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