The 411 on Graduating with Honors

If you decide that you would like to apply for your department’s honors program, it almost becomes like applying for college all over again.  You’ve been accepted to the school, chosen or applied for a departmental major, and taken many (or all) of the courses required to complete your degree.  However, if you’re like me and want to give that extra boost to your resume, while simultaneously exploring your area of study in your own way, take these guidelines into account.

Start Early

I came into my university knowing I wanted to major in Creative Writing, and that I wanted to write an Honors thesis my senior year.  However, that’s not the case for everyone.  Some students are double or triple-majors (depending on what your school allows) and might not have decided which program they would like to pursue a thesis in, if any.  Sometimes the programs that accept or reject your thesis proposal end up making the decision for you.

However, once you know you might be considering an honors project in at least one of your majors, you should make an appointment with your adviser and/or other faculty members in that department to discuss the application process.  If there is anything you can do as an underclassman to prepare and increase your chances when you apply, this will give you the ability to do so.  Sometimes departments have students begin their theses prior to senior year, so it’s a good idea to make sure you know when the deadlines to apply are.

Have a Good Idea of Your Project

When you meet with faculty members, show them that you’ve been thinking about possible projects.  This will demonstrate your seriousness in actually taking part in their program.  Most of the time the department’s faculty members are the ones who review all of the applications and make the final decision.  Make sure they know you’re serious.

Once You’re in the Program

 Stay focused.  When you’ve been accepted into one or more honors program, you can only choose one.  Also, while you may get class credit for your project, you might not always be sitting in a physical classroom.  Much of your work and research will be done on your own.  It’s important not to forget that you need to be working consistently on your own time.  This way, the bulk of your work won’t culminate at the end of the year.

Check in with Your Thesis Adviser

 Again, don’t wait until March or April when your defense is only weeks away to really get into the guts of your project.  Your thesis supervisor is your number one resource and you should be checking in with them at a consistent pace throughout the year (and the summer before, if applicable).  If you need assistance or have questions, ask them.

Understand the Possible Outcomes

 Cum Laude – Graduation with Honors

Magna Cum Laude – Graduation with High Honors

Summa Cum Laude – Graduation with Highest Honors

Depending on the institution, maintaining a certain GPA will allow you to graduate with honors as well.  However, sometimes for the higher levels, you must complete and successfully defend your thesis.  If you feel that you can take on the responsibility of completing an honors project, I highly recommend it.  It allows you to experiment with the skills you have attained and the subjects you have studied, taking it all to the next level.  Not to mention, it adds a punch to your graduate school and/or job applications.


 The most important element of pursuing an honors project is that it is something that interests you, and something that you think will be beneficial to you and others in the long run.