BA Honors in English

The English Honors Program is a three-course sequence. The first course is taken in the Spring of your junior year, and the last two courses are taken during your senior year. English Honors students learn advanced research methodologies and develop individual research projects on issues, texts, and ideas that capture intellects and their imaginations. The program guides dedicated English majors like you through the process of developing your own independent work. In the Spring, you will register for a small special topics seminar, consisting only of Honors students, to hone your research and writing skills. During your senior year, you will develop a thesis project, independently researched and written during your senior year and based on your own interests. Throughout this process, you will be part of a community of scholarly and creative writers who engage in a high level of intellectual exchange. 

In this program, you will be encouraged to be innovative thinkers. The independent projects you develop will pose creative and critical interventions in your own, your classmates', and your readers' senses of the world. If you wish to explore a project that addresses ethical, social, and political questions, the English Honors Program offers an exciting capstone to your undergraduate experience.

What all English Honors theses have in common is a study of texts. But the term text can be broadly defined. How you define the term and what you select as your primary object of investigation can lead to a provocative and highly original thesis that, initially, might challenge your presuppositions about what literary and cultural studies entails. In recent years, some  students have pursued projects that focused on innovative approaches to literary texts, such as an analysis of’s extension of the literary coterie’s public sphere and an exploration of the early modern political function of the poetic epyllion. Other students have developed theses that focused on a topic approached through the lens of cultural studies, such as an investigation of how illicit street art creates new public imaginaries and thus opens possibilities for newly politicized communities.

Successful completion of the program enhances any résumé if you are considering pursuing an English MA, MFA, or PhD or any of a number of post-graduate careers. If you are considering graduate school in a field other than English Studies, the Honors Program can provide excellent preparation for that chosen path, too. The sophisticated questions and independent scholarship Honors students typically produce are attractive to admissions officers in many disciplines, including law, journalism, art history, education, and library and information sciences.

Graduating with honors makes you more competitive to all kinds of employers. Your Honors thesis is proof of your superior writing, thinking, and research skills. Non-academic fields often require larger projects of sustained research and critical writing that support evidence-based arguments. Such projects include: legal briefs; annual reports to a board of directors; business, marketing, and consumer reports, researched investigative assessments of other agencies (such as those written by the EPA); and government research on past or proposed legislation.

Employers recognize that today's society produces not only increasingly sophisticated products and services but also complex cultural meanings, ideas, and values. In addition to technical skills and knowledge, thoughtful living in the new global culture requires subtle and nuanced ways of thinking and understanding cultural and social meanings. The Honors thesis gives you room to pursue, with peer and faculty support, an independent course of study based on your own intellectual passions. It will help you carve out a meaningful and critical place for yourself in life beyond the University.

The Basics

The program consists of a sequence of three courses―English 399Z, 498, and 499―that will support your growth and sharpen your gifts as a writer and creative thinker. These classes will introduce you to the tools and strategies needed to complete an independent and original Honors thesis project, the culmination of your work in the program. An Honors thesis in English Studies is a critical essay or creative writing project, typically between 40 and 50 pages in length. Beginning in the fall of your senior year, the process of developing, researching, and writing that project is broken down into small steps. Throughout your senior year, you will work closely, one-on-one, with a faculty advisor who will help you hone your ideas, find key sources, and sharpen your independent project's argument and writing. (For more details about the Honors courses, click the link “View the Honors Handbook” above and scroll down to the “Sequence and Description” section.)


Applicants must be English majors. At the time of application, students should have completed at least 12 credits in English, including English 205Z, 210, and a 300-level course (preferably 305V). Any student planning to do a creative writing project should also have had an upper level creative writing workshop (such as English 302W/302Z and/or 402Z) or be actively involved in another writing community, such as tutoring in the Writing Center or working on the undergraduate magazine Arch.


Students usually apply to the program at the end of the sophomore year. Applications submitted during the Fall semester of the junior year will also be considered. Transfers and other students who arrive later and are interested in the program should contact the Honors Program Director in order to learn how to petition for admission. Applications are reviewed by several faculty members on the Honors Committee, whose review places particular emphasis on the strength and originality of applicants' writing samples. Other admission requirements may be waived when appropriate. For instance, students whose grade point averages are slightly lower than the minimum required for an Honors degree may apply. If one's writing sample and faculty recommendations are judged by the Honors Committee to be strong and evincing promise for continuing academic growth, and if there is a reasonable potential for achieving the GPA minimums at the time of graduation, the student might be admitted to the program and be permitted to take the courses in the Honors sequence. However, receiving a BA-H degree or an Honors Certificate in English depends entirely on meeting the University's and the Department's GPA minimums at the time of graduation. (See "Graduating with Honors" below). Please contact the Honors Program Director with any questions concerning your application.

Good Standing in the Program and Graduating with Honors

To receive an Honors Certificate in English (a Departmental designation), students must have a GPA of 3.5 or above in English. To receive an Bachelors of Arts with Honors Degree in English (a University designation), students must have minimum GPAs of 3.5 in English and 3.25 overall. If at any point after admission a student's work no longer maintains or is expected to achieve this standard, or if a student demonstrates in the Honors sequence courses insurmountable difficulties with research and writing or with the expectations of all Honors students' conduct (including attendance and an ability to meet deadlines), she will not be permitted to continue in the program. Any student who either is dismissed or voluntarily withdraws from the program must meet the requirements of the regular English major (or must have met the major requirements of another department) in order to graduate.  

Click here to submit the online application for English Honors.

Applications for Fall 2016 are now being accepted through April 15.

Breakdown of Honors Degree Requirements*

Degree requirements for English Honors entail 37 credits that consist of the following:
  •   9 credits of major core courses: English 205Z, 210, and 310
  • 13 credits of required courses: English 305V, 399Z, 498, and 499**
  •   6 credits from literature surveys: English 261, 291, 292, 295, or 297
  •   6 credits specifically from 300- and/or 400-level English electives
  •   3 credits from another 200, 300, or 400-level English elective***

* Exceptions to the requirements for a BA-Honors English degree are possible, especially for transfer students. Please consult English Advisement and/or the Honors Program Director for more details.

** In consultation with English Advisement and the Honors Director, English 399Z can be replaced with a 500- or 600-level course relevant to the student’s thesis topic during the senior year. Usually, this option is reserved only for students who are admitted to the program in the Spring of the junior year or who are studying abroad during that semester.

*** The three credits for this elective can be from an English course, or the student may count 3 credits of coursework from other departments that have already been approved substitutes for English Electives. To see the list of “Approved Courses for English Electives” in the Undergraduate Bulletin, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.