William and Mary

Guidelines and Planning 2014-2015

A Guide for Students and Thesis Directors

The Departmental Honors program in Arts and Sciences is administered by the Charles Center for the Committee on Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The Application for Admission to Honors Study (pdf) must be signed by the applicant, the Honors advisor and the department Chair or program Director then returned to the Charles Center upon completion. For questions concerning Departmental Honors please call (757) 221-2460.

Prospective candidates for the Departmental Honors program should first familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Honors program as described in this document and in the College catalog, and with any additional requirements or deadlines applicable in specific departments or programs.

Please note that for the purposes of this document "spring-fall student" is one who will defend the honors thesis at the end of the fall term and a "fall-spring student" is one who will defend the thesis at the end of the spring term. These Guidelines are good for students defending honors theses in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.


A. Grade Point Average. A grade point average of either 3.0 on a cumulative basis by the end of the junior year or 3.0 for the junior year alone is required. Note that some departments / programs require a higher grade point average - students should check with their department / program to determine their eligibility.

B. Completion of the department / program approval process and submission of the Application for Admission for Departmental Honors (pdf) with the signature of the student, the Honors advisor, and the department Chair (or program Director, if applicable) to the Charles Center. This Application form is due by 12 p.m. on the first day of class of the semester in which the student is to begin the Honors project.


The following timetable will be adhered to rigidly. Candidates are advised to plan ahead in order to avoid delays in thesis preparation involving research, writing, computers, etc.

The candidate is also responsible for checking with his or her home department and thesis director for any additional deadlines that may be applicable, and for meeting those deadlines. For example, a department or program may require that a draft of the entire thesis is ready for final corrections by April 1.

A. Eligibility Certification
Eligibility must be certified by the Charles Center by 5:00 p.m. on the first day of classes of the first semester of the Honors project.  For fall 2014 - spring 2015 projects, this date is August 27, 2014 and for spring 2015 – fall 2015 projects this date is January 21, 2015.  The student must complete the Application for Admission to Honors Study (pdf), have it signed by both the faculty member directing the thesis ("advisor") and by the department Chair or program Director, and then submit it to the Charles Center.  Please note that departments or programs may have earlier deadlines or additional requirements for admission to Honors – check with your Honors advisor and/or department for details.

B. Registration for Honors 495 and 496
Charles Center staff will create all of the appropriate Honors sections and register students students for both 495 and 496. If a student has pre-registered for 13 or fewer credits, we will be able to register that student as soon as we have processed the application for admission to Honors. If a student has pre-registered for more than 13 credits, Honors registration will take place after credit limits are lifted. Students will receive a confirmation email from the Charles Center once they have been registered for their specific Honors section. For questions concerning registration for Departmental Honors please call 221-2460.

C. Appointment of Examining Committee
Lisa Grimes will send department chairs and program directors a form for submission of Honors committee recommendations by Wednesday, September 17, 2014 for spring-fall students and by Friday, January 23, 2015 for fall-spring students. Committee recommendations must be returned on this form by the appropriate person (department Chair, program Director, etc.) to the Charles Center no later than Wednesday, October 1, 2014 for spring-fall students, Friday, January 30, 2015 for fall-spring students. 

Please note that committee recommendations must be submitted by the department chair or program director (or their designated representative) and emails from students or individual Honors advisors will not be accepted. 

Once the committee recommendations are submitted the formal committee appointments will be made by the Charles Center through an email to the committee chair with copies to the remaining committee members and the Honors student.

Each examining committee must consist of three or more faculty members, with representation from at least two academic departments. Any current William and Mary faculty member who is eligible to assign grades may serve on an Honors committee, including visiting and adjunct faculty.  Departments / programs have different methods of selecting faculty for committees.  For example, in some departments the selection is centralized, in others the selection is up to the thesis advisor and student.  Students should ask their Honors advisor and / or department about the procedure for selecting faculty in their department or program.

D. Thesis Submission
Two weeks before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester (or the next class day if this date falls on a holiday or vacation day) a copy of the completed thesis conforming to the specifications listed in Section III must be submitted to each member of the examining committee. For spring-fall honors students this date is Friday, November 21, 2014.  For fall-spring students this date is Friday, April 17, 2015.

E. Oral Examination
If, after reading the thesis, the members of the committee find it provisionally acceptable, the oral examination may be scheduled.  December 2014 exams must be finished and the results reported to the Charles Center by noon on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.  May 2015 exams must be finished and the results reported to the Charles Center no later than 11 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Please note: It is up to the student to schedule the defense date and time in coordination with all of the committee members and to arrange for a location for the defense.  It is also the student's responsibility to remind the committee members of the date, time, and location of the defense.  The Charles Center does not schedule Honors defenses.

The exam will consist of an oral examination lasting at least one hour. The main purpose of the examination will be to ask questions about the honors thesis, but the candidate may also be asked to discuss other topics that are related to the thesis.  Students should check with their advisors about the protocol for oral exams within the department or program.

The examining committee will determine if an honors designation will be awarded, and if so, at what level (Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors). In reaching its decision about awarding honors, the committee will be guided by the quality of the honors thesis and by the candidate's performance on the oral examination.  Please note that the Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Environmental and Health Sciences, Government, International Relations,  Kinesiology & Health Science, Literary and Cultural Studies, Mathematics, Neuroscience, Physics, Psychology, and Public Policy departments/programs assign only Honors (rather than High or Highest) to successful projects. Geology only awards Honors and High Honors to successful projects.

F. Corrections
Between the completed thesis deadline and the last day of regularly scheduled final examinations, only corrections of minor typographical or mechanical errors will be allowed. After the oral exam, the committee may instruct the candidate to correct any errors discovered during the evaluation process.

G. Reporting of Level of Honors
Reporting of each student's level of Honors to the Charles Center immediately following the completion of the oral exam may be done by submitting a copy of the thesis cover sheet, complete with the signatures of the examining committee. Keep in mind that the reporting deadline for spring-fall students is 12:00 noon on Wednesday, December 17, 2014;  the reporting deadline for fall-spring students is 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Please note: The Charles Center requires only a copy of the signed cover sheet, not the original.  The original must be on acid-free paper and submitted to the Archives with the rest of the thesis.  Honors students should take at least one cover sheet on acid-free paper to the defense in order to collect the signatures of the committee members.

H. Submission of the Thesis to Archives

Beginning Spring 2014, electronic copies of honors theses will be submitted to Swem Library's new online scholarship repository, W&M Publish.  Swem Library will no longer be accepting paper copies of the honors thesis.  All fall-spring Honors students must upload the final version of their thesis, a cover letter signed by the author and thesis advisor, and a copy of the Non-Exclusive Distribution License and Honors Thesis and Project Availability Agreement (found here) signed by both the author and advisor to the Honors Theses section in W&M Publish no later than Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 5pm.  To see full instructions and to submit your thesis, click here.

Note: The student and/or the department may elect to have additional acid-free copies bound. Please check with the department or program to find out its specific policy regarding binding.

If you have any questions, please contact

Failure to meet these deadlines may result in the loss of honors.


Students should check with their department or program for additional requirements.

Note: The cost of paper, typing, photocopying, and other expenses incurred in the preparation of the honors thesis is the responsibility of the candidate.


A. Successful Honors Projects
A candidate who successfully completes Honors 495 will receive a grade of "G" at the end of the first term of the project. Following the honors defense in the second term of the project, a final grade for both Honors 495 and 496 will be determined by the examining committee. The Honors advisor is responsible for submitting the grade for 496 and the Registrar's Office will then change the grade for 495 to match the 496 grade. If the 495 grade should be different from the grade assigned for 496 the advisor will have to submit a grade change form to the Registrar's Office.

B. Unsuccessful Honors Projects

Under no circumstances may Honors 495 and/or 496 remain on the transcript of a student who is not awarded honors by the examining committee.

1. If it becomes evident before the end of the first term that the student will not complete the project, either
a) the student must withdraw from Honors 495 with the approval of the thesis advisor (the advisor must send an email to  [[lmgrim,Lisa Grimes]]) so that the Charles Center can update its records; or
b) if it is too late for the student to withdraw from the course, the project advisor must change the Honors 495 designation to an appropriate alternative, such as independent study, by submitting this form. The Charles Center will then take care of making the change in the student's registration.

2. If the project continues into the second semester and it then becomes evident that the project will not be completed by the submission deadline (two weeks before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester), the faculty advisor must either:
a) change Honors 495 and 496 to appropriate alternatives (in most cases, independent study) by submitting this form; or
b) declare an incomplete, which can only be done in extraordinary circumstances and with departmental approval. The student and advisor must agree to firm new deadlines for the thesis and the defense and must submit these deadlines to the Charles Center.

3. If upon reading the thesis the members of the examining committee decide that the thesis does not merit honors and elect not to examine the student, or if, upon completion of the oral defense the examination committee determines that the thesis does not merit honors, the advisor must change Honors 495 and 496 to appropriate alternatives (by submitting this form) and award the student grades for these courses.

Revised January 2015