Joining Commonwealth Honors College as a Current UMass Amherst Student

We invite you to apply to Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) and join some of the most talented students on campus in an intellectually stimulating community of scholars. Be sure to look through our website to learn more about the responsibilities and benefits of CHC membership.


Minimum Qualifications to Apply

A competitive application process is used to select students who demonstrate outstanding academic performance, are prepared for the rigors of an honors curriculum, and can contribute to the diversity and accomplishments of the Honors College community.


You are eligible to apply if you have completed one full-time semester of 12 or more graded credits at UMass Amherst and earned an overall and most recent semester GPA of 3.400 or higher at UMass Amherst.


Curriculum Overview

The Commonwealth Honors College curriculum is designed for students to experience breadth of study as well as depth of study. The full curriculum is composed of two components:  General Studies and Advanced Scholarship.  Students may choose to complete the full curriculum or a partial curriculum option.


Commonwealth Honors College Curriculum



The General Studies portion of the honors curriculum consists of 5 honors course requirements and focuses on breadth of study through which honors students build the skills and knowledge to grapple with both the timeless issues of humanity and the current dilemmas facing our culture. An added benefit of these honors courses is that they encourage interaction among talented students across a wide variety of disciplinary interests.

Advanced Scholarship

The Advanced Scholarship portion of the honors curriculum is typically 2-3 honors courses plus a 6-credit honors thesis or project. It is intended to provide a depth of study path for students to delve into topics of personal interest and contribute to original knowledge.

Students must select one of these two tracks for Advanced Scholarship:

  • Departmental Honors (DH) – Depth of study specified by the major department and designed to complement and enhance the major.  DH is the best choice for students who wish to pursue graduate studies or a career directly related to their major.
  • Multidisciplinary Honors (MH)* - Depth of study outside of the student's major or between two or more disciplines.  MH is the best choice for students who wish to engage in serious academic pursuits which are not directly supported by the DH tracks available through their majors.

*Note:  We strongly recommend that all students applying to Multidisciplinary Honors (MH) secure and meet with a faculty sponsor prior to submitting their online application. A faculty sponsor will be able to work with you to develop a plan to fulfill MH requirements in a way that will best prepare you to complete your honors thesis or project.  To compose a compelling Personal Statement for this application, you must be able to articulate a detailed and realistic MH plan.


Sub Plan Eligibility

CHC offers several sub plan options; the application's step-by-step process is designed to determine which sub plan is appropriate for you.  However, details are also provided below to assist you in determining a correct sub plan. 

  • First year students may apply to only the General Studies + Advanced Scholarship Unknown (GSAS) full curriculum sub plan*
  • Students with Undeclared Majors or Pre-Majors (e.g., ISOM, ENGIN, PREMED, PREDENT) may apply to only the General Studies + Advanced Scholarship Unknown (GSAS) full curriculum sub plan*
  • Sophomores, juniors and seniors with Declared Majors on SPIRE, who are interested in the full CHC curriculum, may apply to either
    • General Studies + Advanced Scholarship - Departmental Honors  (GSDH)
    • General Studies + Advanced Scholarship - Multidisciplinary Honors  (GSMH)
  • Sophomores, juniors and seniors with Declared Majors on SPIRE, who are interested in the partial CHC curriculum, may apply to either
    • Advanced Scholarship - Departmental Honors  (DH)
    • Advanced Scholarship - Multidisciplinary Honors  (MH)

*Students who are accepted to GSAS will choose their specific honors graduation sub plan -- usually GSDH or GSMH -- by the beginning of Junior year. These students are encouraged to meet with CHC advisors during Sophomore year, if they are unsure which honors graduation sub plan to choose.


CHC Graduation Credentials

CHC credentials conferred at graduation will vary depending upon whether students complete the full or partial CHC curriculum . Please view our Graduation with Honors webpage for details; we encourage you to understand the difference in graduating credentials prior to submitting your application.


Application Instructions
  1. Determine the sub plan you wish to apply for based upon the information provided above
  2. If you are interested in, and eligible for, multiple sub plans, choose the one that most interests you. Note: It may not be possible for you to switch sub plans without reapplying to CHC. Consider attending a CHC info session if you have questions.
  3. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with our requirements and offerings, paying particular attention to the links on our Student Handbook web page, particularly the Honors Thesis or Project section
  4. Draft a personal statement according to the guidelines below
  5. Complete the online application, including uploading your personal statement when prompted


Personal Statement

Please write a carefully crafted, one-page, single-spaced personal statement in which you explain why you want to engage in honors work and how honors work will help you realize your academic goals.


As you compose your personal statement, keep in mind that this statement is both an opportunity to articulate your commitment to the pursuit of academic excellence and the only sample of your formal writing available to the application review committee. The review committee will expect clear, well-developed writing with compelling examples. They will also expect careful proofing, including structure, spelling and grammar.


Reminder:  The online application cannot save drafts!  We recommend that you compose your statement in a word-processing program, save it on your computer, and then copy/paste it into the essay text box at the end of the online application.


Please include a header with the following information:

1.    Your full name

2.    Your SPIRE ID number

3.    The Honors curriculum sub plan to which you are applying

4.    Your current Major or Pre-major as listed on SPIRE


When composing your Personal Statement, please pay particular attention to the questions below.

Provide information about why you are applying to the particular sub plan you have selected:

  • What are your serious academic interests? 

  • If you wish to pursue Departmental Honors, what Major-appropriate topics might you research for your honors thesis or project?

  • If you wish to pursue Multidisciplinary Honors, how will you integrate your various interests for your honors electives and honors thesis or project?  Who is the faculty member who will sponsor you for Multidisciplinary Honors efforts? 


  • What academic experiences -- courses, workshops, lectures, films, books -- have you found to be intellectually rewarding?

  • Have you participated in any extra-curricular activities that relate to your academic interests and future goals?

  • Do you have any special skills or have you had any experiences that are relevant to completing an honors thesis or project?

  • What thoughts have you given to your future career?

  • What contributions can you see yourself making to a community of scholars?


Acceptance Process

Acceptance decisions will be sent to students' "" addresses only; admission to Commonwealth Honors College will be recorded on SPIRE shortly after admissions decisions are made.  All students must attend a CHC Orientation Session to learn more about their membership, requirements, and benefits. 

Note: Admission to Commonwealth Honors College carries a UMass trustee-mandated Bursar’s fee to cover value-added small honors courses and program opportunities. See the Bursar’s Office Fee Schedule for more information:


Application Cycle  


Info sessions:

Have questions?  Info sessions are held in 201 Commonwealth Honors College:

  • Mondays at 4:30
  • Thursdays at 9:30

Application Period:

Next cycle begins April 1, 2015

Application submission deadline:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Decisions emailed to students:

To be announced