Honors Contract Guidelines and Timeline

Honors Contract Guidelines and Timeline Honors Contract Guidelines and Timeline

This page contains the guidelines and timeline you should follow in order to complete your Contracts. Check out also our presentation and video below.


  • Honors Contracts are an essential part of an Honors education at Saint Mary’s College of California. Students typically use them to work on projects of interest and to earn required honors credit points. Honors contracts are intended to provide added value to regular coursework.
  • Honors Contracts demand that students achieve “greater depth and rigor” than what is required of their classmates. Think of it as a personal challenge and a primer for graduate study.
  • “Greater depth and rigor” may be achieved by 1) Integrating a more challenging and sophisticated content matter into the existing course curriculum 2) Integrating an allied emphasis into the existing course curriculum 3) Integrating a social justice emphasis into the existing course curriculum.
  • Honors Contracts are done in upper division full-credit courses in which a student is enrolled. Students may choose to develop a Contract in a major, non-major, or elective course. All Contracts must be completed in separate courses. You cannot complete 2 Contracts with the same course. No contracts in Jan Term. Graduate level courses will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


  • To graduate from the Honors Program, students must complete three Honors Contracts (3X20 pts.) or two Honors Contracts (2x20 pts.) plus a senior thesis (20 pts.). Transfer students and those joining not in their freshman year should consult us about how many contracts they need.

If your major has a thesis or capstone requirement, you are required to do

  • 1 Honors Contract (20 Points, in an upper division major, non-major, or elective course) 
  • 1 Honors Contract or Independent Study ( 20 points, in an upper division major, non-major, or elective course)
  • 1 Senior Thesis/Capstone (20 points, in major)

If your major does not have a senior thesis, you are required to do

  • 1 Honors Contract (20 points, in an upper division major, non-major, or elective course)
  • 1 Honors Contract or Independent Study (20 points, in an upper division major, non-major, or elective course)
  • 1 Honors Contract or Independent Study in place of Senior Thesis (20 points, in major)


  • Contracts must be the equivalent of about 2 hours of work per week (~30 hours per semester) in addition to regular coursework. In the humanities and social sciences this roughly translates into a 12-15 pages research paper.

  • There is great flexibility when it comes to genre and format, but all Honors Contracts should result in a tangible product which the student submits at the end of the semester (an oral presentation will not work). Past examples included research papers, posters, podcasts, creative writing, community service projects, portfolios, lit reviews, artwork, visual presentations, etc.

  • Honors Contracts should be done in addition to the regular coursework. It is not enough to add a few pages to an existing assignment on the syllabus. Instead, the Contract should be an independent product (though it can treat a related topic or build on an existing assignment). 
  • Students have to attend a Contract Mentoring session and submit a Contract Proposal Form before they can begin working on a Contract. Please follow the timeline below.

  • For Contract ideas and examples, contact honors@stmarys-ca.edu or one of your Commissioners.


  • Successful Contract Proposals articulate a carefully chosen focus, substantial enough to explore in great depth over the course of one semester.

  • Benchmarks for achieving “greater depth and rigor” will be determined by the course professor and the Honors Advisory Board, and must be clearly articulated by the student in the Honors Contract Proposal Form.

  • Professors will judge student performance and will award honors course credit on a pass/fail basis at the end of the semester. The student’s grade in the course in which s/he is enrolled remains independent of the honors course distinction.


Before the semester begins

Begin brainstorming courses you might wish to complete a contract in along with possible contract ideas. If you are unfamiliar with the contract process, then review our Honors Contract presentation, which outlines the process in greater detail! 

First week of the semester 

Approach the professor in whose class you wish to create an Honors Contract and politely solicit their help. Be sure to educate your professor on the requirements and commitment of such an undertaking. See the website for Faculty Resources. Submit a request to create an honors contract to the course professor.

First and Second weeks of the semester

In collaboration with your professor, develop the contract, write and submit a proposal. The form is available on the website. Attend a Contract Mentor Workshop to receive feedback on your proposal. Proposals (including course syllabus) are due the Friday of the second week by noon. In lieu of your professor's signature on the form, you can simply cc your professor when you email us your proposal.

Third week of the semester

Contract Proposals are distributed to Honors Contract Mentors who determine whether the objectives, outcomes, and methods necessary to achieve greater depth and rigor have been clearly articulated.  All contracts are then reviewed by the Honors Advisory Board. By the end of the third week the Director notifies each student whether their proposal has been accepted, rejected or whether the Board recommends revisions. Revisions are due by the date specified by the Director. If you need to modify your contract in the course of the semester, notify the Honors Director immediately.

During the semester

Students work independently on their contracts.  The proposal form asks how often the student plans to check in with their professor, and students should follow that plan.

End of the semester

Contracts are due by the Friday of Finals week, though students are welcome to submit them early. Email your research product to the honors email so we can archive it. If the Honors Contract requirements are met to the satisfaction of the professor, the professor notifies the Honors Program and the Registrar via email, and the student receives honors course credit on their transcript.


For more information contact the Honors Program at honors@stmarys-ca.edu, or come to an Honors Contract Workshop the first week of each semester.

CHECK OUT Jacques in a great "How To" video created by SMC Honors students Justher Gutierrez, Emily Sutfin, and the Honors class of 2014.

CHECK OUT this presentation about Contracts. 


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Filehonors_contract_presentation.pptx 3.41 MB