Schreyer Honors College (SHC)at Penn State

Honors Option

A regular course can earn a Schreyer Scholar honors credit through what is called the honors option.

In consultation with the course instructor, elements are incorporated into the Scholar's coursework to qualify for honors credit. Those elements will vary based upon the discipline being studied, but may include and are not limited to:

  • Literature review
  • Lab experiments
  • Compilation and analysis of quantitative and qualitative research

Upon fulfilling those agreed upon elements and completing the course, the Scholar will earn honors credit.

The result should be an innovative, enriching enhancement of the course requirements that results in a mutually engaging and rewarding experience for student and faculty alike.


Requirements for an honors option include:

  • Supervision by the course instructor, who must hold a professorial appointment (anything with "professor" in his or her title, according to the Penn State Directory), or by a member of the Graduate Faculty List, or by someone approved by the SHC via an online CV submission. Instructors requiring SHC review will receive an appropriate e-mail upon student submission of the honors option proposal. Graduate students cannot be approved as honors option supervisors.
  • Consultation between the faculty member and the Scholar to identify the honors components for the course. Ideally, the honors option should delve more deeply into methodology, structure, and/or theory; address more sophisticated questions; and satisfy more rigorous standards than is generally expected by the non-honors syllabus. The honors option modifications should fit within the existing course's content and learning objectives published by the University Registrar in the Schedule of Courses.*
  • Submission by the participating student of an Honors Option Form on the Student Records System. The form must be approved by the course instructor and the student's honors adviser.
  • Regular meetings throughout the semester between the faculty member and the student to review and revise as needed the previously agreed upon honors components. Because honors option elements may be experimental, changes in the design will occasionally be necessary. Specific deadlines should be identified for staged completion of the honors elements. The student's grade for an honors option course should reflect all the student's work in the course, including work done in common with other students, as well as honors work done.

* Note: The honors assignments should be done as an alternative to some or all of the regular course assignments. Simply increasing the volume of work required or the hours spent on it does not constitute an honors option. The time required for honors assignments should remain commensurate with a comparable honors course having the same number of credits.

Some things to note about honors options:

  • A Scholar proposing an honors option for a course should have legitimate and understandable reasons for wanting to use an honors option course to meet his or her honors requirements.
  • Honors option courses are generally done in courses at the upper-division level (300-499) and are generally used to fulfill major, option, or minor requirements, as well.
  • At no time should an honors option course be used when a regular honors version of the course is available.
  • A student should seek viable alternatives before choosing an honors option course out-of-major or at the lower-division level (001-299).
  • An honors option is a voluntary effort by a faculty member over and above the usual time commitment for a course. Faculty are under no obligation to agree to an honors option.
  • Generally, Scholars will initiate an honors option proposal. The student should consult with the faculty member early in the semester, and bring along information describing the honors option, in case the faculty member has not done one before. Instructors and honors advisers can stipulate clarifications, modifications, or alternatives to a student's proposal and, if necessary, reject proposals which reflect limited or not serious preliminary thought.

Example Honors Options

Some examples of requirements Schreyer Scholars have met in order to earn honors credit through an honors option:

Dún Aengus in Ireland

Art Course

A book containing photographs of the Schreyer Scholar took while in Ireland during a summer abroad program. The student learned new photo editing techniques that enhanced the quality of the photographs used in the book. The Scholar also wrote a tutorial on high-dynamic-range imaging, a photo editing technique used to enhance nature and landscape photography.

Holocaust concentration camp prisoners

History Course

Research into a never-before-published Holocaust account. The Schreyer Scholars added historical context to a 55-page account by analyzing the settings and background of the author, in addition to researching the overall tone of the anti-Semitic German attitudes toward the people of Stopnica, Poland. As a result of his research, the Schreyer Scholar added historical context and analytical perspective on the author's previously unpublished account.

Close up of a flower

Biology Course

Growing plants using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Once the plants reached full size, the Schreyer Scholar treated and tested them using techniques learned throughout the semester. The student kept a lab notebook, wrote weekly summaries, and made a final presentation of her work at the conclusion of the semester. The technique also became the basis of the Scholar's thesis research.

Computational model of molecules

Chemistry Course

Applying computational tools to describe molecular geometry and conformations. The Schreyer Scholar carried out several experiments in computational organic chemistry designed to replicate a process reviewed during the course. The experiments, which aligned with course topics, included atomic hybridization and bond length, atomic charges and dipole moments, ranking of basicities of amines, acidities and electrostatic potentials, conformation of alkanes, ring stain in cycloalkanes, structure and reactivity of cyclic bromonium ion, molecular regeneration, solvent effects of SN2 reactions, and hydrogen-bonded base pairs.

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