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Honors Contracts

Honors contracts are the vehicle through which students complete Departmental Honors. A student will generally do 3-4 contracts (for up to 12 credits) and a senior thesis/project in order to complete Departmental Honors. All contracts must be done in upper-division courses (3000-level and higher). You may click on the Departmental Honors link, to the right, to see how your department organizes Departmental Honors.

Guidelines and Requirements for Honors Contracts

  • The onus is on the student. S/he should approach you with an idea that springs from the course content. Generally you work together on the contract idea but you may indicate what you'd like the contract work to be and you should feel comfortable that it represents Honors work. The contract work is separate from the work required for the course.
  • The student must return the signed contract to Honors by the fourth week of classes and begin work on the agreed-upon contract project. We've found that students are more likely to finish the contract if they work on it all semester.
  • You should meet with the student approximately twice a month to work on the contract. A key element of the Departmental Honors experience is this one-on-one mentoring you can offer the student.
  • Each contract should include a total of 15-30 hours of work for the student?not so much work that the student has completed an extra credit's worth of work, but enough that the student's work is significant.
    • In general, a contract for a 3-credit class should take 20-30 hours of work outside class time. A contract in a 2-credit class should take 10-20 hours; a contract in a one-credit class should take 5-10 hours.
  • Each contract should result in something that the student can be proud of, not just, for example, extra problems in a chemistry class. Contracts should contribute to advancing a common theme across courses in the student's major, which is, in turn, related to a future specialization.
  • Honors contracts often lead students to the topic for their Honors senior thesis/project.
  • A successful contract experience should create the kind of relationship that will lead to positive, detailed letters of recommendation.
  • An Honors Contract should be:
    • An opportunity for undergraduate research
    • A chance to delve deeper into the student's area of interest
    • A chance to do in-depth learning with a mentor
    • A way to extend the student-professor relationship
    • Preparation for graduate-level work
  • Possible contracts include:
    • working in an apprentice-like role a research project
    • additional reading, discussion, and synthesis on a topic of mutual interest to the student and instructor
    • researching a topic and writing a research or policy paper
    • a service or leadership initiative or internship related to the course focus
    • curriculum development projects like assisting you with a new unit
    • teaching tool or adapting course material for use in pre-college classes (especially appropriate for future teachers)
    • see link below for examples
  • An Honors Contract must not be:
    • Graded
    • Busy work
    • A longer paper
    • Extra homework problems
    • Extra reading assignments
    • Part of the expected workload of the class
  • Contracts may not be used retroactively to give Honors credit for classes taken previously.
  • Honors contract work should not affect the student's grade in the class.
  • Incompletes are not permitted; students must finish the Honors work in the semester contracted, except in extreme circumstances, with the approval of the Honors Director.
  • The contract must be completed by the last day of classes each semester. Contract work may not extend over winter break or into another semester, except in extreme circumstances, with the approval of the Honors Director.
  • At the end of the semester, Honors sends the contract form to you, the instructor. If the student has completed the agreed-upon project, please sign the contract and send it back to Honors.
  • Honors will then post an "H" next to the course on the student's transcript.


If a student is unable to complete a contract, s/he must send a letter to the Honors Director indicating what went wrong and how the student plans to fix that in the future in order to complete Honors successfully in order to be permitted to continue with Honors. After two such incomplete contracts, the student must meet with an Honors student committee before s/he will be permitted to continue in Honors.

Need contract ideas?

Click here to view exemplary contracts from past semesters.

Also, we require that you work on no more than four contracts per semester. If you are also serving as advisor for an Honors thesis, this number goes down to 2 per semester. We believe that this limit represents the maximum amount of time any professor may reasonably dedicate to mentoring an Honors student. The professor/student relationship is key to this process, and it is through you that we expect the student will receive guidance regarding graduate/professional school and other post-graduation options.