Students walking at Spring at Murdock Hall

Honors Program

Achieve something higher

student walking up and down staircase

More interesting work

One of the ways MCLA explores its Liberal Arts mission is to foster a cohort of passionate students - students who are intellectually engaged with each other and the world, who love books, writing, and learning for their own sakes, whose curiosity ranges beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries, and who crave intellectual challenges. The honors program aims to offer a home for such students. The idea behind honors at MCLA is not that you are undertaking more work, but that the work you undertake is more interesting.

Student smiling on MCLA quad

Inside and outside of the classroom


Your passions don't just stay in the classroom, Honors student have a fully immersed experience on campus.


Students who aspire to become honors students, regardless of their past academic records, may request an interview with the program director to be admitted provisionally into the program. Those with an academic track record at MCLA are eligible if their cumulative GPAs are 3.2 or above.

Remaining a member in good standing of the program entails maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.2, and taking at least one honors course during each academic year.

Completing the program to graduate with all-college honors involves completing a minimum of six, three-credit honors courses (at least half at the upper division) with a grade of B or better in each, and having a GPA of at least 3.4 upon graduation.

 Some honors students choose to graduate as Commonwealth Scholars in addition to All College Honors. This option involves a year-long process of researching and writing an interdisciplinary thesis, culminating in a public presentation and defense in the Spring. The Commonwealth Scholar makes an additional presentation at the Commonwealth Undergraduate Research Conference in Amherst. If this challenge interests you, start a conversation about the possibility sometime early in your junior year. Prospectus and Thesis guidelines here.

 Many honors courses, especially at the lower division, are designed specifically as CORE courses. Some honors courses can also be used to fulfill requirements for your major and minor programs, with departmental permission. You will need to consult your department chair or advisor to determine this on an individual basis.

 Part of the point of the program is to get students out of their comfort zones, doing intensive intellectual work in areas beyond their specialties (and bringing the investigative tools of those specialties to other subject-matters). Thus it is actually best to select most of your honors courses outside your major or division.

 MCLA's campus is rather small, so one measure of whether you might be honors material is your ability to locate the center on your own. (Hint: it's in Mark Hopkins Hall, room 213.)

 None. The MCLA Honors Program is an academic program (a bit like an interdisciplinary academic minor). We have no induction ceremonies, no keys, no dues, and no national directories to buy.

 Only if you choose to. As an honors student, you may take whatever honors courses you like, in consultation with the honors directors, who serve as secondary academic advisors (after your major advisor). It is a very good idea, however, to succeed at a 100-level honors course before diving into the deep end.

 Honors work is not designed to be more work, but rather more interesting work, which is to say more challenging and engaging, and hence also more fun. Specific course requirements vary from course to course, and some courses will have a specific honors project. Either way, honors students are generally expected to do background and supplemental reading on their own initiative, and to take the lead in class in drawing the other students out and steering the discussion in intellectually stimulating directions.

 This varies a bit with different courses and professors, but in general honors courses are reading intensive (with a preference for primary-source material), writing intensive, interdisciplinary, collaborative (most are small seminars), and present opportunities for independent research. All are designed specifically to take students who want to be challenged and push them to new levels, in fascinating areas of inquiry.

 The honors directors, in consultation with the honors students and faculty, develop the schedule of honors courses. We regularly develop or repeat specific courses in response to student interest. As an honors student, you will be invited to a gathering at least once a semester, one purpose of which is to brainstorm about the future honors schedule. Of course, if you can't make those meetings, the honors directors always welcome your ideas and suggestions at any time.

 Part of what it means to be an honors student is to participate fully in your own larger learning process, seeking out intellectual and cultural experiences to attend and discuss with friends. We encourage you to do this as much as possible, and to try things you know nothing about rather than sticking to what you are already interested in. Another important principle in honors learning is autonomy--making your own choices, as an adult, about what events to attend and when. Thus we have the strong expectation that you will participate in Honors-sponsored and many other events, but we have no formal requirement, and do not take attendance. 

 We would consider that a good sign. Feel free to contact the Director of the Honors Program, Professor Zack Finch at or 413-662-5137.