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Departmental Honors


Any student with a strong academic background may apply to complete an honors project in the department or program of her major. A successfully completed thesis project leads to the awarding of the bachelor of arts degree with the notation “honors," "high honors” or “highest honors” in the student’s major subject. Honors students’ names and the titles of their thesis projects are listed in the Commencement program. You may only earn honors in one major.


Eligibility for admission to the honors program is determined by each department or program. Consult the director of honors in your department or program about eligibility and deadlines before submitting a proposal and application.

Residency Requirement

You must be in residence in Northampton for the duration of the honors thesis project.

Honor Board Sanctions

To be enrolled in departmental honors you must certify that you have not been sanctioned by the Honor Board at a serious level (one-third-step grade reduction or more) for a violation in your sophomore, junior or senior year.

If you receive a sanction from the Honor Board during your senior year you must convert your honors project to a special studies.

Timeline and Dates 

If you are considering a thesis project, talk with the director of honors in your department or program during your junior year.

Project Advisers

You will need a faculty adviser for your thesis project. Consult with the director of honors in your department if you are unsure about whom to ask.

Your primary adviser must be a member of the Smith faculty in your major; faculty at other Five College institutions may serve as second readers.

Course/Credit Load

Honors students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits (which may include the thesis). Ada Comstock Scholars are expected to consult with the Ada Comstock Scholar dean about credit.

The Honors Project Course

You must be enrolled in an honors course when you undertake a thesis project. There are three options for the course:

  1. One-semester course (431; 8 credits)—fall semester only of the senior year
  2. Yearlong course (430D; 8 credits)—4 credits each semester
  3. Yearlong course (432D; 12 credits)—6 credits in each semester

Not all departments offer all options; consult the course catalog or ask the director of honors in your department.

Your proposal must be approved by your department or program and the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs (SHIP) before you are officially registered in the course, usually during the third week of the semester in which you start your thesis.

Developing an Honors Thesis from a Special Studies or Senior Seminar Paper

You may, with the endorsement of your adviser, transform a successful first-semester project (4 credits) in your major into an honors thesis (4 credits) in your major in the second semester of your senior year. You will need to submit an honors proposal and application to your department by the first day of the second semester of your senior year or sooner if required by your department. If approved, you will have one semester of the thesis/project course on record in the semester in which you are officially enrolled as an honors student. There is no change to the first-semester special studies or seminar. This is not an option for continuing work undertaken at another institution (includes the 5-Colleges).

Consult the directors of honors list above if you are interested in this possibility.

Library Permission Form

All thesis projects are archived electronically at the Smith Libraries. The library needs permission from you in order to catalog your thesis. You must sign the Smith College Libraries Permission Form for Honors Project. Deliver a hard copy to Mary Lou Bouley, Collection Services, Neilson Library. If you do not submit the form your thesis project cannot be catalogued.

Microsoft Office document icon Library Permission Form for Honors (Word document)

The library offers a variety of resources to assist students with honors projects.

More Information

The college-wide honors program is administered by SHIP under the Committee on Academic Priorities (CAP). Send questions to the dean of the senior class, who serves as chair of the subcommittee, at