Having entered as an open major, Audrey Balester offers wise words about college being about exploring your interests. Highlighting the benefits of the honors program and community in this regard, she says it "stands for learning--not just in the classroom but learning different perspectives, learning about the world around you, and learning more about yourself."

Dear Prospective Student,

First, congratulations! The college decision process can be such a stressful and confusing time, and I would just like to say that all of us here at the University of Iowa are so proud of you!

My name is Audrey Balester, and I am from New Lenox, Illinois. I will be going into my third year here at the university and I am studying Elementary Education with an endorsement in Special Education, but that was not always the case. When I started my freshman year, I was an Open Major. Before starting college, I felt uncomfortable about not having a major, but soon realized that college is all about exploring your interests and passions. I want you to know that it is okay if you do not have everything figured out yet – that is what college is for!

When I was in high school, I was not sure if I wanted to apply to the honors program. Whenever I heard the word “honors,” I pictured rigorous, stressful coursework. But after being able to speak with members who were in the honors program at the time, I learned that this could not be further from the truth. You really can cater the program to your own interests and passions. For instance, there is a requirement for experiential learning credit, and this can be earned by studying abroad, pursuing an internship, volunteering, and other opportunities as well. The UI Honors Program stands for learning – not just in the classroom but learning different perspectives, learning about the world around you, and learning more about yourself.

My very favorite thing about the UI Honors Program is that it creates a community within a large campus. Going to a Big Ten university can seem very overwhelming, but I have realized that Iowa is more than Kinnick and football. Those things are so awesome, but the honor program has allowed me to find that small community in a huge campus. As Hannah Montana once said, you get the best of both worlds!

My honors coursework has allowed me to form deeper connections with my peers and professors. My standard courses have as many as 500 students in them and the discussions are always, in my personal experience, taught by the teaching assistant. However, my honors classes have had less than twenty students and were taught by the professor. This has allowed my class to go deeper into the course material, become more curious about the world around us, and have in-depth conversations. Other experiences I have had with the honors program have been getting to be an Honors Outreach Ambassador and speaking to other prospective students and their families and attending Honors Primetime, which I highly recommend!

I am so excited that you are considering the University of Iowa. Coming here. Joining the UI Honors Program was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I am so excited for you to come along on this journey with me! If you have any questions, please reach out to me at agbalester@uiowa.edu. We are all here for you! Go Hawks!


Audrey Balester