Frequently Asked Questions

How does admission to the Honors College in the Junior or Sophomore years work?

Students can join the Schreyer Honors College (SHC) as beginning sophomores or juniors (third or fifth semester in residence) if they apply through the Honors College “Gateway” admissions process and are approved by the honors advisor. The SHC requires a minimum GPA of 3.7. GPA alone does not guarantee admission into the honors program. Students must be committed to academic goals commensurate with the honors program, and have a confirmed interest in conducting research to meet the thesis requirement. Excellent writing skills are required as well in order to produce a quality thesis. The honors advisor may sometimes ask beginning sophomores to wait a year before applying through the Gateway admissions process again if they have not completed enough challenging coursework, or demonstrated strong writing skills.

What are the benefits of the Honors Program?

As an honors scholar, you are offered a number of privileges not available to other students.  These include priority registration, library privileges, access to the honors study lounge, and an Honors Medal at graduation.

Honors Scholars can register for their classes ten days before the start of regular undergraduate registration. This means Honors Scholars have a better chance of getting the classes and sections they want.

You are also extended library privileges not available to regular undergraduate students.  As an Honors Scholar, you have library privileges identical to those of graduate students and faculty. You can withdraw up to 200 books for a loan period of a full semester, use the study carrels in the central Pattee stack area, and you are offered the use of interlibrary loans. You also have access to the Scholars Lounge in Atherton Hall. In addition to being available for study, relaxation, and general socializing, the lounge has information about seminars, announcements, and many other items.

Students who have completed the Honors program receive an Honors Medal at the special Medal Ceremony at the time of their graduation.  Honors Scholars also receive special recognition at the regular graduation ceremony, and their diplomas state that they graduated with Honors in Sociology or Criminology.

These and other benefits are described more fully in the Honors Handbook.

What are requirements for Honors Scholars?

Once admitted, Honors Scholars must maintain a 3.40 grade point average every semester. If you drop below that, you will be placed on warning status with the Schreyer Honors College. If you fail to maintain the required GPA over two semesters, you may be dismissed from the Schreyer Honors College. But because no additional credit hours are required for Honors Scholars, you will not suffer any penalty for having been in the Honors Program.

First- and second-year students are required to take three different honors courses for a minimum of nine credits in each of the two years. Courses can roll-over to from the first to the second year, if a student takes more than nine honors credits in the first year. Students often take even more Honors Courses in order to fill general education requirements. Honors Courses typically have a small number of students and are taught by senior faculty. These courses are listed on the Schreyer Honors College web site:http://www.shc.psu.edu/students/courses/coursesearch.cfm

Third and fourth year Honors Scholars must take a minimum of 14 credits of Honors Courses over that two-year period. Some of these credits may be earned taking additional honors courses to meet General Education requirements, as described above. In addition, upper-level courses in the students major may be taken as an Honors Option. Most third- and fourth-year Sociology honors students take Sociology Honors Option courses to fulfill these requirements.

A final requirement of all Scholars is the completion of a thesis.   Your thesis is the capstone of your experience as an Honors Scholar.  Most students take six credits of honors independent study (CRIM or SOC 496) with their thesis supervisor to do their thesis.  More about the thesis will be presented below in the discussion of the typical schedule for Sociology honor students.

How do I fulfill my requirements for honors credits?

You can fill them by taking honors courses, or by taking honors options.  Note that SOC 381H/CRIM 480H, SOC/CRIM 481H, and your thesis credits count toward your 14 total honors credits during your junior and senior years.  As a first and second year student, 400 level courses can count as honors credits.  As a junior and senior, 500 (graduate) level courses can count as honors credits.

How do honors options work?

Only courses taught by tenure-line faculty (or senior lecturers approved by the SHC) can be used as an honors option.   You sign up for a regular Sociology course, but then you arrange with the professor for a portion of the work of the course to be done as significant alternative work of honors caliber.  This alternative work must be more scholarly than that required for other students, but should not simply be an increase in the total workload.  As with honors courses, the honors option does not add any credit hours to your requirements for graduation.

Can I substitute other courses I have taken for required general education or major courses as an honors scholar?

Yes, to a limited extent, and for good reason. Scholars receive up to six (6) credits (496H) in their senior year for work on their theses.

For students pursuing honors in Sociology, 3 honors thesis credits may be applied in the following way:

Students in sophomore, junior or senior status as of Fall 2013 may apply 3 honors thesis credits to SOC 400W, but would have to choose another liberal arts writing intensive course (i.e., PHIL 103W) to meet their Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.  Students in this category are welcome to take SOC 400W, though, if it works with their other classes.

Fall 2013 Freshmen and beyond will be required to complete SOC 400W and may then apply 3 honors thesis credits to 1 of the any 400 level SOC courses in the major requirement.

All substitutions for SOC and CRIM honors students are approved by the honors advisor on a case-by-case basis.”

What is an honors thesis and how do I produce one?

An honors thesis is an original academic work produced by the honors student.  Theses should be evidence-based scholarly examinations of worthwhile sociological, criminological, or criminal justice research questions.  Theses typically have the following components:  1) a statement of the importance of the topic and an overall theoretical/conceptual framework to address that topic, 2) specific central research questions, 3) a review of literature on what is known and what remains to be discovered about the research questions, 4) a discussion of data, methods, or other evidence sources, 5) an analysis, and 6) conclusions. Examples of thesis titles include:  An Examination of the Kinds of Thefts and Frauds that Women Commit (Lisa Scharf, CLJ, 2007), Locus of Control and Risky Sexual Behavior:  A Look into the Slums of Nairobi, Kenya (Aliza Richman, SOC, 2006), Coping with Life:  The Effects of the Lifers’ Association Within a Pennsylvania Correctional Facility (Nichole Phiambolis, CLJ, 2008), The American Mafia in the 21st Century: Assessing the Implications of Recent Prosecutions in New York and Pennsylvania (Chesly Santoro, CLJ, 2008), A Blurry Disconnect:  Binge Drinking Rates and the Public Discourse (Daniel Wallmuth, SOC, 2008), Why is Alcoholic Anonymous Effective?  The Role of Commitment in the Lives of Recovering Alcoholics (Jessica Fasnacht, SOC, 2006).

Who can be a thesis advisor?

You must have a thesis advisor who is a tenure line faculty member (that is, their job title typically must be “Assistant Professor,” “Associate Professor,” or “Professor”), or else a Senior Lecturer who is approved by the SHC.  It is possible, but rare, to have as a thesis advisor someone who does sociology or CLJ related work but teaches in another department, such as Psychology, Human Development, or Political Science. In SOC 381H/CRIM 480H, you will get a better sense of the folks who are out there. If you’re not sure, please talk to the department Honors Program Director, Dr. Ulmer.

What is a typical third and fourth year schedule for Honors Scholars?

The following schedule illustrates how the Sociology and CLJ honors program is organized and how you would fulfill the requirement of writing a thesis.

In the Fall Semester of your third year, you typically take:

SOC 380H/CRIM 480H Research Topics in Sociology (1 credit)
This is a very practical course, taught by the Honors Advisor, designed to give you an idea of what an honors thesis is, how you actually can manage to write one, and how to decide on a thesis topic and a thesis supervisor.  In the course, you will meet and spend some time with all tenure-line Sociology faculty members, who will discuss their areas of specialization and the projects on which they are currently working.  You also will read a number of past Honors Theses by Sociology honor students.  In addition, you may attend one or both of the two theses workshops offered by the Schreyer Honors College, one for quantitative theses and the other for qualitative theses. Finally, you will meet with the fourth-year Sociology Honors Scholars, who will discuss their own experiences writing a thesis.  At the end of the semester, you will choose a thesis topic and a thesis supervisor from among the tenure-line Sociology faculty.

Honors Course or Honors Option Course (3 credits):
In consultation with the Honors Advisor, you may select an Honors Course offered by another department to fulfill a General Education requirement. Schedule of Honors Courses and Sections from the Schreyer Honors College lists about 80 honors courses that fulfill general education requirements.  For example, you might need an arts or humanities or natural sciences course to fulfill your general education requirements.  As an honors student, you could sign up for an honors section to fulfill this requirement instead of taking a regularly scheduled class.  Alternately, you could contract with a Sociology or Criminology tenure-line faculty member to take a 400-level course as an Honors Option.  This course then would fulfill one of your 400-level course requirements.

In the Spring Semester of your third year you typically take:

SOC/CRIM 481H  (1 credit)
The Honors Advisor teaches this course in conjunction with the person you selected to be your thesis supervisor.   This course will be organized around the writing of a formal thesis proposal.  In the context of the particular topics chosen by the students, the course will cover information organization and retrieval, research project development, development of knowledge and the structure of scholarly communication, and the evolving information environment.  In consultation with your thesis supervisor, you will use this course to develop and expand your knowledge about your particular thesis topic and to write a thesis proposal that contains a review of the literature review, a methodology section, and a schedule for completing the thesis during the fourth year.

Honors Course or Honors Option Course (3 credits)
As in the fall semester, you would select this course in consultation with the honors advisor.   It would either be offered by another department and fulfill a General Education requirement, or would be an 400-level course offered by a tenure-line faculty, where you arrange to take the course as an Honors Option. You may also consult with your thesis supervisor in selecting this course, since the significant work that you do for the Honors Option in this course could be chosen so that it advances the work of your Honors Thesis.

In the Fall Semester of your fourth year, you typically take:

Sociology 496H Honors Independent Study (3 Credits)
You sign up for the regular CRIM J 496 course listing your thesis supervisor as the course instructor.  Then you file a honors option form with the Schreyer Honors College to have the course listed as Honors work.  Working with your thesis supervisor, you will use these credit hours to complete a major research associated with your thesis.   These credits count as 400-level courses for the purposes of fulfilling the requirements of the major for graduation.  Since you have already completed the literature review as part of your research proposal the preceding spring semester, you should be able to complete about 60% of your thesis during this fall semester.

You will have the opportunity to receive funding for your research through two research grants.  The Senior Honors Thesis Research Grant Application is available from the Honors College office.  The Phil Beta Kappa Senior Thesis Research Grants are given in the fall on the basis of the quality of the proposed research.  You could receive $250 towards your research project.  The James Rambeau Honors Thesis Research Grant in the Humanities is also awarded at the same time.

In the Spring Semester of your fourth year, you typically take:

Sociology 496H Honors Independent Study (3 Credits)
Working with your thesis supervisor, you will complete your thesis during the spring semester.  Around April 1, you will defend your thesis in an oral examination attended by your thesis supervisor and the Honors Advisor.  You then make necessary revisions to the thesis before delivering a final copy to the Schreyer Honors College on the last class day (typically at the end of April).

This is a typical schedule, but individual students have many different needs so that changes in this typical schedule are quite common.  The Honors Advisor is always available for consultation as you plan your academic schedule, think about choosing a thesis topic and thesis supervisor, and work on your thesis itself.