Honors Overview


Here is some essential information for successfully completing the Honors program. You may have other questions about specific situations that are not answered here, and if so, please contact the Honors Program Director, Emily Esch by e-mail or at 363-3288.

Requirements for participation

  1. To be invited into the program as an incoming student, you must have scored a 30 or higher composite on the ACT and have a GPA of 3.8 (out of 4) or higher in high school.
  2. If you would like to participate but didn’t meet the criteria or initially declined the invitation, you may ask a faculty members (usually your First-Year Seminar professor) to nominate you for a place in the program. A letter stating why you are a good candidate for the Honors program is sufficient. Send this letter and your request, to the Honors Program Director by e-mail.
  3. You may not begin the program after the sophomore year.
  4. Although associated with the Honors Program, the All College Thesis is separate from Honors. Many students who complete the All College Thesis are part of the Honors Program, but each year about ¼ of the students doing an All College Thesis are not part of the program. If you would like to know more about the All College Thesis, please visit the Thesis web site or contact Emily Esch.

Graduation Requirements

  1. If you began the program as a first-year student and do not study abroad:
    To graduate with All College Honors you must have at least 32 credits in honors courses. Of the 32, at least 12 must be in 300 level or higher courses.
  2. If you began as a second year student or participated in a study abroad program:
    To graduate with All College Honors you must have at least 28 credits in Honors courses. Of the 28, at least 8 must be in 300 level or higher courses.
  3. To graduate with All College Honors you must also have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.4.

Course Requirements

You may complete the credit requirements for the program in many different ways:

  1. Disciplinary Core courses:
    These courses fulfill CommonCurriculum requirements in Fine Arts, Math, Humanities, Social Sciences, the Natural Sciences, First-Year Seminar, and Ethics Common Seminar. At registration you will find these courses under the Honors section of the class schedule. Descriptions of the courses vary and are in the "New Course Description" section of the schedule.
  2. Honors Reading Groups, Individual Learning Projects, and Honors Options:
    These courses and experiences are offered at the request of students. Instructions are available here under "Honors Opportunities." The appropriate forms are submitted to the Honors Program Director for action. The number of Honors Option courses is normally limited to one.
  3. Senior Thesis:
    The Senior Thesis is a chance for you to work in a one-on-one relationship with a faculty member to develop a scholarly or creative project. Honors 396, Thesis Proposal, will guide you through the development of an idea and plan to accomplish the project. For more information please visit the Senior Thesis web site or contact Emily Esch.

Program Overview by Year

First Year

In the Honors First-Year Seminar, students are introduced to the ways of thinking and communicating that characterize all Honors courses. Students examine timeless ideas, question their understandings of the world, and defend their interpretations of important texts. First-year students also have the opportunity to take an Honors Philosophy course, Honors 250. First-year students are encouraged to consider other 200-level Honors courses.

Sophomore and Junior Years

Sophomores and Juniors choose from a variety of upper and lower division courses, many of which are interdisciplinary by nature. Sophomore and junior Honors students generally enroll in one or more Honors courses each semester. The "Honors Option" is also possible, where a student takes a regular course in any department for Honors credit by doing an extra project with the professor. The Honors Option can count toward your Honors requirements. Normally no more than one Honors Option will be counted toward graduation with All-College Honors. Another way to fulfill Honors requirements is to participate in "Reading Groups." These groups are created at the request of students and involve a faculty moderator. Participation in four reading groups counts as the equivalent of one Honors course toward program requirements.

Juniors and seniors in Honors may take the year-long Great Books Seminar. For many Honors students, this is their most memorable experience within the Honors program. During the junior year, students who intend to do a Senior All College Thesis should also take a 0-credit or 1-credit thesis preparation course, Honors 396. This course aims at formulating a research topic and finding a thesis advisor.

Senior Year

In the senior year, Honors students usually choose another course or two to complete the eight-course requirement within Honors. Students who have chosen the Thesis Track also focus on their Senior Thesis. The All College Thesis is an opportunity for students to gain valuable experience in conducting intensive research and creative work in their major. Non-traditional or unusual thesis topics are encouraged since they allow students to stretch and explore the possibilities of research and creativity.

Additional Honors Opportunities

Here are some further opportunities extended to Honors students. While they are not required, they greatly enrich a student's overall experience in the Honors Program.

Honors Reading Groups

An honors reading group is a wonderful way to bring people together to discuss great books and intriguing ideas. Students can earn honors credit (0-1 credit) for having a group. Four such discussion groups can count for one of the required honors courses students need to graduate with All-College Honors (students can take the course for 0 credit if a credit would entail an overload fee for the term).

Ideally, groups should contain 4-8 members. Group members should select readings with a goal of spending somewhere between 12-15 hours in actual discussion during the semester. Readings should be meaningful, the kind of readings that can inspire good, serious thinking about important matters.

Once students have the members of the group and the readings, they must find a professor willing to serve as the moderator of the group by sharing in these readings and discussions. At this point, one member of the group should send an e-mail to Emily Esch detailing (1) the book or books to be read, (2) the professor who has agreed to serve as the moderator, (3) the names of the students involved, (4) whether each student has chosen 1 or 0 credits, and (5) how many Honors credits each student in the group has completed by that point. The deadline for getting this information via e-mail to Emily Esch will be end of September (Fall term) or February 15th (Spring term). Students will be signed up for either Honors 270 "Directed Reading" (if most of the people have completed 12-15 Honors credits) or Honors 370 "Directed Reading" (if most have more than 15 Honors credits).

The Honors Option

Honors Option Application Form

The ideal Honors Option is based on a desire to do some independent work in a Non-Honors course. The point is not merely to get Honors credit; the real point is to provide for a meaningful academic experience that goes above and beyond the standard course requirements. The Honors Option application form must indicate that the student has the approval of the supervising faculty member, and it must be returned via e-mail to the Honors Director by the date specified. Both the student and the professor will receive word of this approval or rejection within two weeks of the established deadline for submission. Ordinarily, students can count only one Honors Option toward the required number of Honors courses to complete the program.

General Guidelines for Honors Option Credit

  1. For courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences, there should be at least 15 pages of graded written work in addition to the written work assigned for the course. The form of this writing will depend on the course, but it should require significant secondary readings and student research beyond the standard assignments for the course.
  2. For courses in the Sciences, the Honors Option proposal should include a significant laboratory or research inquiry that goes beyond the normal scope of the course. In most cases, the results of the inquiry should be written in appropriate science reporting format.
  3. For courses in the Fine Arts, the Honors Option proposal should include either written work as above, or a substantial piece of artistic expression that goes beyond the normal requirements of the course.

At the completion of the semester, the Honors Director will forward a request for evaluation for Honors Option credit to the instructor. The instructor will grant or reject Honors Option credit for the submitted work. No grades are given for the Honors Option work. The work done (or not done) for Honors Option credit will not affect the regular course grade.

All College Thesis

The All College Thesis involves close work with a faculty advisor from the student's major department in conducting research and writing a thesis or executing a creative project. Ideally, the student completes most of the thesis in the fall of the senior year. By early March the student submits a final draft of written work to the departmental defense committee. A public defense is held in April of the senior year. Students receiving a grade of A or H are eligible for departmental distinction within their major. Prerequisite for the thesis is HONR 396 (Thesis Proposal) for 0 or 1 credit taken during the Spring term of the student's junior year.