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The Tony and Norene Salvaggio Salesian Honors Program

This program was designed to offer gifted students the challenges and experiences necessary to thrive in the modern world.

  • As a first- and second-year student, you’ll hone your mind by discussing the ideas of great philosophers, theologians and artists in year-long, seminar-style humanities courses.
  • As a third- and fourth-year student, you’ll take advanced seminars in the arts and sciences taught by senior faculty from around the University, culminating in your own research project.
  • Honors students earn academic credit for monthly experiential learning opportunities that help to fill your resume with leadership skills, community service, and unique experiences that will make you stand out to future employers and graduate schools.
  • Honors courses substitute for general education courses, so students from almost any major can participate in the honors program while staying on track with their primary degree.
  • Honors students graduate with a minor in Catholic Studies.

Program Highlights

  • The Salesian Honors Program is open to students from any major and faith background.
  • Application to the program is competitive and limited to 15 students each year.
  • Honors students receive generous financial support, including a $6,000 tuition scholarship, $3,000 for international travel at the end of both their second and fourth years, and free experiential learning activities.
  • Honors students get preferential housing (including access to upperclassmen housing) and early course registration each semester.
  • Honors students take their philosophy and theology classes in cohorts, creating a tight-knit community of student scholars.

Learn by Doing

Experiential learning, innovative pedagogy, and student leadership are fundamental in the Salesian Honors Program. Curated activities are designed to provide students with non-traditional learning experiences, cultural enrichment, spiritual formation, and leadership opportunities that are not available to other undergraduate students. Experiential learning opportunities are graded and credited parts of the honors program. Students are expected to participate in at least one experiential learning event per month and a minimum of three events per semester. All experiential learning events are free for honors students.

The activities below illustrate the wide variety of opportunities available to honors students. Each activity is designed to stretch, challenge, and shape you into a well-rounded individual ready to lead in a complex and changing world.

Field Trips

Visit art museums or Broadway in NYC, or hear lectures by world-renowned scholars at Princeton. Go on pilgrimage with Franciscan Friars, travel to Notre Dame for a conference on faith and culture, or attend a concern with the Philadelphia Symphony.

Weekend Intensive

A three-part seminar on a single topic taught by a visiting scholar or professional. The opening seminar will take place after dinner on Friday night and will be followed by a social hour; the subsequent seminars will take place on Saturday morning and afternoon.

Public Debates

After researching and preparing their positions, teams of honors students will compete in Oxford-style debates before the university community. The topics of debate may either be of contemporary or perennial relevance to the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Community Service

Working with the Center for Faith and Justice, students will contribute their time and labor to various volunteer activities organized by the Center, e.g., working at local food pantries, participating in Habitat builds, or spring break service trips.

Spiritual Retreat

Students can attend an annual spiritual retreat a DeSales or a local retreat house.

Undergraduate Research Conference

Students will participate in a northeast regional honors undergraduate research conference, preferably by presenting the results of their own research.

Seeing is Believing

Each summer, after their second and fourth years, honors students will be offered opportunities to explore the world through international travel. These faculty-led trips may emphasize locations which are historically or culturally significant expressions of Catholicism. Examples of destinations include Rome and Athens, Spain and Portugal, England and France, and Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Honors students receive a $1,500 credit towards international travel for each year of the program they complete, resulting in $3,000 to defray the cost of each trip.


Study Abroad Rome

Honors Program Timeline

The Salesian Honors Program curriculum includes six courses intended to replace specific components of the core curriculum, and eight credits of experiential learning. Included in the coursework are two year-long course sequences, two upper-level seminars, and a senior capstone project.

First Year

Course Timeline Credits
Honors PhilosophyFall and Spring6
Experiential LearningFall and Spring2
 Total Credits8

Second Year

Course Timeline Credits
Honors TheologyFall and Spring6
Experiential LearningFall and Spring2
 Total Credits8

Third and Fourth Years

Course Timeline Credits
Salesian Honors Seminar 1*Third Year3
Experiential LearningLeadership Role, Both Semesters2
Salesian Honors Seminar 2*Fourth Year3
Capstone ProjectBoth Semesters2
 Total Credits10

*Salesian Honors Seminars are semester-long courses for upperclassmen that engage themes, topics, or thinkers in the Catholic intellectual tradition. Honors Seminars can be taught on any subject, by any faculty member at the university.

Honors students will spend the fall semester of their fourth year engaging in academic research or a creative project under the direction of a faculty member of their choice. They will then present their research or project in an appropriate venue in the Spring, e.g., the Undergraduate Research Conference, the DeSales Film Festival, etc.

How to Apply

Application deadline is December 15 for the following fall semester

Incoming first-year students may apply for acceptance to the Salesian Honors Program below. To be considered for the Salesian Honors Program, prospective students or late applicants must do the following:

  • Demonstrate high academic achievement on high school transcripts, including a 3.5 cumulative GPA from high school institution OR DeSales University.
  • Submit a resumé that includes biographical information, extracurricular activities and interests, and community service.
  • Submit two short essays composed in response to prompts on the application.

Apply to the Salesian Honors Program

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“Be who you are and be that well.”

– St. Francis de Sales