Commonwealth Honors College provides a diverse community of academically talented students at UMass Amherst with extensive opportunities for analysis, research, professional development and international experience.


What is an Honors Education?

The National Collegiate Honors Council, which supports and promotes undergraduate honors education, provides the following definition: “Honors education is characterized by in-class and extracurricular activities that are measurably broader, deeper, or more complex than comparable learning experiences typically found at institutions of higher education. Honors experiences include a distinctive learner-directed environment and philosophy, provide opportunities that are appropriately tailored to fit the institution's culture and mission, and frequently occur within a close community of students and faculty.”


Commonwealth Honors College Mission

Commonwealth Honors College offers highly motivated UMass Amherst students an opportunity to pursue broad inquiry and to engage in the creation of new knowledge by working closely with faculty. With a commitment to building a diverse and inclusive community, Commonwealth Honors College encourages students to become leaders in thought and action.


Commonwealth Honors College Education

Commonwealth Honors College provides a diverse community of academically talented students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with extensive opportunities for analysis, research, professional development, and international experience.

Small Honors classes foster intellectual exchange and close interaction with faculty, offering the advantages of a small scholarly community alongside all the resources of a nationally recognized research university.

The Honors Curriculum promotes education that is both broad and deep. Through Honors General Education courses, Honors College students reach beyond the boundaries of their academic majors, while advanced scholarship tracks provide students opportunities to delve deeply into topics of interest and contribute new and original knowledge to their fields of study.

The Honors Thesis is the culminating experience of the Commonwealth Honors College academic journey. The Honors Thesis centers around an original investigation of a topic of the student’s choice and is traditionally completed over two semesters in the senior year.

In addition, Commonwealth Honors College offers an array of professional development opportunities, community-engaged research, special lectures, and international programs—all designed to foster global perspectives, encourage diverse viewpoints, and promote dialogue on social justice.


Honors Facts Academic Year 2021-22

Honors College Students

  • AY 2021-22 new Honors College students
    • Entering first-year students: 677
    • Current students admitted as on-campus applicants: 359
  • Total number of Honors College students: 3,126
  • Percentage of UMass Amherst students in Commonwealth Honors College: about 14%
  • Percentage of Honors College students who self-identify as ALANA*: 31%
  • Background of entering Honors College students
    • Top 9% of high school class
    • High school GPA: 4.3
    • Combined SAT: 1418

*African American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Native American



  • Average size of an Honors course: 15
  • Number of UMass Amherst faculty teaching Honors courses: 200


Commonwealth Honors College Milestones

  • Year Commonwealth College opened: Fall 1999
  • Year the name changed to Commonwealth Honors College: Spring 2010
  • Year the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community opened: Fall 2013
  • Number of honors alumni: more than 15,000
  • Earliest records of honors education at UMass Amherst
    • Year of first honors thesis: 1894
    • Year of first campus-wide honors program that incorporated the arts and sciences as well as the professional schools: 1960


Advisory Board

The Commonwealth Honors College Advisory Board is composed of individuals who support and advocate for the college and advise the dean on a range of issues. Letters and messages to board members may be directed to the Commonwealth Honors College office at info@honors.umass.edu.   


Commonwealth Honors College Council

The Commonwealth Honors College Council advises the dean of Commonwealth Honors College on all administrative, curriculum and policy matters, including setting standards for Honors course approval, Departmental Honors and Multidisciplinary Honors, Honors College student admission and graduation, Honors Faculty, and the direction of the Honors Thesis. It is a formal council of the UMass Amherst Faculty Senate.


Commonwealth Honors Program

Commonwealth Honors College is part of an integrated network of honors programs throughout the Massachusetts public higher education system. Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S. to offer Commonwealth Honors Programs in community colleges, and state universities and on the campuses of the University of Massachusetts, with Commonwealth Honors College designated as the free-standing honors college of distinction.


Students walk through the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community at the University of Massachusetts

Designed for intellectually curious students who are passionate about creating new knowledge — and about making a difference in their fields of study and in their communities.

The Honors Curriculum challenges you to find connections between academic disciplines, between theory and practice, between individual and community, and to learn to make a difference in the world.  

Your Team Helps You Succeed.

Meet the team of Commonwealth Honors College faculty and staff dedicated to academic excellence.