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What is the College Scholars Program?
The College Scholars Program is the honors program for the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University. The program is designed to give our most promising students in A&S opportunities for intellectual discovery and engagement.

What are the goals of the College Scholars Program?
The main goals of the program are to develop critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, and communication skills in our students by giving them opportunities to engage in breadth and depth in their education. This is achieved through students taking honors seminars, conducting independent research, and learning from each other.

What can I do through the program?
There are three main activities students pursue in the College Scholars Program. Students take honors seminars, engage in research, and participate in social events with each other, faculty, and campus partners.

What do I get for being in the program?
If you complete the College Scholars Program, on your diploma, it will say that you have graduated with “Honors in the College of Arts & Science.” This is the only college-wide honor students can earn. It is separate from departmental or Latin honors that students can also earn.

 How do I complete the program?
Students must earn 15 honors points to complete the program. In general, taking an honors seminar is worth 3 points, and a research course or project is worth 1 point. A maximum of 13 points can be earned by taking honors seminars, so at least 2 research points must be earned to complete the program. You can read more about the point system here.

 Who is admitted into the program?
Each year, about 30 students are admitted during the regular high school admissions process. These students are selected by a committee of faculty. These students enter Vanderbilt in the College Scholars Program, and are called fall scholars.

Once the fall semester begins, all first-year students in the College of Arts & Science are invited to apply to the College Scholars Program. Approximately 30 students are selected over winter break, and begin the College Scholars Program in the spring semester of their first-year. They are called spring scholars.

How many people are in the program?
There are approximately 60 students in each class, and about 240 students total in the program.

What is the community like among the College Scholars?

The Scholars Council is the student-led advisory board that works to plan activities every month for the College Scholars. Scholars can attend monthly events organized by the Scholars Council, which are usually educational opportunities with chances to socialize afterwards. Events include panel discussions with faculty on current events, career pathways discussions with the Career Center, post-graduate scholarship sessions with the Office of Honor Scholarships, de-stressing events with the Center for Student Wellbeing, and study halls. These events are open to all students in the College Scholars Program.

I’m a transfer student, Can I apply?
No, only first-year students can apply.

I’m a first-year student in Blair/Peabody/Engineering, but I plan to double major in A&S, Can I still apply?
No, the program is exclusively for Arts & Science students. The program is uniquely tailored to College of Arts & Science students and the AXLE curriculum to meet their graduation requirements. Students from the other three undergraduate colleges do not graduate from the College of Arts & Science, so they cannot earn honors from the College. *Please note that it is possible for students from Blair/Engineering/Peabody to double major in A&S and earn departmental honors separately from this program.

I’m a first-year student in A&S, but I plan on transferring into Blair/Engineering/Peabody, Can I still apply?
Technically yes, you can apply if you are an Arts & Science first-year student. If you transfer to another college at any point, you will not be able to complete the program. The decision to apply remains yours, and probably depends on how certain you are that you will transfer to another college within Vanderbilt University.

What is an honors seminar?
Honors seminars are small, advanced, discussion-based special topics courses taught by our top faculty. All honors seminars are capped at 16 students to ensure opportunities for intimate discussion, and are all writing courses (W in AXLE).

How are honors seminars different from regular courses?
Honors seminars are deeper, broader, more complex, or more interdisciplinary than regular courses at Vanderbilt. While they are advanced courses, honors seminars do not have prerequisites, and are open to students from all majors and backgrounds.

Who can take an honors seminar?
Only students admitted to the College Scholars Program can take honors seminars. All honors seminars are open to any student in the program, from any major, and do not have prerequisites.

What are the honors seminars like?
Honors seminars are small, discussion-based classes where students are encouraged to be active participants. In some ways, these courses are taught more like graduate seminars in that students help define the trajectory of the course through their interests and discussion. Topics range from films in Italy to the human microbiome, and they change each semester. See a list of recent honors seminars.

How many honors seminars are offered each semester?
Typically 6-7 honors seminars are offered each semester. Each honors seminar is in an AXLE category, and we aim to offer one in each AXLE category each semester. The topics change and the courses are taught by different professors teach them each semester. There is no set curriculum to the honors seminars, and topics change frequently. Sometimes, an honors seminar may be offered several years in a row.

How many honors seminars do I have to take?
To complete the honors program, students typically take 4-5 honors seminars over their 7-8 semesters in the program. You don’t have to take an honors seminar every semester, and you are allowed to take more than one in a semester (but we do ask you to be polite and make sure students that aren’t enrolled in one are given a chance to enroll).

If honors seminars are all writing courses, then what writing requirements do they satisfy?
There are four writing requirements for students in the College of Arts & Science:
1) Take ENGL 1100 [most students test out of this]
2) Take a first-year writing seminar [numbered 1111; to be completed by end of first year]
3) Take any other 1000-level writing course
4) Take any other writing course (1000, 2000, or 3000 level) or oral communications course

All writing requirements except for the requirement to take ENGL 1100 can be satisfied by taking an honors seminar (you can complete #2, 3, and 4 above with honors seminars). Yes, that means honors seminars can substitute for the requirement that every first-year student in A&S take a first-year writing seminar (#2 above). This is another reason why first-year students are strongly encouraged to take an honors seminar. A second honors seminar taken in the first year, or one taken during the sophomore year satisfies the requirement that students take a 1000-level writing course to make junior standing (#3 above).

What research opportunities are available to College Scholars?
Students in the College Scholars Program are encouraged to take advantage of the College of Arts and Science unique position of being a small liberal arts school in the heart of a major research university. Students are encouraged to engage in research through enrichment projects, independent study, department honors research, and other project-based university initiatives.

What does it mean to enrich a class?
Enriching a class means asking a professor to take part in a self-directed study in tandem with the class, usually manifesting itself as a paper or presentation at the end of the class. Students will work closely with a faculty member to develop and complete the project. A proposal for an enrichment project, signed by both student and instructor, must be submitted in writing to the Director of the College Scholars Program for approval within four weeks of the beginning of the semester. The work for the honors point should be in addition to the work assigned for the course and roughly equivalent to one-third of the work expected for the course. The student must earn a B or better in the class and the instructor must inform the Director in writing at the end of the semester that the work has been successfully completed.

How do I get honors points for independent study?
Students can earn 1 honors point for independent study courses which carry at least three (3) credit hours. This includes departmental honors research courses (often called “Honors Research” or “Senior Honors Research”). The student should notify the Director of the College Scholars Program within four weeks of the beginning of the semester that an independent study or honors research is being taken that semester and that an honors point is requested for it. The point will be given if the grade for the research course is a B or better.

What other research courses earn honors points?
Students can earn 1 honors point for designated honors sections of certain lecture courses, or for courses with intensive, research-based projects. This may include graduate-level courses, or other unique courses offered by the university, such as University Courses, DIVE courses, Garage courses at the Wondr’y, etc. Students should contact the Director of the College Scholars Program for clarification and approval for honors points in these courses within four weeks of the beginning of the semester. The point will be given if the grade for the course is a B or better.

How do I know how many honors points I have?
Honors points are posted on the Vanderbilt Brightspace page for the College Scholars Program. Points are earned and displayed after the grades are due each semester to ensure that students have achieved a grade of B or better in any course carrying honors points .

What other resources are available to me as a College Scholar?
There is a mentoring program for scholars, which operates through the Community-Building Committee of the Scholars Council. Each scholar has access to a mentor who can provide support, friendship, and discussion about life’s questions that arise at Vanderbilt. We are also developing our alumni network and host a reception at Homecoming each year.

Additionally, College Scholars always have opportunities to meet with Director of the Program, who can serves as an informal advisor to any scholar that inquires. (He’s also frequently available for a run if you are!)

What are some things College Scholars do after graduation?
College Scholar alumni are in graduate schools all over the country as well as positions in consulting, finance, publishing, teaching, and elsewhere. Take a look at this short list of post-graduate study and occupations:

  • Medical School at Harvard, Vanderbilt, Emory, Kansas, Missouri, MD/PhD program at Vanderbilt
  • Law School at Stanford, Yale, Virginia, JD/PhD program at Vanderbilt
  • PhD programs: Physics at Cornell, Political Economy at Stanford
  • Scribner’s Publishing House
  • Teach for America
  • Environmental journalist for
  • Financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, UBS, JP Morgan Chase
  • Fulbright Scholarship, Schwarzman Scholarship, Keegan Traveling Fellowship
  • Research analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Whom can I contact for more information?
Please contact Associate Dean Dan Morgan, Director of the College Scholars Program at or 615-322-2844.


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