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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. (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 taking during J-term, Maymester, or a Summer Session, all discussions must happen in advance). Typically, full-time 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 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/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 (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,
  • 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 approved 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 (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.

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.

Completion of Honors by Contract

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

The student should 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.