James Scholar Honors

DGS offers James Scholar Honors for high-achieving students so they can develop valuable skills in leadership, research, creativity, and service-learning.

Benefits of being a DGS James Scholar

There are many benefits to participating in the James Scholar program, including: 

  • Registering early for courses (starting with second semester registration).
  • Access to smaller courses (20 or fewer students) reserved only for James Scholars.
  • Fostering close relationships with faculty that enrich your education and lead to future opportunities.
  • Conducting research projects and work one-on-one with faculty members.
  • Remaining a James Scholar in your new college once you declare your major.
  • Gaining Honors recognition on official transcripts and at graduation.


An Honors Credit Learning Agreement (HCLA) transforms a standard course into an honors course through an agreement between you and your instructor. Previous projects through HCLA have included research papers, literature reviews, classroom presentations, research experiences with faculty members, and participation in the Chemistry REACT Program.

How to Proceed

  • Register for classes normally during your registration time.
  • At the start of the semester, approach your instructors about completing an honors project to fulfill honors credit.
  • Finalize project details with one of your instructors.
  • Submit an online HCLA by the deadline.
  • Once you submit the HCLA, the instructor will either approve the agreement or ask for revisions.
  • You will receive an email notification once the agreement is accepted or denied.

Click here to access the HCLA online form (HCLA will be available January 16th)

Spring 2024 deadline to submit: February 16th

New to completing a DGS HCLA?  Click here for a step-by-step guide


At the end of each semester, your progress will be reviewed. To remain an active DGS James Scholar, you must:

  • Maintain an Illinois semester and cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 (coursework from other institutions will not apply)
  • Complete at least 12 graded credit hours during the fall and spring semesters.
  • Complete two honors courses or documented honors projects each academic year (1 each semester).
  • Not be found guilty of an Academic Integrity infraction. 


Becoming a James Scholar

How can I be considered for DGS James Scholars? 

  • Once admitted to DGS, all First-Year Students are automatically considered.  Selection is based on the credentials submitted in the Illinois application. 
  • Students selected for DGS James Scholars will typically be notified via email 2-3 weeks after their admissions decision notification
  • The selection process is holistic, considering multiple factors, including: unweighted HS GPA, standardized test scores, evidence of rigor in high school curriculum (AP, Honors, IB, Dual Credit), and engagement in academic extra curriculars and/or leadership development. 

How do I accept my membership to DGS James Scholars? 

  • Just accept your admission to DGS! 

If I am not selected, how can I be re-considered? 

  • Students can qualify to join after their first semester at Illinois (see Current DGS Students below).

2023 First-Year Student cohort of DGS James Scholars: 

  • 119 students
  • Average unweighted GPA: 3.90
  • Average SAT score: 1387
  • Average ACT score: 30
  • % of cohort that were the recipient of an Illinois Merit-Based Scholarship: 38%

How can I be considered for DGS James Scholars once I am a DGS Student? 

  • DGS James Scholars invites current students to self-nominate twice a year - early January & early August. 
  • All qualified students will receive an email invitation from the DGS Honors Director.
  • Deadlines to self-nominate will coincide with the first week of the active term. 
  • For the 2023-2024 academic year, the Illinois GPA needed to qualify is a 3.85. 

What if I was a James Scholar in another college on campus and I switch to DGS? 

  • James Scholar students who inter-collegiate-transfer into DGS from other colleges on campus maintain their honors designation, assuming all requirements were met through their previous college.

What if I declare my major before I am invited to join DGS James Scholars? 

  • Connect with your new major advisor or new college Honors Director for information about how to join their James Scholar program.
  • Incoming Transfer students that earned at least a 3.85 at their previous institution will receive an invitation to self-nominate (for their first semester on campus).
  • Any Incoming Transfer student that provides documentation showing membership to their previous institution's academic honors program will also be welcomed into the DGS James Scholar Program.
  • Transfer Students can qualify to join after their first semester at Illinois (please see Current DGS Students above).


Transferring your James Scholar Status

Once you declare your campus major, you will want to familiarize yourself with your new college or school's requirements.