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Choosing your honors pathway  

English majors enrolled in the Commonwealth Honors College can choose from 2 honors pathways, or tracks. One of these is the Departmental Honors track, and the other is the Multidisciplinary Honors track. Departmental Honors is usually the best option for students who want to pursue advanced scholarship in their major, pursue graduate studies, or seek a career related to their major. The Departmental Honors track requires 2 honors-designated courses within the major and culminates in one of two options: the writing of an independently-designed honors thesis under the supervision of a chairperson from the English Department, OR the completion of a substantial creative writing project through enrollment in English 499 C/D, "Foundations and Departures in Creative Writing."

CHC English majors should begin deciding which track they would like to pursue during spring registration in their sophomore year. To this end, they should meet with the Honors Program Director, Janis Greve, to explore which track best serves them. 
This timing is important (particularly if a student plans to go abroad) so that the student can choose courses that might support their thesis/project work and can develop relationships with faculty who may eventually oversee that work.  

To make an appointment with the Honors Program Director, visit South College E345 or email Janis Greve at


Pursuing Departmental Honors

In order to be eligible to pursue Departmental Honors, students must be enrolled in the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC). All students interested in Departmental Honors should make an appointment to speak with the Honors Program Director, ideally after they have completed at least one honors course. Entrance into departmental honors requires a cumulative average of 3.4, and no grades below a B+ in English courses.

To graduate with honors, students admitted to CHC first complete a General Education component, consisting of 4 or 5 courses, and then an Advanced Scholarship component. For their advanced scholarship, students choose from 2 options. Each option includes two additional honors courses plus a capstone thesis of 6 or more credits, usually conducted in the senior year. Departmental Honors (DH) is an Advanced Scholarship track of CHC. Students may complete DH as part of the full CHC curriculum, or they may complete DH alone if they enter CHC as juniors or seniors and choose to complete only the Advanced Scholarship part of the curriculum. 

The specific requirements for the English Department Honors track are as follows:

  • one honors course in the English Department at the 200-level or above
  • one honors course in the English Department at the 300-level or above. (The Department strongly recommends that students take their Junior-Year Writing courses as Honors courses, where possible.)

And either of two options:

  • The two-semester independent honors thesis or project, worth 6 credits. Students writing a literary-critical thesis or creative project sign up for 499Y (usually in the fall) and 499T (usually in the spring.) The honors thesis counts as 2 of the student's 3 upper-level electives.


  • English 499C/D, “Foundations and Departures in Creative Writing,” a two-semester capstone course, worth 6 credits. English 499C/D also counts as 2 of a student's 3 upper-level electives, and students writing a creative thesis sign up for 499Y (fall) and 499P (spring). Note that admission to this course is via permission of the instructor and requires a sampling of the student’s creative writing. Students interested in the course are encouraged to pursue the Creative Writing Specialization to help them develop their craft and put together a strong portfolio.


Graduating with honors 

Students may earn several types of honors at UMass: 

  • Latin Honors (appears on transcript): As of May 2009, all graduating seniors are eligible for Latin honors on their transcripts, provided they have taken 54 graded credits at UMass. Latin honors are based on the top GPA percentiles of graduating seniors within a school or college. Every fall, these percentiles and their corresponding Latin honors are posted on the registrar's website. Read more about Latin Honors
  • CHC Honors Distinctions (appears on transcript and diploma): All Commonweath Honors College students are eligible for CHC Honors distinctions (in addition to Latin honors). The four levels of distinction are: CHC Scholar CHC Scholar with Distinction; CHC Scholar with Great Distinction; CHC Scholar with Greatest Distinction. To see the requirements for each level of distinction, students should visit the CHC website:
  • Departmental Honors (appears on transcript): Departmental Honors (appears on transcript): are awarded to students who enter Commonwealth Honors College and complete the Departmental Honors requirements with grades of  B+ or better. The honors thesis or project and its manuscript must be formatted to Commonwealth Honors College standards. This distinction appears on the transcript as "Departmental Honors."
  • Multidisciplinary Honors (appears on transcript): is awarded to students who concentrate their upper-level honors courses outside their major(s) or between two or more disciplines. Multidisciplinary Honors require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.400 and earned grades of B or higher earned in four honors courses, including one at or above the 300-level, plus the honors thesis or project and its manuscript formatted to Commonwealth Honors College standards.  This distinction appears on the transcript as "Multidisciplinary Honors."

For further information, see the Honors Program Director, Janis Greve, in E345 South College or call 545-5464. You can also email her at Information about Commonwealth Honors College is available at