College Profile: The Honors College at Belmont Abbey

Dean Wysocki, head of the Honors College at Belmont Abbey, developed this small college-within-a-college with high aims, confident in God’s revelation and man’s ability to discover truth and contemplate universal questions. The students who have completed the program affirm this assertion, frequently graduating with less stubborn confidence in unjustified opinions and greater confidence in their ability to hold uncertainty and seek truth without presumption. Of course, this bleeds into class discussions and personal relationships, where they are slower to speak and quicker to listen, humbly allowing the possibility that they may be wrong. 

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Program at a Glance

Core Curriculum:

The curriculum explores three important influences on students today: Classical thought, Christian thought (emphasizing the Church Fathers), and Modernity’s response. In each year, the students take the following courses:

Year 1: (poets, philosophers, historians) Homer, Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Greek Tragedies, Euclid, Roman Philosophers, Greek History, and Science Lab

Years 2 and 3: one semester Christianity (church Fathers), two semesters on modern thought (all in conversation with the ancients), then one semester again in Christian thought

Year 4: Modernity – bringing the great books to bear on modern dilemmas. 

Students can participate in one of three ways: 100% honors college courses, 92 credits + minors outside the honors college (like languages), 77 credits + any major outside the honors college.

Size:

There are about 130 students in the honors college as of Fall Semester 2021. Included in that number are the Catholic seminarians for Charlotte and Raleigh, who provide helpful perspectives to the traditional students.

Ideal Student:

The ideal student is a good reader, a decent writer, and, most importantly, open to discussion and close reading of classic texts. A student with a lower GPA and test score who loves to read, discuss the big questions, and is a resilient learner would fit better than someone with raw intellectual ability who is uninterested in challenging ideas and discussing complex human issues. The ideal student comes here because they want to learn how to live a good life and help others do the same. 

Recommendations for Applications:

The interview is the key element in the application process. Almost all the applicants who apply to the Honors College get an interview. Use this chance to show who you truly are, what you care about, and what motivates you to learn. The college wants to see that you can think deeply and well.

Teaching Pedagogy:

The Honors College uses the Socratic method to varying extents, allowing the professors to bring their own style to the classroom. Usually, they incorporate a blend of Socratic and lecture.

Best Time to Visit:

Ideally, visit October or late April, as that is mid-term, and the students and professors will have more time to interact. When you visit, attend classes, talk to Joe Wysocki, talk to professors, and talk to students outside of class. Try to get a feel for the community, faculty, and curriculum. 

Impact of Covid:

Belmont Abbey still has all its classes in person but has decreased class sizes to maintain safety protocols. However, Covid has caused a decrease in larger inside community events. 

Dr. Wysocki's Advice to High Schoolers Seeking the Right College:

Talk to the faculty one-on-one to get a sense of how they understand their program: how do they think of their discipline in relation to the others and in relation to happiness? Also, try to meet with current students and consider whether they are good human beings. Are they seeking the good together? Are they committed to living virtuous lives? You should seek students who take pleasure in the right things. At college, you need good company and good conversation. You should also check the rhetoric of the college. Do they emphasize that knowledge is power? If preparedness and outcomes are the goals, you should be wary; a college should care about the whole person and happiness more than just success. If they imply that happiness comes after college through outcomes and success, that’s a red flag.