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What Defines An Honors Student?

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Honors students are defined by idealists as “students with above-average intelligence, and a sincere love of knowledge and learning in all subjects.” Other common misconceptions are that honors students never procrastinate or complain about the assignments they’ve been given. Well, that’s a pretty little picture. Now, to REAL honors students, someone who falls under these descriptions sounds like a creature of myth, less plausible than a unicorn or a leprechaun. Although these students may exist, they are certainly not the majority of “honors students.” What DOES define every honors student? I don’t believe it is a love of all knowledge, or even above-average intelligence. I do believe that honors students are defined by their drive, ambition, and the wish for something better for themselves and their future.

Take for example a student who scores high on standardized tests and, up until their high school experience, never had to work hard in school to succeed and feel no reason to start now. This student feels he or she can skirt by on a bare minimum of effort, and that is just fine with them. This student may be recommended to an honors student course, but without drive, ambition, or work ethic, they will undoubtedly fail. When presented with a true challenge, this student may opt to take that lower course, because being the smartest in an easy class seems more attractive that stepping up their game. A true honors student will step up to the challenge of harder work. Maybe this isn’t because they love the subject matter, but because they are working towards a purpose. Some students work to get into college, or to make their parents proud, or to make themselves proud. Also, I know plenty of students who are in honors classes that are not easy to succeed in for any student. Often, these students surpass those with natural intellect when it comes to grades because they have the drive and ambition to work hard, even when standardized tests may tell them “You aren’t smart enough. Be content with average.” When a student works toward a goal that they set for themselves, whether it is to improve themselves or simply to feel accomplished, I believe they are embodying a true honors student.

Even though one doesn’t have to be “gifted” to be an honors student, others still confused might say, “Honors students HAVE to love knowledge, of all kinds, or else they wouldn’t be taking difficult classes.” Now, one must be able to distinguish the difference between loving knowledge and recognizing the value of knowledge. For example, a student may have the aptitude to succeed in any subject he chooses, but he simply doesn’t care for many of them. To excuse himself from working hard at subjects he dislikes, he would insist that the knowledge acquired in those classes were “useless,” “boring,” or “a waste of time.” Because of this, he would neglect any class that did not capture his attention completely, and as a result never reach his full potential. On the other hand, a student could find interest in every subject handed to him, but they lack the work ethic to do anything outside of paying attention in class. Where this might be more academically helpful than the previous student, this is not an honors student-esque way of going about things. Honors students taking multiple AP courses in high school may not be as intrigued by foreign language as they are by math or science, but they realize that Spanish is just as useful (and marketable) a skill as calculus or biology. They work at subjects that aren’t their favorites because an honors student knows that it’s beneficial to them, and will help them in the future. Their willingness to become more well-rounded and knowledgeable reflects their drive to become more intelligent people, and that is what defines their character as that of an honors student.

I must stress that I am not saying a good honors student can’t be superbly intelligent or love every bit of knowledge they receive. I am saying that this doesn’t define the honors student body as a whole. Honors students are not a homogeneous, cookie-cutter group that can be fit perfectly into the same description over and over again. Every student is different, but it is determination and drive that sets honors students apart from the norm.





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