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Honors College thrives on small, intense courses


  • Incoming freshmen: 3.5 GPA, 1250 SAT, or 27 ACT.
  • Transfer students or current PSU students: cumulative college GPA of 3.5 or 3.5 for most recent year.
  • Two essays (at least 250 words each).

Apply to Honors 


Sarah Florig’s path to the University Honors College at Portland State wound through parental divorce, multiple cross-state moves and a leukemia diagnosis that put her in chemotherapy for two and a half years.

But that circuitous route has put her on track to a promising and surprising future: working on a cure for the disease that nearly sidelined her education.

“I was originally interested in doing veterinary medicine as a child,” Florig says. “Going through this experience, I knew I wanted to work with people.”

Now she’s preparing to go to medical school to become an MD and research cancer drugs. The Honors College, she says, opened that door, including an internship program that allowed her to work alongside Dr. Brian Druker at Oregon Health & Sciences University. He’s the doctor who famously developed the anti-leukemia drug Gleevac.

 “Honors has been very impactful, academically and socially,” says Florig, who is finishing her junior year. Her chemo treatments forced her to miss most of her junior year of high school. PSU’s honors coursework helped her to catch up to her peers in writing, research skills and analysis, and the close-knit community helped Sarah find a community of like-minded peers.

PSU’s Honors College has become an increasingly popular choice for students looking for academic rigor and the opportunity to do high-level research before grad school. Headquartered in an old Victorian house on the west edge of campus, the program has grown from less than a hundred enrollees to 750 students.

“Most of our students are looking for the benefits of a small college, but also looking for a broader variety of majors than they would get at a private college,” says Betsy Natter, the college’s interim director. “This gives them the best of both worlds.”

Honors classes generally are smaller, averaging 25 students. More than two-thirds of Honors students participate in internships or research programs, working in labs around the region or with a PSU professor. Each must write a deeply researched thesis to graduate.

“You become part of a cohort,” says Federico Perez, a professor of urban anthropology who is part of the honors faculty. “You’re learning and working with some of the most highly motivated students on campus.” 

Florig recommends that prospective students visit the Honors College, talk with some of the students and professors and compare the experience with other colleges they are considering. She wound up turning down invites from Reed, University of Washington and University of Portland to enroll in PSU.

“I’m working on my thesis and my first publication in a research magazine,” Florig says. “I wouldn’t be able to do that without the training I’ve received here.”

– Harry Esteve