Commonwealth Honors College is designed for students who seek to harness their intellectual curiosity to motivate learning and who are passionate about applying this knowledge to make a difference in their disciplines and in their communities.
Community of Scholars
Honors College students benefit from a tight-knit community, close ties with faculty, small Honors classes, value-added Honors advising, and access to special programs, merit scholarships, and research grants.
Campus Full of Opportunities
Honors College students have access to the extensive resources of the University of Massachusetts Amherst—a large research university with roughly 90 majors, including the option to design your own, and wide-ranging opportunities for student engagement.
UMass Amherst offers you the full range of choices of a top-ranked university. Here, you’ll take courses and conduct research with leading scholars who care about undergraduate education. There are opportunities to do research in state-of-the-art laboratories, become editors of literary journals, and join the annual Hack-a-Thon. The campus is recognized as a “Community-Engaged University” for our initiatives integrating research and teaching with the community, so you will find ample opportunity to take your classroom experiences and apply them to real-world situations.
“Be excited and passionate about your major, but also be awed to have the opportunity to learn about topics outside of your academic wheelhouse. Take advantage of the many opportunities the university and the Honors College have to offer. Take academic chances and try something new. It is in those experiences that you have the opportunity to truly learn.” – KIM TREMBLAY, Associate Professor of Veterinary & Animal Science and Commonwealth Honors College Council Chair
Small Classes, Expansive Ideas
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. Download the Honors curriculum chart
Small, discussion-based courses taught by faculty members from a variety of disciplines encourage extended explorations of ideas and facilitate meaningful interactions with faculty. Honors College students have many opportunities to enrich their academic interests through in-depth or independent work and co-curricular experiences.
Honors Signature Courses
Our Honors Signature courses, designed especially for Honors College students, offer the chance to explore intriguing topics with fellow students from all disciplines in small, inquiry-based classes.
This Honors Signature course will challenge you to think critically, explore profound ideas, and expand your own creative potential.
These Honors Signature courses are based around an in-depth exploration of a question currently captivating the faculty members teaching them.
In this Honors Signature course, currently "What’s the Big Idea?: How Innovative Thinking Can Change the World," each lecture is given by a faculty member from a different discipline.
Honors Advisors provide invaluable guidance and support for all aspects of your Honors College student journey: your Honors academic experience, campus academic and co-curricular opportunities, scholarships and research funding, and your Honors Thesis.
Honors College students complete advanced work in their majors or across disciplines, culminating in an Honors Thesis, which centers around an original investigation of a topic of the student’s choice. Our alumni report that the Honors Thesis was one of their most meaningful undergraduate experiences, and that it helped them to develop advanced problem-solving and creative skills that opened doors for them in careers and graduate school. Through their Honors Thesis work, Honors College alumni have engineered a pedal-powered wheelchair, created an original jazz score, and contributed to infectious disease control.
"It is a piece of history that links to my ancestors and the history of my tribe."
It isn’t often that a student has a clear idea of the path they will take to pursue their goals before entering college; for many, it can take years to figure out what they are passionate about. Edridge D’Souza is an exception.
Student Perspectives: Research and the Honors Thesis
Honors Living-Learning Community
Located in the heart of campus, with six residence halls, classrooms, an events hall, the Bloom Honors Advising Center and Roots Café, the newly constructed Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community (CHCRC), serves as a home base for Honors College students. The CHCRC brings Honors College students together for information meetings with professors, Honors advising, special events, and professional development opportunities.
All Honors College students have access to the many benefits and services offered by Commonwealth Honors College, including value-added Honors advising, evening lectures and films, and special programs such as the International Scholars Program. The Honors College routinely hosts special events that foster students' understanding of diverse perspectives on current global, national, and local concerns.
Many first-year students participate in Honors Residential Academic Programs (RAPs). In these Honors RAPs, Honors College students live on the same floor and take one or two classes together, often with related themes.
Questions about Living and Learning at the Honors College?
We are a group of Commonwealth Honors College students with wide-ranging academic interests, hobbies, extracurricular involvements, and long-term postgraduation goals. We can help support prospective students and families in learning more about being an Honors College student at UMass Amherst.
Outstanding faculty members from a variety of disciplines teach Honors courses, and they may also be involved more personally. Faculty members promote out-of-classroom learning, regularly hosting academic and social programs and engaging Honors College students in discussions about contemporary topics. Honors faculty members are likely to become your mentors, trusted advisors, and eventually, references for you when you begin to pursue the path that follows your undergraduate career.
Commonwealth Honors College offers competitive research funding opportunities to support participation in research, most often related to Honors Thesis work. In addition, Commonwealth Honors College offers a range of donor-supported scholarships, many of which recognize academic accomplishments, community involvement, leadership capacity, or participation in research.
The Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) assists students in pursuing nationally-competitive undergraduate and post-graduate scholarships and fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Churchill, and Gates Cambridge. ONSA is located in the Commonwealth Honors College administrative building.
Honors College students often qualify for need and merit-based scholarships offered by the university.
How to Join
Students may be invited to join Commonwealth Honors College when admitted to UMass Amherst or may apply for entry after a semester as a UMass Amherst student. Visit our Admissions & Aid section for more information about applying to 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.