History is the critical examination of the experience of humans in the past, and of our sources of knowledge about that past. History is not just about memorizing "facts" about the past, but it is the active, creative, invigorating process of interpreting and narrating a past that must be reconstructed from the documentary record.
For a brief but profound examination of this question, we recommend this piece from the American Historical Association: http://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/archives/why-study-history-(1985)
The study of History cultivates your pathways of humanistic empathy and understanding of the world around you, your scientific skills of objective investigation, and your creative skills of artistic/aesthetic production of beautiful narratives. The study of history thus develops your imagination in ways that synthesize all approaches to the study of humanity. Studying history involves every imaginable approach and utilizes every conceivable skill drawn from all the academic disciplines. It is a discipline particularly attractive to those who seek to cultivate themselves holistically, as citizens, scholars, and investigators of important human problems.
For more on the questions What is History and Why Should I Study History, please go to the website for the American Historical Association History Tuning Project: http://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/current-projects/tuning/history-discipline-core
The advanced study of History prepares your mind with the skills of research, critical thinking, and writing appropriate for careers in numerous fields. For more detail, here are three short websites we recommend which discuss all the categories of professional work for which a History degree can prepare you:
Careers for History Majors, from the American Historical Association: http://www.historians.org/jobs-and-professional-development/career-resources/careers-for-history-majors
What Can I Do as a History Major, from the UC Davis Department of History: http://history.ucdavis.edu/undergraduate/what-can-i-do-as-a-history-major
Besides Teaching, What Can You Do With a History Degree? http://www.ewu.edu/Documents/CSBSSW/History/Advising%20Documents/Besides%20Teaching.pdf
Yes! Each year the department offers a specific course for Internships, History 3995. In that course, you will be placed with a local public history institution, such as the Pioneers Museum, the Archives section at the United States Olympic Committee, the Broadmoor Archives, or many other local museums, library, and archives. You will learn not only from working with a professional at a public history institution, but also from reflecting on your experience in the History 3995 class, which will be taught by a local public history professional.
Yes! The Department gives out Highest Honors, High Honors, and Honors at each graduation. You may also join the national honor society for History, Phi Alpha Theta, through the department.
Aside from earning good grades and studying for the appropriate pre-professional exam (the GRE, the LSAT, or any of the others), the best thing you can do is work closely with a History Department Faculty member on a substantial research project of your own devising. This can be part of your Senior Thesis requirement, or it can supplement that project. In your project, you should prepare a professionally written work in History based in primary source research, which can then serve as your writing sample to send to the graduate school of your choice. You should also, of course, research graduate schools, and learn which ones have the right faculty and programs for the interests you have and for the degree you are seeking.
History offers a variety of courses covering Ancient Greek and Roman history, histories of the Civil War and World War I and II, history of the Middle East, and Native American history, among others.
According to renowned historians Anthony Grafton and James Grossman of the American Historical Association, "the best defense for requiring students to do a research thesis is that it’s in the archive where one forms a scholarly self—a self that, when all goes well, is intolerant of weak arguments and loose citation and all other forms of shoddy craftsmanship; a self that doesn’t accept a thesis without asking what assumptions and evidence it rests on; a self that doesn’t have a lot of patience with simple-minded formulas and knows an observation from an opinion and an opinion from an argument." More.