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Honors Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are questions students and faculty often ask about the Honors Program. Answers have been supplied by the Honors Committee, which oversees the program. If you need answers to other questions, be sure to consult the Guide to Honors, available on the Honors Program page of the HWS website, and feel free to contact the Honors Secretary or any member of the committee.

Q: How do I choose a topic for an Honors project?
A: Your specific topic is negotiated with your faculty Honors adviser. He/she will often suggest useful ideas and resources for a project.

Q: How do I get an Honors adviser?
A: Talk to faculty members with whom you have taken classes and consult with your academic adviser to see who is available and interested in working with you on developing an Honors project topic. Starting these conversations well before your senior year is a good idea. Faculty serve as Honors advisers on a voluntary basis.

Q: Can my Honors adviser be differentfrom my department or program academic adviser?
A: Yes. It is typical to have taken courses with your Honors adviser before embarking on the Honors project. Having preliminary conversations with a potential adviser about Honors projects is a good idea. But the actual Honors adviser you select does not have to be your academic adviser.

Q: Can I do Honors in an area outside my major?
A: We strongly advise choosing a subject in your academic major. The Honors written exam is built on courses you have taken which are relevant to the Honors project.  Exceptions to this policy are subject to the approval of the Honors Committee.

Q: Can I choose a field examiner who is knowledgeable on my Honors topic but who isn’t a member of my major department and hasn’t taught courses in that field?
A: The Field Examiner is a member of the faculty who teaches or has taught courses in your Honors field and is responsible, with your Honors adviser, for preparing the Written Honors Examination.  He or she is chosen by the Honors adviser and is normally a member of your major department. If you have an interdisciplinary or an individual major, your Field Examiner will be chosen from among faculty who have taught courses in your major. Any exceptions to this policy must be approved by the Honors Committee.

Q: Do Independent Study (450) and Honors (495) classes count toward my major?
A: Yes, these courses count like any other 400 level course would toward a specific major or minor. Consult your department or program curriculum document for details.

Q: I am doing a project in the arts (media, dance, music, etc). Do I have to submit a written Honors thesis?
A: Yes, ALL Honors projects, no matter what area, require a written Honors thesis. Typically a media or arts project thesis may include introductions and reflections on the artwork or other projects completed as part of the project.

Q: Does the Honors Thesis have to take a particular form? Are there font, margin, color, minimum page requirements?
A: Every thesis must be bound as a book using 8.5 x 11 inch pages. There is a required format for the title page. For additional requirements, consult the Guide to Honors.

Q: Can I have two Honors advisers?
A: Yes, you can have two, or more, faculty members advising you BUT only ONE will be the designated adviser for signing the official forms, preparing the written exam, arranging the oral exam, etc.

Q: Can I do Honors with a faculty adviser who is not on campus or on leave?
A: We strongly advise you NOT to make such arrangements as this makes timely and in-depth advising much more difficult. Having an adviser who cannot meet frequently with you may put your project completion at risk.

Q: How often should I meet with my Honors adviser?
A: Our experience is that meeting at least once per week very much enhances the quality of your project and reduces unproductive or wasted effort.

Q: Does anyone fail to achieve Honors? How can this happen? Does the student still get credit for the Independent Study classes?
A: Yes, this can occur for several reasons. First, your adviser may choose not to continue your Independent Study/Honors courses due to lack of satisfactory progress, unanticipated problems, etc. Second, the Oral Examination Committee, which does not include your adviser, may determine that Honors should not be awarded. This determination is based on three items: the written exam, Honors thesis, and oral exam. See the Description of the Honors program for details. Independent Study class grades and course credit are determined by your adviser separately from the Honors designation.

Q: Can one faculty adviser supervise several Honors projects at once?
A: We strongly advise against supervising more than one, or perhaps two, Honors thesis in one academic year. Successfully honors is very time consuming for both students and faculty. For faculty, supervising one Honors thesis, in addition to normal teaching, community service and research duties, will keep you busy enough!

Q: Can I take the written Honors exam during my second semester of Honors work?
A: We encourage taking the written exam in the first semester of your Honors work. See the most current document available on the Colleges Honors web page for precise schedules.

Q: Can I do both a term abroad program and Honors?
A: Yes, usually you will need to arrange an Independent Study course as part of your term abroad program. Again, plan this well in advance with your Honors adviser.

Q: Does a course I took during a term abroad count toward Honors?
A: Yes it can; this must be negotiated with your Honors adviser so that you end up with two independent study classes counting toward your Honors work.

Q: Is a spring (junior year) then fall (senior year) semester course sequence possible for completing Honors?
A: Yes, you will need to plan with your adviser when you will complete the written exam following the written guidelines.

Q: Can I do both the Teacher Certification program and Honors?
A: Yes, but this requires careful planning and scheduling your student teaching semester so it does not conflict with your Independent Study classes. See previous Q&A.

Q: Can I do all the requirements for an Honors project in a single semester?
A: No, Honors requires two semesters of independent study level course work to count toward your Honors project.

Q: What if I am not sure I want to continue for a full two semesters of Honors?
A: Very often students take an initial Independent Study course with an adviser. Often this single course is sufficient to satisfy student interest in the subject, some continue to a full Honors project.

Q: Who makes up the questions for the written exam? How are they graded?
A: Your adviser, in consultation with the Field Examiner (and other faculty members who taught courses listed on your Embarking on Honors form), prepares the written exam questions. Your written exam answers are read by the three members of the Honors Oral Examination Committee and form the basis for questions by the Field Examiner. They do not receive formal grades (i.e., A, B, etc.)

Q: Are there various levels of Honors awarded at the end of the full process?
A: No, there is simply Honors or not Honors designation.