Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Selecting for Honors Programs: A Matter of Motivational Awareness

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Selecting for Honors Programs: A Matter of Motivational Awareness

Article excerpt


The honors programs at the Universities of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands were almost all initiated around 2008 and thus so far have yielded few data about outcomes, but we have a broad consensus that the honors programs should provide a better-than-average professional for the workplace and should give students a chance to perform to the best of their abilities. With this shared mission, we have had an ongoing discussion during our recruitment process about what criteria to use in the selection process. In January of 2012, there was an online discussion on the NCHC listserv about the role of the GPA in honors recruitment and retention in the U.S. Because Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences does not use grade-based admission requirements, relying instead on a competence profile that is added onto the existing competence profile the discipline uses, we were asked to provide insight into our methods. This request, combined with the NCHC email discussion, provided a reason to analyze the available literature concerning factors that lead to successful completion of an honors degree and that produce excellent and successful professionals. We have reviewed current selection criteria according to three models of excellence in order to determine the best criteria for accomplishing the mission of honors.


Rotterdam university of Applied Sciences is a multidisciplinary university of Applied Sciences (uAS) with over 32,000 students in roughly eighty different disciplines divided over eleven educational departments. In 2010, Rotterdam uAS started implementing an honors program after preparations that began in 2008. Two questions were of primary importance to the design of the program: what profile does Rotterdam uAS want to use for the honors program, and which students will be admitted to the program? The Universities of Applied Sciences had little to no information or experience on honors programs in 2008, so in 2007 Eijl, Wolfensberger, Schreve-Brinkman, & Pilot conducted a survey focused on excellence and honors programs. Based on this survey, Rotterdam UAS, as an institution for vocational education, consulted with its partners in the workplace and its relevant stakeholders to define an "excellent professional" as one who can "actualize innovative solutions with a practical function to the taking in hand of societal relevant problems while working together with others" (HR). The slogan "Surpass Yourself" was already in use at Rotterdam UAS to stimulate students to perform to the best of their abilities and linked up well with our definition of an excellent professional. We then developed our definition by describing five competencies that will be discussed later in this essay.

Initially, "Innovation Labs" were developed for the final year of the honors curriculum. These twenty-week labs are the essence of the honors program, with students performing multidisciplinary research for a real client and eventually offering them a solution or problem-solving approach. We now have two years of experience with these kinds of projects, and in September 2012 the third crop of students will start the labs. The number of students in the honors program is rapidly increasing, so we need to define a more exact recruitment policy that identifies students who fit our profile of an "excellent professional."

Extensive research exists on admission criteria for honors students. The most common criterion is the grade average (GPA in the U.S.) in a student's previous education. However, the survey by Eijl et al. Shows that using a different set of criteria--for instance, motivation--also leads to good results and that a causal link between the GPA and success in honors is by no means a given.

Our concern is whether the construction of the current honors program of Rotterdam uAS links up sufficiently with the theoretical framework surrounding it and whether there is enough research available on which to further develop the program, and so our two primary research question is: "Which factors are sufficient for making a reliable prognosis for professional excellence, and how can these factors be used to further develop recruitment for honors programs? …

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