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Honors By Contract

What is Honors by Contract?

The Honors-by-Contract (HBC) course option is a mechanism for Honors students to explore a specialized area of interest, and to do so at an Honors level, even if an Honors course is not being offered in that particular subject.

Within the framework of a traditional (non-honors) course, the student and professor together agree to a set of enhancements that raise the demands placed on the student to the Honors level. (Note: the extra level of work is not necessarily the amount of work, but the overall level and depth of work that will be conducted as part of the course enhancement.)

Proposed enhancements should address at least two of the three pillars of the Honors program curriculum, bringing depth to the students’ critical thinking, communication skills, and disciplinary connections of topics introduced in, or substantively linked to, the traditional course in which the student is enrolled.

For a course to be considered for HBC status, the student must submit a proposal for evaluation by the Honors Program Coordinator.

How many HBCs can I use towards my Honors Program?

Students are allowed to count up to two Honors-By-Contract units towards the completion of the Honors requirements. An HBC course enhancement must be at the 200-level or above.

Steps to Submitting a Proposal

Step 1– Meet with your professor. If an Honors student is interested in doing an Honors-By-Contract, the first step is to meet with the professor to see if it is feasible and if the professor is willing. Ideally, if the student knows the professor, this meeting should occur before the semester begins, but in all cases, the initial conversation should begin by the first week of the semester for a full semester course. If the course is being taken during Winter or Summer Session, all discussions must happen in advance. Typically, full-time, and not adjunct, faculty supervise an Honors-By-Contract; however, exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  To request an exception, students must make a clear and compelling case in their proposal for an exception.

Step 2– Develop the enhancement proposal. Next, the student and the professor together should come up with a plan for the student’s independent learning or research. The plan should include 1) the specific area(s) to be investigated and/or studied, 2) activities and/or methods to be carried out, 3) a tentative meeting and work schedule, with due dates for HBC milestones, and 4) a detailed description of the final product(s) that will be submitted for assessment. Examples of HBC course products might include: an in-class presentation/lecture, course materials, a report, experimental results, or a creative/scholarly work.  Please note that for proposal assessment, a detailed description of each product should be included.

Step 3– Prepare a draft of the HBC course enhancement proposal. The student (not the professor) prepares an approximately 1-2 page description and submits it to the professor for review. The HBC Course Enhancement proposal should include:

  • a description of the non-honors course– including course overview, topics, and assessment. You will need to upload a copy of the syllabus when you complete the application.
  • a detailed description of the course enhancements,
  • a general schedule for periodic one-on-one meetings with the professor and enhancement milestones,
  • a description of the final products to be submitted as part of the course enhancement,
  • for research papers, a preliminary list of primary sources to be used in researching the topic,
  • a rationale for requesting the specific HBC and how it enhances the applicant’s Honors Program experience, and
  • how the course enhancements create an Honors experience within the non-honors course, including an explanation of how the enhancements are aligned with at least two of the three pillars of the TCNJ Honors Program curriculum.

Step 4– Complete and submit the HBC Application (ONLINE ONLY). Once the professor has let the student know that they approve of the proposal, the student completes the Honors By Contract Google Form (see Canvas).

How is an HBC Evaluated and Approved?

The Honors Program Coordinator will evaluate each Honors-by-Contract application on an individual basis.  Evaluation will be based on the criteria indicated in the rubric below. Incomplete proposals and proposals that are not of the proper format will not be evaluated. Proposals must obtain a minimum score of 16 on the Rubric (see below) to obtain HBC approval.

Proposal Deadlines

Fall and Spring Courses
     11:59 pm on the Friday of the fourth (full or partial) week of classes

     11:59 pm on last day of Fall classes

     Maymester (Mini Summer Session)
         11:59 pm on last day of Spring classes
     First and Second 5-week
          11:59 pm, three weeks before the first day of the course
     Special Offering
          11:59 pm, three weeks before the first day of the course

Completion of Honors by Contract

At the end of the semester, the instructor should submit the Google Form available here.

The student must upload a copy of their completed Honors by Contract project to the Honors & Scholars Google Drive: a link to this Google Drive folder will be provided in the notification email sent to the student at the start of the semester. The link can also be obtained upon request to

Presentation of Honors by Contract Projects

Students who complete their HBC the fall or spring semester have the opportunity to present their work at the Celebration of Student Achievement of that calendar year.

Scoring Rubric for Honors-by-Contract Proposals

Each of the following criteria are scored 0-4.  To be accepted, proposals must score a total of 16 or greater but may be disqualified if any criterion earns a score of less than two.

  1. Description of non-honors course objectives, topics covered, and assessment
  2. Description of proposed enhancements
  3. Description of final product(s)
  4. Rationale for the enhancement and HBC status
  5. Description of how the course enhancement is aligned with at least two (2) pillars of the TCNJ Honors Program curriculum.
  6. Specific timelines for faculty meetings and milestones

Score Definitions

4 Excellent Description is complete, easy to understand, and provides clear criteria or justification for HBC status.
3 Very Good Description is complete and clear, but is missing some detail that would strengthen the proposal
2 Good Description lacks some detail and is unclear in places
1 Fair Description is at times unclear and lacks detail
0 Poor/absent Description is poor or absent