Upper-Level Course Substitution Option

All complete, detailed, and thoughtful substitution requests will be carefully considered. Requests are approved or denied individually, meaning that a given course might be approved as an alternative for one student, but not for another.

It is recommended that any student interested in a course substitution read all information included below carefully to ensure the course meets all established criteria. Additionally, we advise students to begin the course substitution process early as delays may occur during review process. 


Upper-Level Course Substitution Option 

The University Honors Program (UHP) curriculum is rooted in the ideals of a liberal arts education, emphasising reasoning, argumentation, writing, and exposure to a broad range of intellectual traditions and research methodologies. As part of this curriculum, students are required to take two Self and Society courses (HONR 2047) and two Arts and Humanities courses (HONR 2053).

Self and Society courses focus on social and behavioral science topics and provide a foundation in the language, perspectives, methods, and research approaches of specific social science disciplines. These courses probe the relationships among individuals, collectives, families, and communities and the interactions of psychological, social, political, economic, and historical forces at work in a given culture.

Arts and Humanities courses focus on thematic and multidisciplinary topics in the arts and humanities. These courses explore the relationship between literature, religion, art, film, photography, philosophy, or other humanistic fields of study. Both types of courses are designed to explore topics in depth (rather than covering many topics at only a shallow level) and engage students in critical thinking. Whenever possible, these courses are taught as small, discussion-based seminars with assessment primarily conducted through projects, presentations and writings (as opposed to traditional exams). 

On occasion, a UHP student may have a particular interest in a certain course or topic outside of their major which we are not able to offer formally through the UHP but which may nonetheless conform to some or all of the ideals of an Honors course. If a UHP student can demonstrate that they will benefit personally and intellectually from that course, they may be granted an exception to count one non-UHP course toward the UHP upper-level course requirements. While a course substitution may have the added benefit of increasing scheduling flexibility or reducing credit load, substitutions will not be granted for purely utilitarian purposes. 

All students considering submitting a course substitution request must first speak with an Honors Program Manager.  

The guidelines for identifying an appropriate course for possible substitution and the request procedure are given below. Note that submission of a request form is not a guarantee of approval and you are advised to have a back-up plan in place. Request status (approval or denial) will be communicated within a week of request submission (except for submissions received during the summer, in which case approval or denial will be communicated by early August).


Course Substitution Request Guidelines

  • You must have completed a minimum of one UHP upper-level courses (HONR 2047 or HONR 2053) before requesting a course substitution.
  • The course must be an upper-level (2000+) course, and can include undergraduate research or independent study courses (but not research assistantship, internship, or senior thesis courses). It must be a minimum of 3 credit hours.
  • The course must be taken while in residence at GW (this includes study abroad courses) in either the fall or spring semester. [For study abroad courses, academic credit for completion of the course must appear on your GW transcript for the course to be used as a substitute - please coordinate closely with the Office of Study Abroad.]
  • To emulate an Honors seminar-style learning environment, the course cap must typically fall between 15 and 30 students. 
  • Course learning objectives must include critical thinking and analysis.
  • Course must include significant writing and project components (at least 50% of final grade) and in class discussion/participation (at least 10% of final grade). Exams and quizzes cannot comprise the majority of the course's grading scheme. 
  • In keeping with the liberal arts and broad educational mission of the UHP, the requested course cannot be in the department in which you are majoring. This includes concentration requirements and/or any course that is cross-listed with a course in your major or department.
  • You must decide whether to request the course as a substitute for a Self and Society course (HONR 2047) or an Arts and Humanities course (HONR 2053) and the topics/content/goals of the requested course must align appropriately with your selection.
  • If you have already been approved for a course substitution, you may not request to substitute a second course. If you have previously had a request denied, you may submit another request for a different course, but you may only submit one request per semester. 
  • The request form must be submitted prior to taking the course (no retroactive substitutions will be granted). 
  • Students must be in academic “good standing” at GW and in the UHP to request for a course substitution.
  • This course substitution request option cannot be applied to the non-HONR section of any course cross-listed with HONR 2047/2053.  

All substitution requests are due by the end of the first week of GW classes each semester (even if the course is being taken abroad). You are encouraged to submit your request well in advance of the semester, including during the semester’s initial registration period. 

Course Substitution Request Procedure

Submissions for Fall 2024 are now being accepted. Meetings with Program Managers regarding course substitution requests must be completed by Tuesday, August 27th, 2024.

  1. Obtain a recent syllabus for the course you are seeking to substitute. 
  2. Meet with an Honors Program Manager. All meetings with a Program Manager regarding course substitutions.
  3. A Substitution Request form will be provided by the Program Manager after your meeting. Complete the form thoroughly and thoughtfully.   
  4. Attach a course syllabus. Substitution requests must be accompanied by a course syllabus. If submitting a request before the start of the semester, you may include a syllabus from a previous semester as long as the instructor is the same. Many previous syllabi are available through GW’s Blackboard Syllabi Repository (login required). If not, you will need to contact the instructor directly to request a past syllabus. If you are requesting a study abroad course which is not taught in English, you must also provide an English-language translation of the syllabus (covering at least the course description, learning objectives, assessment/grading criteria and weekly topics). If you are requesting an undergraduate research or independent study course, you must submit a “syllabus equivalent” that includes a course description including your learning goals or objectives, a detailed meeting schedule, a reading list, a list of assignments (including due dates and grading rubrics), and an explanation of how the final grade in the course will be calculated. Note that this “syllabus equivalent” will need to be significantly more detailed than what is required in the basic Honors course contract. 
  5. Please return the form and syllabus as a single PDF document to a Program Manager, and include your name in the document title. The request must be submitted no later than the end of the first week of GW classes (even if the course is being taken abroad).  
  6. Request status (approval or denial) will be communicated within a week of request submission. (Please note that processing time may take longer during the summer). 
  7. If an approval is granted, a Program Manager will submit a petition in Degree Map so that the approved course shows up in your Degree Map Honors block.