Graduating with University Honors

Honors College students who have completed the rigorous academic requirements and have successfully presented a review of their accomplishments in an Honors dossier are eligible to graduate with University Honors. In order to earn this distinction, you must satisfy the following requirements:  



Honors Curriculum +

The required honors courses depend upon how you enter the Honors College.  

Freshman:

  • If you entered as a freshman, you are required to complete 24 credits in Honors coursework, including 18 credits in specific Honors core classes. Freshmen must complete the Honors writing sequence, (HONR 200 and HONR 250) in addition to the Honors core classes (MATH 230, PHYS 215, PHIL 230, and POLI/INTL 365).  
  • The Honors writing sequence, if completed successfully, satisfies 3 of VCU’s required courses (UNIV 111, UNIV 112, and UNIV 200). All freshmen must take HONR 200 and HONR 250, even if they have credit for UNIV 111 or 112.
  • The Honors core (MATH 230, PHYS 215, PHIL 230, and POLI/INTL 365) is designed to satisfy VCU’s set of TIER II “general education” requirements. These are not meant to be extra classes. For example, Honors core course PHIL 230 satisfies the humanities requirement set by VCU.
  • The remaining credits can be achieved by taking Honors electives, completing an Honors contract, completing an Honors independent study, participating in an approved semester-long study-abroad experience, or taking an approved graduate-level course.  

Continuing:

  • If you completed at least one semester at VCU before entering the Honors College, you must complete 24 credits of Honors coursework, but you are not required to take the Honors writing sequence (HONR 200 and HONR 250) because you’ve completed UNIV 111 and UNIV 112.
  • The Honors core (MATH 230, PHYS 215, PHIL 230, and POLI/INTL 365) is designed to satisfy VCU’s set of TIER II “general education ”requirements. These are not meant to be extra classes. For example, Honors core course PHIL 230 satisfies the humanities requirement set by VCU.
  • The remaining credits can be achieved by taking Honors electives, completing an Honors contract, completing an Honors independent study, participating in an approved semester-long study- abroad experience, or taking an approved graduate-level course.  

Transfer:

  • If you completed at least one semester at VCU before entering the Honors College, you must complete 24 credits of Honors coursework, but you are not required to take the Honors writing sequence (HONR 200 and HONR 250) because you’ve completed UNIV 111 and UNIV 112.
  • The Honors core (MATH 230, PHYS 215, PHIL 230, and POLI/INTL 365) is designed to satisfy VCU’s set of TIER II “general education ”requirements. These are not meant to be extra classes. For example, Honors core course PHIL 230 satisfies the humanities requirement set by VCU.
  • The remaining credits can be achieved by taking Honors electives, completing an Honors contract, completing an Honors independent study, participating in an approved semester-long study- abroad experience, or taking an approved graduate-level course.  
  • If you transfer to VCU with fewer than 54 credits, you are required to follow the same requirements as continuing students. If you transferred directly from another institution, having applied to VCU and the Honors College at the same time, you are considered a transfer student and your Honors course requirements depend on the number of credits being transferred to VCU.  
  • If you transfer to VCU with 54 or more credits, you are required to take any 12 credits in Honors coursework and are not required to complete the Honors core classes. You may complete your 12 Honors credits by taking Honors electives, completing an Honors contract, completing an Honors independent study, participating in an approved semester-long study abroad, or taking an approved graduate-level course.  

What should I do if I don’t think I can meet the requirements to graduate with University Honors?

Although we strive to make the Honors curriculum accessible, we realize that our students are trying to accomplish many things, including multiple majors and certificates. On rare occasions, earning University Honors may not be feasible.

In these instances, the first step is to meet with an Honors advisor to ensure that all options have been explored, including creative alternatives to earning Honors credit.  

Once all options have been explored, your Honors advisor may refer you to the Associate Director of Academic Affairs for review.

The decision not to pursue University Honors should not be made hastily. Students must be juniors or seniors before submitting this request.

Diversity of Study +

Students in the Honors College are expected to explore various topics and interests and we urge students to pursue opportunities in a variety of fields. Our Diversity of Study requirement can be satisfied by any one of the following options:

  • A minor in any field of study.
  • A second major in any field of study.
  • A dual degree in any field of study.
  • A certificate recognized by VCU. These certificates (not “certificates of completion”) include International Management Studies, Spanish/English Translation and Interpretation, Product Innovation, Venture Creation, and Sustainable Innovation. You may seek approval for another certificate program by contacting the academic programs supervisor.
  • Successfully completing two upper-level courses — level 300 or above — totaling at least six credits from two different fields of specialization that are beyond your own primary field of study. Please note, your field of specialization is broader than your major and includes allied subjects. For example, biology is a subject within the natural sciences, marketing is a subject within the field of business, English is a subject in the humanities and the craft and material studies major is in the visual arts.
  • Completing a focused study in a single field that lies outside your field of specialization by completing three upper-level courses (level 300 or above). Combined, these three courses should total at least nine credits.
3.5 cumulative GPA and 3.2 Honors GPA +

Honors College students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.

  • When calculating your cumulative GPA, the Honors College factors in every course you’ve attempted and the resulting grade.  This means that although VCU allows historical repeats that drop an original grade of D or F from your GPA calculation, the Honors College does not disregard the original D or F.  
  • If your cumulative GPA drops below a 3.5, the Honors College will place you on Honors probation and allow you one semester to raise your cumulative GPA. If it is not mathematically possible to do so or if you fail to raise your cumulative GPA to a 3.5 or higher during your probationary semester, you will be notified that you are no longer a member of the Honors College. However, you will be invited to reapply once your cumulative GPA returns to a 3.5.  Seniors entering their final semester with a GPA below 3.5 will also be notified of their loss of membership in the Honors College, but may still be able to graduate with University Honors (see below).

Policy on being on probation in penultimate semester

  • A student who experiences a decline in GPA during the final semester may be eligible for graduation with University Honors but is not permitted to take part in Honors commencement activities.  
  • If you are planning to graduate but find that your cumulative GPA has fallen below 3.5, you will  lose your membership in the Honors College for your final semester. However, graduation with University Honors is still possible. Although students in this situation are removed from the Honors College, the Honors College will still review their final semester grades and consider them for graduation with University Honors.
  • Students who wish to receive this consideration must notify the dean.
Honors Dossier +

To earn the distinction of graduating with University Honors, each Honors students must prepare a dossier detailing your undergraduate career.

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. The dossier’s components are (1) an essay detailing the opportunities you have chosen to pursue (which is submitted via BlackBoard), and (2) the Honors graduation application (which is submitted online). The application is now open for December 2017 graduates. In preparation for submitting the dossier, all students must watch a presentation and complete a short quiz, both of which are available on BlackBoard.

Honors Contracts +

The Honors College faculty and staff are dedicated to developing a unique program of courses that challenges and stimulates students while encouraging open discussion and individual responsibility. However, at times it may be appropriate for an Honors student to convert a non-honors course into Honors. This process is achieved by working closely with a faculty mentor to develop an honors plan of study. The student and faculty member collaborate to adjust the standard class syllabus into an Honors version that includes more advanced work. The honors work associated with the class may be done in lieu of regular assignments or could be completed in addition to the regular assignments. You and the instructor should determine and specify on the course contract what percentage of your final grade this honors caliber work will comprise. No more than six of the total credit hours required for graduation with honors may be taken as contract courses.

If you are considering this option, you should first speak with your Honors advisor about the process. Your Honors advisor will alert you to typical pitfalls that students encounter as well as common reasons proposals are returned for revision. After you have identified a class that you’d like to contract as Honors, you should approach the instructor and request that he or she work with you to convert the class into an Honors class. The faculty member is under no obligation to agree. You must be prepared for the possibility that the instructor does not have time or that the instructor feels that the class is not a good option for this contract process.

Once you have made arrangements to integrate advanced study, you must submit the non-honors to honors contract, including the details of your plan and the signed approval of your instructor, to your Honors advisor. The contract must be approved by the Honors College dean prior to the first day of classes for the given semester. Proposals are due at the end of the semester prior to the semester of the contract course. 

Please note that course contracts are not allowed for any of the core Honors curriculum courses. In addition, because summer courses are considerably compressed due to time constraints, they are not eligible for the Honors course contract option.

Honors Independent Study +

The Honors Independent study (HONR 492) provides an opportunity for you to learn more about a specific topic of interest that is not included among existing VCU course offerings. Study is conducted under the guidance of a VCU faculty mentor who assists in planning and implementing the course of study. The independent study topic should be selected in consultation with your academic advisor to ensure that the proposed course of study is relevant to your educational goals.

The number of independent study credit hours for a single HONR 492 course may range from one to four credits. The number of credits are determined by the student’s advisor and the dean of the Honors College. Any single independent study class may not exceed four credit hours. Honors students may not register for more than nine total credits of HONR 492. Independent study credits may count toward graduation with University Honors.

If you are considering this option, you should consult your Honors advisor, who can review the general procedure and go over typical pitfalls that students encounter as well as common reasons proposals are returned for revision. After you have identified a topic that you’d like to explore independently, you should research which faculty members might be available to oversee and evaluate your work. You should then reach out to the faculty member and request that they serve as your faculty mentor.  It is important to note that the Honors Independent Study is designed to provide you the opportunity to pursue your own research questions, not to assist with the research of another. Although some major departments offer independent study for serving as a lab or research assistant, earning Honors independent study credit requires you to take ownership of the research process.

The role of the faculty mentor is to guide the student in the study of the topic, meeting with the student to discuss progress, working with the student’s Honors advisor as needed to develop criteria for evaluating the student’s work, and communicating the grade for the course to the Honors dean. The faculty mentor must agree to be available to the student throughout the duration of the course. The faculty member is under no obligation to agree to serve as your faculty mentor. You must be prepared for the possibility that the instructor does not have time or that the instructor feels that he or she is unable to evaluate your work.

Any assignments required for the project must be submitted to a faculty mentor at least two weeks prior to the end of the semester. The structure of the assignments will depend on the type of project and must be determined in detail as part of the proposal process. The faculty mentor will determine the grade for the course based on the evaluation criteria stated in the independent-study proposal. To obtain credit and a grade for your independent study, you must submit the outcome materials specified in your proposal to a faculty mentor. The faculty mentor will communicate your final grade via official VCU email to the Honors dean, who serves as the instructor of record for all HONR 492 courses.

Once you have made arrangements to integrate advanced study, you must submit the Honors Independent Study form, including the details of your plan and the signed approval of your faculty mentor, to your Honors advisor. The proposal must be approved by the Honors College dean prior to the first day of classes for the given semester. Students are therefore must submit their forms two weeks before the start of the semester. Once the proposal is approved, you will be registered for the appropriate HONR 492 course.

Honor System Violations +

The Honors College is founded not only on academic excellence but also on academic integrity. Honors students represent the Honors College and the University in everything they do and are therefore expected to maintain the highest level of integrity.

Because the Honors College community is based on a culture of honesty, integrity and trust, Honors students must familiarize themselves with the VCU Honor System. Students should visit the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity's website to review the Honor System as well as the Student Code of Conduct. Any Honors College student found responsible for an honor system violation, following any appeals made, will be removed from the Honors College immediately and will not be eligible for re-admittance. Any student removed from the Honors College due to a VCU Honor System violation may appeal for readmittance after one semester.