The challenge of an honors course will vary with its content and professor, but the focus of honors work is enrichment through engagement vs. difficulty. Honors courses may not be any more difficult than their non-honors counterparts but the benefits are usually greater.

Honors courses offer students the opportunity to engage in active learning in a class of 25 or fewer students. Oftentimes research opportunities and an increased level of faculty mentoring are provided beyond those in non-honors courses.

Each student has several advisors assigned to help with various categories of requirements:

  • University requirements: see the Undergraduate Records Office in Whitmore Administration Bldg.
  • College requirements: see the Academic Dean's advising office for the college of your major (e.g., College of Arts and Humanties for English, School of Management for Accounting, College of Natural Sciences for Psych, etc.)
  • Major requirements: see the Chief Undergraduate Advisor in your major department (e.g., English, Accounting)
  • Commonwealth Honors College requirements: see an honors advisor in 201 Commonwealth Honors College at the Bloom Honors Advising Center.

You may start at the Commonwealth Honors College office if you aren't sure where to begin!


Make sure to schedule visits with your Commonwealth Honors College and Major department advisors. October and March are great times for check-in appointments since demand for advisors' time is typically low.

Consult the Departmental Honors section of our web site for information about DH tracks. You must have a declared major before you may declare a DH track.

Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) is a four-year academic program that enhances the undergraduate experience.  The honors curriculum is designed in two parts.  The first part, "Breadth of Study," anchors students’ honors experience in their General Education coursework.  In the second part, "Depth of Study," students concentrate their upper-level honors courses in their major through Departmental Honors, or outside their major through Multidisciplinary Honors and complete an honors thesis or project. There are minimum grade and GPA requirements for members based upon graduating class year.  Full details can be found in the requirements section of our website.

Not necessarily. You may adjust your schedule to accommodate other interests such as internships or extra-curricular activities. Just plan ahead to avoid a backlog of requirements in your final two semesters and stay in touch with your advisors.

Start with our online Honors Course Guide (HCG). This is a searchable database of courses offered as honors. Initially search for courses that you need to complete for your major or Gen Ed requirements. You may also register for honors courses for elective credit. Once you've found a course, proceed to the SPIRE database to register or follow alternate instructions listed in the HCG course description.  (Note: Courses in the HCG may not appear on SPIRE if a department cancels a course and does not notify the Honors College.)


You will get an email from us!

CHC PATHS uses a smart search feature to help students find their faculty member in the list. Trying searching by the faculty member's last name or first name or email address. All UMass Amherst and Five College faculty should be in the list already. If your committee member's name does not appear in the system, complete the rest of the contract and select 'SAVE' to save your work. Then contact Roland Packard (Course Registar) at or (413) 545-0136 to provide the committee member's name and email and to request that they are added to the list.

To request that the student make revisions, the faculty reviewer enters comments and clicks ‘Return to Student.’ The student is then expected to make the requested changes in consultation with the chairperson. The student then resubmits the same contract (with revisions) and the approval process restarts.

Automated reminders are sent to the faculty member, but students are encouraged to respectfully remind committee members to read and approve contracts. As part of the contract, students should be in regular communication with the faculty member.

The faculty member can login to CHC PATHS at any time and review all contracts associated with their account. Remind the faculty member than an email prompt is not required to read and approve a contract.

If, on the contract form, a student indicates that the course credits are needed to reach full-time status (12 credits), then the course will receive prioritized enrollment after it is approved. Students who have already submitted a contract but did not indicate that they need to reach 12 credits should login to CHC PATHS, click the ‘Contact Us’ link, and follow the directions to report the issue.

Faculty members can login to CHC PATHS, click the 'Contact Us' link, and follow the directions to request that the CHC PATHS system administrator change the number of credits associated with a course contract.

If you receive an error message login to CHC PATHS, click the 'Contact Us' link, and follow the directions to report the issue.

CHC PATHS is a tool for the Commonwealth Honors College community. Honors students can use CHC PATHS to set up contracts for independent courses, such as an independent study honors (ISH) or an Honors Thesis/Project (499Y/T/P). Faculty members and honors thesis committee members use CHC PATHS to review and authorize these contracts.

Once you hit submit, your proposal is final and cannot be edited. Automated emails will go out in sequence to the following people:

  • Chair of committee/faculty overseeing your work
  • Second committee member (if Honors Thesis or Project)
  • Honors Program Director - in student’s major area
  • Honors Program Director - in major area in which the course is being registered
  • CHC Academic Standards Committee
  • If this review and approval process is completed BEFORE the add/drop deadline: CHC will enroll you in the course via SPIRE
  • If this review and approval process is completed AFTER the add/drop deadline: approval of your proposal will continue offline and then go to: (1) your academic dean for approval and (2) Registrar’s Office for enrollment

You can view the status of your contract(s) by logging into PATHS and looking under the status column. You will also receive automated emails providing you with information at every step of the process.

Departmental Honors

Consult the Departmental Honors section of our web site for information about DH tracks. You must have a declared major before you may declare a DH track.

Honors Thesis or Project

Generally not, unless you specifically negotiate this arrangment in advance with your Independent Honors Thesis/Project guidance committee and the Honors College office.

Honors Thesis or Project: Getting Started

If you are studying abroad for a full year, plan to complete your Honors Thesis or Project in your Junior year. If you will be gone only one semester, you may complete your Honors Thesis or Project during your Junior year or negotiate a one-semester 6-credit Honors Thesis or Project in your Senior year for the semester you will be on the UMass campus.

You must complete an individually-contracted Honors Thesis/Project registration contract (499Y or 499T/P on our Forms web page) and attach a proposal for the six credits of additional research you intend to do. You must also establish a faculty guidance committee according to the guidelines in the Honors Thesis/Project section of our web site.

If your research was not supervised and graded by a UMass Amherst faculty member, then the likelihood is no. But you should discuss your particular situation with a Commonwealth Honors College advisor.

Please review our CE Grading web page for the grading options for individually-contracted Honors Theses or Projects as well as Honors Thesis or Project Seminars.  (Note: the web page information is directed to faculty). 

  • The Seminar is faculty-initiated and is offered to a group of students in a traditional classroom setting, with a defined topic and syllabus. Research is conducted in the group environment based upon the instructor's guidance.
  • An individually-contracted Honors Thesis or Project offers the flexiblity of an independent study approach, with the student negotiating a topic with an Honors Thesis/Project guidance committee comprised of two faculty members. Individually-contracted Honors Theses/Projects are registered using the 499Y Honors Research (Part I) and 499T/P Honors Thesis/Project (Part II) contracts on our Forms web page.

Students in both  options produce a final manuscript which details the goals, methodology and outcomes of their research. For more details, see the Honors Thesis/Project section of our web site.

Consider research topics which may improve your preparation for graduation study or particular career fields.  Or consider a topic you are passionate or curious about.   Another option is to assist a professor with his/her own professional research. We further encourage you to consider research which may benefit others as well as yourself, such as a community service research project.

A good place to start is to speak to professors you may have had for other coursework and who have an expertise or interest in your topic area. You could also consult various Honors Program Directors for assistance with identifying appropriate faculty.

Yes, if you are doing an individually-contracted Honors Thesis or Project and your guidance committee approves your timeframe. Be advised that Continuing Education registration fees will apply for summer and winter session enrollment.  Note:  Honors Thesis/Project Seminars are generally not available during summer/winter sessions.

Honors Thesis or Project: Formatting

The title and abstract pages must be formatted according to the Commonwealth Honors College formatting guidelines.

Do not number the title or abstract pages. Begin your numbering on the page following the abstract pages.

If your department has a preferred style (MLA, Chicago , Latex, etc.) you may use those guidelines. Alternately our web site describes general formatting guidelines which should be followed for the body of your manuscript.  OIT's website has additional information and templates for Masters thesis manuscripts which may also be of help to you.

Honors Thesis or Project: Finishing Up

If you are enrolled in a individually contracted honors thesis or project, we expect that your committee will require some kind of oral defense.  Your committee members should discuss this with you; it may be formal or informal at their discretion. Students enrolled in honors thesis or project seminars (taught in a traditional classroom) will generally be expected to give a formal presentation to their classmates at the conclusion of their research.

You should have a discussion with your instructor, chairperson or committee member to negotiate an acceptable solution.  In emergency situations, faculty who are not available to sign the title page upon completion of the evaluation and oral defense may email the Honors College office ( authorizing us to sign on their behalf.

Discuss your situation with your instructor or chairperson & committee member, and alert the Commonwealth Honors College office so we can note it in your file.  In extenuating circumstances your professor may grant an INC. If so, we encourage you to provide the Honors College office with a signed "INC" contract which should include:

  • Clear description of remaining requirements
  • Timeline/deadline for completion of work
  • Notation of current grade status prior to completion of work
  • Signature of instructor or committee chair & member and student, with the date

See our Honors Thesis/Project Manuscript Submission web page for additional options and details.

We recommend that you deliver your materials in person since we can immediately review your materials and alert you to any problems that need your attention prior to your leaving campus.  We also recommend that you email yourself a copy of your manuscript prior to submitting your materials to our office. This will facilitate easy retrieval/revision/reprinting here in the office in the event we do discover problems. See our Honors Thesis/Project Manuscript Submission web page for additional options and details.

Possibly, depending upon the date of submission.  See our Honors Thesis/Project Manuscript Submission web page for details regarding late submissions and considerations.

Only if you are seeking a credential of honors "with distinction" upon graduation.  To earn one of three levels of distinction, you must also:

  • Satisfactorily complete of all Commonwealth Honors College requirements
  • Have a minimum 3.400 cumulative GPA
  • Have a minimum B+ grade for each of your Honors Thesis/Project courses
  • Have a minimum B+ grade for the final assignment for the Honors Thesis/Project Seminar option if you chose the Seminar option

If you receive less than a B+ for any of the grades, you are ineligible for honors "with distinction" and do NOT need to submit a manuscript to the Commonwealth Honors College office.

After final grades have been posted on SPIRE we review your file for honors clearance and notify you and the UG Records office of your honors clearance status. The UG Registrars office will then notify you of your UMass graduation status. Diplomas usually follow within 2 months. Make certain you have an accurate mailing address listed on SPIRE for our use!  Please continue to read your email account for a period of about 4 months following graduation in the event any office at UMass is attempting to communicate with you.

Manuscripts will vary in length based upon the topic, content, and expectations of your guidance committee. For content guidelines please see our Honors Thesis/Project Manuscript and Formatting web page.

You are required to submit any "artifact" such as a video, CD, or screenplay along with your Honors Project manuscript if the artifact was the goal of your Honors Project.

Artifacts must be accompanied by a manuscript of at least 5-10 pages. Refer to our Honors Thesis/Project Manuscript and Formatting web page.

Study Abroad

Generally not, unless you specifically negotiate this arrangment in advance with your Independent Honors Thesis/Project guidance committee and the Honors College office.


The tassel is placed on your right hand side and is moved to the left after your degree is conferred at the UMass commencement ceremony.

Yes, students may receive Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude) based upon their final cumulative GPA and college/school class rank.  Please see the UG Registrar's site for further details.

We won't know unless you alert us!  Please contact us ( or 413.545.2483) after you see that SPIRE has recorded all the changes you were awaiting and you are ready for us to resume your honors clearance.

You may either meet with an Honors College advisor to review your status or wait to receive our honors clearance status letter a month after your final semester grades are posted on SPIRE. Typical problems which hold up honors clearance include INC, NR or Y grades, GPA < 3.400, unfulfilled Honors College course requirements, or lack of submission of Honors Thesis/Project materials for graduation with honors distinction.

You can help by

  • asking your professor(s) to submit missing grades to the Undergraduate Registrar's office
  • informing us if you plan to postpone graduation to do further coursework
  • emailing us to request withdrawal from the Honors College if you do not intend to complete our requirements