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Honors Requirements

The LSA Honors Program at the University of Michigan is a four-year academic program designed to provide motivated, academically talented undergraduates with opportunities to enrich their education beyond what might be typical for an undergraduate career at the University of Michigan. It allows you to combine the vast resources of a large research university with the kind of personal attention and small community you might find at a small liberal arts college.

Honors at Michigan is administered in two parts; the first and second year Honors (which comprises the Honors Core), whose hallmarks are the enrollment in Honors courses and seminars and completion of the Literature and Ideas requirement, and third and fourth year Honors, which are marked by completing either an Honors Concentration or Honors in the Liberal Arts.

Lower-division Honors Requirements

General guidelines for first- and second-year Honors student to remain in good standing in the Honors Program are based on standards developed during the Program's nearly fifty-year history. They are designed to provide a sound base for the undergraduate experience and to allow students to acquire knowledge, develop analytic skills, and exercise creative abilities and critical faculties of mind. If you have a legitimate reason not to follow guidelines, you should discuss it with an Honors advisor and have the advisor note it in your file.

The basic four requirements for a lower-division Honors student are:

  • an average of two Honors courses per term for the first four full terms of Honors,
  • a course load of 14-18 credit hours,
  • an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.4 or better,
  • three courses in the Honors Core curriculum, one in each division (HU, NS, SS).

There are two main sections: Honors Courses and the Honors Core Curriculum.

Honors Courses

Honors courses are offered by nearly every department in the college. The Honors Core requirement will shape three of your eight required honors courses; the subject matter of the other five are entirely up to you. We encourage you to use Honors courses for concentration prerequisites, distribution requirements, or simply to explore a topic in which you have developed an interest.

Several types of Honors courses are offered for lower-division students:

  • courses offered by various departments intended only for Honors students (for example, Honors Intro to Philosophy, Phil 297, or Honors mathematics courses).
  • sections of regular courses for Honors students (e.g. Honors sections of Intro to Anthropology and Intro to Comparative Politics).
  • courses sponsored by the Honors Program (e.g. Honors Core, Honors Seminars and Honors Independent Research).
  • additional enrichment experiences related to courses (e.g. Introductory Microeconomics Workshop taken with Intro Microeconomics, or the structured study group taken along with Chemistry, Physics for the Life Sciences and other courses).

Some upper level courses also count as Honors courses for first- and second-year students and many courses may be converted to Honors courses with the agreement of the professor and the Honors Program. You advisor can give you more details on these options.

Honors Core Curriculum

The Honors Core forms the foundation for an Honors education at U-M. Designed specifically for Honors students by innovative faculty the Honors Core Curriculum provides rigorous, wide-reaching introductory courses across the three academic divisions in LSA: the Natural Sciences (NS), the Social Sciences (SS), and the Humanities (HU).  The Honors Core builds on the fine tradition of our historic Great Books course, which remains a Core Humanities course.  The Core extends, to other areas, the many strengths of Great Books: foundational content, critical analysis, excellent instruction in writing, and social bonding.

Successful completion of the first and second-year Honors Program requirements with an above-average GPA (3.7) will entitle you to receive the Sophomore Honors Award.

Information for New Honors Majors

Congratulations on your admission to an Honors major! 

If you are already a student in the LSA Honors Program, Honors will remain your academic home, the place to go for general advising. You will continue to come to the Honors office for academic advising, for any Academic Board requests for exceptions or other actions, and your senior audit and graduation processing will be done through the Honors office. You will, of course, continue to have access to registration for Honors classes and you are welcome at all of the Honors events. You will remain on our email lists, and we hope we’ll see you often for advising and events.

If you have not previously been in Honors, welcome! When you declare an Honors major, you become a member of the LSA Honors Program. This means that you should find an Honors Academic Advisor with whom you can discuss your general college requirements and other concerns (Look at advisors, make an appointment, or call 764-6274). If you have an established relationship with an advisor in LSA Advising, you certainly may continue to talk with him/her if that is agreeable to both of you, but you should also get to know an advisor in Honors who can become familiar with your record and your plans. You should discuss the requirements for your major with the Honors Major Advisor in your department. If you need to request any exceptions to college graduation requirements or any kind of special consideration, you will now petition the Honors Academic Board rather than the LSA Academic Standards Board. The Honors Academic Board meets almost every Monday morning, so petitions submitted by noon on Thursday will usually be addressed by mid-day the following Monday. 

Your senior audit will be done by the Honors Senior Auditor, Jacquelyn Turkovich ( send any questions you have about graduation to her email. All students graduating with Honors are invited to the Honors graduation ceremony and are eligible for prizes and awards for their work: watch your email for details or make an appointment to discuss these opportunities.

All Honors students have registration access to Honors classes, so you won’t need overrides to register for most of them. Honors hosts many activities and events: we encourage you to join in.  You will also receive our weekly e-newsletter, “This Week in Honors.” Let us know if you don’t start getting it soon.

If you have any questions, you can email We look forward to getting to know you better! 

Continuing in Honors After the First Two Years

Honors is a 4-year academic program in LSA.  It’s not over at the end of sophomore year! There are two ways to continue Honors beyond the first two years: Honors in the Liberal Arts or an Honors major.

Honors Majors

The most common and traditional way to complete an Honors degree is an Honors major. All departments and interdisciplinary programs in the College of LS&A offer an Honors major. You will follow the requirements of your department to satisfy the thesis work. There are no Honors minors.

Students generally declare an Honors major during their third year, although some departments allow students to join the Honors major earlier or later. You will remain in good standing in the Honors Program as long as you declare an Honors major before the end of your third year.

Honors Major Process

Talk to an Honors major advisor—in any department you’re interested in--to find out what that Honors major entails.  Don't know whom to contact? Your Honors Program general advisor can tell you who the Honors major advisor is in every department.  Some departments would like you to get involved in research projects before you declare an Honors major; others have courses you should take.  In any case, you should find out what comprises the Honors major before you decide whether or not to go for it. 

For information regarding specific Honors majors, see either the department's website or the relevant pages in the LSA Bulletin. Also, you may wish to view the topics of some recent Honors theses, to gain a sense of what kind of work Honors upperclassmen produce.

Take courses—this may seem obvious, but taking courses in departments whose subjects intrigue you is the best way to explore a field and test whether or not you want to pursue it. Taking courses is also the best way to meet faculty, whom you can get to know and who might become an advisor or help you to find an advisor for your thesis. Courses will also generate ideas for questions and issues as possible thesis topics.

Apply—some departments have formal application processes with deadlines for Honors majors. Check department websites and talk to Honors major advisors for details and deadlines.  Other departments have less formal arrangements: check with the Honors major advisor to make sure you’ve done everything required.

Research and write your thesis—this is the traditional capstone experience to an Honors major and almost all departments require a thesis to graduate with Honors. Written in the senior year, the thesis is your first experience creating new knowledge in your subject, making a definite contribution to scholarship in your field.

You’re not alone writing the thesis, of course (though you’ll have many hours alone working on it!). You’ll have a faculty thesis advisor, and in some departments there is a thesis seminar that serves as a sounding board for ideas (as with History majors), resources for problem-solving, and a support group. You may enroll in credit hours to build thesis-writing into your academic schedule in your senior year. In most cases, the thesis builds upon earlier research experiences you’ve had, either in class or in a lab research group.  Thesis topics often emerge from work you do in earlier, apprenticeship research activities, so if you’re in a lab group or a UROP project, talk with your research supervisor about the possibilities of developing your work into a thesis topic.

Honors students have the opportunity to apply for Honors Summer Fellowships, which allow students to live on campus (generally between their junior and senior years) with a stipend for the summer.

Remember, your thesis is not the last hurdle to jump over before you reach the finish line of your degree: rather, it is an opportunity to explore a subject in depth, to become expert in one particular area, and to do genuinely original work. That may sound scary now, but don’t let the idea overwhelm you. If you lay the groundwork well, when you get there, you’ll be ready for it.

Honors Individualized Major Program (IMP)

Are you interested in a field of study that cannot be covered by a single department or program in LSA? Do you want to combine your interests in a unique way? Then an Honors Individualized Major Plan might be for you. You may start talking about this with Henry Dyson, the Honors IMP advisor, as soon as you have an inkling of an idea; you should start making definite plans at the end of your second year or the beginning of your third year. Full details about this plan are in the LSA Bulletin under “Individualized Major Program,” since IMPs are available for all students in LSA.

You will need to develop your ideas into a coherent intellectual statement of what you plan to study and a justification for why your study cannot be conducted in any single LSA department. With Dr. Dyson, you will draw up a list of courses, both prerequisites and at least 30 upper-level credits that will constitute your major. At least two faculty will need to provide their support, not just at the beginning of your project, but supervising your work and guiding your study all along the way. One of them will serve as your thesis advisor and the other will serve as a second reader. Your proposal will include a description of the direction you expect your thesis to take. While you may pick and choose among courses as you go, and develop your thesis idea as you learn, you should have a fairly good idea of what you’re doing when you submit your IMP proposal to the Honors Academic Board. You then embark on your course work and thesis research, working closely with Dr. Dyson and your faculty mentors.

Honors in the Liberal Arts

A fairly new alternative to Honors in a major, Honors in the Liberal Arts (HLA) is interdisciplinary in nature, individually designed, and course-based rather than thesis based. See the LSA Bulletin for full details of the requirements for this Honors pattern, and discuss it with your Honors general advisor.

If there is a topic or question that intrigues you but can be best studied from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, you can construct an HLA in which you can study that question through course work.

With your Honors academic advisor, at the end of your second year or the beginning of the third, develop a plan of courses that you might take to look at the issue.

Write a proposal in which you describe the issue you want to address and list the courses which you hope to take.  Describe how the courses address the question or topic of your HLA. One course may overlap with your major(s) and/or academic minor.  All HLA courses must carry graduate credit in their home department.

Submit your proposal and HLA form, signed by your Honors academic advisor, to the Honors Academic Board for approval before you start taking your courses. HLA is not something you grab on the way out the door as you graduate, so it may not be submitted for approval after the third week of Fall term your senior year.

Take at least five courses on your HLA list, keeping the work in those courses in a portfolio. In the spring of senior year, write a short reflection paper in which you discuss your topic, describe what you learned about it in the courses you took, and how those courses combine to provide you with an integrated look at the topic of your HLA. Submit that essay, and your portfolio, to the Honors Academic Board by April 1st of your senior year (December 1st for students graduating in December). Members of the Honors Faculty Advisory Board will read and evaluate your work, and decide whether to grant you Honors in the Liberal Arts.  If so, the notation “Honors in the Liberal Arts” will be noted on the degree print of your transcript.