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James Scholar Honors is the college-level honors program. You can be selected as an entering freshman or can apply once on campus.

What to Know

  • You may be invited to participate as an incoming freshman, or you can apply once on campus.
  • You will be expected to maintain a 3.3 GPA, though ECE requires a 3.5.
  • You will need to complete an honors contract during your sophomore year.
  • You must fulfill the honors contract by taking at least one honors course – or complete an Honors Credit Learning Agreement (HCLA) for a regular course – per year.
  • Your benefits include priority registration, the opportunity to take certain honors-only classes, and receiving James Scholar distinction upon graduation.

Freshman Requirements

Freshman requirements apply to all first year students, regardless of advanced academic standing due, for instance, to AP or IB credits. These requirements do not apply to transfer students.

An Honors Activity

One is required during your freshman year and many students complete this during second semester. Options:

  • Completion of an honors section of any course. Such sections are designated as such in the course description or have "Honors" in the title. (i.e. Honors Project or Honors Seminar)
  • Completion of a course with an Honors Credit Learning Agreement (HCLA) . It represents an agreement between you and your instructor regarding the additional work to be done in a course in order to receive honors credit. This can be done for any course and with instructor approval. You will receive honors credit for the course.
  • Any course or activity that involves effort beyond normal academic requirements may be considered as an honors experience, upon review and approval by the Engineering Undergraduate Programs Office. Submit requests to 206 Engineering Hall.

Sophomore, Junior, & Senior Requirements

The Upperclass James Scholar Program is open to all students who achieve a minimum cumulative University of Illinois GPA of 3.50 (If entered before Fall 2015 the minimum GPA to become a James Scholar is 3.3, except for Electrical or Computer Engineering majors or for Computer Scence juniors and seniors who require a 3.50 GPA).

  • Sophomores must: (1) complete your honors contract; and (2) take one honors course, or complete an Honors Credit Learning Agreement for a regular course, or complete at least one course in your honors contract if the contract has already been filed.
  • Juniors and seniors must take at least one course per year from your honors contract.
  • If the honors contract is not completed upon graduation all previous certifications for the upper class James Scholar program will be removed.
  • If the honors contract is completed early:
    • In any subsequent academic year (not calendar year) you need to take a course for honors in order to be certified and receive the James Scholar mention on the transcripts for that year.
    • If you complete the honors contract early, you will still receive the James Scholar completion certificate after graduation, even if not taking additional honors course in subsequent academic years.

Electrical or Computer Engineering Special Requirements

The ECE department requires a 3.5 GPA and sophomores, juniors, and seniors must take ECE 200 in either the fall or spring semester of each year. Read more details...

Computer Science Special Requirements

  1. Two additional CS courses at the 400-level beyond those required for graduation.
  2. CS 499 Senior Thesis (Students may not substitute the Software Engineering or Senior Project sequence for this honors contract requirement. However, courses from the Software Engineering sequence and/or the Senior Project sequence may be used to satisfy the "additional" courses of requirement 1. above).
  3. In case the above don't add up to 12 hours, you must take an additional course, subject to approval by the honors advisor

OR a student may use a minor to satisfy the honors contract, subject to approval by the honors advisor. Most, but not all, minors are acceptable (for example, the Math minor would not be acceptable).

Annual James Scholar Certification

James Scholar reviews take place in the summer. Therefore, if your GPA dips below the prescribed level after the Fall semester, you may still make up for the deficiency in the Spring and remain a James Scholar. Summer courses cannot be used to make up for a GPA deficiency in the preceding academic year. However, if you move your GPA back above the prescribed limit after the Summer, you may apply in the beginning of the Fall semester to be reinstated as a James Scholar.

If you maintain the prescribed GPA at the end of the Spring semester and have completed the necessary honors requirements for the academic year, you will be certified and it will be noted in your transcripts for the full year.

If you maintain the prescribed GPA but do not complete the necessary honors activities, you do not get certified but can continue as a James Scholar for the next year.

Apply To Be a James Scholar

To apply, you must meet the GPA requirements and design an honors contract that can be completed and will enable you to fulfill the graduation requirements of the program while an undergraduate. The honors contract can be modified at any time as long as the changes are approved.

If you’re a transfer student, you may apply to be a James Scholar after at least one semester on campus, if your Illinois GPA meets the requirements. Grades in transfer courses will not be considered for James Scholar status.

Applications to join the Engineering James Scholar Program can be made online in the first two weeks of any semester.

Only grades obtained at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign can be counted for the honors GPA requirement.