What is the Difference Between the Honors Program and Cornerstone?


Image Courtesy of the Catholic University of America

By Zachary Lichter

Two of the biggest academic programs at the Catholic University of America (CUA) are the Honors Program and Cornerstone. When getting accepted into one of these programs, a prospective student might ask: What is the Honors program or Cornerstone? What is the difference between these two programs?

The Honors program is an academic program at CUA where students get the privilege of taking classes taught by some of the best professors. Students in the Honors Program take three classes only for students in the Honors program. They also have to take a senior capstone seminar, but it is not required unless they are doing multiple honors tracks to become a University Scholar

While at CUA, students in the Honors Program will get priority registration for classes for each upcoming semester. Students can do research with professors who teach classes in the Honors program

Over time, students in the Honors Program will get invited to special events like lectures, field trips, conferences, and dinners on campus or in the Washington, D.C., area. Students in the Honors program can receive preparation and guidance on applying for graduate school.  

Sophomore Christopher Crongal, majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in data analytics, gave his comments about what he likes about the Honors program:

“The Honors Program here at CUA has offered me many opportunities both socially and academically,” Crognale said. “Monthly events have kept me in contact with professors and administration for the University Honors Program while introducing me to many new friends. In addition to this, Honors courses have challenged me to continue to grow intellectually, allowing me to think in ways I haven’t before.”

Cornerstone is a program that began in 2022, where students take classes during freshman year taught by professors who work full-time at CUA. Similar to the Honors Program, students in Cornerstone will live in Cornerstone housing and take certain classes only for students in Cornerstone.

 Similar to the Honors program, students in Cornerstone can participate in field trips, learning activities, internship opportunities, and a chance to study abroad

Once a student in Cornerstone graduates, they will receive a title called “Cornerstone Scholar,” only if they complete the full Cornerstone pathway. 

A student who graduates from Cornerstone will be able to create solutions to solve some of the most crucial problems in society. Professional companies and graduate schools will take note that a student is in Cornerstone when they graduate. They will look at a student’s unique learning experiences in Cornerstone.

Christopher Mastoros, a sophomore nursing major, gave his comments about what he likes about Cornerstone:

“I have enjoyed being able to take specific classes with other cornerstone scholars,” Mastoros said. “Being able to read and analyze specific texts with a community that shares the same interests is awesome. The cornerstone program has afternoon teas and various parties that are offered for all members to attend. I attended a couple afternoon teas and the Christmas party last year. I also attended the end of year party last year on the law school lawn. These events are always a great time as it allows for us students to connect with each other on a more personal level outside of the classroom.”

While both programs look interesting for prospective and current CUA students, students have to fill out an application if they want to be a part of one of these programs. 

If a freshman or sophomore student at CUA wants to apply for the Honors Program, they need to fill out an application via email on the Honors Program page on the CUA website. Current students must also have a 3.5 Grade Point Average (GPA). They must also complete an interview with the director of the Honors Program, Dr. Jennifer Paxton. A student can submit their application during the fall or spring semester of their freshman or sophomore year. The fall semester deadline is November 1st of this year. The spring semester deadline is April 1, 2024

If a student at CUA wants to apply to Cornerstone, they will need to be a freshman or sophomore and submit their midterm grades along with a 3.3 GPA. They must also fill out an application on the Cornerstone page of the CUA website. The application is due on November 15th of this year. Students must also ask their career or major advisor, professor, or staff member to write a letter of recommendation. Students must also have an unofficial transcript with their midterm grades. They must also describe their leadership experience from either high school or during their time at CUA. They must also write a 250-300 word essay where they will explain how studying humanities can help them be a leader in their future job. Once everything is complete, the student will get invited for an interview with Dr. Taryn Okuma, the Director of Cornerstone. The interview will be the last part of the process.

Christopher Croganle gave his comments on why a student should apply to the Honors Program:

“Aside from the generous scholarship offered for an Honors Program student, underclassmen should join the UHP for the many connections that can be made with students and professors alike,” Crognale said. “I have been offered many academic opportunities through the program that I believe any UHP student would be capable of. The UHP challenges students to think more critically and analyze things on a deeper level that they can apply to all of their classes. I most definitely recommend the Honors Program to all incoming CUA students. It is a great opportunity that would be difficult to pass up on.”

Christopher Mastoros gave his comments about why a student should apply to Cornerstone:

“Someone should apply for the Cornerstone program because it allows for so many opportunities,” Mastoros said. “The cornerstone leaders are always putting on great events and doing their best to make sure that all of the members are successful. It is a great community to be a part of and it is a great way to adapt to college and make friends that you can relate to.”

Current students who apply to the Honors Program or Cornerstone will not receive a scholarship. This is only offered for incoming students who join either program upon getting accepted into CUA.

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