How can I join the honors program?
Students who aspire to become honors students, regardless of their past academic records,
may request an interview with the program director to be admitted provisionally into
the program. Those with an academic track record at MCLA are eligible if their cumulative
GPAs are 3.2 or above.
Once I'm an honors student, how do I remain one?
Remaining a member in good standing of the program entails maintaining a cumulative
GPA of at least 3.2, and taking at least one honors course during each academic year.
What are the qualifications to complete the program?
Completing the program to graduate with all-college honors involves completing a minimum
of six, three-credit honors courses (at least half at the upper division) with a grade
of B or better in each, and having a GPA of at least 3.4 upon graduation.
Is there a thesis option?
Some honors students choose to graduate as Commonwealth Scholars in addition to All
College Honors. This option involves a year-long process of researching and writing
an interdisciplinary thesis, culminating in a public presentation and defense in the
Spring. The Commonwealth Scholar makes an additional presentation at the Commonwealth
Undergraduate Research Conference in Amherst. If this challenge interests you, start
a conversation about the possibility sometime early in your junior year. Prospectus and Thesis guidelines here.
Do honors courses fulfill CORE requirements?
Many honors courses, especially at the lower division, are designed specifically as
CORE courses. Some honors courses can also be used to fulfill requirements for your
major and minor programs, with departmental permission. You will need to consult your
department chair or advisor to determine this on an individual basis.
What if there aren't enough honors offerings in my area of study to complete the program?
Part of the point of the program is to get students out of their comfort zones, doing
intensive intellectual work in areas beyond their specialties (and bringing the investigative
tools of those specialties to other subject-matters). Thus it is actually best to
select most of your honors courses outside your major or division.
Where is the Honors Center?
MCLA's campus is rather small, so one measure of whether you might be honors material
is your ability to locate the center on your own. (Hint: it's in Mark Hopkins Hall,
What's the relationship between the Honors Program and various national and local
None. The MCLA Honors Program is an academic program (a bit like an interdisciplinary
academic minor). We have no induction ceremonies, no keys, no dues, and no national
directories to buy.
Do I have to take HONR 100, The Nature of Human Nature, before taking other Honors
Only if you choose to. As an honors student, you may take whatever honors courses
you like, in consultation with the honors directors, who serve as secondary academic
advisors (after your major advisor). It is a very good idea, however, to succeed at
a 100-level honors course before diving into the deep end.
In courses cross-listed with honors, are honors students expected to do more work
than the other students in the class?
Honors work is not designed to be more work, but rather more interesting work, which
is to say more challenging and engaging, and hence also more fun. Specific course
requirements vary from course to course, and some courses will have a specific honors
project. Either way, honors students are generally expected to do background and supplemental
reading on their own initiative, and to take the lead in class in drawing the other
students out and steering the discussion in intellectually stimulating directions.
What makes an honors course different from other college courses?
This varies a bit with different courses and professors, but in general honors courses
are reading intensive (with a preference for primary-source material), writing intensive,
interdisciplinary, collaborative (most are small seminars), and present opportunities
for independent research. All are designed specifically to take students who want
to be challenged and push them to new levels, in fascinating areas of inquiry.
Who decides which honors courses are offered?
The honors directors, in consultation with the honors students and faculty, develop
the schedule of honors courses. We regularly develop or repeat specific courses in
response to student interest. As an honors student, you will be invited to a gathering
at least once a semester, one purpose of which is to brainstorm about the future honors
schedule. Of course, if you can't make those meetings, the honors directors always
welcome your ideas and suggestions at any time.
Are honors students required to attend talks and performances?
Part of what it means to be an honors student is to participate fully in your own
larger learning process, seeking out intellectual and cultural experiences to attend
and discuss with friends. We encourage you to do this as much as possible, and to
try things you know nothing about rather than sticking to what you are already interested
in. Another important principle in honors learning is autonomy--making your own choices,
as an adult, about what events to attend and when. Thus we have the strong expectation
that you will participate in Honors-sponsored and many other events, but we have no
formal requirement, and do not take attendance.
What if I wonder about things that aren't frequently asked?
We would consider that a good sign. Feel free to contact the Director of the Honors
Program, Professor Zack Finch at D.Zachary.Finch@mcla.edu or 413-662-5137.