New York Times column features 'highest praise' for Schreyer Honors College

August 13, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK – There are as many different paths to college as there are stars in the sky. High school students, and in most cases, with input from their families, consider hundreds of variables in narrowing down their choices of where, and how, to spend their next four years.

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni offered a bright, but maybe less traveled, road in his Sunday, Aug. 9 piece “A Prudent College Path.” Highlighting a “striking development in higher education,” he writes that more public schools, through their honors colleges and programs, are giving students “some of the virtues and perks of private schools without some of the drawbacks.”

Bruni interviewed John Willingham, author of “A Review of Fifty Top Public University Honors Programs” who also maintains the website publicuniversityhonors.com. Schreyer Honors College at Penn State is one of the examples cited by Bruni for receiving Willingham’s highest praise.

Recent posts by Willingham to his website explain why, according to Bruni, “a state university honors college program might be the smartest of all options for some students.” Anecdotes about students getting the best of both experiences — as “honors colleges provide a supporting, challenging haven” at a public university with “sprawling resources” and “considerable socioeconomic diversity.”

Earlier this year, news was made when a high school senior was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools. He opted, instead, for a large public university. It offered him, among other things, an honors education, lower cost of attendance, aid and as Bruni writes, “an environment of especially dedicated, high achieving students within a larger, more diverse community of more than 30,000 undergraduates.”

Both Bruni and Willingham herald the many values of honors education at a public university. Willingham’s website posts present data in the form of rankings, graduation rates and comparisons. Bruni’s approach and philosophy, based on his personal experience, stem from his book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” written as “an antidote to the college admissions mania.”

Bruni writes that honors colleges “don’t quite get the attention from college applicants … that they deserve.” Yet, Schreyer Honors College saw a record number of applications for the Class of 2019 with increased interest in campus and regional events this past spring and summer. Established in 1997 with a $30 million landmark gift from Merrill Lynch CEO William Schreyer and his wife, Joan, the honors college has alumni representing every discipline and a multitude of professions.

Applications will open Sept. 1 for both Schreyer Honors College and Penn State. The honors college differs from some of its counterparts in that academic achievement, leadership and civic engagement, not test scores, are weighed. Students who apply to Schreyer Honors College before Nov. 30 can also request an interview as part of their application.

Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first year of enrollment, total more than 1,800 students at University Park and six Commonwealth Campuses.

Last Updated May 12, 2016