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What Makes an "Honors" Student?

Full credit to one of my mentors for this post. Though he has been retired now for several years, his perspective on what constitutes an honors student still resonates today.

When assessing whether or not a student was qualified for an honors or AP course, he would drill down to three characteristics: willingness, aptitude and interest.

Willingness is the desire or eagerness to do extra work. Most honors courses require students to go above and beyond the regular course content. Thus, an honors student must be willing to do extra.

Aptitude is the ability or the natural inclination to excel academically. To be an honors student, one must have some natural ability already. This can come in the form of a variety of skills like critical thinking, reading, reasoning, logic, public speaking, etc.

Interest is passion for or great curiosity in the subject matter. Honors students have a keen interest in the material and seek out opportunities to learn as much as they can. They are sponges who yearn for more.

But here is the best part of these characteristics: an honors student need not have all three.

Instead, according to my mentor, as long as the student had at least two of the three characteristics, then that student could very well excel at the honors level.

Simple yet elegant: an honors student is one who is either willing and apt, apt and interested, or willing and interested.

Students: if you have two of those three qualities, then consider yourself an honors student.

And if you lack more than one of these characteristics, then maybe the honors level for a given subject is not for you? And that is okay. You need not be a high-achieving honors student across all academic disciplines.

Unfortunately, so many families and students push the honors track because they see that as the path to college opportunities. Yes, academic rigor can help your prospects. But if you lack the aptitude, the willingness and the interest, why force it?

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