Guidelines and Planning

A Guide for Honors Students and Thesis Directors

The Charles Center has amended the timeline for seniors completing their honors theses in May 2020. To allow greater flexibility, there will be one final deadline, 11:00AM on Friday, May 8, 2020, for all honors thesis materials. Students should work closely with their advisors to determine a submission date that allows the committee enough time to review the thesis before the scheduled defense. Please note that the May 8th deadline is inclusive of all honors work to include corrections post defense, submission of signed coversheet, and faculty advisor reporting level of honors.


Honors applications for the 2020-2021 academic year will open soon. The Charles Center is creating a new electronic form to collect the digital signatures required for students, advisors, and department chair/program directors. If your student has already submitted their form, they will not need to re-submit. We will send out an announcement once the form is live on our website.

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

Prospective candidates for the Department 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. 


A. Grade Point Average. A grade point average of either 3.0 (ungrounded) on a cumulative basis by the end of the junior year or 3.0 (ungrounded) 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 Department Honors 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 Noon 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 Noon on the first day of classes of the first semester of the Honors project* The student must submit the Application for Admission to Honors Study, complete and print the fillable PDF and have it signed by both the faculty member directing the thesis ("advisor") and by the department Chair or program Director, and then upload the signed form to the Tribe Form Application.  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 administer overrides to students for both 495 and 496* All honors forms submitted before the last day of classes in May will be processed during the summer and students will be able to register themselves during the open registration period. All forms submitted by the deadline (first day of classes in August) will be processed during the add/drop period. Students will receive a confirmation email from the Charles Center once they have been given an override for their specific Honors section. *All students will be responsible for registering themselves during either open enrollment during the summer or during add/drop at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters* For questions concerning registration for Departmental Honors please email or call (757) 221-2460.

C. Appointment of Examining Committee
Just after the end of add/drop each semester, the Charles Center will send department chairs and program directors a link to an online form for submission of Honors committee recommendations for students completing Honors that semester. Committee recommendations must be submitted online by the appropriate person (department Chair, program Director, etc.) to the Charles Center no later than October 11 for students defending in the fall and February 14 for students defending in the spring. 

*Please note that committee recommendations must be submitted by the department chair or program director (or their designated representative) and emails from students 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 & 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 othersthe 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
The student must submit a copy of the completed thesis conforming to the specifications of their department/program to each member of the examining committee by 11:00AM on Friday, May 8, 2020. Please note this deadline has been extended to allow for flexibility during the spring 2020 semester.

E. Oral Examination

If, after reading the thesis, the members of the committee find it provisionally acceptable, the oral examination may be scheduled. All oral examinations are to be conducted virtually for spring 2020.

  • May 2020 exams must be finished and the results reported to the Charles Center no later than 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2020.

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 Art & Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental and Health Sciences, Government, International Relations,  Kinesiology & Health Science, Film & Media Studies, Mathematics, Neuroscience, Physics, Psychological Sciences, Public Policy, and Religious Studies departments/programs assign only Honors (rather than High or Highest) to successful projects.  Geology and Philosophy only awards Honors and High Honors to successful projects.

F. Corrections
Students should schedule their defense in timely manner that will ensure enough time to make any corrections. 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. The deadline for corrections is 11:00AM on Friday, May 8, 2020.


G. Reporting of Level of Honors

Update: For spring 2020, students will create their coversheet via Google Document and share with committee members who can digitally sign and date. Student will then submit the Google Cover Sheet via the link on the Tribe Form.

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 this Tribe Form. Students will upload a copy of the thesis cover sheet, complete with the signatures of the examining committee. Keep in mind that the reporting deadlines:

  • 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2020

In addition, the Honors thesis advisor must submit an online form reporting the level of Honors. Advisors will receive email instructions on how to do so prior to the deadlines.
Please note: The Charles Center requires only a digital copy of the signed cover sheet uploaded through the Tribe Form, not a hard copy. 

H. Submission of the Thesis to Archives

Students are *required* to submit electronic copies (commonly called ETDs) to W&M Libraries' online scholarship platform, W&M ScholarWorks.

The deadlines for Honors students to upload the final version of their thesis, including the signature cover sheet, to W&M ScholarWorks are:

  • 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2020

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 at their own expense. Please check with the department or program to find out its specific policy regarding binding. Swem Library does not coordinate binding of theses.

If you have any questions, please contact

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


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 Chelsie Craddock 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.