Information for Thesis Advisors

If you are a faculty member advising a Departmental Honors thesis and have questions, your main point of contact will be your department's Honors Council representative. If you are advising a General Honors thesis, you should contact the General Honors faculty member on the committee for information and assistance.

You should also be familiar with our Graduation with Honors FAQ, which we require all students pursuing Latin honors to acknowledge having read before submitting their registration paperwork.

Am I qualified to be an honors thesis advisor?

To be a thesis advisor or serve on a thesis committee you must be a regular full-time faculty member or a multi-year contract instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder. In terms of rank, this means Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Senior Instructor or Instructor. Anyone who does not fit one of these roles has to be approved by the Honors Program.

What is the role of the thesis advisor?

Your role as the honors thesis advisor is very much like a graduate thesis advisor. The presumption is that your scholarship or your interest will match the student’s topic. Of equal importance is your willingness and ability to meet with the student on a regular basis. The most common factor in a failed thesis attempt is a breakdown in communication between the advisor and the student during the thesis effort.

While the thesis advisor is apt to do the bulk of the mentoring during thesis preparation, inclusion and input from other committee members can be vital. A common complaint from committee members when a thesis goes bad is that they saw virtually nothing of the student or the final product until a few days before the defense.

How is the defense scheduled and conducted?

The thesis defense must be conducted by the deadline determined by the Honors Program Office, and the format is typically that of a graduate thesis defense. A defense typically takes about an hour. Scheduling a time and place is the student’s responsibility. In addition, many departments require that the student supply the committee with an unofficial copy of their transcript. When the defense is complete, the committee will complete the thesis defense form (you can find the current semester's form on the right side of the main Graduation page). 

There is one area where the honors thesis defense diverges from the defense of a graduate thesis. Whereas graduate students are typically told whether they passed or failed following their defense, this is not the case for the honors thesis. The student MUST NOT be told what the committee recommendation will be.

Following the defense, you, as the advisor, or in some departments the Honors Council representative, will prepare a letter of recommendation on behalf of the examining committee to the Honors Council. The letter to the Honors Council must include the following:

  • when, where and who conducted the defense, with the thesis advisor specified;
  • a clear statement of the recommendation as well as the vote (if the vote is unanimous, please state that explicitly; if the vote is not unanimous, a clear indication of the split must be provided);
  • a narrative rationale for the recommendation. This should include a statement regarding the cumulative and major GPA and the quality of the thesis as well as the quality of the defense.

The letter and narrative must be delivered directly to the Honors Program Office or scanned and emailed to

Please do not use campus mail.

After the deadline to defend has passed, the Honors Council meets to review all committee recommendations and award Latin honors designations.

Thesis advisors and other committee members are of course welcome to attend the Honors Convocation.