Honors Program Basics

The Honors Program at Georgetown College consists of three elements:

  • 15 hours of Honors credit (Honors Sections, Honors Increments, or Honors Contract courses)
  • a three-hour Honors Seminar
  • an Honors Thesis

Unless you are an Oxford Honors Scholar (see below), you are not required to complete all three of these elements in order to remain in good standing in the Honors Program, The more you can do, the better! Completion of any of these elements will be noted on your transcript upon graduation from Georgetown College. In order to stay in the Program, a student must:

  • maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA
  • remain active in Honors work by taking Honors courses on a regular basis and/or working toward a Senior Thesis.

Why should I join the Honors Program?

The Honors Program will benefit its members on many levels, both intellectual and practical.

Honors Program students will be able to take specially structured Honors Sections of selected general education classes. These sections will be taught by the College’s most respected faculty members and will feature innovative and interesting approaches to the general education requirements.

Students will also be able to choose classes with Honors Increments. These classes will be offered to the student body as a whole, but any Honors Program students in these classes will benefit from the special attention they will get from the faculty, who will set up alternative or additional assignments or activities for the Honors Program students. An Honors Contract offers similar opportunities, but on the basis of a specially designed arrangement between an individual Honors student in a regular course and the faculty member teaching that course.
Students who pursue an Honors Program degree will discover that they will receive the challenges that should prepare them more effectively for graduate and professional school exams. Programming for Honors Program students will focus on ways to prepare for graduate and professional schools, starting in the freshman year.

An Honors Program degree will be an advantage for students intending to apply to enter graduate and professional schools. In this era of grade inflation, graduate school admission often depends on your ability to demonstrate superior commitment to academic excellence.

The Program will sponsor dinner meetings and special events where students will be able to interact with faculty and special guests on a personal level.

Honors students will have enhanced opportunities to work with faculty members and with each other in a way that should encourage intellectual growth for everyone.

Since Honors Program students are drawn from a wide variety of disciplines, students should have an opportunity to make cross-disciplinary connections, both in Honors Program classes and in Honors Program opportunities outside the classroom.

Because Honors Program students will be able to form close working relationships with top faculty members, those faculty members will be in a position to write well-informed letters of recommendation for jobs, graduate school, and professional school.

You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you made the most of your college career by seeking challenges and stretching your mind.

Who is eligible to apply to the Honors Program?

The Honors Program Committee solicits applications from high school students who plan to attend Georgetown in the upcoming year, and from students already at Georgetown.
The best way to enter the Program is directly from high school. We welcome applications from any high school student, although it is advisable that you have an overall ACT score of 28 or higher. Students with a lower ACT score may still be admitted if they show strengths in particular areas. In some cases a student may be admitted provisionally, with initial limits on how many Honors courses they may take.

Current students with a college GPA of 3.3 or higher may also apply to the Program. Current students should keep in mind that, in order to complete all elements of the Honors Program it is important to enter the Program early. Any student who maintains a 3.3 or higher college GPA is eligible to apply to the program. Selected incoming freshmen may also be invited to join, based on such criteria as ACT scores and high school academic performance.

How do I apply?

Students may submit an application form at any time before pre-registration of the semester before entering the program. (Students entering from high school should have applied prior to their Early registration Summer Workshop, so that they can select their Fall schedules accordingly.) The application form is available from the Honors Program Website. Download the application as a Word document, fill it out and answer the essay questions thoughtfully. Return the application (by email if possible) to the Honors Program Director at the address given on the form.

How will my transcript reflect my participation in the Honors Program?

Each completed Honors Section, Honors Increment, and Honors Contract Course will be noted on your transcript. When you graduate, the transcript will include a special for each of the three elements of the Program that you complete.

What is an Honors Section?

Honors Sections are specially designated sections of general education classes in which registration is restricted to students who have been accepted into the Honors Program.

These courses may differ from standard general education classes in many ways. In some cases, the class may be more interdisciplinary in focus, or it may be based on a Great Books approach to the subject matter. In other cases, there may be more opportunities for original research and experimentation, or for one-on-one tutorial work with the professor.

Honors Sections will generally have fewer students than standard versions of the same course, and they may often be in the seminar format, rather than the standard lecture approach.

The Honors Program plans to offer at least two general education classes each semester as Honors Sections. Remember, you must take a minimum of 15 semester hours (five three-hour classes) in Honors Sections, Honors Increment Courses, or Honors Contract Courses in order to be listed as having completed the Honors Course element of the Program.

What is an Honors Increment?

An Honors Increment consists of a standard class (usually in the General Education curriculum) and an extra pre-approved Honors component. In sections that offer Honors Increments, students take a normal class that is open to all students; however, Honors students also have the opportunity to pursue some additional study or activities to enrich the class experience.

Honors Increment work can take many forms, including but not limited to additional or alternate reading assignments; expanded or redirected research or paper assignments; supplemental tutorial sessions, etc. The goal is to ensure greater depth, rather than simply greater volume, in the Honors student’s experience.

The Honors Program attempts to offer at least four Honors Increments each semester, so students should have a broad range of classes in which to earn Honors credit. As a result, we expect most Honors students to complete many of their Honors credits in Honors Sections and Honors Increments. However, if you wish to earn your Honors credit in a course that is not scheduled as an Honors Section or Increment, you can work with the faculty member who teaches that course and set up an Honors Contract in almost any college course.

What is an Honors Contract?

Most Honors students will want to earn some Honors credit in classes that are not Honors Sections or Increments, especially as they advance in their major and minor. The Honors Contract system permits a student (who has already earned at least 9 hours of Honors credit) to take the initiative and arrange for individual Honors credit in almost any course.
The Honors Contract requires the student to complete some extra or different assignments to earn Honors credit, like an Honors Increment; however, in this case the Honors work can be tailored precisely to the individual student’s interests and abilities.

To set up a Contract, the student determines which course s/he wishes to upgrade to earn Honors credit and then asks the professor to help devise a proposal to earn Honors credit. If the professor is willing, then the student and professor jointly decide what constitutes appropriate Honors work for the student in that class. Finally, they submit the proposal to the Honors Committee for approval. The Honors Program particularly encourages proposals that stress undergraduate research or interdisciplinary work, but creative or unusual proposals will also be welcome.

Students may download an Honors Contract form from the Honors Program Website. The completed form, signed by both the student and the professor, would then be returned to the Honors Program Director for Committee approval. These proposals should be submitted within the first three weeks of the semester.

Important Note on Honors Sections and Increments:

Honors Sections, and almost all Honors Increments, fulfill general education requirements. Hence completion of the Honors Course element of the Program does not slow down your progress toward graduation.

What is an Honors Seminar?

Every honors student must take at least one Honors Seminar. These seminars will be team-taught interdisciplinary seminars that will focus on a topic (approved by the Honors Program Committee) that will be announced at pre-registration. Students would generally take this seminar in their sophomore or junior year. Additional Honors Seminars can be taken and would count as hours in honors courses.

The goal of the Honors Seminar is to help students make connections across disciplines. The professors will provide a context for students in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences to explore the ways their disciplines intersect in the study of a particular topic. Some interdisciplinary seminars may be offered as Honors Increments and count for seminar credit.

In many cases the Honors Seminar is cross-listed as an upper-level special topics course in two or more departments. Students who happen to be majoring in one of those departments may find, therefore, that the Seminar counts toward their major.

What is required for an Honors Thesis?

The crowning achievement in the Honors Program is the completion of an Honors Thesis or Project, usually during one’s final year at Georgetown. If you are required to write a thesis as part of the standard program of study in the major, then that required thesis can become an Honors Thesis. In disciplines that do not require a senior thesis, the Honors Thesis may be completed as part of an independent study. A creative project may also be accepted as an Honors Thesis. Many departments have a special 3-credit class, such as an Independent study or a Senior Seminar within a department, that can be devoted to thesis work.

Bear in mind that Honors Thesis work involves a great deal more than a regular 3-credit class: a significant amount of advance planning and preparation must take place. For example, a person who wishes to complete an Honors Thesis his or her senior year should ideally decide on a broad topic and secure a thesis advisor no later than the Spring semester of the junior year. This allows for some preliminary reading and/or research to take place in the summer. There is also a requirement to present one’s work in a public forum, minimally at the Honors Program Poster Session held in April of each year. For more detailed information on Honors Thesis requirements and time-tables, please consult the Honors Program website.

Can I drop an Honors Increment or Contract without dropping the course?

Yes. If you wish to drop an Honors Increment or Contract, you can stay enrolled in the course. Your grade in the course will not be affected. It is also possible to get a grade for the course but not get credit for the Honors Increment or Contract, if the professor is not satisfied that your work in the Increment meets Honors Program standards. This failure to earn the Honors credit will not affect your GPA.

Similarly, if you are writing an Honors Thesis as part of your major’s senior thesis requirement or as an independent study, it is possible to drop the Honors designation without dropping the course. It is also possible for the supervising professor to give you a grade for the thesis but not approve it for Honors credit.

What happens if I withdraw from the program?

If you elect to withdraw from the program, you should inform the Honors Program Committee chairman as soon as possible. You can be removed from the program for lack of progress toward the Honors Program Degree or for failure to maintain the minimum 3.0 GPA.
Any Honors Program student who goes two consecutive semesters without academic involvement in Honors work, either through courses or Thesis study, may be removed from the program. Students may appeal the committee’s decision if the committee drops them from the program.

There is a probation policy for any Honors student whose GPA falls below 3.0, allowing the student to remain in the program while s/he brings her/his grades up. Affected students should contact the Honors Program Director in order to discuss the policy.

Will participation in the Oxford Program count as participation in the Honors Program?

The Honors Program Committee accepts up to eight hours of Oxford credit as Honors Program hours. When students return from Oxford, they will need to submit their Tutorial Reports to the Honors Program Committee, which will then evaluate them and make the decision about awarding Honors Program credit. Students may also take Tutorial Topics classes for Honors Program credit; however, those will need to be approved as HonorsContracts by the Honors Program Committee.

Are there any special scholarships for Honors Program students?

For several years, Georgetown students have been studying as visiting students at Oxford University (for more information, see the Oxford Tutorial Program overview). A new Oxford Honors Scholarship is now available to Honors Program students who are willing to combine the best of an American liberal arts honors education with elements of the vaunted Oxford University tutorial method of teaching and learning. This scholarship includes a yearly stipend in addition to any regular academic awards, and recipients will also be eligible for an additional scholarship to cover all tuition costs should they decide to pursue study at Oxford in the junior or senior year. For more information, consult the Oxford Honors Scholarship link.

I’m going to be a junior next semester. Is it too late to join the Honors Program?

Not necessarily. Since most Honors sections and Honors Increments are associated with lower-level general education courses, you may have difficulty completing the Honors Course element (15 or more credit hours of Honors Sections, Increments and Contracts). It should still be possible, however, to take an Honors Seminar or to plan for the Honors Thesis.

If you are unsure of your ability to complete a desired Program element on time, please talk to the Honors Program Director for advice.