Honors at Graduation Questions and answers for students

What is Honors at Graduation?

Each year approximately one-third of the senior class at Lawrence is graduated with honors. These students receive special recognition at commencement exercises, in the commencement program, and on their official transcripts. Honors are awarded at three levels: cum laude (with praise), magna cum laude (with high praise), and summa cum laude (with highest praise). The Honors Program thus encourages students to do superior academic work and recognizes superior performance.

How can I graduate with honors?

Honors in Course: for students who have distinguished themselves primarily on the basis of their cumulative grade point average.

Honors in Independent Study: for students who have completed significant independent projects and submitted these projects for evaluation.

All three levels of honors are available to students in each category. If a student earns honors in both course and independent study) the transcript, the diploma, and the commencement program reflect the level of honors achieved in each category.

What grade point average must I achieve in order to graduate with Honors in Course?

The University Committee on Honors, which has the function of recommending honors at graduation for faculty approval, now uses as its guidelines the following grade point averages:

  • 3.400 to 3.69 for cum laude
  • 3.70 to 3.89 for magna cum laude
  • 3.90 to 4.00 for summa cum laude

In order for students to be considered for Honors in Course, both their composite and degree GPAs must be at least 3.400.

Honors in Course are not awarded automatically, however. The Committee examines the records of all students whose GPAs are very close to the next highest level of Honors and recognizes that in certain situations cumulative averages are not accurate measures of a student’s achievements in course. If, for example, a student has taken an unusually large number of courses on a S/U basis, has completed an unusual student- designed major, or has performed with distinction on a departmental examination, the Committee may consider departmental or committee evaluations and other relevant data.

Students who transfer from other colleges or universities, as well as students who undertake virtually all of their coursework at Lawrence, qualify for Honors in Course on the same basis. Students normally must achieve the stated guidelines in both the degree GPA and the composite GPA to qualify for a given level of honors.


Why should I do an honors project? Isn't it a lot of extra work? What are the advantages of doing such a project?

The best answers to such questions probably come from those who have gone through the process and completed honors projects--and their views often change in the weeks, months, even years after they have had the experience. Most will testify that such a project provides an opportunity to explore on one's own and in considerable depth a relatively limited problem or task in one's field and, thus, to acquire an idea of what it is like to be a professional in that field. Most will concede that the project demands more time and effort than is required in a regular course, but they will argue that a student emerges with a sense of satisfaction and pride that can come only from having completed a substantial piece of work on one's own, Although some projects may appear narrow and limited in scope, a student may gain broader insights into the discipline that can be achieved only through the close analysis of a scholarly problem or the concentrated effort necessary for creative work, Indeed, almost all students maintain that their honors project was the single most valuable educational experience in their college career.

What kind of project must I complete in order to be eligible for Honors in Independent Study?

Honors projects are coherent programs of independent work carried on by students, usually in their senior year, on subjects or problems of more than ordinary difficulty in areas that they have studied in considerable depth, usually in their majors or closely related disciplines, Honors projects normally culminate in written theses based on extensive individual research or in pieces of original work in the creative or performing arts accompanied by a short written presentation. In the case of musical compositions or plays, the work is usually performed; art works must be publicly exhibited.

When should I start planning an honors project?

The earlier the better. Since honors projects normally complement students' work in their majors, they should talk to professors in their major department as early as possible in order to lay the groundwork for independent study by taking appropriate courses, tutorials, or doing summer reading. Students ought to keep in mind the possibility of doing honors projects as they plan their course selections for the junior and senior years, and even earlier if they are going to be off campus for part of that time.

How do I select a topic for an honors project?

In some fields, tutorials or courses in research methods can lead to the discovery of suitable thesis topics and methods of attack, while in other fields topics may stem from unanswered questions or problems in regular courses, from students' interests, or from a professor's suggestion.

What kind of honors projects have been done by Lawrence students in recent years?

Following are the titles of some honors theses or projects submitted in the past few years:

  • Characterization of ENU induced unc-93 (e1500)
  • Suppressor Mutations in Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Dreadlock Circle: Storytelling (performance and paper)
  • Leadership Change: Succession Struggles in Post-Mao China
  • Motivic Testimony: The Language of Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto in E-flat, op. 107
  • Name Choice: Implications of Gender, Power, and Intimacy
  • Refiguring Womanhood: Female Identity in George Eliot, Sarah Grand, and Virginia Woolf

Do I get credit for working on an honors project?

Students who need time or faculty guidance in order to undertake honors projects may--but are not required to--register for Independent Study, a course open to any senior with the consent of the department concerned. Although normally taken for one unit of credit during each of two or three consecutive terms, this course may be elected for a shorter or longer period, or for two units of credit in a single term, if special circumstances require such flexibility.

Who evaluates my honors project for Honors in Independent Study?

An examining committee--made up of the faculty advisor for the project and at least two other faculty members--evaluates the results of each project, conducts an oral examination of the honors candidate, and decides what level of honors is appropriate in view of the strength and weaknesses of both the thesis and the oral defense. The Committee on Honors reviews the reports of all examining committees and submits its recommendations for Honors in Independent Study to the faculty for final approval.

What if I enroll in Independent Study and end up not submitting a thesis for honors?

Students receive grades for their work in Independent Study from their faculty advisors whether or not that work results in a thesis or presentation submitted for honors.

Where can I find out more about Honors at Graduation?

The Lawrence Catalog contains detailed information, including "Procedures and Guidelines" to be followed in an honors project. Information, including deadlines for the current year, is also available from the Honors Projects website. The best sources of information, however, are the faculty members in your major department and the members of the Committee on Honors.

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