What it means to be a James Scholar


By Fatima Farha

Some freshmen, at the time of admission to the University of Illinois, will be asked to join the James Scholars program. The James Scholars program is an honors program for undergraduate students who have shown above average skills in their work during high school.

Each incoming freshman’s eligibility as a James Scholar is considered upon application; their ACT scores, GPA and position in the graduating class is reviewed before being asked to become a James Scholar. Students in the top 20 and 10 percent of their graduating class are often the top candidates.

However, many students are often unaware of what the requirements are after accepting the offer.

Each individual college in the University has its own specific requirements for a James Scholar student in the college. For the most part, each college will have a minimum GPA requirement, which must be maintained or the student will face rescindment from the honors program. Students may also have to take more than the minimum full-time status credit hours. For example, in the College of Media, students have to fulfill at least 14 credit hours for each semester.

Along with minimum credit hour and GPA requirements, students will also have to complete an honors activity. These activities come in various forms, and each college will require one or more of these activities. Students can complete an Honors Learning Credit Agreement, HCLA, where the students collaborate with their professor in a specific course they are taking, and agree to complete an honors assignment for that course for an honors credit, an H on their transcript.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Other ways to complete the honors activity include taking a Campus Honors Program, CHP, course, which are specific honors courses; students can also complete honors seminars, participate in the undergraduate research seminar or complete an activity in a course that goes beyond the expectations of the course. To make sure the terms are clear, it’s best to stay in open communication with professors in the course you wish to complete the honors activity.

    At first it may seem like the requirements are overwhelming, but advisers and professors are always ready to help, and making sure not to procrastinate is key to fulfilling the requirements. Once the requirements are fulfilled, the students’ James Scholar eligibility is reviewed and maintained for the following school year, when the students will have to complete everything once again.

    Being a James Scholar can really open doors for students to different opportunities throughout the school year. For example, this past year, James Scholars students in Media were offered the chance to spend spring break in Belgium. These kinds of opportunities rise up for all students, along with the chance to participate in seminars, internships and other activities. It’s also a great way to meet new people and form connections with professors in each respective college.

    If students were not eligible to be a James Scholar their freshman year, they may apply their second semester to be considered for the following school year.

    Fatima is a sophomore in Media. 

    [email protected]

    Incoming freshman with no idea what “James Scholar” means? Read here: