Welcome to the online directory of services, resources, policies, and procedures for Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) students. In addition to information that will help students navigate their honors experience, this handbook provides information about campus resources and who to contact for assistance.  

Below is an overview of what you’ll find in this handbook. Clicking on a section heading link in the navigation to the right will take you to its corresponding handbook section. Each page contains navigation links at the bottom of the page so you can go to the previous page or to the next page. You can also jump to specific content areas using the table of contents on the right.  

The information contained in the handbook is not meant to serve as a road map for Commonwealth Honors College. Your honors advising team will help you figure out your own individualized course of study, as well as the resources that are specific to your needs. 

Curriculum Requirements Chart

This section lists the curriculum requirements for all CHC students who entered UMass in or after the fall 2018 semester. Any CHC students who entered UMass prior to the fall 2018 semester should consult with a CHC advisor to confirm any potential variations in curriculum requirements.

See a Sample Curriculum Tracking Sheet 

Honors Student Requirements

Find information related to the CHC Terms of Agreement, CHC Good Standing Policy, and Graduation with Honors.


Learn more about the online portal developed for the Commonwealth Honors College community.

Research Resources

Learn more about resources available across the university that help students start gaining research experience.

CHC Community

Share news and announcements with the Commonwealth Honors College community. Download the Student News Release Form.


While most forms specific to CHC can be accessed via CHC PATHS, this section provides students with access to the International Scholars Program Application and the Sophomores-Serve Application.



Requirements Chart

Requirements Chart

Requirements Chart

Commonwealth Honors College curriculum requirements are geared to the level of and type of inquiry honors students pursue. The first requirements are in the Breadth of Study curriculum guide, and include courses both in CHC and in academic departments. The second set of requirements addresses the deeper understanding that students receive in the Depth of Study component of our honors education. These requirements vary according to which track students choose for Depth of Study. The choices are either multidisciplinary honors or departmental honors.  



Honors Courses: Detailed Descriptions

Honors Courses: Detailed Descriptions

This document provides detailed information about the courses available to honors college students, how to enrich non-honors courses, how to create an honors independent study, and how to petition to have a range of additional courses apply toward your honors requirements.

Designated Honors Courses

Commonwealth Honors College partners with departments and programs campuswide to offer you various types of courses with an honors designation. These courses, when completed with a grade of “B” or higher, are automatically counted toward your honors course requirements.

Enriched Honors Courses

Enriched honors courses are courses and seminars (three or more credits) taught at the honors level with a 25-person enrollment capacity. They can be identified in the CHC Honors Course Guide and on SPIRE by their course number suffix “H” (e.g., ANTH 104H). These are intensive courses and their small class size allows for direct mentoring relationships between faculty and students.

Honors Colloquia

Honors colloquia are one-credit “add-ons” which enrich non-honors courses that exceed 25 students in capacity.

These colloquia offer 25 or fewer students in the large class the opportunity for more focused study of the course content. Honors colloquia can be identified in the Honors Course Guide and on SPIRE by their course number prefix “H” (e.g., ANTH H104). To fulfill honors course requirements, both the honors component and the regular course must be passed with grades of B or higher.

Some departments also offer a one-credit enrichment option under the honors seminar numbers 291H, 391H, and 491H. In this model, enrollment in the honors seminar must be preceded by satisfactory completion (grade of “B” or higher) of the designated, affiliated three- or four-credit non-honors course. Both components combined together will equal one honors course for the honors curriculum requirements.

Honors colloquia may also be established after the semester begins. If two or more students in a non-honors course are interested in establishing an honors colloquium version and the instructor is willing to work additionally with them, the instructor may submit a Late-Added Honors Colloquium Course Proposal. Enrollment must be between 2 and 25 students.

Note: If you are the only student interested in enriching a course, read about the honors independent study option below.

Honors Independent Study

An honors independent study is contracted with a faculty member, either as additional in-depth, independent work for a non-honors university course (one or two credits) or as a “stand-alone” honors independent study of your own design (three to six credits).

An honors independent study comes in two formats designated by HI and ISH. If a non-honors university course that you wish to take does not offer a regularly scheduled honors colloquium option, you may contract with the course instructor for one or two credits of additional in-depth, independent work (HI). You may also contract with a faculty member for a three- to six-credit “stand-alone” independent study honors of your own design (ISH).

Honors Independent Study Contract Registration

If you are interested in arranging an honors independent study, you should approach a faculty member and ask if they would consider guiding you in an honors experience. After you and the faculty member discuss the planned course of study, you will initiate a proposal through CHC PATHS.

Please see the Honors Independent Studies Proposals page for more details, including the course expectations and proposal content.

  • One- or two-credit HI enrichment of a non-honors course of three or more credits: This must involve at least eight hours of student-faculty contact time over the course of the semester. Once your proposal has been approved in CHC PATHS, you will be registered in an additional one- or two-credit section with a prefix of HI (e.g., ANTH HI104). Both the honors component and the regular course must be passed with grades of “B” or higher to fulfill honors course requirements.
  • Three- to six-credit “stand-alone” ISH: Students requesting this option must provide a syllabus-like proposal and documentation of the course workload. They must have at least 30 minutes of contact with the sponsor per credit, per week and approximately three to four hours of work per credit, per week.

Note: A maximum of three honors independent studies (HI or ISH) may be applied to the honors requirements.

Six-Credit Intensive Language Courses

Six-credit intensive language courses may be applied to Commonwealth Honors College honors requirements (with a maximum of two courses, for 12 credits).

NOTE: These courses are not applicable to 300-level or higher honors requirements unless they are 300-level or higher courses.

UMass Amherst Graduate Courses at the 600, 700, and 800 Level

UMass Amherst graduate courses at the 600, 700, and 800 level apply automatically to Commonwealth Honors College honors requirements.

As part of a large research university with 64 master’s and 50 doctoral programs, Commonwealth Honors College is uniquely positioned to support students ready and eager for the rigorous challenges graduate courses afford. Therefore, CHC accepts any upper-level graduate course, completed with a grade of “B” or higher, as applying toward its own honors requirements.

Honors Thesis Course Options

The honors thesis provides the culminating experience of a CHC student’s academic life and is designed to provide them with an opportunity to integrate their undergraduate experiences while preparing for their intended career paths. Whether you choose to work with a faculty member to design an individually contracted honors thesis or participate with other CHC students in a faculty-taught thesis seminar, you will have an opportunity to conduct in-depth scholarly research and complete a research manuscript or creative portfolio under the guidance of an experienced faculty mentor. The honors thesis is traditionally completed over two semesters in the senior year, divided into Honors Thesis Part 1 (three or more credits) and Honors Thesis Part 2 (three or more credits).

Petitioned Courses

It is possible to petition to have other courses not listed above apply toward your Commonwealth Honors College requirements.

While no traditional undergraduate UMass non-honors courses can be petitioned for honors course recognition, other types of courses, as listed below, can. No more than two non-honors courses may be approved as substitutes for honors course requirements. An honors advisor will guide you through the petition process.

Note: The Petition for Exemption form is located on and must be submitted through CHC PATHS.

Five College Courses

Five College courses taken at neighboring Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, or Hampshire Colleges through the Five College Consortium may be petitioned for honors credit.

These courses must meet the following criteria: enroll a maximum of 25 students, include a high degree of interaction between instructor and students, and feature a challenging course syllabus.

Exceptions: Five College language courses that carry more than eight credits per semester may not be used to satisfy honors requirements.

Study Abroad Courses

Study abroad courses may be petitioned for honors credit.

Each year hundreds of students from UMass Amherst experience the challenges and rewards of studying abroad. Commonwealth Honors College and the International Programs Office cosponsor the International Scholars Program, which allows highly qualified students to integrate international studies coursework at the university with study abroad during their junior year.

Note: The maximum number of study abroad courses that may be petitioned for honors credit is one per semester.

National Student Exchange and Transfer Honors Courses

National Student Exchange and transfer honors courses may be petitioned for honors credit provided they carry an honors designation at the home institution.

UMass Amherst Graduate Courses at the 500 Level

UMass Amherst graduate courses at the 500 level may be petitioned for honors credit.

These courses must meet the following criteria: enroll a maximum of 25 students, carry three or more graded credits, be taught at the graduate level, include a high degree of interaction between instructor and students, and feature a challenging course syllabus.

Commonwealth Honors Program Courses

Transfer students from a Commonwealth Honors Program in the Massachusetts public higher education system may count honors courses toward the Breadth of Study requirements. Check with your honors advisor for more information. However, Honors 201H and Honors 391AH requirements and the honors thesis requirement will not be waived under any circumstances.



Honors Independent Studies Proposals

Honors Independent Studies Proposals

Types of Honors Independent Studies

Honors independent studies come in two forms

  • A one or two credit “add-on” component to enrich a non-honors course (HI) of three or more credits
  • Three to six credits of “stand-alone” research (ISH)

If a standard university course that you wish to take does not offer an affiliated honors colloquium, you may contact the course instructor to discuss adding a one or two credit HI. Alternatively, if you would like to pursue research not addressed in a standard UMass course, you may contact an instructor to negotiate a three- to six- credit ISH on a topic of your choice or one related to the faculty member’s personal research or scholarship.

  • The one- or two-credit HI must be guided by the affiliated non-honors course instructor and involve at least eight hours of student/faculty contact time over the course of the semester. (Note that “add-on” HI are not permitted with any kind of stand-alone independent study, practicum, or internship.)*
  • The three- to six-credit ISH requires that you provide a syllabus-like proposal, documentation of the workload, and have at least thirty minutes of contact with the sponsor per credit, per week, with approximately three to four hours of work per credit, per week.

* A maximum of three honors independent studies (ISH) may be applied to CHC honors course requirements. Each one- or two-credit HI used to enrich a non-honors course must be affiliated with a different course each time in order to qualify as a CHC requirement.

Honors Independent Study (ISH) Registration

ISH registration is online via CHC PATHS and will include your responses to the proposal questions noted below. You are encouraged to draft your responses in MS Word prior to initiating the online contract. The following details what the process looks like on CHC PATHS.

ISH Proposal Outline

The ISH proposal will serve as the official UMass course description of the honors work you complete. Your proposal should address the following questions:

1. What will you study?

  • Clearly define your topic and the nature of your study. Do you wish to investigate the “big picture” (e.g., the effects of excessive TV viewing on the general public) or a specific aspect of something (e.g., violence on TV and the rising crime rate among teenage males)?
  • What do you hope to discover/accomplish from your study?

2. How will you conduct your research?

Surveys, observations, lab experiments, library searches, readings, archival explorations, discussions with community organizations, interviews, and consultations are examples of research methods. Please provide details for each method you list, including bibliographies as applicable.

3. What is your timeline and proposed method for benchmark evaluations of your ISH progress/achievements throughout the semester?

  • Create a timeline of assignments and a regular meeting schedule to help keep you on track and to provide opportunities for evaluation and feedback from your ISH sponsor.

4. How will you present your ISH for grading?

  • A written document (formal paper with a bibliography, journal, or composition) is the standard method for demonstrating your work in an honors independent study. Discuss the proposed length with your sponsor and note it in your proposal.
  • An oral presentation of your findings to either a committee or class may occasionally be scheduled as well.
  • Other options might include a project with documentation: a collection of original poetry, an exhibit of original artwork, a performance, or contribution of a product to a community or for a client.


Senior Checklist

Senior Checklist

Senior “To-Do” Checklist

A checklist of requirements CHC seniors must complete before leaving campus

Submit Research Manuscript or Creative Portfolio Thesis

Required for graduation with honors distinction.

  • Submit your correctly formatted manuscript through CHC PATHS by the last day of classes.
  • Use the correct form, based on the venue for your 499 research: either via research manuscript/creative portfolio individually-contracted thesis (with a guidance committee) or via research manuscript/creative portfolio thesis seminar.

Address Grading Issues

  • Remind your research manuscript/creative portfolio instructor to convert any “Y,” “INC,” or “NR” grade previously submitted for 499 Part I. They must convert the grade on SPIRE to reflect the final grade being awarded. If not converted, a “Y,” “INC,” or “NR” grade will delay your graduation clearance.
  • Remind your research manuscript/creative portfolio instructor to also submit a final grade on SPIRE for 499 Part II.
  • Clear up any other “INC” or “NR” grades (INC = incomplete, NR = not recorded). These affect your final GPA and can delay the awarding of your degree. Contact the instructor of the course to revise the grade on SPIRE or via a Change of Grade form submitted to the Registrar’s Office or contact the honors office if you decide to leave the “INC” or “NR” as is on your transcript.

University Requirements and SPIRE Info

  • Review your SPIRE Academic Requirements Report (ARR) for any unsatisfied university, college, and major requirements. Your ARR can tell you if you are missing a requirement (e.g. Gen Eds, residence credits, etc.). 
    Note: Departmental honors requirements are not recorded on the SPIRE ARR at this time. If you are unsure of your CHC graduation status, a CHC advisor can review your honors file with you at any time. Schedule advising appointment online now.
  • Update your SPIRE contact information—phone, address, and email—before you leave campus. We will use that information to contact you after our graduation clearance reviews. Please ensure the information is up-to-date!

Important Links




Honors Student Requirements

Honors Student Requirements

Terms of Agreement 

Upon joining the Commonwealth Honors College, students are required to sign the Commonwealth Honors College Terms of Agreement, acknowledging that they will fulfill honors requirements along with those of the university, college/school, and major.

Good Standing Policy

Learn what it means to be considered in good standing in Commonwealth Honors College and understand CHC policies regarding academic warnings, academic probation, dismissal, and reinstatement.

Graduation with Honors 

To receive an undergraduate degree from UMass Amherst, students must satisfy requirements related to credits, grade point average, program of study, and courses. Learn more about the specific requirements that honors students must meet in order to earn a Commonwealth Honors College distinction on their transcript or diploma.



Terms of Agreement

Terms of Agreement

In addition to completing university, college/school, and major requirements, Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) students must also satisfy some CHC-specific requirements to maintain membership in CHC. These are detailed in the CHC Terms of Agreement, which must be signed by all CHC students on CHC PATHS. A PDF copy is also available for review.



Good Standing Policy

Good Standing Policy

Students who earn good standing in Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) are eligible to apply for:

  • CHC scholarships, fellowships, and grants
  • CHC Residential Community (CHCRC) housing during the first round of the housing selection process*

*CHCRC housing is not guaranteed. Honors students on CHC academic warning or CHC academic probation may become eligible to participate: a) only in the final round of the selection process and b) only if space is available. 


To be considered in good standing in Commonwealth Honors College, a student must

  • Be in good standing with UMass Amherst by complying with all its policies, including the Code of Student Conduct and the Academic Honesty Policy.
  • Maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) at or above 3.400.
  • Complete the honors course requirements of a CHC graduation sub plan with earned grades of “B” or higher in all components.

Recommendations for remaining in good standing

  • Abide by the expectations outlined in CHC Terms of Agreement.
  • Make progress towards completion of honors coursework as specified in Curriculum Requirements by earning grades of “B” or higher in all honors courses intended to fulfill CHC curriculum requirements, including the root courses affiliated with one-credit add-on honors independent studies or colloquia. (Note: with the exception of HONORS 391A, one-credit freestanding honors courses do not fulfill honors curriculum requirements.)
  • Meet with a CHC Advisor during the first semester of membership, and at least once each year thereafter. 


An honors student will be placed on CHC academic warning if the cumulative GPA drops below 3.400.

If after one semester on CHC academic warning a student’s cumulative GPA reaches 3.400 or higher, the student will return to good standing. If their cumulative GPA remains below 3.400, the student will be placed on CHC academic probation.

Any student on CHC academic warning is strongly encouraged to meet with a CHC Advisor as soon as possible to discuss an action plan. 


After one semester of CHC academic warning, an honors student will be placed on CHC academic probation if the cumulative GPA remains below 3.400.

If, after one semester on CHC academic probation, a student’s cumulative GPA reaches 3.400 or higher, the student will return to good standing. If their cumulative GPA remains below 3.400, the student will be dismissed. [See CHC Dismissal below.]

Any student on CHC academic probation is strongly encouraged to meet with a CHC Advisor to discuss an action plan.


An honors student will be dismissed from CHC if any of the following is true:

  • The student was already on CHC academic probation and the next cumulative GPA falls below 3.400.
  • It is mathematically impossible for the student to regain a cumulative GPA of 3.400 by the anticipated graduation date.
  • The student will be unable to satisfy the honors course requirements of one of the five CHC graduation sub plans: General Studies + Departmental Honors (GSDH), General Studies + Multidisciplinary Honors (GSMH), Departmental Honors only (DH), or Multidisciplinary Honors only (MH).


A former CHC student who regains a cumulative GPA of 3.400 may request reinstatement in CHC by email records [at] honors [dot] umass [dot] edu. Students are also strongly encouraged to meet with a CHC Advisor to discuss their academic planning to ensure they can complete the CHC curriculum in a timely manner upon reinstatement. 

Students who are completing Departmental Honors (DH) should also meet with the Honors Program Director of that department to ensure they are on track to complete the DH requirements.





What is CHC PATHS?

CHC PATHS is an online portal that allows students to conduct several Honors-related business functions, including submission of:

Visit CHC PATHS online

 Read instructions for CHC PATHS




Student Instructions for CHC Paths

Student Instructions for CHC Paths

Log In

Go to the CHC PATHS Portal.

Log in using your UMass NetID and password.

Start a New Contract

Determine which type of course contract you would like to create:

499Y: Part I of Honors Thesis

To enroll in the first semester of an independent honors thesis.

499T/P: Part II of Honors Thesis

To enroll in the second semester of an independent two-semester honors thesis or to enroll in a one-semester six-credit honors thesis.

ISH: Independent Study Honors

To enroll in an independent study.


Review relevant details about submitting a course contract.

Student Section

Review the information about your major and honors plan. Contact a CHC advisor to make changes.

Indicate the faculty member(s) who will guide your independent work.

Enter the number of weekly hours you will dedicate to your independent work.

Semester Plan/Proposal

As part of the course contract, the semester plan or proposal is a binding contract (similar to a course syllabus) that outlines expectations. Students should complete each section of the proposal and consult the faculty member for guidance.


Save the form to return later and make further revisions. Submit it if you have entered all of the requested information and are ready to submit it for review.



Research Resources

Research Resources

Research Human Subject Testing

Federal regulations require that proposed research involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to project initiation. The UMass Amherst Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) will help students determine if a research project meets the definition of human subject research, as well as assist students in navigating the IRB review process. 

Responsible Conduct of Research by Undergraduates

Adherence to the highest ethical and moral standards in the conduct of research and scholarly activity is the expectation for all members of the University of Massachusetts Amherst community. Honors students are encouraged to review and become familiar with the university’s policies regarding responsible conduct of research prior to establishing the outline for an honors thesis.





Log in to CHC PATHS to access the following forms: