How to Approach Your Honors Curriculum

Students sharing a table to do research

Think about a time when you received an unsatisfactory grade in school or when your project was criticized by your teacher and peers when you envisioned quite the opposite. What was your reaction? Were you upset, angry or discouraged? Were you persistently trying to prove and substantiate your opinions and ideas and seek validation from others? Such reactions are normal and are part of our human nature, but they are also unhealthy and to some extent, hinder your growth. This article will focus on the two distinct mindsets and how the adoption of either one at the start of your college career will significantly determine the course of your life.

Some psychologists would identify the aforementioned situational reactions as a fixed mindset. According to one well-renowned psychology researcher of modern time, Dr. Carol Dweck (2016), the fixed mindset is a mental framework, within which a person unconsciously believes that there exists a certain amount of potential, talent, intelligence or personality and that a certain amount needs to be proved over and over again to others.

Think of “fixed” as stationary or even permanent. Since people believe that their intelligence is fixed, they always need to prove it to others and have it confirmed, whether in the classroom, in their families or in their careers. In sharp contrast to the fixed mindset, there exists another mentality, the focal points of which are development and growth–the growth mindset (Dweck, 2016). This mindset revolves around the belief that people can develop, grow and enhance their talents, intelligence, skills and personality features with effort, practice, experience and application (Dweck, 2016).

That means that you can stretch and increase your intellectual capacity by putting enough effort, willingness and work. Even while describing the two mindsets, it is automatically appealing to adopt the latter one; however, it is also more difficult to do when various situations call for it.

As incoming or current honors students, you have already established your high-achieving status; you have demonstrated that you work hard and put in tremendous effort to accomplish great results, whether it is reflected in your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, class rank or extracurricular involvement. However, now you will be submerged into another level of honors in a college setting. As opposed to having a load of homework assignments that consume your time, the GCU Honors courses will challenge you differently by developing and enhancing your critical reasoning, presenting worldviews that you might not have explored before, encouraging debate and teaching how to constructively substantiate your view, as well as preparing you how to become next-generation leaders.

This is not to say that you will not have Honors homework, but rather that you need to be prepared for a different type of challenge. There also needs to be a contribution from your part: you need to be open to this challenge and approach it with an eagerness to learn, cultivate and develop. That is when the growth mindset steps boldly into play.

Next time you receive something below an A (trust me you will survive those days and the world will still exist), your writing assignment is critiqued by your professor or you are challenged by your classmate’s opposing view, think about what you can learn, where you went wrong and how you can stretch yourself.

As opposed to complaining about your instructor’s feedback to your roommate, try to visit your professor, ask for assistance and look for areas where you can improve and how you can improve. As opposed to being upset and discouraged by your classmate’s opposing views, think of what you can learn from it and what it means for others to have a worldview different from yours.

The takeaway is to take feedback, embrace the challenge, accept criticism and overcome your feelings of bitterness and discouragement when you are challenged. You learn and structure self by diving into the challenge and accepting it, and hence lead a more successful and fulfilling life. For growth-minded individuals, there will never be an “end” of growth. You will hit significant milestones by graduating college, building your dream career, establishing fruitful friendships, creating a family, but even then you do not cease.

You may take a few steps backward, you may plateau and you may face setbacks, but then you march forward again because this is a path of continuous development and constant growth. Would you take on that challenge–would you embrace the growth mindset?

To learn more about how you can join a community of likeminded honors students in making change in the world, visit our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.


  • Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.