Honors students have been shown to possess a number of identifiable characteristics. Unfortunately, it is the recognition by others of these characteristics that can be the biggest barrier to the realization of your potential. It is sometimes easy to confuse willingness with underlying ability and to confuse narrowly conformist thinking with lateral abilities. A willingness to work hard may be an important asset but, unfortunately, on its own, it may not be enough. On the other hand, a truly inquisitive mind can be mistaken for an unacceptably rebellious one.


It is important to sometimes ignore other facets and abilities and try to find one overriding factor that should determine the identification of honors students. Jay Freyman, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, suggests that this facet is curiosity. His perspective is based on experiences gained as director in a public college that transformed, in 31 years, from foundation to Phi Beta Kappa status.

Grasps Concepts Quickly and Efficiently

For many students, math contains some of the most rigorous academic tests of ability. A successful honors math student will be expected to grasp concepts quickly and without the need for repeated explanations. If you can do this, you will also be expected to complete work quickly and find the most effective and efficient methods for doing so.

Learning Attitude

If you have abilities as a student but see learning merely in terms of the future living standards it may bring you, you may not be a potential honors student. This is because, while monetary gain is important, the truly gifted academic will enjoy materialism as a by-product of what they love best – wanting to learn. This quality will not only be identifiable in the extreme focus of their chosen subject but also in a "wider world" context.

Accepting the Work of Other Scholars

To be truly academic, and therefore of honors potential, is to accept that the terms "right" and "wrong" are often inappropriate. This means accepting and showing interest in the work of other scholars and being able to take their criticisms as well as give honest and constructive comments yourself. To be right merely because of assumed status is to be wrong in every imaginable academic sense.