Graduation with honors

Through the Honors Program, students nearing graduation can write and defend an honors thesis in order to graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder having earned Latin honors: cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude.

The Thesis Process

1. We recommend that thesis students be CU-Boulder juniors who have a topic or idea to explore.

The most important initial step toward writing a thesis is coming up with a topic or idea, then narrowing it down as much as possible. Having specifics to focus on will help you clearly present your thoughts and goals when meeting with a prospective thesis advisor and other committee members. We address other commonly asked questions in our Graduation FAQ.

To see what completed theses look like, visit the Honors Thesis Repository on CU Scholar.

2a. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences who want to pursue honors in their major should contact their department.

Most students (around 95%) choose to write and defend a thesis on a topic within their major - that's what we call Departmental Honors. As your major department will provide you the bulk of the support through the honors process - and may require to you take thesis-related courses - it's critical that you communicate with them if you are interested in pursuing Departmental Honors.

2b. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences who want to write an interdisciplinary thesis OR students from any other school or college at CU-Boulder can pursue General Honors.

General Honors is for original creative or scholarly works that fit into one of two categories:

  1. an interdisciplinary thesis project which cannot be contained within one single major offered by the College of Arts and Sciences.
  2. any thesis written by a student from a CU-Boulder college or school other than the College of Arts and Sciences.

General Honors Requirements and Policies

3. Download and complete the Honors Program registration paperwork.

Deliver your completed registration paperwork and attachments to the Honors Program Office anytime by the deadline for your semester and keep the list of deadlines for your own reference. The Honors Program no longer accepts late thesis registration paperwork.

Our paperwork is not an application; when your Honors Council representative signs your form, that means your department is supporting you and your project. You will not be contacted by the Honors Program regarding approval of your registration form.

We require three attachments: a prospectus, bibliography and timeline.

  • A prospectus is a brief but detailed summary of your project that typically answers some or all of these questions: What are you investigating? What is the hypothesis you are testing? What is the focus of your study? What is your goal in this study? What might your results mean? Many disciplines require that a prospectus or abstract be around 150 words, but your department may differ. If you've prepared a prospectus or other short piece of writing for your thesis advisor or a departmental honors seminar, we will happily take that as your prospectus (no more than 15 pages, please).
  • The bibliography should contain at least a few initial sources for your research.
  • Your timeline should include a few milestones for your project: when you intend to complete primary research, dates that drafts will be completed, when you plan to defend, and when you'll submit your defense copy and final copy. Previous thesis students say that working backwards from the defense copy due date is the best way to begin creating your timeline.

Fall 2015 Honors Thesis Registration and Deadlines

Spring 2016 Honors Thesis Registration and Deadlines

4. Continue your research and writing. 

If you have questions about the thesis process that we haven't answered in our Graduation with Honors FAQ, that's probably because those questions are specific to your field. Please ask your thesis advisor or Honors Council representative first. If they can't answer your question, then feel free to contact us.

5. Defend your thesis and submit the defense copy of your thesis to the Honors Program Office by our defense copy due date. Make sure your thesis and title page meet our requirements.

The defense copy is the same copy of your thesis you'll give to your committee before your defense - this is the version that your committee will use to determine any honors you may earn. We don't need the defense copy to be bound, just printed and stapled/clipped. After your defense, your committee may suggest changes or corrections - your final copy can include these changes, but they will have no bearing on any level of honors you might earn.

Two notes on thesis defenses: 1. Don't wait too long to schedule your defense, you and your committee members are all busy people who will get busier as the semester goes on. 2. Try not to schedule your defense on the very last day to defend, as we all know that Colorado's weather can be unpredictable.

6. Upload the final copy of your thesis to CU Scholar by our final copy due date.

Once you've defended your thesis and made any changes suggested by your committee, you are free to upload the final copy of your thesis to the Undergraduate Honors Thesis Repository on CU Scholar anytime before our final copy deadline. As of Spring 2014, the Honors Program no longer requires a printed and bound final copy of theses. Individual departments may still require printed and bound copies, so check with your Honors Council representative.

7. Once you have successfully defended your thesis, please join us at the Honors Convocation.

After the Honors Council convenes to determine honors designations, thesis authors will receive email notification of any honors they may have earned (see the list of deadlines for the specific date). Students who successfully earn Latin honors are celebrated at the Honors Convocation.