Apr 7, 2009

Honors scholarship challenges dedicated students

by Daniel Martinez

To many Liberty University students, the idea of a 25-page paper featuring citations from at least 20 authoritative sources is enough to make them run in the opposite direction. However, that assignment – an honors thesis – is the price some Liberty students have to pay in order to receive, among other benefits, upwards of $15,000 in financial aid over the course of four academic years.

This semester, more than 480 students – among them individuals from 41 different states and four foreign countries – are paying that price and receiving that benefit as a part of the Liberty Honors Program.

According to Maria Childress, the honors program secretary, the honors program is “an academic and scholarship program designed to provide highly motivated students of above average ability the opportunity to achieve their highest intellectual and creative potential.”

Other than approximately $3,750 per year in scholarships, students in the honors program lay claim to early registration for classes and the chance to be specially mentored by professors within the department aligned with their major. Students in the curriculum can also apply for the National Merit Scholarship, finalists for which receive financial aid covering their tuition, room and board in full. Thirty-four Liberty students currently enjoy that perk.

The yearly financial aid is nearly one-fifth of a year’s tuition and is considered the primary benefit of the honors program.

“At first, I applied to the Honors Program simply to get a scholarship and ease my financial burden,” junior Justin Melvin said. “But, scholarship aside, being in the Honors Program enables me to be a better-rounded student academically.”

“I knew that, in order to stay at Liberty, I needed to get more scholarships,” senior Levi Baker said. “I applied for the honors program my freshman year and was accepted.”

Students who need financial assistance and will not shy away from what junior Ben Taylor called a “relatively little amount of extra work,” can start applying for the program their freshman year and continue to do so until the beginning of their sophomore year.

The Honors Program also has a special residence at Liberty, with office placement on the third floor of DeMoss, which boasts a lounge and complementary coffee bar for the use of students in the program.

Some extra work in classes is required of students in the program, but the most prominent assignment is undoubtedly the thesis, which is due by March 1 of the student’s senior year. Students can choose a topic within their major, and receive help from overseeing faculty members as they work through it.
Despite the seemingly heavy workload of the assignment, Baker has completed and turned in three of the four drafts of his thesis based on Romans 5-8.

“The hardest part is starting the research and typing the first page. It is a lot less difficult than it sounds,” Baker said.

Melvin added that the program, despite the label of honors, “does not imply added stress unnecessary to one’s life.”
“Do it,” Taylor said as advice to students contemplating joining the honors program, citing the scholarship and professor interaction as benefits.

Students will gain a “more in-depth knowledge of their major” and an edge on the competition for entering graduate school and the job market, according to Childress.

Details on applying to the Honors Program can be found on the Web page that can be accessed through the academics link at liberty.edu.

Contact Daniel Martinez at


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