth a follow for our listeners.


Sylvia Borgo  27:31

Thank you. I’m so honored, I will happily continue to churn out great content because it’s really joyful for me to do so.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:39

I can tell when I’m watching that. It’s like it’s your enjoy. It’s your purpose. Thank you, Sylvia.


Sylvia Borgo  27:45

Thank you, Lisa.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:52

Wow, what an incredibly insightful conversation with Sylvia Borgo. I realized after we finished recording that I started the year with her talking about demonstrated interest in January of 2023. And we’re ending it talking about honors colleges, we’ll be sure to have her on again. While there are clearly many benefits to honors colleges, they won’t be a fit for every student, even those who are academically capable. This week, my college bound homework for you is to strategically consider this option while you build a college list that fits your unique family. If you aren’t 100% sure where to visit and want guidance around academic, social, financial and college major fit, wrapped my complimentary family videos and worksheets at morish coaching co.com forward slash challenge. These materials will give you everything you need to succeed with your college list. Stay connected and grow closer to your student during what can be a stressful time. That’s flourish coaching co.com forward slash challenge and a link to it in the show notes along with how to stay in touch with Sylvia. Thank you to Silvia Borgo for joining us today and sharing her expertise. And to all of our listeners joining us when this episode goes live. We wish you a fantastic holiday season and a journey filled with informed decisions and successful outcomes. Until next time, keep exploring asking questions and finding the right path for your family.