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Honors Credit

Students can only propose a thesis/project for the honors courses that were previously approved by their department or major; that is, 4 credits per semester (XXX 430), 6 credits per semester (XXX 432) or 8 credits in the fall only (XXX 431). The Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs (SHIP) will not approve any other credit arrangements (for example, 5 credits in the fall and 3 in the spring).

SHIP will typically not overrule a departmental endorsement of an honors application; if you don’t think an honors proposal is strong, please vote against it at the department level. If a student’s major GPA is low, the SHIP chair will write to the student to explain that it might affect honors determination.

Calculating GPA

Students applying to the Departmental Honors Program receive an individual computer-generated list of courses, grades and GPA course points, listing all eligible courses and grades counting toward their GPA.

To help your students calculate their GPA:

  • Take the information in the columns titled "Units" and "Earned Grade Points" and copy it into the appropriate columns.
  • Use the first two columns on the left for "Major Credit" and "Major Course Points."
  • Use the last two columns on the left for "Outside Major Credit" and "Outside Course Points."
  • Total the course points column for each category and divide by the total credits.

As an example, the information in bold below is what needs to be written in the appropriate column to the right.

Grade  Units x  Grade Points =  Earned Grade Points
A-  4.00    3.7    14.80

Students must have the completed form signed by their major adviser and the director of honors in their department.

Application Deadlines

Please note that these guidelines contain no specific dates. For deadlines see the Honors page.

The director of honors should email (preferred) or hand-deliver all endorsed honors applications to the class deans office. Please do not have students send us the application and please do not put applications in campus mail.

One-semester fall honors projects (8 credits) are not available in all departments, and a spring semester only option (8 credits) does not exist. Students who undertake a one-semester honors thesis/project in the fall follow the guidelines for May.

No late applications are accepted. A student who misses the deadline may have the option of setting up a special studies with her prospective honors adviser in order to upgrade to a one-semester honors project in the next semester. Check deadlines for special studies on the registrar's webpage.

All applications—whether approved or denied by the department—are due to SHIP no later than the end of the second week of the semester in time for students to be fully registered by the end of the third week of the semester. Note that sometimes the application deadline falls on a Wednesday or Thursday.

Appointments with research librarians are no longer required. Students who are interested in meeting with a research librarian in their field are encouraged to make an appointment to discuss their projects by the end of the sixth week of the semester (the week after the "paper" course drop deadline). They can make an appointment on the Smith College Libraries site.

Students must submit their proposals to the director of honors for the department or program in which they are majoring either:

  • at least one week before the last department/program meeting in May of their junior year so that it can be forwarded to the SHIP chair with the appropriate endorsement (SHIP approval is made by late June).
  • at least one week before the first department/program meeting of the semester so that it can be forwarded to the SHIP chair with the appropriate endorsement by the end of the second week of the semester (SHIP approval is made by the end of the third week).

Students must submit their proposals to the director of honors for the department or program in which they are majoring either:

  • at least one week before the last department/program meeting in December so that it can be forwarded to the SHIP chair with the appropriate endorsement before winter break (SHIP approval is made by the beginning of the spring semester approximately).
  • at least one week before the first department/program meeting of the spring semester so that it can be forwarded to the SHIP chair with the appropriate endorsement by the end of the second week of the semester (SHIP approval is made by end of third week approximately).


The adviser of any thesis/project must be a member of the Smith faculty in the student's major deparment or program.  Faculty on sabbatical are not normally allowed to advise theses.  Every thesis/project must be evaluated upon completion by two faculty members.

Moodle Site

Advisers and departmental directors of honors, in addition to all approved honors students, are automatically enrolled in a Moodle site for honors managed by the senior dean and honors coordinator in the class deans office. It provides basic information, important deadlines, and is where students upload their honors thesis title page and a final PDF of their theses/projects for cataloging by the library.  Specific deadlines for January grads and May grads are found here.

Second Readers

A second reader, appointed by the department, can be a faculty member from the Five Colleges, a visiting professor, etc. All second readers must evaluate the final product and write a report to submit to the departmental director of honors.

The grade for each semester must be submitted by the Smith faculty of record, although it is possible for a second reader who is a Smith faculty member to take over the grading for the second semester of a yearlong thesis. Faculty must notify the SHIP chair of such a change.

Grades & Evaluations

Honors thesis/project advisers must supply a grade for each semester of an honors project. The grade is separate from the evaluation and the oral exam. It is calculated as part of the student’s GPA in the major for the final honors determination.

Halfway Point

Each department has its own expectations for when and how much writing/research will be accomplished in the first semester of an honors project. Students are often allowed interterm to complete substantial first drafts or whatever work has been agreed upon between the students and adviser. The beginning of the second semester is a good time to assess progress.

Departments may have earlier internal guidelines for the submission of completed manuscripts, but all projects must be submitted by the end of the tenth week of the semester.

The title page and the signed library permission form are due on the same day. The title page is uploaded to the Moodle website by the student and the library permission form must be printed out, signed by the student and emailed to the library. The student should include both readers of her thesis/project on the title page.

A departmental director of honors may allow a one-week extension at their discretion. In very unusual circumstances, the senior class dean may allow an additional one-week extension, but the request must be forwarded to the senior class dean and endorsed by the departmental director of honors. Students should not email the senior dean themselves.

The final version of the thesis/project is uploaded as a PDF to the honors moodle course (to which all honors thesis students are enrolled) the last day of the semester. The student may incorporate slight revisions in this copy, but all substantive writing is complete at this time.

The calculations for determining honors are done on an Excel spreadsheet prepared by the Class Deans Office. Either the departmental director of honors or the chair of SHIP inserts the student’s GPA in the major (provided by the registrar) and the evaluations of the oral exam and the thesis/project. The percentages awarded to each category are regulated in advance by the department and are noted on the application form.

The final thesis/project evaluation result (which includes grades in major, thesis/project and oral exam) for all students should be circulated at the last departmental meeting of the semester and confirmed by the director of honors to the chair of SHIP.

January grad thesis/project writers may, with the permission of the director of honors, submit the final draft of their theses as late as the first week of January (see the list of honors dates for specific deadlines as they change). If a student requests and is approved for this option, the oral exam must be administered by the second week in January. 

It may be possible for a student to stay in residence at Smith but the student must notify the senior class dean by the beginning of December that they would like to request to stay on campus to finish their thesis. If approved, the move-out date is decided by the director of housing, but it would be no later than at least a week before the beginning of the spring semester. Please note: approval is not guaranteed.

Under no circumstances will students completing their degree in January be allowed to continue their honors work into the spring semester.

The dates on which Latin honors and departmental/program honors are determined are the same for January graduates as for May graduates.  The dates for uploading the title page, library permission form and the final version of the thesis/project on Moodle are different – please refer to the “Important Dates: January Graduates” calendar.

Oral Presentation

Every honors thesis/project writer should present her work orally to the department or program; the presentation format is at the discretion of the department/program, although group presentations of all honors students in a department to its faculty are typical. Small departments/programs who share faculty sometimes combine their presentations.

The oral presentation must occur before reading period.


The oral presentation must be evaluated in writing by at least two faculty members, one being the thesis adviser. Second evaluators are usually from the department/program, but may also be from related programs and departments. Some departments have all faculty members present at the presentation, evaluate it together and submit an average for the oral presentation grade in writing.

Completed copies of the Reader Reports and the Oral Presentation Evaluation(s) should be emailed to or hand-delivered to College Hall 101.

Sharing Feedback

Whether comments are submitted to the student is up to the discretion of the department. The final evaluation and honors designation should not be shared with the student before graduation; this is the only rule about honors that appears in the faculty code. Readers may share their comments with the student if they wish before that date. 

Special Studies Conversion

Honors Project to Special Studies

A student can convert an unsuccessful honors thesis/project to a special studies. This must be before the deadline to submit work to the thesis adviser for final editorial review, please consult the honors "Important Dates January Graduates" and "Important Dates May Graduates" for this deadline. If it is obvious that the work is not going well, the earlier this decision can be made, the better it is for all parties. The student should email for the instructions and to obtain the special studies form/s to complete and submit with the appropriate signatures. These forms are submitted directly to honors@smith.edunot to the registrar.

A student who drops their honors project early in the semester is under no obligation to continue their work by enrolling in a special studies; students may, if they wish. Notification of the drop needs to be emailed to so that senior class dean is aware the student is no longer pursuing honors.

If your department has a 6-credit thesis/project option, check on the amount of credits the student will need to complete their degree (128). Many students have extra credit and can readily convert from a 6-credit honors thesis to a 4-credit special studies, but if your student needs all 6 credits, they must convert their project to two special studies (there are no 6-credit special studies). These may be divided in whichever way seems appropriate (3 credits each, a 2-credit special studies plus a 4-credit one, etc.) but only if the department allows for a variable credit special studies. If the only option listed in the catalog is 4 credits, then the student must enroll in a 4-credit special studies and find the other 2 credits elsewhere.

Special Studies to Honors Project

Students can upgrade a first-semester special studies project (4 credits) or a particularly successful seminar paper (4 credits) in their major produced in residence, in the first semester of the senior year, to a one-semester honors project (4 credits) in the second semester of the senior year. The student must submit an honors application to the department just as for any other honors thesis/project according to the same deadlines. Students are not allowed to submit honors theses proposals for a one semester thesis upgrade that continues work undertaken at another institution (includes the 5-Colleges).

A student who upgrades a special studies to a thesis/project will have one semester of the thesis/project course on record in the semester in which they are officially enrolled as an honors student. There is no change to the first-semester special studies or seminar. The first-semester grade for the special studies is factored in as part of the GPA in the major.