Graduation with honors

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

First Steps

We recommend that thesis students be CU-Boulder juniors who have a topic or idea to explore. Your first step should be to come up with a topic or idea, then narrow it down as much as you can. Having specifics to focus on will help you to clearly express your thoughts and goals when meeting with a prospective thesis advisor. 

Want to see completed theses? Visit the Undergraduate Honors Thesis Repository on CU Scholar.

Planning to write a thesis in your College of Arts and Sciences major? About 95% of students write and defend a thesis topic that falls within their major - that's what we call Departmental Honors. That means that the major department will provide the bulk of your support (and the bulk of your requirements) as you go through the thesis process. If you're planning to write a thesis in your major, you have to talk to your department first.

Planning to write an interdisicplinary thesis OR a thesis from a major outside the College of Arts and Sciences? 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

Making it Official

Once your department has agreed to support your project, complete the Honors Program registration paperwork for the semester you plan to defend. No matter what your department requires, you still have to complete the Honors Program registration paperwork. Note: the Honors Program no longer accepts late registrations.

Our registration form is not an application; your Honors Council representative's signature means that 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.

  1. A prospectus is like an abstract. Many disciplines require 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 a departmental honors seminar, we will happily take that as your prospectus (but no more than 15 pages, please).
  2. The bibliography should contain a few initial sources for your research. We understand that you're early in the thesis process.
  3. Your timeline should include milestones: when you hope to complete primary research, when you'll complete drafts, when you plan to defend, and when you'll submit your defense copy and final copy. Previous thesis authors have said that working backwards from the defense copy due date is the best way to begin creating the timeline.

The Fall 2015 thesis registration period has ended.

Spring 2016 Thesis Registration and Deadlines (due by October 1st, 2015)

Research and Writing

Now that you're registered with the Honors Program, continue working. If you have questions about the thesis process that we don't answer in our Graduation with Honors FAQ, that's probably because those questions are specific to your field. Contact your thesis advisor or Honors Council representative.

The Thesis Defense

A defense typically takes about an hour, and scheduling a time and place is your responsibility. Because we work with over 40 departments on campus, we can't give specifics on how your department prefers to conduct defenses. Talk to your Honors Council representative or thesis advisor for more information.

A few notes on thesis defenses:

  1. Don't wait too long to schedule your defense. You and your committee are all busy people who will get busier as the semester goes on.
  2. You don't need to tell us when you're defending - that's between you and your committee.
  3. Try not to schedule your defense on the very last day to defend. Colorado's weather can be unpredictable.
  4. Ask your Honors Council representative if you should bring a copy of your unofficial transcript to your defense.
  5. If you decide not to defend your thesis, or want to put it off for a semester, let us know. There are no penalties, and you'll get fewer emails from us.

The last day to defend is always the same day that the defense copy is due. You're welcome to defend and turn in your defense copy anytime before the last day to defend.

The Defense Copy

Bring the printed defense copy to the Honors Program Office by our defense copy deadline. The defense copy is the same version that you gave to your committee to read before your defense. We don't need it to be bound, just printed and clipped (and we have clips).

Make sure your thesis and title page meet our requirements. We can't accept your thesis if it doesn't.

The Final Copy

Upload the final copy of your thesis to CU Scholar by our final copy deadline. After your defense, your committee may suggest minor changes or corrections. You can make those for your final copy, but any honors you earn are based off your defense copy and the actual defense.

You can 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. But your department might, so check with your Honors Council representative.

Latin Honors Designations

The Honors Council meets twice per year to award honors designations. The Honors Council, a body of faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences, meets in April and November to award honors designations. After the Council has met, honors designations are sent to students via email.

The Honors Convocation

If you complete the process and earn honors, you will be celebrated at the Honors Convocation.