The Honor in Taking Honors Courses

Selecting the *perfect* major for me at Pitt was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. I entered my freshman year planning on majoring in Neuroscience and English Literature, but upon taking the introductory bio courses, I began to seriously reconsider my neuroscience major. Additionally, I took an introductory linguistics course and decided I preferred linguistics to English literature. By then end of my freshman year, I had decided to be a Linguistics major with minors in English Literature and Neuroscience. However, upon taking my first introductory neuroscience class, and a few English classes I absolutely loved, I began to reconsider my career choices again. This back-and-forth continued up until my official major declaration at the end of my sophomore year—I finally settled on pursuing Neuroscience and English Literature majors with minors in Linguistics and Chemistry. It took a few years, but I am finally confident in my educational path. Funnily enough, it is the same exact plan I came into college with!

Since my two majors have limited overlapping required classes, I opted to pursue a dual degree. When I graduate next spring, I plan on having obtained enough credits to receive a B.A. in English Literature and a B.S. in Neuroscience. It is certainly a lot of work, but I truly enjoy the coursework and research required for this distinction. I also plan to apply for the Honors Joint-Degree before I graduate.

My experience with Honors courses has been nothing but exceptional. My freshman year, I took two Honors courses: Abnormal Psychology and Literature of the Americas. These two classes exposed me to two main components of Honors courses—advanced academic study and community interaction. In Abnormal Psychology, we delved into the DSM and did multiple case studies, research analyses, and presentations on numerous psychological conditions. This approach, as opposed to memorization of symptoms and difficult exam questions, gave the students an insight to the collaborative nature of the psychology field and had us practicing diagnostic techniques based on DSM criteria. I found this to be a highly effective learning method, particularly coupled with weekly research review about ongoing studies in the field. We were even able to take a few visits to UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and observe our professor giving psychiatric interviews to patients, an experience we would have not received in a regular class.

My other class during freshman year, Literature of the Americas, was the best class I have taken at Pitt. This class was a normal literature class with a community component. Instead of taking the class in Cathy, we traveled weekly to a nearby maximum-security prison and took the class with prisoners. Being able to share a classroom with prisoners—an entire population that I would likely never otherwise interact with—was the most incredible, eye-opening experience that has strongly shaped my personal interest in incarceration activism. I could not recommend this experience more highly! It is all thanks to the Honors College that I was able to experience this.

Since freshman year, I have taken a handful of other Honors classes, such as Honors Neuroanatomy, Honors Human Physiology, and Advanced Phonetics. All of these classes come with exceptional experiences and highly effective learning, and I could not recommend them more. My personal academic experiences have been most strongly impacted by Honors courses, so when a class I am interested in taking has an Honors version, I will do my best to take that version instead. They are one of the many aspects of the Honors College that makes it such a valuable resource to students, and I could not speak more highly of these reputable classes.

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