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.