VCU Honors College

Academics

The dossier

One of the goals of The Honors College at VCU is to instill a lifelong commitment to education and intellectual development in every student. As an honors student, you have been presented with numerous opportunities to grow personally and intellectually. Specialized courses, diverse programs and honors-only student organizations create an environment where you learn to interact with faculty members and fellow students for varying perspectives and lively discussions on timely and sometimes controversial subjects.

To earn the distinction of graduating with University Honors, all honors students are presented with the unique opportunity to prepare a dossier detailing their undergraduate career, including an essay focused on the opportunities the student has chosen to pursue. To be an honors student is to pursue an education that surpasses simply doing what is required, to discovering opportunities for personal and intellectual growth beyond the classroom. This may be demonstrated by a hunger for knowledge, involvement in undergraduate research, creative scholarship, or another kind of learning outside of the classroom, study abroad or international/multicultural experiences, and active engagement in the community.

The dossier is presented to the dean of The Honors College and the Honors Council during the penultimate semester of your academic work. Dossiers are due October 1 for May graduates, April 1 for August graduates and August 1 for December graduates. They should be submitted online to The Honors College before midnight on the day that they are due.

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You will be directed to the instructions for applying, after which you can submit your application online.

Dossier components

  • Application: You will complete the University Honors graduation application form through The Honors College website. This is separate from the VCU graduation application you will submit to the university.
  • Transcript: An electronic version of your transcript must be uploaded and attached to your online dossier application. Paper printouts of your transcript will no longer be accepted. You may need to print your transcripts from e-Services and then scan the document. Scanners are available at The Honors College for your use. Your transcript should be annotated to indicate which courses were honors courses. Please circle all honors classes and modules, honors sections of VCU courses, any courses you contracted as an honors course and any honors independent studies. 
  • Supporting documentation: Students will have the option to upload artifacts and examples of their work as they relate to the essay.  Remember that your transcript may not indicate all of your honors credit. Supplemental documentation is required in the following instances:
    • Non-honors to honors course contract – submit a copy of the contract with signatures
    • Honors study abroad credit – submit a copy of the approval form with signatures
  • Essay: You will include in your dossier an essay discussing the opportunities you have chosen to pursue throughout your undergraduate education and how these opportunities have related to your growth as an individual.  You may speak specifically to your development as a student, citizen, and/or professional.   Students will have the option to upload artifacts and examples of their work as they relate to their personal development.  The recommended length of the essay is eight pages.

Essay guidelines

The essay requires a thoughtful review of your entire educational career at VCU, including course work, living and working in your community, and your own personal development. Your essay should be introspective, specific and thorough and should focus on the opportunities you chose to pursue as a learner. Discuss these opportunities with specific reference to how they affected your growth.  Students may also choose to relate these opportunities to future plans and comment on how they will continue to grow and develop personally and professionally.

To further demonstrate how various experiences have related to your growth, you will have the option of submitting artifacts. These artifacts may be writing samples, photos of artwork, samples of music pieces, research publications, etc.  This is an excellent opportunity to showcase your creativity and achievements as a student, but this is entirely optional. 

Effective fall 2014, all honors students will be asked to complete a brief one to two page reflection paper at the end of each year through their junior year. These reflection papers are designed to aid students in writing their final dossier essay in senior year. Also effective fall 2014, sophomore students will be required to attend a brief meeting with honors staff and submit a brief statement of their intentions for preparing for the dossier.  Students may, for example, identify a peer group with whom they’d like to work, create a personalized timeline, or identify other resources they plan to use, etc.  These statements will be collected and kept on file with The Honors College.

Please note that these essay guidelines were revised in spring 2014.  If you are planning to graduate before May 2015, you are welcome to write your dossier essay according to the previous guidelines.  If you would prefer to follow the previous guidelines, you must email the coordinator of academic affairs at homermk@vcu.edu to inform her of your decision.  You can access the requirements here.

Helpful hints for writing your dossier essay

  • The suggested length for the essay is eight pages. 
  • Your essay should be formatted with double spaces, one-inch margins, 12-point font and black ink on white paper.
  • In determining the appropriate tone for the essay, students are reminded that the essays are being read by the faculty Honors Council and the Honors College deans.
  • Proofread your essay thoroughly before submitting it for review. Typographical and grammatical errors are the most frequent reasons that dossiers are returned by the Honors Council for revision.
  • Consider contacting the Honors College Director of Writing, Professor Faye Prichard, for assistance.  You must contact Professor Prichard at least two weeks prior to the deadline if you would like her feedback: fopricha@vcu.edu.
  • If you have questions or concerns about your dossier, please contact The Honors College coordinator of academic affairs at homermk@vcu.edu for assistance.