Requirements & Expectations Scholar Handbook
As a Schreyer Scholar, you enjoy access to tremendous opportunities for academic and co-curricular enrichment, leadership and career development, and developing a global perspective. With these opportunities come responsibilities, and the Schreyer Honors College Scholar Handbook is your guide to fulfilling those responsibilities through graduation as a Schreyer Scholar. As a companion to our website and the College’s online Student Records System (SRS), this handbook will help you chart your coursework and other academic requirements semester by semester. Periodic consultations with faculty, such as your Honors Adviser and eventually your thesis supervisor, will also be very important. Our staff is eager to assist if you have additional questions. Feel free to email, call, or visit the main office whenever the need arises.
This Handbook is not a comprehensive listing of honors opportunities — for that you should turn to our website and to our weekly newsletter. As with other Penn State academic handbooks, your requirements are determined by your "program year", which in this case means your entrance year to the Schreyer Honors College (as opposed to your major, or Penn State). Starting in Fall 2023, we have a single version of the Handbook. If changes to graduation requirements are made in the future, the Handbook will specify which version is applicable to you according to program year.
Mission and Vision
In the Schreyer Honors College we shape people who shape the world.
The mission of the Schreyer Honors College is to promote:
Academic Excellence with Integrity
Building a Global Perspective
Creating Opportunities for Leadership & Civic Engagement
To educate people who will have an important and ethical influence in the world, affecting academic, professional, civic, social, and business outcomes.
To improve educational practice and to be recognized as a leading force in honors education nationwide.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
In the Schreyer Honors College, we value and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in all its forms, whether that is in the classroom experience and the curriculum or in terms of the community of which we are a part. The Schreyer Honors College and Penn State community is deep and broad, with students, faculty, and staff who represent different cultural, religious, ethnic, political, and sexual orientations. We all contribute to our community and that varied experience is central to providing a world-class education and fulfilling the mission and values of the Schreyer Honors College and Penn State University.
The College believes that achieving academic excellence, building a global perspective, and participating in leadership and civic engagement are impossible without valuing and understanding diversity, equity and inclusion.
One of the most important experiences you will have as an undergraduate is the opportunity to meet other students whose culture, life experiences, leisure activities, family background, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation are different from your own, and possibly different from that of the majority of students you have known in the past. This is a tremendous opportunity for personal growth.
Maintaining Your Schreyer Scholar Status
University Faculty Senate Policy M-11 governs Schreyer Honors College membership. The provisions below are an implementation of this policy, both overall and with reference to specific situations.
Academic Integrity is defined by University Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 as:
The pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, the University’s Code of Conduct states that all students should act with personal integrity; respect other students’ dignity, rights, and property; and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.
Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.
A Schreyer Scholar who either is found to have committed an act of academic dishonesty by an academic college academic integrity committee or who did not contest accusations of academic dishonesty made by an academic college and waived in writing a review or hearing within the academic college may be subject to immediate dismissal from the Schreyer Honors College.
The Schreyer Honors College may revoke the honors medal and the honors diploma if a graduate is later found to have committed an act of academic dishonesty while enrolled in the Schreyer Honors College.
Social & Personal Responsibility
As described in the Penn State Principles:
The University is a community that promotes learning; any behaviors that are inconsistent with that goal are unacceptable. Irresponsible behaviors, including alcohol or drug abuse and the use of violence against people or property, undermine the educational climate by threatening the physical and mental health of members of the community.
A Scholar is expected to maintain a high standard of behavior by adhering to Penn State’s Student Code of Conduct and respecting the rights of others. Any member of the Schreyer Honors College who is found to have committed an act of behavioral misconduct that results in a transcript notation may be subject to immediate dismissal from the Schreyer Honors College.
Grade Point Average
For purposes of determining good standing, a semester may be fall, spring, or summer. Summer enrollment for 12 or more credits between the different summer sessions including Maymester will be considered full-time.
- All students admitted to the Schreyer Honors College must attain both semester and cumulative grade point averages (GPAs) of at least 3.40 while maintaining full-time enrollment (a minimum of 12 credits) in the fall and spring semesters to remain in good academic standing.
- Failure to attain a GPA of at least 3.40 in one full-time semester places a student in warning status for the following semester and removes them from good academic standing in the College. Students on Academic Warning will continue to receive honors scholarships, including the Academic Excellence Scholarship, but will not be eligible for grants and may not represent the College in mentoring or recruitment activities.
- Scholars who begin the semester as full-time students but late-drop below 12 credits and fail to attain at least a 3.40 with their remaining credits will be put on warning status.
- Scholars may be put into warning status after a part-time semester if their semester GPA puts their cumulative GPA under 3.40.
- Scholars on warning status must maintain both a semester and cumulative GPA of at least 3.40 at the conclusion of their next full-time semester. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the Schreyer Honors College, the removal of the Academic Excellence Scholarship and any other honors scholarships being received, and the termination of all other benefits and privileges of the College. This dismissal is independent of the student’s continued status as a Penn State student.
- Scholars on warning status may register for fewer than 12 credits (i.e. part-time status) for the following semester, but will not be removed from warning status regardless of that semester’s or cumulative GPA. Only a semester of 12 or more graded credits can return a Scholar to good standing.
- Scholars on warning who begin the semester as full-time students but late-drop below 12 credits and fail to attain at least 3.40 with their remaining credits will be dismissed.
- Students on warning status must file a special Warning Plan in the Student Record System (SRS) that outlines how they plan to return to good standing.
- Students who return to good standing after a warning semester, and who go on warning again, are subject to the requirement under (4) above.
Important: You must achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.40 or higher to graduate with honors.
Withdrawal, Dismissal & Appeal
Students may voluntarily withdraw from the Schreyer Honors College by e-mailing Academic Affairs and completing a Withdrawal Survey on the Student Records System (SRS). Withdrawal will result in the removal of all Schreyer Honors College notations from your transcript, but honors notations for individual sources will remain.
As noted above, in the Grade Point Average section of Maintaining Your Schreyer Scholar Status, students who do not successfully exit warning status in their next full-time semester will be dismissed from the College. Likewise, failure to file the Schreyer Plan or required elements of the thesis process (see Graduation Requirements, below), failure to meet honors credit requirements, or violations of academic integrity or personal and social responsibility, are grounds for dismissal. Dismissal will result in the removal of all Schreyer Honors College notations from your transcript, but honors notations for individual sources will remain.
Dismissed or withdrawn students may not re-enter the College via a future application.
You have the right to appeal dismissal via a letter to the Dean of the College, submitted via the Student Records System Petition form, during the 10 days following notification of dismissal. The 3.40 cumulative GPA requirement for graduation with honors is not subject to appeal, and no appeals are possible after graduation.
Please note that Scholars holding an Academic Excellence Scholarship (AES) and any other scholarship awarded through the Schreyer Honors College will lose that funding upon withdrawal or dismissal from the College.
Honors Credit Requirements
Your honors course and credit requirements are determined by:
- Your point of entry (first-year, second-year, third-year) and,
- Your current year or block (first-year/second-year, third-year/fourth-year)
In the information below, consult only the section corresponding to your entrance year. You can verify your entrance year in the Student Records System in the Academics section below your name and ID photo. On your My Academic Requirements page in LionPath, requirements are based on entrance year. If you believe your entrance year is in error, please contact the Academic Affairs Office.
Note that this section only refers to honors course and credit requirements, not GPA, forms, and thesis requirements which apply to all Scholars and which are outlined elsewhere in this Handbook. More information about how to meet honors credit requirements is included in the next section.
First-Year Entering Scholars Starting at University Park and Other Campuses Where Rhetoric and Civic Life is Offered
- Enroll in and pass Rhetoric and Civic Life I and II (ENGL or CAS 137 in the fall, 138 in the spring) by the end of the first year. An extension to the end of the second year may be granted in exceptional circumstances. RCL II fulfills FYS requirement for Schreyer scholars in all majors.
- Complete at least 21 honors credits (including 6 from RCL I and II) by the end of the second year.
- Complete at least 14 honors credits between the start of third year and graduation.
First-Year Entering Scholars Starting at Campuses That Do Not Offer Rhetoric and Civic Life
- Enroll in and pass ENGL 30 by the end of the first year.
- Complete at least 18 honors credits (including 3 from ENGL 30) by the end of the second year.
- Complete at least 14 honors credits between the start of third year and graduation.
Second-Year-Entering Scholars (All Campuses)
- Complete at least 9 honors credits during your second year.
- Complete at least 14 honors credits between the start of third year and graduation.
Third-Year-Entering Scholars (All Campuses)
- Complete at least 14 honors credits between the start of third year and graduation.
- Students who enter the Schreyer Honors College in the spring of second year via the Paterno Fellows Program may count honors credits taken in the previous (fall) semester toward their 9-credit second-year requirement. For all other students, honors credits taken prior to formal entrance to the Schreyer Honors College may not be counted toward honors requirements except for ENGL or CAS 137, which if taken in the previous summer will count toward all honors requirements.
- The summer between second and third years may be counted toward either the second-year or the third-year/fourth-year credit requirements as needed.
- For first-year-entering Scholars graduating in three years, the total honors credit requirement may be reduced to 26, defined as 12 credits in the first year and 14 in the last two years. For Scholars graduating in 3.5 years, the usual requirements apply.
- For second-year-entering Scholars graduating in three years, the total honors credit requirement may be reduced to 14. For Scholars graduating in 3.5 years, the usual requirements apply.
- Scholars who are on co-op in the spring semester of their second year, and who fail to meet honors credit requirements for the lower division as specified above, may petition via SRS to add that credit deficit to their upper-division requirements. The petition should be filed prior to the co-op semester.
- All third-year-entering Scholars must meet the 14-credit honors requirement, regardless of graduation timetable. No additional honors credits are required of students taking more than 4 years.
- Scholars pursuing their degree on a part-time basis must consult with the Academic Affairs Office about customized honors credit requirements.
Note About Semester Standing in the College
Semester standing based on credits is used in most Penn State offices, but the Schreyer Honors College looks at number of semesters of full-time enrollment. All entering students to Penn State, except for transfer students, are considered first-year students for our purposes; in their third semester they are considered second-year, in their fifth semester they are considered third-year, and in their seventh semester they are considered fourth-year. This method of counting is typically an advantage to Scholars, when it comes to scholarship eligibility and honors credit waivers for advanced-level courses (see below). If you have questions about your semester standing, please contact the Academic Affairs Office.
One of the pillars of the honors academic experience is honors advising, which has its own section later in this Handbook. The more interaction you have with your honors adviser, the better. The College does not mandate any particular degree of interaction beyond the Schreyer Plan, an annual document in which you list the courses you propose to take over the next year (fall and spring), and discuss your progress in meeting personal goals about career, internationalization, and leadership/civic engagement. This document must be reviewed by your honors adviser, who either approves it or sends it back with observations. The Schreyer Plan is available in the Student Records System.
For continuing Scholars, the Plan for the following year is due before priority registration for Fall, while for new Scholars it is due early in the Fall semester. Exact dates are listed under Academic Deadlines on the Honors Requirements page. You are responsible for timely filing of the Schreyer Plan even if you are away from campus on a Penn State program. If you are on a leave of absence, you must file the Plan by the next deadline when you return.
Failure to submit the Schreyer Plan will result in dismissal from the Schreyer Honors College.
Meeting Your Honors Credit Requirements
There are five ways to satisfy your honors credit requirements:
- Honors Courses
- Honors Options
- Honors Independent Study or Research
- Advanced- or Graduate-Level Courses
- International Study or Research
The honors course is central to the honors experience. The Schreyer Honors College Faculty Advisory Committee sets this standard for honors courses:
Honors courses engage students deeply, creatively, and ethically with the complexities of a scholarly subject. Honors courses challenge students to examine underlying frameworks, evaluate details of a subject, synthesize those details, and create, develop, or construct an advanced perspective. The content and assessment methods of honors courses provide enhanced opportunities for independent and innovative thinking.
Honors courses are typically capped at 20 to 25 students and are taught by faculty approved by the College. First-year and second-year students should expect to fulfill most or all of their honors requirements via honors courses, with limited exceptions by major and campus.
Any course that carries the Honors attribute in LionPath is an honors course, whether or not it carries the traditional suffix (T, H, U, or M).
While most honors courses are stand-alone honors versions of courses in the regular Penn State catalog (for instance, Honors Calculus I), others are uniquely honors offerings.
Identifying Honors Courses
The LionPath Schedule Builder includes a “Search by Course Attribute” feature that permits searches by course attribute (for instance, a General Education category) and a section attribute (Honors). The course search feature on the public LionPath site does not currently permit multiple criteria searches.
A grade of C or higher (or Satisfactory, for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading) is required for an honors course to meet honors credit requirements (as opposed to major or University requirements).
The honors option is a contract between a Schreyer Scholar and the instructor of a non-honors course, with the approval of the honors adviser, to make that course an honors-quality experience for the student. Because the honors option is, in effect, an honors course, the College maintains oversight over who can offer it and how to determine whether a course is appropriate for an honors option. Please see our Honors Courses & Options page for important information about this.
While the honors option should make for a more demanding experience for the student, it should not be based solely on additional work, but rather on enriched work, some of which may substitute for regular course requirements. The honors option proposal form in the Student Records System requires specific information regarding course expectations and timelines, including grade consequences for failure to complete honors option work.
The Honors Option request deadline in SRS is the 3rd Friday of the semester. After submitting the Honors Option form, students must then get approval from both their instructor and then their honors adviser in SRS.
For an honors option to be withdrawn after it gets processed, the Scholar must provide the course information by emailing SHCAcademics@psu.edu and copying the instructor on that email by the last day of classes.
Because the College strictly enforces instructor requirements, and because the instructor’s decision to permit an honors option is always voluntary, you should avoid relying upon a given honors option to meet final-semester honors credit requirements.
Honors Independent Study or Research
These credits fall into three main categories:
- Independent study, along the lines of a course but individualized to the student's interest under the supervision of a faculty member.
- Independent research toward the thesis.
- Independent research not toward the thesis.
To schedule Honors Independent Study or Research, you must:
- Secure an eligible faculty member to supervise your work. See the previous section about honors options for information about eligible faculty.
- Register for academic credit using course numbers for Research (294H or 494H), Independent Study (296H or 496H), or other (department-specific) course numbers.
- If the department does not offer the course with an “H” suffix, you must submit the Honors Option form to request honors credit for the course. The form is due at the end of the regular drop/add period of the semester in which the course is scheduled and must be filed online in the Student Records System.
Important Note: The Schreyer Honors College permits a maximum of 6 honors independent research credits to be applied towards the 14-credit upper-division honors credit requirement. Some departments set a 3-credit maximum. If you have more than 6 credits of apparent thesis work in the upper division, and are relying upon those credits to reach the 14-credit requirement, the Academic Affairs Office may ask for documentation of compliance with our maximum. Credits taken prior to third year are exempt from this maximum, even if they are for work that leads to the thesis.
The College recognizes the value of advanced coursework counting these courses toward the honors credits needed:
- First-year and second-year students taking graded 400-level courses
- Third-year and fourth-year students taking graded 500-level (graduate) courses
These courses will be counted on your Academic Requirement Audit but not noted as honors credits on the transcript.
The following conditions apply when counting honors credits:
- As for other honors requirements, the College looks at chronological rather than credit-based semester standing.
- For Scholars who take graded 400-level courses abroad offered through Penn State, a maximum of 6 credits may be applied toward the lower-division honors credit requirement. For non-Penn State programs whose grades appear as ungraded transfer credit on the Penn State transcript, only the credit waiver is offered (see below).
- For students graduating in three years (see Special Notes above) only 400-level courses taken in the first year may receive the honors credits waiver.
- For students in the Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Program (see section below), only those 500-level courses that appear on the final undergraduate transcript may receive the honors credit waiver.
International Study or Research
International programs offered through the Schreyer Honors College carry honors credit, and Penn State programs taught by honors-appropriate faculty may offer the honors option. In recognition of the value of international experiences towards our mission of “building a global perspective,” the College grants a waiver of honors course requirements for other credit-bearing international programs according to the following schedule:
One Semester (Fall or Spring)
3 credits (4 credits if primarily in a language other than English)
Full Academic Year
6 credits (8 credits if primarily in a language other than English)
Summer or Other Short-Term Trips
1 credit for 10 days to 4 weeks abroad. 2 credits for more than 4 weeks abroad.
Credit waivers do not carry an honors notation and are only relevant if needed to fulfill honors credit requirements. To receive a waiver, use the Petitions tab of the Student Records System.
Important Note: You may not receive both honors credit and the waiver for a single international experience.
Your Honors Thesis & Graduation
In this section, “graduation” refers to graduation as a Schreyer Scholar, with the honors diploma notation. The Schreyer Honors College does not have a role in overall graduation from the University, which is based on meeting University, academic college, and major requirements.
While Scholars may graduate in warning status for a prior semester under 3.40, under no circumstances may Scholars graduate with a cumulative GPA under 3.40. No appeal of this requirement is possible.
This section is not a comprehensive discussion of the various procedures associated with graduation from Penn State as a Schreyer Scholar — see our website for more information.
The Honors Thesis is the culmination of your experience as a Schreyer Scholar. Over the last few years the College has developed several resources to improve the thesis experience, including three special guides, department- and college-specific guides, and improved information for faculty participating in the process. Note that many topics discussed in the three guides are in effect requirements, insofar as they must be fulfilled in order to satisfy the procedural requirements listed below: for instance, a thesis that is improperly formatted will not be accepted.
Because Scholars may graduate in spring, summer, or fall, all four requirements below have deadlines corresponding to each semester.
Requirement 1: Thesis Proposal
The thesis proposal, submitted via the Student Records System, is a summary of the proposed project, including area of honors, purpose and objectives, sources and methods, how you intend to earn honors credit, and most importantly, who your thesis supervisor and thesis honors adviser will be. The thesis proposal must be submitted approximately one year prior to intended graduation (as set manually by the student in the Student Records System); exact deadlines by semester are listed on the Academic Deadlines page of our website. Failure to submit the thesis proposal by the deadline is cause for dismissal. Even if you are away from campus, you should make plans to fulfill the thesis proposal requirement by the deadline.
All Scholars, including those in the Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Program completing a thesis at the master’s level, must complete the thesis proposal.
The thesis supervisor and thesis honors adviser (and reader, when applicable) must approve the thesis proposal; if they do not, the student must make changes until it is approved.
Requirement 2: Mid-Year Check-In
Students must complete a Mid-Year Check-In on the Student Records System. This form provides information about thesis progress so far, any significant changes to the project, and the extent of contact between student and thesis supervisor. The check-in is reviewed by the thesis supervisor and thesis honors adviser (and reader, if applicable), who indicate agreement or disagreement; while agreement is not required, the College will follow up in cases of disagreement. Exact dates for the check-in will be listed on the Academic Deadlines section of our website.
Requirement 3: Thesis Format Review
Between two and four weeks prior to the final submission deadline (depending on the semester), you must upload the title page and a representative sample of the body of the thesis for formatting review by the College. This important step guarantees a smooth final submission process, and failure to meet the format review deadline is cause for dismissal. Further information about the format review will be distributed to Scholars at the start of their graduation semester.
Requirement 4: Thesis Submission & Approvals
By the thesis submission deadline listed on the Academic Deadlines section for your graduation semester, you must upload a final and complete version of your thesis, and must receive required approvals.
All of these requirements in turn require adherence to both Schreyer and local (department and academic college) requirements. For instance, in departments that require specific preparatory courses for thesis writers, you will not obtain thesis approvals unless you take those courses (or negotiate a waiver or substitution). For a more complete discussion of thesis requirements beyond the four procedural ones listed above, see the Thesis Project Guide.
Deferring Graduation for Thesis Completion
If you anticipate that you will not be able to submit your thesis by the posted deadline for your intended graduation semester, your options are to graduate without honors or to defer graduation until the next semester (including summer). Because neither of these options is attractive, you should plan carefully with your thesis supervisor and thesis honors advisers to make sure your thesis timeline is realistic, with plenty of time to accommodate unanticipated difficulties either in your project or in the availability of your thesis personnel. If you are unable to submit by the deadline and choose to defer graduation, this may be done without incurring any significant University charges. Here are the steps:
- Contact your academic college to have your name removed from the current graduation list.
- Update your intended semester of graduation on the student dashboard in the Student Records System.
- Activate your intent to graduate (for the purposes of graduation only) at the beginning of your new semester of graduation.
Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate Program (IUG)
This section references only those aspects of the IUG relevant to graduation as a Schreyer Scholar. For complete information about the IUG, please see our website.
If you are pursuing or considering an IUG, keep the following rules in mind regarding graduation as a Schreyer Scholar:
- A maximum of 12 500-level credits may be applied towards the 14-credit upper-division (third-year/fourth-year) honors credit requirement. Only those 500-level classes appearing on the final undergraduate transcript, as a result of approved semester reports, may be applied. 700- and 800-level courses are treated as 500-level for the purposes of this rule. 600-level courses may not appear on the undergraduate transcript.
- In IUGs where the master's thesis is approved to satisfy the undergraduate honors thesis requirement, it must follow all of the steps in the previous section: thesis proposal, mid-year check-in, format review, and final submission.
- For IUGs requiring a special petition based on Schreyer Scholar status (any undergraduate/combination not specifically approved by the University Faculty Senate), you must maintain your Schreyer Scholar status through graduation. The Graduate School reserves the right to remove any student from a petition-based IUG who withdraws or is dismissed from the Schreyer Honors College.
Academic Excellence Scholarship (AES)
The Academic Excellence Scholarship (AES) is awarded to all Scholars who join the Honors College as incoming first-year Penn State students. As long as you remain in good academic standing in the Schreyer Honors College and meet the requirements outlined for each year, the AES is renewed for a total of eight semesters. Scholars in good academic standings who start and remain in programs that require ten semesters (Architecture, Architectural Engineering, and Landscape Architecture) are eligible to receive the AES for that duration.
- The AES is awarded for full-time study. Your AES will be withheld any semester you are not enrolled as a full-time student (under 12 credits) by the end of the sixth week of the semester.
- The AES is not available to Scholars who choose to extend their studies via an IUG program. Once the eight semester limit has been reached, there are no opportunities for further funding.