When students return to Michigan State University’s campus next week, the Honors College will welcome about 600 freshmen – the largest class in its 58-year history.

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Enrollment in MSU’s Honors College has been on the upswing throughout the last five years. In 2009, there were 491 students while in fall 2013 there were 529.

While the average ACT score in Michigan is 20.1, according to ACT Inc., the average ACT score for this year’s incoming class of Honors College students is 31.7. The average SAT score for the 2014 cohort is 1,390 and the average high school GPA is 4.13. In addition, 64 of the students were high school valedictorians.

Other key statistics, according to the Honors College:
• 70 percent of the entering class intends to major in science, technology, engineering and math.
• 30 percent of Honors College women are interested in STEM majors, comprising almost half of the new honors students in STEM.
• Approximately 10 percent of incoming students are first in their families to go to college.
• 25 percent of students are out of state.

Of the incoming class, 200 students will be participating in the Professorial Assistantship Program, an intensive research program in which students work directly with faculty. Students whose academic records place them in the top 1 percent of entering college freshmen nationwide are selected for the program. PAs work an average of eight to 10 hours per week and are paid a stipend of approximately $2,500 for the academic year.

The incoming class of approximately 200 professorial assistants continues the long-standing and bold tradition of MSU and the Honors College to provide first-year students with hands-on research opportunities with our talented faculty,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the MSU Honors College. “Regardless of a student’s academic interests, the Professorial Assistantship Program offers an early and significant scholarly experience.”

The program is also a successful recruitment tool for MSU, she said.

It brings to campus students like Isaac Constans, whose hometown is New Orleans. He’ll be working with Joanne Gerstner, a journalism instructor, on research for her upcoming book on sports concussions.

“I think working with an experienced professor from day one will put me on the fast track to succeed in future classes,” he said. “I hope to learn valuable tips and information that I can use in all four years. I’ve always wanted to be a sports journalist. That Michigan State can actually help me reach that goal is astounding.”

Also engaging in concussion research will be Jimmy Stathakios, from Rochester Hills, who will work with Tracy Covassin, associate professor of kinesiology.

“This program will enhance my academic experience by providing me with the opportunity to perform significant research, while simultaneously building my resume for graduate school in future,” Stathakios said. “Also, because the program offers an annual stipend, I more than likely will not need a job for the first few years on campus and will be able to dedicate more time and focus to my academic responsibilities.”

In addition to providing a core honors program, the Honors College includes the Academic Scholars Program, the National/International Fellowships and Scholarships Office and the MSU Debate Program. Each year, the Honors College serves about 3,000 members and up to 400 students involved in the Academic Scholars Program.

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