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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. Please note that 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. The enhancements proposed 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 taking during J-term, Maymester, or a Summer Session, all discussions must happen in advance).  Only full-time faculty can supervise an Honors-By-Contract.  Exceptions might be considered on a case-by-case basis; for exceptions, students must contact the Honors Coordinator as soon as possible and before submitting the proposal.  If a proposal is eventually submitted, students must make a clear and compelling case for an exception as part of their proposal.

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, a report, experimental results, or a scholarly work.  Please note that for proposal assessment, a detailed description of each product (e.g., content outline, how many sources will be used, product length) 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 (a copy of the course syllabus is recommended, but not required).
  • 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, and
  • an explanation of how the course 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. Once the professor has approved the proposal, the student completes the Honors By Contract Form (see below) and submits the form, proposal and related materials to 109 Green Hall.

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 (following page).  Incomplete proposals and proposal that are not of the proper format will not be evaluated.  Proposals must obtain a minimum score of 16 on the Evaluation Rubric to obtain HBC approval.

Honors By Contract Proposal Application

Please note that materials must be submitted by 4 pm on the Friday of the fourth (full or partial) week of classes for fall and spring courses. For Maymester and J-term courses, the proposal must be submitted by the last day of classes of the previous semester (that is, the last day of fall classes for a J-term course, and the last day of spring classes for a Maymester course). For Summer Session courses, the proposal must be submitted three weeks before the first day of the course. Late proposals will not be considered. The Coordinator of the Honors Program will evaluate each proposal for Honors-by-Contract, on an individual basis.


The HBC criteria and policies provided above have been approved by the Honors Program Council in Fall 2017 and are pending approval by the TCNJ Committee of Academic Programs (CAP).