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Department/College Academic Honors Program Guidelines

Please note: Application forms must be typed. Handwritten forms will not be accepted.

The Academic Honors Program is designed to challenge students with superior academic abilities. The program provides an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of an academic area through independent study and close faculty-student association. Projects should provide the student the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, data analysis skills, research skills within their discipline, and/or the ability to present in a public and professional setting.  Students who complete the requirements outlined below graduate with the distinction of “With Academic Honors” noted on their transcript.

Academic Honors are awarded to students who:

1. Maintain a cumulative 3.5000 GPA.
2. Complete a minimum of nine semester hours of credit designated as taken for honors in the student's degree path.

What is an academic honors contract?

An academic honors contract is a mechanism for adding an “honors dimension” to a course within the student's degree path. The contract project should add an academic dimension to the course by introducing new material or by allowing the student to go into greater depth than normally required in some aspect of the course.  Any 300-799 undergraduate level course may be taken for honors with approval of the instructor and chair or director. A student must be enrolled in the course he/she wishes to take for honors during the current semester. The course must be in the student's degree path. Independent Studies and/or Readings courses are not allowed to be taken for academic honors.

How are honors contracts related to grades?

The honors contract does not affect the student’s grade in the course. No project/paper and/or course shall be accepted with a grade less than B.  To receive honors credit for the course, however, the student must earn a grade of “A” or “B” in the course in addition to completing the contract in a satisfactory manner. All incompletes must be finished no later than four weeks after the completion of the semester they are given.  In extreme circumstances, the professor involved with the project can request an extension of the committee, and this request must be in writing and provide a significant reason why the project needs to be carried longer than the four week window.  In any case, no project will be carried any longer than one semester. Students are not allowed to submit an application for another academic honors project until any previous incomplete has been finished.

How much work should an honors contract involve?

The honors contract project should be one that encompasses around 20 to 25 hours of work.  In the case of courses which carry a credit hour other than three credits, the scope of the project should be adjusted accordingly so that the depth and length of the project is congruent with the number of credit hours being taken.  For instance, a seven credit hour course in Nursing should have a project at least twice the scope of a three credit hour course project.  Conversely, a two credit hour course project would then have a bit less scope than a three credit hour course project.

What kinds of projects can be involved?

Standards and Guidelines for Honors Projects
Each academic department should develop baseline standards and guidelines for honors projects within their discipline. These standards and guidelines should be forwarded to the Registrar's office where they will be posted to the Academic Honors web site.  It then becomes the responsibility of the faculty and chairs of each department, as well as the College Academic Honors Committee to uphold the integrity of the standards and guidelines as they process the forms each semester.

Departments should be encouraged to approve projects that explore critical and creative thinking skills that truly push the students beyond the norm. This should not just be an exercise, but rather a project that will truly enhance student learning in the course.

The academic honors contract is designed to foster creativity in projects which are acceptable both to the honors student and the professor.  The examples given here are just that—examples.  While the scope and length of the project is up to the respective department/college to establish, the following list is presented to provide some historical perspective on past projects accepted by the Faculty Senate Academic Honors Committee.  The list is not in any way intended to limit the scope or nature of projects.

  • Class/Public presentation of research undertaken for the honors contract project.  Typically in the range of 20-30 minutes, accompanied by a power point presentation or some other sort of visual aid
  • Original computer program or project
  • Original musical composition, sculpture, theatrical script, or other work of art, or recital of musical work (s) that is beyond the normal scope of the degree requirements for the major
  • Additional laboratory experiments or mathematical problems, followed by written report, typically at least 5-8 pages in length
  • Research paper or written report (usually 8-12 pages) based on interviews, library resources on a topic related to the course, a biography of a famous person in the academic field, or a review of additional readings (books, articles) related to the course

In the case of all written documents and presentations, an appropriate bibliography is required.

Students who participate in the Academic Honors Program are encouraged to enter the annual Research Colloquium sponsored each spring term by the Office of Graduate and Continuing Studies.

How many contracts are possible in a semester?

Students are limited to one Academic Honors project per semester or summer session.  Exceptions are permitted only with special permission through the College Academic Honors Committee.

What are the procedures and deadlines?

Students must formally elect to take a course for honors by completing the Enrollment For Academic Honors form and have applications returned to the Registrar's office, Room 103 Russ Hall, by the Monday of the 3rd full week of classes. The application deadline for spring 2018 semester is 4:30 p.m., Friday, February 9, 2018. Please utilize the above linked form. The Academic Honors Committee requires that the application be typed. (You may type on the above linked form prior to printing). Handwritten forms will not be accepted. The following link provides an example of an approved honors project Sample Honors Application. Note the completeness of the answers.

Reporting Honors Contract Results

Contract results are reported to the Registrar’s Office when the professor enters the student’s grade for the course.

Any exceptions to the above guidelines must be approved by the Academic Honors Committee of the Pittsburg State University Faculty Senate.

If you have questions concerning the Academic Honors Program, please contact your instructor, advisor, or Jeanine VanBecelaere in the Registrar's Office, 235-4206 or email