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.  Please note that this current application cycle is for admission to CHC October 2015, with honors course enrollment and membership fees beginning Spring 2016; our previous admission cycle has closed.


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.  Pre-requisite:  sophomore status and a declared 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.

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, undeclared students and students with a pre-major (e.g., ISOM, ENGIN, PREMED, etc.) may apply to only the General Studies + Multidisciplinary Honors (GSMH) 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 + Departmental Honors  (GSDH)
    • General Studies + Multidisciplinary Honors  (GSMH)
  • Sophomores, juniors and seniors with declared majors on SPIRE, who are interested in the partial CHC curriculum, may apply to either
    • Departmental Honors (DH)
    • Multidisciplinary Honors (MH)

*Students who are accepted to GSMH will be able to discuss other curriculum options with an advisor, including General Studies + Departmental Honors (GSDH).


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 graduation 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.

  1. Why are you interested in joining CHC?  What contributions can you see yourself making to a community of scholars?
  2. What are your serious academic interests? What academic experiences -- courses workshops, lectures, films, books -- have you found to be intellectually rewarding?  Have you participated in any extra curriculuar activities that relate to your academic interests and future goals?
  3. What excites you about the opportunity to engage in research and complete an Honors Thesis/Project?  What topics might you investigate or which faculty would you like to work with?  Do you have any special skills or have you had any experiences that are relevent to completing an Honors Thesis or Project?  (If you are applying to Departmental Honors, please answer this last question with as much detail as possible.)


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 for entrance to CHC for Spring 2016


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:

Mid-October (All accepted students will be coded as CHC members in time for Spring 2016 registration in November 2015)