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The English honors program is a full-year, 8-credit course; four credits may be counted as a semester course toward the English major. Many honors theses are analytical studies of literature in English. Majors on the creative writing track may apply to write a collection of poems, short stories or nonfictional literary prose as an honors project.

Senior Thesis

During the senior year honors students will present a thesis, of which the first complete formal draft (2 copies) will be due near the start of the second semester. After the readers of the thesis have provided students with their evaluations of this draft, the student will have time to revise her work in response to their suggestions. The final completed version of the thesis (2 copies) will be due in early April, to be followed later that month by the student's oral presentation and discussion of her work. Students in honors will normally be given priority in seminars.

See the following thesis information for English majors considering honors (which includes specific deadline dates).

Frequently Asked Questions

Who qualifies for honors?

To qualify for honors you need to have a B average (3.0) and a B+ average (3.3) in the English major by your junior year. Only Smith College (including Picker and Smithsonian), Five College and Smith College Junior Year Abroad courses are counted. You must also have a strong academic background in general and be able to work independently.

What does an honors student do?

Honors students write a thesis over the course of two semesters and meet regularly with their thesis advisers during the fall term, when they are reading, thinking about, and writing the first draft of the thesis. A completed draft of the thesis is due on the first day of the second semester. It is read by the thesis adviser and a second reader, who provide extensive comments. On the basis of these comments, honors students work independently to revise their drafts into finished theses, due mid-April. The final draft is normally between 40–80 double–spaced pages. Finally, at the end of term, each honors student makes an informal (oral) presentation of her thesis to a group of other honors students, faculty and friends.

When can I apply for honors?

You may apply to enter the program at the earliest during the second semester of the junior year. Your application will then be discussed at the last department meeting of the spring semester, in May. At the latest, you may apply at the beginning of the first semester of your senior year. Your application will then be discussed at the first department meeting of the fall semester, usually around mid-September.

How do I apply for honors?

In March or early April, you should request an initial interview with the director of honors to explain your interest and discuss procedures. If you are away for JYA, you should email the director. It is your responsibility to interest a faculty member in your project so that he or she can volunteer to become your thesis adviser. The Departmental Honors Programs at Smith are administered by the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs (SHIP) of the Committee on Academic Priorities (CAP) chaired by the dean of the senior class. Please follow the detailed guidelines and procedures for applying to the Departmental Honors Program posted on the Class Deans site.

  • You must first request via email to, a "Calculation of GPA Requirements Form" to be sent to your campus box. (If you are away for JYA, you may have to give written permission for the form to be sent to you by fax or email. For reasons of confidentiality, this form will otherwise NOT be sent to you by email.) You must complete the form together with your major adviser.

  • In addition, you must fill out the application form (also available from the Web site above or from the Class Deans Office, College Hall 101), and write a thesis proposal as specified above.

  • Your completed application should be signed by your thesis adviser. 

  • You may then present the application to the departmental director of honors for consideration by the department. In some cases, the department may request clarification or certain changes before accepting the proposal.

The departmental director of honors will forward the application, with the department's recommendation, to the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 101. The final decision regarding admission to the honors program rests with the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs (SHIP).

How do I register for honors?

A prospective honors student may not register for the honors course. If the student is admitted to the honors program, the honors course will be added automatically to the student's registration. However, students will need to register for the second half of the year–long course when submitting registration for the second semester. The student will be responsible for making all other changes (i.e., drops and adds) to her program before the appropriate deadlines. Register for a full program of credits and then drop the excess after notification of admission into the honors program.

Honors candidates must carry at least 12 credits each semester of the senior year (the minimum 12 credits include the credits for the honors thesis, normally four for each semester). An Ada Comstock Scholar must see the director of the Ada Comstock Program regarding credit load.

What kind of financial help is available?

The Tomlinson Memorial Fund offers up to $500 financial assistance for research and copying expenses, but there are only a limited number of these grants available. Your request for Tomlinson funds should accompany your honors application and be signed by the adviser and the departmental director of honors.