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Honors Contract Guidelines

What is an Honors Contract?

An Honors contract is a negotiated agreement between a student, a course instructor, and the Honors Director that enables the student to take a non-Honors course for Honors credit. The Honors contract is a useful alternative to regular Honors courses for students with particularly inflexible schedules and/or few elective courses. The contract also enables the student to undertake more advanced study than the constraints of the course normally allow.

A course contracted for Honors credit carries the same number of credit hours as the non-Honors version of the course. However, "Honors" appears on the transcript, and all credits earned count toward graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar, provided that the final course grade is B or better.

The work assigned as a result of the contract is not calculated into the final course grade. Final grades are calculated per the professor's original syllabus, reflecting the quality and content of all the student's work in the course. In order to then earn Honors credit for the course, students must successfully complete the proposed work at a level deemed satisfactory by the professor.

The following restrictions apply:

  1. No more than six credits of Honors contract coursework may be counted toward the coursework required for graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar. Exceptions must be approved in advance by the Honors College.
  2. 100-level courses cannot be contracted for Honors credit. Exceptions must be approved in advance by the Honors College.
  3. Contracted courses must be taken for a letter grade. Like all Honors courses, courses contracted for Honors credit must be completed with a grade of B or better in order to count towards graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar and good standing in the Honors College.
  4. Students who fail to complete the proposed work to the satisfaction of the instructor will not earn Honors credit for the course.

The Honors contract process involves four stages:

  1. Negotiation of an individualized syllabus with the course instructor
  2. Submitting the contract for approval by the Honors College
  3. Completion of the agreed-upon assignments and activities
  4. Submission of the completed work and Honors Contract completion form

Stage One: Negotiating the Honors Contract

The Honors Contract is a mutual commitment to a learning experience above and beyond normal course requirements. This undertaking involves regular interaction between the student and the instructor. While the details of contracted assignments and activities vary greatly, possible course enhancements include:

  • Collaboration with the instructor on a joint research project.
  • An analytical, research, or policy paper, in addition to or longer than those assigned in the "regular" syllabus, and/or more reliant on primary or original source material.
  • A service learning experience or internship related to the course focus.
  • An audio/video project, performance, or artistic work related to the course focus.
  • Curriculum development projects, such as assisting the professor with the development and implementation of new teaching tools or class activities.

The Honors Contract is a product of negotiation. Instructors are under no obligation to supervise Honors Contracts. They are much more likely to agree to do so if the enriched assignment or activity is of interest or use to them. You should therefore be prepared to modify and adapt your proposed contract to suit the interests and needs of the instructor.

The Honors contract is intended to enrich the quality of education rather than simply increasing the workload. Nevertheless, it will involve more hours of student work. Generally speaking, an Honors contract in a 3 credit class should involve 20-30 hours of additional work over the course of the semester; 30-40 hours for a 4 credit course; and 15-20 hours for a 2 credit course. These estimates include meetings with the supervising instructor outside of class.

The student and instructor must also agree on the criteria for evaluating the project. This includes agreement on whether the project will be graded or, if not graded, the criteria by which it will be judged satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Stage Two: Submission of the Contract Proposal

The Honors contract proposal consists of three parts: (1) the electronic Contract to Honorize a Course, which will be signed by both the student and the instructor; (2) a copy of the original course syllabus; and (3) a brief (one to two page) description of your proposed project. All Honors contract proposals must be submitted no later than the end of the third week of classes, counting forward from the first day of the semester.

The following information should be included in your proposal:

  1. State precisely how your project differs from the regular work of the class.
  2. Make very clear what you're doing, why you're doing it, how you're doing it, when you're doing it, and what the outcome (or final product) of your project will be. It may help to think of your proposal as a question or problem that you wish to answer or solve, or at least to shed more light upon.
  3. Include an explicit timetable for meetings with the course instructor, submission of the components or drafts of the project, and submission of the final product. The final deadline can be no later than the scheduled final exam period for the course.
  4. Include an explicit statement of the criteria that will be used to evaluate the contracted work. What are the minimum requirements that must be met in order to be judged acceptable?
  5. Very important! It is vital that the criteria by which your work will be evaluated is stated clearly and explicitly. Also, the following wording must be included in your proposal: "The Honors portion of the work will be assessed as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory by the instructor. A rating of Satisfactory will result in the student receiving Honors credit for the course. A rating of Unsatisfactory will result in no Honors credit being awarded for the course. Performance on the Honors Contract work will not affect the final grade in any circumstance." This is for your own protection!

The Honors College may approve your proposal as written, reject it, or request more information before making a decision.  Once your proposal is approved, the Honors College will sign it and send a copy to both the student and the instructor.  Approved contracts receive a transcript comment "transcript note" of Honors after the fact, once the registrar is notified by Honors that the coursework has been completed.

Stage Three: Completion of the Contracted Work

Once the contract is approved, work will proceed according to the timetable established in the contract. Like all creative work, your project will change and grow as you work on it and learn more about the subject and the resources available to you. This is entirely normal, and few completed projects wind up exactly as envisaged in the proposal.

In some cases, there may come a point at which you and the instructor agree to alter your project so substantially that the approved proposal is no longer an adequate guide for the completion and evaluation of your work. If so, you should submit an amended Honors contract proposal describing the new criteria for completion and assessment. 

Stage Four: Submission of the Completed Work and Contract Completion Form

If a presentation or performance is part of your proposal, invite members of the Honors College to attend. As soon as the contracted work is complete and approved by the instructor, you must submit a copy of the work and the electronic Honorized Course Completion Form. These must be submitted no later than 3:00 PM on the last day of the final examination period.

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