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Guidelines and Planning

A Guide for Honors Students and Thesis Directors

Students must first find a faculty advisor to oversee their honors project. The student will then submit the Application for Admission to Departmental Honors and obtain advisor signature via DocuSign form. Application deadline is the first day of class for the semester in which the the student is to begin the Honors project. 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.

The Departmental Honors program in Arts & Sciences is administered by the Charles Center for the Committee on Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies. For questions concerning Departmental Honors, please email

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.

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. Application for Admission for Departmental Honors
Completion and submission of the Application for Admission for Department Honors with the signature of the student and Honors project advisor. The Charles Center will send a list of students applicants to the department Chair (or program Director, if applicable) for final approval. 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 first find a faculty advisor to oversee their honors project. The student will then submit the Application for Admission to Departmental Honors and obtain advisor signature via DocuSign form. 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

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 5 for students defending in the fall and February 26 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 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 semester in which the student is defending*, (For December graduates, November 6, 2020) 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.

E. License and Embargo Form 

This form is required whether or not you choose to embargo your work. 
A signed
License and Embargo for Honors Thesis Form (DocuSign) must be submitted to the Charles Center by 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 14, 2021. The form must be electronically signed by you and your advisor.  

  • Read about Honors Embargoes.  
  • Read the form carefully. 
  • Whether or not to embargo your work is an important decision. Educate yourself about issues regarding copyright and embargoes.  
  • It is important to discuss these issues with your honors advisor and other members of your committee in order to have ample time to consider all implications and be prepared to make an embargo decision that is right for you when submitting your thesis. 
F. Oral Examination

If, after reading the thesis, the members of the committee find it provisionally acceptable, the oral examination may be scheduled. 

  • December 2020: Results reported to the Charles Center no later than 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.
  • May 2021: Results reported to the Charles Center no later than 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 14, 2021. 

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

G. 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.

H. Reporting of Level of Honors

Honors Advisors: 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 form. Only honors advisors may submit-, student submissions will not be accepted.

Students will upload a copy of the thesis cover sheet (example cover sheet), complete with the signatures of the examining committee by submitting this form. Keep in mind the reporting deadlines:

  • 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 24, 2020
  • 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 14, 2021

Please note: The Charles Center only accepts digital signed cover sheets uploaded through this form, no hard copies will be accepted.

I. 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. 

NOTE: The terms you specify in the institutional repository ScholarWorks (IR publishing options) MUST MATCH the License and Embargo form you submitted (see section E above).  

The deadlines for Honors students to complete the Distribution License and Embargo for Honors Thesis form AND upload the final version of their thesis, including the signature cover sheet, to W&M ScholarWorks:

  • 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 24, 2020
  • 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 14, 2021

To see full instructions and to submit your thesis, click here

Questions about embargoes, click here

Note: The Charles Center nor Swem Library do 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.