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Frequently Asked Questions

English Honors Program – FAQ

1)   What are the benefits of being in the EHP? Why should I write a senior honors thesis?
The English Honors Program (EHP) offers the department’s most accomplished majors the opportunity to create and complete a substantial writing project in the senior year. EHP students work closely with distinguished faculty in the department and receive individual feedback and mentoring on their writing and research interests. This type of feedback is not usually possible in a large lecture class. A senior honors thesis is a rigorous and productive way to complete your undergraduate career. Students who complete theses go on to do a variety of activities. Many honors students use their senior theses as part of an application package for graduate school. Some students apply to law school, Teach for America, or seek opportunities in publishing and editing. The EHP enables a student to invest time, creativity and energy in a research or writing project of the student’s own choosing.

2)   What is an English Honors seminar?
English honors seminars are small, research- and writing-intensive classes. Topics usually reflect a faculty member’s specialized research interests. Students write a research paper, approximately 15-20 pages in length. EHP students must receive an A- in at least one of the two required honors seminars. Two honors seminars are offered every fall and spring semester.  We hope there will be creative writing honors seminar options starting in 2018-2019 year. 

3)   When should I take an English Honors seminar?
Students are required to take at least one honors seminar before beginning the English honors workshop.  Most students take one or both seminars during their junior year unless they are studying abroad during one semester, in which case they postpone one seminar until their senior year.  Advanced students may take a seminar in their sophomore year if they have conflicts in their junior year.

4)   What is the English Honors Workshop?
The English honors workshop is a small workshop-style class in which students write and revise their senior thesis. The format allows for individual feedback on a student’s writing, and students also gain valuable experience responding to and helping to edit another person’s work. The English honors workshop is only offered in the fall semester. Students continue to revise the thesis in the spring semester by enrolling in an independent study with the thesis advisor. (Students planning to graduate in the fall can establish an accelerated schedule in the workshop.)

5)   What are honors contract courses?
Honors contract courses are standard courses that a UI honors student would like to take for honors credit. The student and the instructor of the class complete “an honors contract course form,” found on the UI Honors website ( The instructor must agree to have his or her class designated as an honors course. Both the instructor and the student must agree upon the additional requirements or assignments the student will complete in the class in order for the form to be considered. These courses count for University honors hours (the first 12 hours) but do not count for departmental honors seminars.

6)   How long does it take to complete the English Honors Program?
For most undergraduates, the requirements for the EHP can be fulfilled in three semesters. Students are encouraged to complete the requirements in four semesters.

7)   How do I ask a faculty member to be my advisor?
Working closely with an English department faculty member is one of the many benefits of the EHP. As you consider who you would like to be your thesis advisor, think about the courses you have enjoyed in the past and the professors with whom you have enjoyed working. Your advisor does not necessarily have to specialize in your thesis topic, although it is ideal.

Once you have identified a possible faculty member, email that person and request an appointment. You should also have a brief statement available that describes your potential thesis topic. Consider this statement as a type of “writing sample” that will allow faculty to evaluate your potential topic and writing skills.

Students are strongly encouraged to confirm the thesis advisor the semester before the student will begin the thesis.

8)   Is it possible to begin and write the thesis in the junior year?
We do, on occasion, have students who complete the thesis a year early so as to free themselves to study abroad in the fall of the senior year or to prepare for graduate school applications during the senior year. Students interested in pursuing this option should speak with the EHP Director and English Undergraduate Advisor.

9)   How is the EHP different from Sigma Tau Delta and the Department’s English Society?
The English Department offers several opportunities for undergraduates to get involve with a community of students who enjoy reading, writing, and learning about various types of literature. The English Society is open to all students interested in English, and this group frequently sponsors activities that enable students to interact with faculty members on an informal basis, such as the “Literary Lunch” series. The English Society does not have a GPA requirement. Sigma Tau Delta ( is an international English Honor Society that offers several publishing and presentation opportunities. Members of Sigma Tau Delta must meet a B+ overall grade average and a B+ in the English major. The EHP has a 3.33 GPA requirement and a formal series of courses and requirements that must be completed in order to have honors in the major indicated on your diploma.

10)   Do I need to be a member of University Honors to be in the English Honors Program?
No. Beginning in 2013, University Honors is a separate program from departmental, or English, honors. However, the department requires students to meet UI Honors requirements. More information is available at the UI Honors website:


11)   My GPA is slightly below the required 3.33 GPA. Can I still apply to the program?
The department recognizes that some students may have extenuating circumstances that have impacted their GPA in the past. Students who are slightly below the 3.33 GPA requirement should explain their circumstances to the EHP Director and the honors committee in a letter.  

12) What GPA do I need to graduate with English departmental honors?
You need to have 3.5 GPA in English to graduate with departmental honors.

12)   I still have questions about the EHP. Who should I speak to?
An information session on the EHP is offered every semester. Questions about the program may also be addressed to the EHP director or the English Undergraduate Advisor.